I began responding to a volatile telephone call in a letter. The letter soon became more of a release of pent-up anxiety and anger.
I didn’t mail this letter. I did show it to my therapist.
Donna still exercised all of Tyrone’s “parenting time” after he passed away in 2007. She responded quite animatedly to the prospect of losing a few hours of that time, which wasn’t hers to begin with.
As I tried to explain on the phone, the midweek visit has become difficult to implement, with the increase in after-school activities as the children get older. Our calendar is filling, and I need to make choices and reduce costs and travel as well as work around existing plans and appointment availability.
I don’t need to give you any reason, including or beyond that. But you insist.
It is more than simply inconvenient. It is disruptive to their weekday schedules and routines. They have daily chores and other expectations and responsibilities. It is detrimental to their schoolwork, as there have regularly been times where homework was overlooked and not completed (at least monthly, if not more often). The kids may or may not agree with my decision. Stuart was upset for about 20 seconds, and then went back to telling me about the book they’re reading at lunch. It didn’t phase Coraline at all. You “need” them more than they “need” you at this point in their pre-adolescence. Twice a month is more than enough. It is far more than they see any of their other grandparents and other family.
I have personal reasons as well, but I am not doing this to hurt you. I believe what I’m doing is in the children’s best interests or I wouldn’t be doing it. I understood their unwillingness to continue Scouts and other activities, but I also made sure they were filling their time constructively. They now have the time and the interest to compete in other programs like basketball and equations. My life is full of driving here and there, extra costs and fees, not because I enjoy the added stress and expense and lack of relaxation but because I feel what I’m doing is in the kids’ best interests. They are my reason for life.
I do believe it is in their best interests to continue to visit [grief counseling center] every week. They work with trained staff to deal with grief, anger, and other emotions in positive ways, while cherishing their memories of him. I’m not sure that visiting your house every week is as therapeutic for them as it is for you. I know that after my dad died, it was really hard to be in his house for a while. Every other weekend is fine, as long as you honor the kids’ prior commitments such as games and meetings. Holidays we’ll have to take as they come … Coraline told me that she wanted to be “home” for the first few holidays because she misses her dad more when she’s at your house. For summer, I would continue the every other weekend visits and add probably two uninterrupted one-week visits so you could take them up north. I’ll need to know which weeks soon as we will be keeping them very busy during the summer as well.
If you want to take them to Texas for mid-winter break, they would need to be flown down or flown home at your expense, as I do not want them missing school. Coraline has a game at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and then no obligations for either until the next Sunday. If you wanted to spend 2-3 weeks in Texas, you could drive them down and fly them home, or fly them down for the last week of your visit and drive them home.
Have you been attending private or group grief counseling for yourself and Frank? There are a lot of resources available to you, and I hope that you find peace and eventually only remember him with joy and not sadness. I can’t begin to relate to how it must feel to lose a child. I know the dynamic is very different than losing a husband; we’ve been discussing that in our adult group. There is a lot more anger among the widows who are now single parents, not by their choice. There was almost always abuse; physical, emotional, alcohol/drug or a combination of them. In contrast, the parents feel guilt, remorse and severe depression.
I believe it was inexcusably cruel of you to treat me the way you did the day of the funeral. Despite what you may believe, Tyrone’s passing has been incredibly hard on me. I was appalled at the way you and your family attacked me the day before the service, and threatened my family for simply following school policy, in the children’s best interests. And yet I faced all of you alone, for YOUR benefit, as my husband absolutely would NEVER stand by and let someone treat me in that manner. He would have gladly been at my side to support me, but out of respect for your loss and knowing that he would not tolerate your verbal abuse, I asked him to stay home. If he’d been there, we would have walked out of there with the kids and arranged a separate private service. It was unconscionable for you to separate me from my children and banish me to the back of the room. I heard your comments as you hovered at my back while I said goodbye to the husband that I loved for eight years and shared two perfect children with, and was infuriated, but I acted with dignity and walked away. Out of respect for YOUR loss.
It is not healthy for me to deal with you on a weekly basis. I resent the little things such as your continued attempts to load the kids up with sugar and send them home with bags and pockets full of sweets. I constantly grapple with the much more significant issue that the kids act far worse toward each other in the hours after I pick them up than they do at any other time. I don’t know what the dynamic is in that household, but Stuart and Coraline never fight so much as they do from the moment they get in the car, not stopping until after we get home and they are back in “familiar territory” for an hour or so, and all is normal again. In the summer, when they’re gone for a week, it takes a day or two to get them back to normal. I am tired of getting knots in my stomach when I have to talk to you because of the way you react—and overreact—when you hear something you don’t want to hear. I am constantly reminded of the scars you have left on my past. I can relate the three worst days of my life directly to your involvement. I do not choose this for myself. I do not deserve it.
