"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Friday, October 16, 2009

No Internet

The internet has been down the past few days which is probably a good thing since I am frantically trying to pack everything in time for the truck on October 24th. Husband is in the middle of some high pressure projects at work and can’t really help - in fact, he having to work overtime. To be candid, that might actually be a blessing in disguise (too many cooks and all that).

I don’t think I am much different than anyone else in that I tend to get easily distracted when I come across something of sentimental value. Could be something as mundane as a towel. (“Oh! I remember when I bought this Valentine’s Day hand towel on sale at Kohl’s – it is just so cute! Yes, we went out and had hamburgers later that afternoon and it was such a pretty day – finally a warm one after weeks of snow and ice…blah, blah, blah…” )

It is a wonder I am getting ANYTHING done.

To make it worse, I hauled out all my work archives. Twenty-seven boxes and I really don’t want to fill up the truck to haul them all back to Oklahoma. Fortunately, as a guardian ad litem I don’t get a lot of original items. Most of my stuff consists of just my notes and copies of original documents that are available elsewhere. I also have many copies of discovery requests AND responses and I don’t need both, most of the time. Unfortunately, in anticipation of a given hearing, I tend to make EXTRA copies of things and then throw them in the files with everything else with the intent of going through them “someday” and weeding out the redundancy. Well, “someday” is here and I don’t have much time to do it. Moreover, I keep going down memory lane and thinking of cases over the years. Some of the files have pictures of the kids in them and that’s good to slow me down for about 10-15 minutes (per file) because I just have to look at them, again.

I had the bright idea to burn a few copies but that was taking forever so I broke down and bought a shredder. I am glad to have it but what a pain. I know there are places I could take my documents to be shredded but I don’t want anyone else looking at this type of information. I would feel terrible if someone saw the dirty laundry of one of my wards through my negligence.

This morning (at 5:30 a.m.) I was shredding and ran across a shaken baby case from several years ago. Shaken baby cases are awful. They generally involve adults who are stressed to the max who shake a crying infant out of frustration. They don’t mean harm but little babies’ brains are easily damaged – frequently permanently and sometimes fatally. The doctors I’ve heard on the stand usually describe their little brains as like globs of jello and when you shake them, they break up, slosh all over the place, etc.

The case I was looking at had a twist in that it wasn’t an adult that shook the baby. The mother was mid thirties, uneducated, poor, worn out and came into this world with two strikes against her. She was a product of what we see so often – her own mother wasn’t worth shooting and the father was absent. By age twenty, she’d dropped out of school, had a biracial child, no child support, no family support (they turned their back on her because she became involved with a black man), no skills and no concept that she could improve her lot in life. I have to give her credit that she was bound and determined to pay her own way. She didn’t have a substance abuse problem and although she had a flat affect, she didn’t suffer from anything beyond mild depression. She had no real concept that she could make some changes to alter the hard path of her life. And she was just so worn out that getting an education or learning a useful work skill probably was simply too overwhelming to consider for the time it took to formulate a plan.

The father of her child had promptly moved on, leaving her with the task of raising him on her own. So she worked menial jobs, scraped by, dropped her son off with whomever would watch him, etc. She lived in a poor area with lousy schools but her son was an excellent student and by all accounts, an exceptionally respectful and kind child.

When the boy was about 11, his mother took up with a fast talking illegal with a wife and several kids parked out in the neighboring state. She said she didn’t know about them at the time, but more likely, he gave her some cock and bull story about it being a marriage of convenience, etc. Being an illegal, he pretty much stayed under the radar but he helped pay her bills, told her she was pretty, sent her flowers, took her to a movie every now and again, seemed interested in her son, etc.

And it came to pass in the fullness of time that she became pregnant and he went gone. So now she had TWO children, bills to pay, etc., etc.

From the time the baby was two months old, she left her in the care of the twelve year old son – all day. He was completely responsible for her care. Instead of going out to play in the summer, he had to stay inside the basement apartment and care for his infant sister. One evening, a couple of months later, mom came home and the baby was crying, vomiting, intermittedly lethargic. Eventually, mom took her to the ER where they determined that she had significant brain damage. Both sides of her brain were bleeding and she had retinal hemorrhaging. They diagnosed shaken baby syndrome. The son confessed that he “might” have shaken her when she wouldn’t stop crying.

Reportedly, Mom slapped him and refused to even look at him after screaming at him for about twenty minutes, telling him he was a murderer, etc. She told him that even if the baby survived, she’d be retarded and it would be his entire fault. A friend from work was at the hospital and took the boy home because his mother told him she never wanted to lay eyes on him, again.

I still get just sick when I think of the scene and how that boy must have felt.

By the time I was appointed for the baby and her brother, the mother was speaking to her son but still angry at him. In the year that I worked with the family, she never did come around to admitting that she was wrong to place that burden on her son. She was of a mind that she’d had no other choice but to rely on the son for babysitting so she felt no guilt over it.

Eventually, the son moved back in with his mother but I never saw her say a kind, noncritical word to him. She’d dote on the baby and snarl at him. He was an A-B student but she’d constantly point out that he could do better. I never saw her touch him. All her rage at her hard life seemed to be directed towards him, poor thing. They got into counseling by court order (she kept insisting that she didn’t have time) and I think that helped. Eventually, the case was closed.
The good news is that the baby made a nearly full recovery. The bad news is that the boy got involved in a gang and after being involved in a couple of robberies and violating probation, he got sent “downstate,” (juvenile prison). His mother said he was never much good…

No pictures, today. I am actually at Panera Bread using their internet. They tell us it will be at least three weeks to put in a new internet line - we're hoping their patch something in for the meantime.

Heading home to shred more papers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're okay.