Chapter 38, april
There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind. – C.S Lewis
Throughout the past two years, John and I had gone back and forth with Loren on several occasions. For a short time, things seemed like they would get better. However, just when we got accustomed to one way of thinking, the relationship would hit a new low. After the final meeting in our home, I felt a glimmer of hope that looked like nothing I had witnessed previously.
Aside from the financial burden we had incurred with all the legal fees, the custody battle had taken a toll on us both mentally and physically. We constantly felt as if we were not the best spouse, friend, parent, and person we were meant to be. While it seemed that we had exhausted all our possibilities, I knew that there had to be more to the life than the misery we were currently experiencing.
I decided to put my college education to the test. How hard could it be to draft our own custody order?
I was thorough, organized, and meticulous – all the traits I imagined a good attorney to have. The difference was, I wanted to do this for the sake of my family and sanity…not just a paycheck. When I reached out to Loren with the idea that we end our relationship with our respected attorneys and go at our situation solo, surprisingly she was on board.
We went back and forth with my nearly ten-page document for several weeks. Given our communication history, I knew that all I’s must be dotted, and T’s must be crossed. Once we came to a mutual agreement on every bullet point listed, John and I were advised to meet with our attorney. She insisted on drafting the final order, just so everyone would felt safe knowing it was a legal document.
While we were in the attorney’s office, she asked one last burning question, “Are you sure this is what you want?”
The attorney advised us that once everything was agreed on, it would be extremely difficult for John to change his mind. I spoke up with pure confidence that we were absolutely certain it was what is best for our family. With tears in his eyes, John looked up to his attorney and declared that he was scared.
I looked over at my husband and asked what exactly he was afraid of. John expressed his concern that I was going to leave him. He told me that I was everything he had ever wanted and more, and that he did not want to imagine his life without me. He went on to say that he knew how much this custody battle was tearing me apart, so he had agreed to certain things just to end the chaos.
I was not angry, and I was hurt…hurt that John had not felt safe enough to express this to me in the comfort of our home.
Sitting across the desk from his attorney, I felt like a monster. I felt as if I had forced my husband to do something he did not want to do.
That was not the type of marriage we had. I reassured him that even though our situation with this bitter custody battle was not ideal, we were in it together.
I told John that if he was not comfortable with every aspect of the new agreement, he needed to speak up. His attorney urged him to reconsider a few of the points in our document. She suggested that we attend mediation prior to signing the final copy. So, it was decided…we would be planning a date for the three of us to attend mediation.
On a positive note, we were not going to court. On the other hand, I worried it would cause Loren to doubt our intentions were pure.
Motherhood is one of the hardest, most rewarding experiences of your life. We carry our babies for roughly nine months, go through an indescribable amount of pain during childbirth, then we nurture and protect our children for a lifetime. When we leave the hospital, we are entrusted to do right by them based on merit alone, no directions are given, and there is no return policy. I am sure I am not alone in the fact that I place an obscene amount of pressure on myself to be the perfect mom that raises the perfect child.
For me, motherhood began much earlier than expected, but I did not let that stop me from attempting to be the best mom I could be. Hayli was the child that made me a mom. I remember every detail about my first childbirth experience like it was yesterday. I can recall every milestone, heartache, rewarding moment, and the times that Hayli made me want to pull my hair out. As a baby and toddler, she was full of personality. She had a smile and an energy that lit up any room. I enjoyed watching her grow from a curly-haired, brown-eyed beauty to a beautiful and free-spirited young adult.
When you are watching your babies grow, it is common to imagine what their lives will be like when they become adults.
As parents, we often expect our children to do just what we had planned for them, often forgetting that they have their own desires and are born with free-will. I had several hopes and dreams for Hayli, just as I do all of my children. One of the hardest lessons, one that I am still trying to learn, is that Hayli is her own person. She marches to the beat of her own drum…a very loud and brightly colored drum!
I received a call from Hayli one afternoon. She said that she needed to talk to me and her dad, it was important, and she would like to do it in person. We decided that we would all meet at Jerry’s office to discuss her big revelation. I can recall pulling into the parking lot, having no expectations on what I was about to hear.
I had become so engrossed in my own problems that I barely had time to think about anything else. Also, at that point in my life, not much could surprise me…or so I thought. As I walked through the parking lot, I noticed that Taylar was joining us for this meeting. I think that is when I began to worry that what I was about to hear would be a much bigger surprise than I was ready for. The girls went inside while Jerry and I trailed behind. Jerry asked me if I had any idea what this meeting was about, to which I responded that I had no clue.