I have moved on and built a very good life for the children. We have a very loving home, rich with family involvement and strong interpersonal relationships. Westley has always treated Stuart and Coraline as his own, and while he could NEVER replace Tyrone in their lives and would never try, I am thankful and blessed that he is a part of their lives. Westley and I have both put aside personal feelings about past events in order for the children to be able to comfortably discuss their loss, sadness, love, anger, and anything else they need to share. They know I did not hate their father. They know I was concerned about him, and praying for him. I saw his sadness when he first met our new dog and was clearly reminded of [Tyrone’s dog]. I wish I could have been able to warn someone that he was severely depressed back in early August. I could feel it, I could practically touch it… but who could I tell? The only thing I could think to do was to ask for anonymous prayers.
It is in the children’s best interest to maintain contact with you, and for us to behave as polite, mature individuals toward each other, in their presence and otherwise. I do not like you. I am having a very hard time forgiving you as I forgave Tyrone for everything he put me through, and begged forgiveness for my role in the demise of our marriage. I will never claim that I was a perfect or even a great wife to him, but we had good times too, and loved each other deeply when we made those children. None of that excuses the abuse, but now I understand how much of a hand you had in our ruin. After the divorce, I did not hate Tyrone, or feel sorry for him. At the end, I only wished him happiness. I felt—not guilt—but unease, when I noticed that things in my life had changed so much for the better and his had seemed to change only for the worse. As far as I knew, he was still living with you, and I had built a house. I didn’t think he had a serious girlfriend, at least not serious enough to introduce the kids to, and I remarried my high school sweetheart. I was getting new vehicles, and his were breaking down. I did not gloat or make any attempt to “rub it in” — I just felt sorrow that he seemed to be stuck in such a sad place.
As for you, I’ll pray that God will help me find forgiveness, because as I said, you were instrumental in the three worst days of my life, and that’s something hard to move past. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, the most painful moment, was telling my children the awful truth that their father had passed away… and then, when appropriate, telling them that he had taken his own life. But it wasn’t the worst day of my life.
This was the worst day of my life, until it was surpassed by the other two: the day you told me I was abusing my children and just didn’t remember doing it, and by God I trusted you, and scared beyond logic of hurting my kids unintentionally, attempted to take my own life. By the time Tyrone got home, I knew it was the wrong thing, and I knew that God had spared me to teach me a lesson, but I didn’t know how great that lesson was. Tyrone asked me what was wrong, and I told him what I did, and unbelieving, he put dozens of pills in front of me and told me to prove it. In anger and indignation, I swallowed a handful of pills, and he called 911. What I thought was a nightmare, my admission into the stress unit, was my prayers being answered. Learning that I was not crazy—I was brainwashed, and abused. Not by only my husband, but you as well. I don’t believe anything I once believed about the horrible things you told me about my mother. I think they were fabricated to drive me further from my family.
Speaking of lies, this was the worst day of my life, until it was surpassed recently: the day you kidnapped my children. I remember with stark detail, attempting to escape your home with the kids in each arm, and your frantic call to 911 and your outrageous outbursts… your faked mania and sobbing, panicked screams that I was trying to push you down the stairs, all the while giving me the most evil eye I have ever witnessed. I was scarred forever that day. On the Friday after Tyrone died, when I was sitting in your kitchen, helping you by providing dozens of photos of Tyrone and the kids for the service, and bringing the kids to you so that you could have them near in your time of loss, my heart was stone and my stomach engulfed with flames as I glanced around the room and endured all the hateful memories, all the years that holidays were dreaded because of your family’s fights.
Finally, the worst day of my life, and God forbid I ever endure worse: the day of Tyrone’s funeral. None of the few close friends and family members I confided my pain in could believe what you had done. Only your sisters approached me with condolences. I was alone in my grief, sent away from my rightful place next to our grieving children, as images flashed before me of MY LIFE, photos of my husband and our kids, photos that I took… and when the tears came, I found the only other person seemingly raised to actually show emotion was [Tyrone’s brother’s wife], who was likewise alone in the back of the room due to [baby cousin’s] fussing. I went to her and put my arm around her and we cried. And I am truly thankful to her for not pushing me away, because in that moment I felt more alone than I’ve ever felt. Wishing I’d brought my husband—and glad I didn’t for the kids’ sake—because they needed to stay, and to be there. As always, I was acting in their best interests, even if it nearly destroyed me emotionally.
