“I can’t find Daddy.”
It happened. The thing I was afraid of since overnights started. One of the bad things that will find my daughters in life found Miss M. She is seven. And this type of particular thing will find her again and again… because her father is an addict.
Month after month will pass without any incident… but it never lasts. Not in her seven years of life. Not in the 9 months of pregnancy. Not in the two years prior where my marriage marched itself to death.
Every other Saturday he is responsible for her for about 26 consecutive hours. A small percentage. Minimized odds of disaster striking.
She goes with a watch that has cell phone coverage and can call a handful of pre-programmed numbers. It is a necessity. Too often communication between her father and I breaks down. The watch allows her and I to still have a way to talk. More importantly, she can call for help if she ever needs it.
I know the risk she is in. I lived it. I no longer worry, but try to prepare. We talk about what to do if you get lost. Boundaries with dads roommates. About using the watch to call if you have questions. If one day, you want to come home instead of sleepover. If you wake up and can’t find dad.
She has never needed to use any of the skills we worked on. Six months of success we have built up sleeping twice a month at Daddy’s. Everything was going fine. Until, well, it didn’t.
Match got the phone call. Saturday night around 7:30pm, “I can’t find Daddy.” So he drove without hesitation 35 minutes with Miss M’s shaky, wailing voice to my Ex’s home. He talked her from full incoherent panic to reasonably sniffly. He answered different variations of, “How many more minutes before you’re here. I’m really scared,” again and again. He had Miss M come outside to his car. There was no sign of my Ex.
He called the local police and they performed a wellness check. Three officers found Ex right there in his home. Behind a closed door to the bedroom he shares with our daughter and the air conditioner running on the 90 degree day. Asleep. Unaware she wasn’t even in the home anymore.
How did she not know he was there? How did he sleep through the loud, scared voice yelling, “Dad!” Why was he asleep before 8pm at night when he was suppose to be watching Miss M? Why didn’t she look in that room? It was her room, too. Why can’t he just not fuck things up for once?
Days later, a screener from the state tells me, there was an open bottle of alcohol in the kitchen and a glass in his hand. They suspect she did find Dad… And couldn’t wake him up.
I don’t know what happened in that small apartment to panic and call us. I can’t yet answer as to why she framed it as, “I can’t find Daddy.” But I know she listens to me when we talk now. I know I prepared her. She was able to make good choices because we talk. This time she wasn’t the seven year old on the news wandering the streets because no one watched her for over an hour. She didn’t stay there when her father had a bad day. She was able to get help.
Some days I feel like I’m a broken record. Easy to tune out…
“You have the watch to call if you need it.” “I know mom, you tell me this a million times” “Well, we are gonna go over it a million and one times, Miss M. Because then you know what to do when you need to.”
She called. She listens to what I say. Who knew?
Match, usually my steady, steady rock… was her steady, reliable voice this time. He’s good people, folks. Not everyone takes on your bag of crazy in life. Don’t get me wrong. He’s flawed and imperfect. That man can’t remember a fricken’ thing about schedule, feeds Dimples cold beans out of the can, and kids go shopping in pajamas sometimes. But he is there when it counts.
And so here we are less than a week later sorting out the aftermath. Miss M is back to normal. I was worried her childhood got pockmarked on this one, but I think we’re still little enough to not be scarred yet.
I sat in court yesterday with my three month old. She was the best company. And in the midst of sorting out her big sister, I got a gift of one-on-one time with my youngest daughter. There is always something special even in the shit storms of life.
Once again, I was the last case of the day. I spent time looking at my court file. It’s thick. We’ve been at this over six years. I still have 11 years left. And there is no more room in that thing for more papers. Its held by an elastic. Probation looked a the case name and said, ” I remember you guys. You haven’t been in for a while.” My cheeks flush and I smile, “Well, its been about six months. We had a good stretch.” Out of all the people who travel these halls each year, my case is a memorable one. I want to ask what sticks out the most, but I don’t. I just embrace it.
Once again, I had to put the shitty things he has done to paper. I had to ask a Judge to suspend overnights. I will drive today to the local sheriff to have him served with my Motion and a court date. I will have to tell Miss M she isn’t seeing Daddy this weekend. I will probably be texted books by him where I am called names and given lectures on how karma works. I know its his process.
I will have to call the state office to check on the investigation into neglect because Miss M will have meet with a case worker. The police felt whatever happened was serious enough to use their position as mandated reporters. I trust their judgement. We are now in new territory even for us. We now will start a file with the state. Hopefully this new one will be petite.
Some moments I’m a little angered. Others I’m sad for my daughter. But mostly, I feel grateful that we are still here. That out of all the outcomes in a crappy situation… We had one that is manageable. That I had the for sight to send her with the go-go gadget watch phone. That we talk about bad things and how to handle them.
I am mostly relieved to know that our children are listening to us even when we aren’t sure they are. Keep on truckin’ mamas. Some days our best totally ends up being more than good enough. 🙂