As a mom, you grow accustomed to being the last one to know everything.
Jerry asked me what I thought Hayli was going to reveal. I said, “She is either getting married or she’s pregnant.” We both chuckled that I was probably right and hoped that marriage would come first.
As we sat across the table from our daughter, I could sense that she was extremely nervous. Tears began to flow down her face. Her sister began to comfort her as her father and I reminded her that she could tell us anything, and no matter what she said, we would support her.
Hayli gathered the strength and courage to utter three simple words that would forever be engrained in my mind…“I am gay.”
She explained that she had felt that way for quite some time but was scared to tell us. Jerry and I both expressed our love for her and told her that she had nothing to be scared of.
We hugged our daughter, and not another word was spoken. I was able to hold myself together until I reached my driveway. As soon as the car was in park, I lost all control of my emotions. I cried enough tears that day to sink the Titanic. I was scared for my daughter, I was worried for my daughter, and I was ashamed of myself.
That was not the life I had planned for my baby girl.
Being a mother, I had prepared myself for just about anything. I knew there was a high probability that my children would attempt underage drinking, there was a chance that my children would be tempted to partake in illegal drugs, and I knew that statistically they were more prone to teen pregnancy. I was not prepared for the possibility that one of my children could be gay.
I had raised my children to love all types, shapes, and colors of people. However, I was raised to believe that homosexuality was an unforgivable sin. Each night before bed, I prayed for God to keep my children safe and healthy…I never thought to pray for their sexuality.
As I sat in that vehicle and cried the ugliest cry I have ever cried, I could not bring myself to believe that God would send my child straight to Hell just because of her sexual preference.
My God loves everyone, and He forgives everything.
My daughter is a beautiful, intelligent, and strong woman. She can love anything and anyone she desires, as long as it makes her happy. In that moment, I realized that while it was not in my plan, my daughter was doing just as she had been taught – she was being true to herself.
I admired the courage it must have taken to be as honest and vulnerable as she was that day. That night, I added to my prayer. I prayed that God not only keep my children safe and healthy but that He would keep them safe from the opinions of the cruel world we live in.
I never want to think about anyone, especially my children, being ridiculed for who they are and who they love. There is so much love in this world, and we should be able to share it with whomever we please.
While we were waiting for mediation to take place, John was attempting to show Loren that he was willing to compromise and come to a mutual agreement of shared custody. She had been getting the boys more than every other weekend, and while John was still getting used to that idea, things seemed to be going rather smooth.
Loren picked up the boys for her scheduled time, and about fifteen minutes after she left the doorbell rang. I pulled up the camera and seen Loren standing there with a very distraught Jackson. When I opened the door, Loren stated that Jackson had been extremely disrespectful, and she was bringing him back to us where he would stay until his behavior improved.
She explained that as soon as they drove away Jackson informed her that she did not feed him the correct foods, and that she was not being a very good mother. I was shocked at what he had said, so I called for John to intervene. I took Jackson inside to console him while John and Loren spoke in private.
Once I was able to calm Jackson, I returned to the conversation outside. Like most times before, Jackson had given me a much different recollection than what we received from Loren. We all agreed that Jack should remain with John and I until we could get to the bottom of his anger and outbursts towards his mother.
Our scheduled mediation day had arrived. After the mediator joined us, he explained the sequence of events that would take place. He would go from room to room and discuss the agreement that John, Loren, and I had been drawing up over the past few weeks. It seemed pretty cut and dry, and I imagined it to be a quick process.
Imagine my surprise seven hours later…when I was still sitting in the same room with the man that had not mediated very much, but what he had done was tell us his entire life story.
In that moment I began to wonder where I had gone wrong in my life. I thought, “Wow, I must have really made someone mad in a previous life to endure this amount of torture.”
Needless to say, we left the attorney’s office that day in no better shape than when we arrived – much like the many times prior. The only difference that day, was that we were given no time to prepare for the next step.
Within hours of arriving home, our entire county was placed under a mandatory evacuation. The National Weather Service was predicting a Category 5 Hurricane to hit our town within the next 48 hours.
We knew that we had much to do once we returned.
The question was, would we have anything to return home to…