I endured months of pure hell, thinking that the ONLY way you could have treated me that horribly was if you truly blamed ME for Tyrone’s death. It was the only thing that made sense… I’d never wish venom like that on my worst enemy. You must have believed that Tyrone was dead because of me, directly or indirectly. That was it—the note. The note I’d asked for a copy of back in September, knowing that some day in the future, the kids would be grown and wonder and want to know. The note you never provided.
The note, the death certificate, the police report from the scene, and a copy of the memorial DVD (which I will purchase since you deny me the kids’ copy) will be locked in a safety deposit box. Some day they may want to know. Some day, they will be old enough to understand, and they have the right to the truth. I would never do anything to reduce their rightful love of their father and his memory. The abuse I suffered from him has been forgiven, buried, and will only be revealed if they so choose to approach me and specifically ask. I will not lie to them.
Do not contact me except to arrange pick-up and drop-off locations and times for weekends. You will need to provide all transportation, to and from your house. I will make sure you get a copy of their schedules on a regular basis. For the next two months, there is an appointment, game, practice, or other activity on almost every day—some days, there are 3-4 different ones. You will be informed of performances, tournaments, etc.
If you’d like to get them cell phones, I’d suggest Alltel because it is the only service with good reception at our house. With Alltel they could call me, Westley, Rebecca and any other Alltel customers for free without using minutes, as well as whatever 10 numbers you add to their “circle.” I already have three lines on my account and we share 1000 minutes per month, so it would be pretty expensive to add them to mine.
I’m enclosing college account information for both children. When the back child support due becomes available, please credit it directly to the kids’ college accounts. I don’t want to touch that money. I would have waived child support while he wasn’t working, but he never would have asked me to.
P.S. Something else has been bothering me. How dare you tell me who I can and cannot talk to? Shortly after Tyrone’s death, you called and left a nasty voicemail, telling me not to post on his online guestbook, telling me not to try to contact his friends, and other things. You were not asking politely, you were demanding. How dare you? You robbed his closest friends of their opportunity to say goodbye properly, letting no one but your chosen few attend the services. I was upset not only for what you had done to me, but for them as well.
I even suggested to my husband that we host an informal memorial for his friends, so that they could meet the kids and share their memories of Tyrone with them. I posted on Tyrone’s guest book, inviting people to contact me if they wished.
Then Sean posted that he was having a memorial at his place, and we decided that would be more appropriate. I was more than happy to give Sean photos of Tyrone and the kids, and pictures from the wedding of Tyrone with his friends. He is a great person, and we have kept in touch over the years. I asked for a copy of the DVD for him, for his gathering… not for “posting on the internet” as you accused.
Worried that you would have the guestbook taken down if I didn’t, I had my post removed, so that his friends could use it. So that the kids could use it. I think it is important for them to see the words of people they never knew, that loved their father very much.
Then you called Sean at work and told him not to speak with me. Again, how dare you? You upset him so much, he had to leave work for the day. Crying. Soon after, he was fired. No warning, just let go. No job, no benefits. Did you know Sean was on anti-depressants? Who is going to pay for those now? Tyrone helped Sean through his darkest times. Now Tyrone is gone. Sean is racked with guilt for not being there for Tyrone in his darkest hours. If something happens to him, I’ll hold you responsible for that as well. I have never shared with Sean, the extent of the difficulties that Tyrone and I had… it had nothing to do with their friendship. And he has told me, on several occasions, that he respects me a lot for that. Lord only knows what you told him about me. He is too good of a person to engage in gossip, but he seemed to agree that you were filled with anger toward me. As if I had something to do with Tyrone’s death.
Honestly, it would have happened a lot sooner if we’d stayed together. He used to threaten to kill himself all the time. ALL THE TIME. He had hooked up a hose to the exhaust of one of the many old cars in the yard and ran it through the window and rolled them all up. He had gone outside with his handgun, into the woods, and then fired it to make me think he’d killed himself. Do you have any idea of the psychological trauma that causes? He did it so often I became numb to it. We’d fight, and he’d pull this ace in the hole. He put the gun in front of me, and told me to kill myself. “Get it over with.” This is what I lived with. And the constant talk of how he was never treated the same as [Tyrone’s brother], how he was always told to be more like him. How nothing he did was good enough. Now, whenever I remember him calling me “stupid, worthless, lazy” it is your face I see.
For the kids’ sake, I won’t cut you completely out of their lives. They don’t know why; it is not their burden to bear. But I can limit your time with them to a more rational, logical amount. Why should you have more time with them than their other grandparents, aunts, cousins?
That was rough revisiting.
But essential to the story.