Monday, January 3, 2011

The Keeper of Strays

When I was growing up, my dad used to say that the neighborhood strays just knew to come to me.  He would joke that I was somehow a beacon for them, and they knew that (against his wishes) I would take them in, feed them, and try to locate their owners.  I loved my dogs/cats so much that I couldn't fathom a pet that was without their master, and vice versa.   There was an Australian Shepherd who was a repeat customer of my kindness.  I went to school with this dog's owner, and hated giving him back every single time, because I felt like he didn't treat this dog with the love and respect the dog deserved.  The owner would yell at the dog, beat him with a leash, and stomp away without even thanking me for keeping the poor animal out of traffic.  He was a fine animal, beautiful, gentle, loving.  I'm sure he would have been loyal to his owner, had his owner shown him the respect and love he deserved.  It destroyed me every single time I held back the tears and anger as I watched the dog be carted away by his master.  I fear going through this with the two beautiful little girls I am caring for, as I am not their birth parent, just their Keeper.  I guess I have become more than a beacon for the animals in need of care, but also for the abandoned children in this world that I have the power to help.  There are so many others out there, that I can do nothing about. 

This is copied from
a·ban·don  (-bndn)
tr.v. a·ban·doned, a·ban·don·ing, a·ban·dons
1. To withdraw one's support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble.
2. To give up by leaving or ceasing to operate or inhabit, especially as a result of danger or other impending threat: abandoned the ship.
3. To surrender one's claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely. See Synonyms at relinquish.
4. To cease trying to continue; desist from: abandoned the search for the missing hiker.
5. To yield (oneself) completely, as to emotion.

I can understand some forms of abandonment.  I don't agree with suicide, but I can see how people can feel so much self pity that they begin to hate themselves, and want to abandon their lives.  I don't agree with but can understand how some people may feel that their own survival is more important than the survival of others, and selfishly step out of marriages, or relationships that they promised would last forever to fill their survival instincts.  What I can not understand is how a mother or father could abandon their children.  They are so helpless, and dependent on their adult parents.  Unlike other species of creatures that roam this earth, our young are dependent upon their parents for at least 18 years.  Could a 4 year old survive in the wilds of any city on their own?  Do they know enough about how to stay warm, fed, and away from the predators that would surely destroy them in one way or another?  Yet, daily children of all ages are left to fend for themselves, killed by loved ones, or thrown into foster care.  Abandoned by the people who chose to give them life.  

We are a barbaric race when we let our own selfish wants and needs drive us to the point of suicide, adultery, abandonment.  In my eyes, the root of every one of those evils is selfishness.  Placing your wants and needs above those of others, is so destructive to every being involved.  It is a very selfish act to take ones' own life.  It is a very selfish act to cheat on your spouse.  It is also very selfish to place drugs, men/woman, and "the good life" above your own flesh and blood.  I still can not fathom how someone could walk out on a child after they worked so hard to bring them into the world.  I guess it is easier for me to imagine a man walking out on his children, because by nature, men don't experience the pain it brings to force a child into this world.  Their bodies don't stretch, their boobs don't sag, their hormones don't go all crazy before, during, and after childbirth.  The main thing a man has after a child is born is seeing himself in some part of the child's mannerisms, body build, or facial features.  It is way more common in our society for a man to walk out on his children than for a woman to do so.  I am dealing with a case where both parents walked out.  

I still haven't heard anything from my sister.  The Redneck hasn't called, but my mom and dad saw him Friday evening before coming to our New Year's Eve party.  He was in a car, and had three small kids in the back-seat.  He was parked at the gas station that mom and dad had stopped at to get gas.  This gas station is about five minutes from my house.  There was a woman, who worked at the gas station, and she was talking to him through the window of the car.  Mom and dad got the impression that they are intimate with each other from watching the conversation.  They tried to stay out of his notice, then drove off to my house, and told me about it.  First of all, last I knew of the Redneck, he didn't have a driver's license.  Second of all, what is he doing with some other woman's children.  How bad would it hurt the Drama Queen to see her bio daddy spending time with some other kids, when he hasn't made any effort to see her in 3 months?  He is in town too.  So I fear running into him with these children.  It makes it harder to keep it all out of sight, out of mind for these kids.  I have a dance sticker on the back of my vehicle with their names on it.  I feel like I need to keep that hidden, so he doesn't happen to drive by, and figure out where we live.  I also fear what those other kids are going through, knowing the Redneck's history of physical, mental, and drug/alcohol abuse.  But there is really nothing for me to do, but document.

