We were exhausted and tear stained.
You know the cries you have where you cry until you cannot cry any longer? That was us the night my step daughter had to return her cat to her mother. But not only were we crying about the cat we were crying about her dog. Oh yes, there is more. You see there once lived the most amazing German Shepard named Bochon. He lived until he was 14+ years old. When my husband was married to the kid’s Mom, they got this majestic animal that any future animal would be compared too. My husband insisted that the dog lives with the Mom so his kids would have him as a love anchor despite desperately wanting to not part with him for selfish reasons.
One summer before their annual trip to Europe to visit family the mom says let’s say goodbye to Bochon because he might die before we return. Better yet let’s take photos with him before we leave because he might die before we return. That all happens and my stepdaughter who was hypervigilant could honestly read lips from fifty feet away and hear through walls observes her mom talking to the ”puppeteer guy” as he was referred to. She is handing him papers saying this is where you take him.
They go off on their trip, and sure enough, the dog dies on the mom’s birthday no less, but no one is telling the children. The stepdad goes home first, and my stepdaughter is dying to FaceTime with him. Once they finally get a chance to speak the first question out of her mouth is, of course, is her dog alive?! The stepdad says we have a bad connection and hangs up on her. Then the mother decides to tell her on the plane ride home that yes the beloved family dog did indeed die but how special he died on her birthday as if that was supposed to make everyone feel better. My stepdaughter cries all the way home and tells us all these details as soon as she is home.
Fast forward a few years and Easter Sunday just happened, and she was with her mom at a party. She spies that the puppeteer guy is at the party and works up the courage to ask him some questions because it is unresolved how her dog died. It was never shared with her if her dog just died or if he was taken to the place with the papers to die. Her heart would not rest until she knew, she frequently cried for years to this day about her dog.
She goes to the puppeteer guy and says “Did you kill my fish?” Her fish died too that summer while she was away. This pathetic person says yes I killed your fish I forgot to feed it. No joke.
Then she works up the courage to inquire about Bochon and asks did he die or did you take him somewhere to die? You will never believe what came out of this guy’s mouth. He tells my traumatized stepdaughter that he did not kill her dog but that she killed her dog! Given a chance you do not want to know what I would like to do this insensitive excuse for a human being. How dare he speak to a child like this, a child that is still sad and distraught over losing her animals. So not nice!
We are tired and sad and now have to figure out how to get the backpack to our house. The mother refuses to bring it. We can’t leave the house based on the huge emotional eruption we got when we said one of us would leave to go get it. We didn’t realize what the last twenty-four hours had done to this poor child. She had severe separation anxiety because of it and was pushed into a very fragile emotional state. She became severely hypervigilant, tense and riddled with anxiety. There was no chance we were going to get out of the house that day.
The only saving grace was that it was extremely hot, we were having one of those gorgeous Santa Ana days in southern California. Where the temperatures rise due to the desert winds, it was 80 in April. So we said how about a pool day? This was a foot in the door with her, and she reluctantly agreed to play with us in the pool. At this point the mom had reluctantly agreed to bring her daughters things to us not speaking about the fact that the living situation had totally flipped, she was only focused on getting the cat back. She succeeded and was happy, and I was super pleased we escaped a visit by the police.
My husband and I said let’s hurry and get out of the house; she only lives five minutes away. So we scurried into our garage to get the girl’s pool gear. But we were too late. Just as soon as we made into the garage, the mom showed up. Of course, my husband is going to chat with her about this cat and how she would not let her keep the cat. How the therapist cannot believe she would not let her keep the cat. I knew the mom was going to lie about the cat, and there was a feeling of not being safe, so I let him go out and speak to her. I secretly turned on my voice memo. I thought to myself there is no way the therapist is going to believe us that the mother is still vehemently denying her daughter the brand new cat she just got her even temporarily. Her ego would not let it happen.
It seems that Moms are always believed and stepmoms are stereotypical monsters, so I wanted proof. I also really wanted to help my stepdaughter and felt that the therapist needed to know what she was dealing with. The stories from this woman’s mouth are always some twisted version of what didn’t happen. Little did I know what I was going to capture on audio that day.
Looking back there was a deep-seated sense that I was not safe. I was standing inside a dark garage trying to not been seen, trying to disappear quite honestly. I mean who wants to watch your current husband discuss anything with his ex-wife for real. I for a long time lived in a fantasy land thinking that things were amicable. That we were communicating and co-parenting. I suggested weekly email exchanges on the transition days. Just a quick this is what was going this week with school or whatever.
But every email sent, put my life at risk and I was making my self a target not even realizing it.