Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Still Life: Torn Asunder

I was in court all morning, sitting in the big marble lobby on the hard wood benches. Near me was a young woman with a two-year-old boy, on her lap, running around, playing. She had a friend next to her, another young woman who she held hands with now and then, whispered to, and who seemed to be supporting her. Once in a while Linda, my old friend from the office, came by to talk to them. What they were there for, and why, I had no idea. We sat a long time and after a while the case was called and the young woman went in the big court room and the doors shut.

When she came out again it was with a flurry of activity; lawyers and social workers in a mass, fluttering, crowding, talking in a loud buzz after the relative quiet. Everyone in the room turned to watch. The mother was sagging, sobbing, her child clutched to her chest. The baby boy looked around, not knowing what was happening. Two Sheriffs came to either side of the woman to make sure there was no trouble. She seemed tiny next to them. Linda came over and took the child from her arms, pulling him away from her. On the mother’s face one could see the cracks that come from such pain; the realization that she would not see him in an hour, that night, tomorrow. That her little one was going, and she may not see him again until weeks and weeks had passed. That this was real, that the unthinkable was happening.

In my heart I remembered my own life and the feeling of dropping off my precious gems on Sunday afternoon and driving away in my now-empty, now-silent car… and the still of the house where the night before all had been riot and laughter and song and Berenstain Bears… and the still, dull pain of one minute having your daughter in your arms, and all the weight of that love and the giant bloom of colors and life in your heart from your darlings, and the next… nothing.

I stood and made my way to the bathroom where I sat in a stall and cried. I sat a long time and was as quiet as possible and then came out and another co-worker, Robin, asked if I had allergies and I said yes, and that was all I could say and I went back to my bench.

The baby was whisked away, and the mother stayed to sign some papers and receive some court orders. What she had done, or her family, or what had happened I did not know. I did not care. Her friend seemed to have vanished and after a moment the lawyers and social workers all went away and she was alone and slowly she rose to her feet and on trembling legs walked to the exit.

I reached out and touched her arm.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“No,” she said simply.

I nodded. I knew what it was like to have a broken heart.

“Would you like to pray?” I asked. I thought she would think I was crazy and brush me off.

“Yes! Oh, yes!” She said, and sat on the hard bench with me. She crossed her self in the Catholic manner and I followed, comfortable enough with that. I prayed a simple prayer about strength and helping us through the hard hurt and setting our lives right and she cried and said a prayer of her own and she cried and I said that she would be fine. She was shocked to find I was one of THEM, one of CPS who had taken her baby and they were so unforgiving and cruel and judgmental, and I agreed we could be all that. I told her she would get her baby back if she only did the right thing… and in her heart she knew what that was. We talked a while and her friend came back. She had been getting the car. She thanked me and on impulse, I guess, leaned over and gave me a fast, tight hug.

And then she was gone.

I stood and made my way out to the street. It felt like Fall. The air was cool, a breeze from the bay. I prayed to God by myself. I hadn’t been talking to Him. I had been mad at Him. For all the pain and hurt.

But as I walked down the street towards my car I thanked Him for all that pain, all that hurt. In that pain was empathy, in that hurt was love. I thought of the hug I’d gotten from another soul in pain and how long since anyone had hugged me in any real way, and how that had meant more than all the things I own, or clothes or anything else. I was entering a new life, and maybe that life would start with love, and be about love, and it could all mean something after all.

And as I reached my car I was ready to smile…

And I’d gotten a parking ticket.

[submitted from a personal friend - rb]

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