This whole situation also makes me very angry as well.  Earlier this year, I spent $750.00 hard earned dollars that I could have used toward his daughters on a lawyer to keep him from taking the children from me.  He took me to court for visitation rights, and custody, then dropped the custody case at the last possible moment.  I might not have needed a lawyer, as he didn't have one, but I didn't want to lose the girls because I was trying to be cheap.  He continued the visits for a few months, then disappeared without a trace.  What a waste of my time and money.  I worried constantly that I would be forced to let him take the girls unsupervised, and that if he won that right if he would flee with them, and I would never see them again.  It happens.  I don't want it to happen to the girls, or me.  I feel safer with Uncle M in town.  He is usually with us, and if the Redneck decided to start something, he wouldn't let him hurt us, and I would have the sense to dial 911.  I hate living in fear of someone, all because my sister had to drop all of this in my lap and traipse off with another guy.  Yet here I am, the Keeper of Strays, and I will stay when she didn't, and care for these children as if they were my own. 

The Vampire cried a lot for her "other mommy" this morning.  Have you seen Coraline?  Well in this Tim Burton kids flick, this little girl Coraline wanders into an alternate world where everyone has buttons sewed onto their eyes.  She has an "other mommy" and an "other daddy" who treat her like gold, let her do whatever she wants, and feed her all sorts of goodies, but they want to sew buttons on her eyes.  Coraline escapes to the real world and avoids the buttons, but can't help but want to go back and enjoy herself a few more times.  The girls love this movie.  It gives me the creeps.  But when the Vampire is crying for "other mommy" I say "she will sew buttons on your eyes!"  It was then she said to me "Not that mommy!  My real mommy."  The emotional side of me that feels like her real mommy hurts to the core, while my rational side hates to see these children have to deal with all this sadness, kicks the emotional side's butt in gear, and reaches out to hold this poor child.  She was so weepy, and clingy.  She didn't want me to leave her with the sitter.  She cried about everything from putting on her undies, to having to carry her blanket out the door.  But I found the patience to walk slower for her, be right by her side to hold her hand when she reached for me on the stairs (as she is afraid of our stairs going down from the front porch) and even show her for the millionth time the right way to put her socks on so that the seam on the toes sits in the right place, and doesn't hurt her feet.  I am the Keeper of Strays, and I will find the patience to help a troubled child.

The Drama Queen had a break down about her mommy last night.  Cried and told me she really missed her.  I held her and told her I know, and that I miss her too.  I was amazed at my own patience as she screamed and yelled at me last night.  You see that is how she tells me that she misses her mommy.  She has an angry outburst, then she tries to make me feel bad, then when neither actions provoke me into a fight, she will sob, and tell me the actual reason for her acting out.  I feel so bad for the poor kid.  She has more memories of life with her mom.  She clings to the good memories, and forgets the bad.  It is human nature, part of our survival skills to block out the bad things.  Especially if it is traumatic.  I feel horrible that I can't do more to ease her sadness, so I stay, the Keeper of Strays... it goes against my nature to turn my back on anyone in need.

We talked with the therapist about my sister mentioning that she would like to see the kids in March.  She asked what we were going to do, and I told her I don't know.  It's so difficult to decide.  Part of me wants to say, "hell no, you left them, you stay away!"  While the other part says, "now TT, you can't prevent them from seeing her when you know they will want to, suck it up and deal with the fallout afterward."  There will be a fallout if they see her.  The therapist assured us that she will be there to help no matter what we decide.  She also told us that we may use the therapy office (complete with two way mirror, and audio equipment) as our meeting place.  She said she will sit with us and lay out the ground rules to my sister, then if there is any straying from the ground rules, then the visit will be over (on my call).  I am going to confirm with the girls' therapist that this offer will also extend to Z-man, my parents, and Z-man's counselor.  It does make the decision a little easier knowing that we will have a third neutral party that may be able to help keep it calm, and organized.

We discovered recently that our sitter smokes in the house with the kids.  I don't have anything against smokers, I just don't smoke, and don't like my kids exposed to it any more than they have been.  They grew up with 2-5 adults in the home and they were all smokers, who didn't care about the little lungs that had to breathe that air they filled with nicotine.  I think the Vampire's hearing issues, could stem from being exposed to cigarette smoke so often.  She still has tubes from the surgery last December that opened her ears up so she could hear better.  I hate this, because I was really hoping that this could be a permanent place for the Vampire, and the sitter says she is becoming attached to our little blonde.  I guess Uncle M and I will have to talk to her about the smoking, but it is her house, and I hate to ask anyone to do something differently in their own home.  I'm thinking the best thing would be to find care elsewhere, and just leave it at that.  Uncle M says we should talk to her, but the girls, their coats, their bags, etc. smell like smoke when we pick them up.  I think it may be bad for them to breathe even if the sitter smokes in the bathroom, but then I could be being petty.  Regardless of what happens, I have to look out for their best interest, and something in my gut is telling me this place just isn't it.  So yet another decision placed before us. 

Aunt TT

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