Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday Musings, 07 January 2012

Good morning,

In a small, erstwhile TV room, the sprawled form of my sleeping son announces the folly of laying plans. Deterred from his departure back to college by his mother's spotting of a small puddle of anti-freeze in the driveway where his car had idled while being loaded, he has had to find pursuits to distract him from his impatience. Our mechanic toiled late into last evening, striving to complete the job so that Patrick could resume his journey this morning, while I secretly have enjoyed the extra three days of his companionship.

I am reminded of other young folks, lively and excited about their pursuits: my friends' children, my younger brothers, myself. But I also think of many whom I have encountered who have not had such opportunities; whose choices have taken them down gloomier paths, or whose parents have made choices that crowded their own way with brambles and baggage, over which each successive generation will stumble. We all make choices, a friend recently observed.

I thought of these choices as I sat beside a slender young woman yesterday, who huddled inside a heavy man's jacket, her long, streaked hair haphazardly pulled into a clip, cheap black glasses slipping down her small nose, a dainty bud flanked by stark cheekbones, above chapped lips. In a tiny voice, she testified, yes, I want the court to accept my consent to termination of my parental rights, and another child slipped from her mother's reaching fingers, into a life that might be better but might be worse.

The girl is two years clean, on her fifth child, a child whom she supports alone. The child whom she surrendered yesterday was conceived while my client participated in drug rehab, in a hospital south of Kansas City, under circumstances that I can only imagine. Her oldest three and her youngest share a father, but the fourth one, a little girl, is the child of a man who has not stepped forward to help, or even voiced much thought as to the child's destiny. He talked of taking the child but failed to act consistently with his stated intentions, and so his rights, too, will doubtless be forfeited.

My client fought the state's removal of the child, and got herself clean, and visited the child every week for the last year. But she has reached the end of her ability to struggle to regain custody while raising the last baby alone. Her husband keeps using cocaine and she does not want the baby to be taken so she has finally left him. Do I want to do this? No, she adamantly insisted. Do I see myself getting my child back? Do I see myself being able to prove that I can care for both of them? Do I see the court giving her back to me? No, and no, and no. So she signed, and I notarized, and the Court accepted her consent, and my last sight of her narrow frame as the elevator door closed tore my heart out.

We all make choices, my friend said, and we do. We choose to drink alcohol to excess, or to limit our intake. We choose to smoke cigarettes, or marijuana, or snort cocaine, or not. We choose to pursue college degrees, or to take our high school diploma and cast ourselves on the sea of society, barely employable, our lack of knowledge and training meagerly offset by our enthusiasm.

But what of those who have few choices? What of the little girl whose mother conceived her on a narrow bed, in a rehab facility, and whose father vanished into the morass of a southern state where another woman, and other children, awaited him, without knowing that the simple act of desperate joining had formed life? That child did not choose her beginning, nor did she choose the circumstances which might well lead to feelings of unspeakable loneliness a decade hence, when she looks at her adoptive parents -- loving, caring, with a biological connection through her mother's side -- and thinks, why am I here? Did my real mother not love me? Did my real father not want me? Her tears might fall, silently, as she lies on her own bed and wonders what her life might have been, had she been born of different parents, or if the parents who gave her life had not then given her away.

I hear my husband moving in the upstairs room of our home. The old floorboards creak beneath his feet. Neither sleeping child has stirred; they have their own social spheres, and each came home after I succumbed to the fatigue of yesterday. In a little while, the phone will ring, and our diligent mechanic will announce that the Blazer is cured, and Patrick will resume his place in the driver's seat, adjust his glasses and the rear view mirror, and start the music which he needs to propel him eight hours east. And I will stand on the sidewalk, and think about the circumstances of his birth. I, too, chose to bear a child to whose father I was not wedded, and I, too, was cautioned that my life as a single mother would be difficult. Oh, good, I replied. The first 35 years were sheer hell. Difficult will be an improvement.

As he backs out of the driveway, careful to avoid the neighbor's car, I will wave, and he will smile, and I will silently pray that all his choices will be the right ones, and then, when the car has disappeared around the corner, I will go back into the house, and make myself another cup of tea.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.