The Ghost Who Haunts Us
Every year about this time, I am paid a visit by a ghost from my past. Like Ebeneezer Scrooge, my ghost comes to visit around the holidays. She is frightening and angry most of the time. The sad part of the story is my son shares this ghost with me.
In October of 1998, I married a young lady who would become my sons mother. The first few years went well. Then gradually things started to go bad. Her mental illnesses, including suicidal depression and manic episodes, led me through many wild roller coaster rides. In the years we were together, we saw two miscarriages before my son was born. It was during this time, she started to fall out of love with me.
The incidents that I later recollected to form this opinion started slowly. I would find that she had set me up for failure on several occasions and the last straw was the night I took off work early to come home and spend our fifth anniversary together. When I got home, I knew something wasn't right but the 53 year old man in my bed was a dead giveaway that it was finally over.
I moved out of our home shortly afterwards and she originally took my son with her. He was about 2 years old at the time. She moved to Kentucky with him and my stepdaughter.
After a few months, I was visited by the sheriff at work. There was an incident involving medication and, if I wanted my son, I needed to take custody now. That was July 4, 2003.
I drove to Kentucky in a rented car and picked up my son, who thankfully was fine. We drove all night and since it was the Fourth of July, nothing was open. My blood sugar dropped and I passed out several hours from home. With the cruise control on 65, we left the road and landed in a hay field against a small grove of trees.
I awoke to a screaming 3 year old in the backseat of the car who must have assumed I was dead. I could barely see because the impact of the airbag and several jolts to the head had left me in pretty bad shape but I managed to kick my door open and get around to the passenger side of the car where he was.
When I got there, the door was locked. This is the point when panic sets in. I am watching my son, who just saved my life, screaming in a burning car. I did what any father would have done, took a step back and punched the window, shattering it. A few seconds later and I had retrieved him from the safety seat and he was unharmed with the exception of two little scratches where the harness had caught him.
Still stunned from the pummeling I had just taken, I changed his clothes and his diaper on the trunk of the car. As the fire started to reach the front seats of the car, I knew we needed to move so I picked him up and began to stagger away. We were probably 75 feet away when I heard the first whoosh as the gas tank caught fire. It wasn't anything like the movies. Just a rush of air and I looked back to see a 2003 Toyota Camry melting in the flames.
The first car that came past looked at us and drove away. I felt so very alone in the world at that moment. I don't remember much from that day but I remember I was praying that Marc would be okay... That he wasn't hurt... That someone would help us.
And God answered. He sent a young man in a pickup truck. The mans uncle owned the hay field where we had crashed and he had seen the smoke. Thinking it was arsonists, he had hurried down to catch them. Instead, he found a scared little boy and a father who was slipping in and out of consciousness.
He picked us up and took us to his home. His mother was a nurse and she bandaged me up with what she had on hand but I refused to go to a hospital because I did not want to let Marc out of my site. I could not remember where I was from but they helped me look through my wallet and find a business card for Bill. They called him for me and let me stay at their home until Bill arrived to pick us up. I remember their faces well and I did keep email contact with them for a while but we lost contact somewhere over the years.
But I digress, back to the story of our ghost. For a long time, Marc and I had no contact with his mother except on a rare occasion. Then in 2006, I made a mistake.
She had called me because the man she was living with was abusive and she wanted out. I had a family by then but I didn't want to see her or my step daughter, Kaleigh, being beaten so I offered them a place to stay until they got on their feet.
At first everything was fine but then trouble started. She became angry because my children call Gigi "Mom" and, in her typical fashion, she attempted suicide yet again. With the children home, she took several bottles of medication and then went in to take a bath. When she lost consciousness, I had to take the hinges off the bathroom door to get to her. We took her to the hospital and had her stomach pumped and then they committed her to a mental hospital for several weeks. While at the mental hospital, she wrote a letter to the kids, telling them it was their fault because they called Gigi "Mom" so for a very long time, my son, in particular, accepted this blame.
He has grown quite a bit now. It is sad to see a 9 year old who is so mature because it was forced upon him. His own mental illnesses are largely a part of the things his mother put him through. His one wish for Christmas every year since 2006 has been that his mother would leave him in peace and sign her rights away. He loves his sister and desperately wants to see her so this is how his mother draws the noose around his little neck every year.
We haven't heard from her since March 22 of this year, when her visit caused him to be institutionalized for 6 weeks, the day before his birthday. He was feeling better. He was comfortable in his own skin again. Except... tonight... tonight, our ghost has called again.
She wanted to see him on Christmas Eve to bring him presents. She did not give him a choice. She simply told him that she was going to be here. She held his sister out like bait and once again he had to take her up on it so he could see his older sister who he admires so much.
I do have to say I am proud of him. She set the day of the visit for Christmas Eve and he told her that if she wanted to see him, it was on his terms. He told her she was not to come to his home and she would meet him at McDonalds tomorrow, instead of Christmas Eve, or she would not see him at all. He stood up to the ghost, even though you could see the fear as he did it. He stood up because he is growing into a man he shouldn't have to be yet.
At 9 years old, this boy has seen things that would turn most men to stone but he has remained a loving, albeit scarred, boy. He was the hero that saved my life in that burning car, the alarm that sounded when his mother tried to kill herself and the target of her abuse for daring to love someone who cared about him. He has been forced to make the decision between what is best for himself and being able to see his sister time and again. And yet, he remains a strong and loving little boy who is being forced to grow up far beyond his years.
I will go with him tomorrow. I will offer him protection and strength to stand and look into the face of this ghost from our past. But all of my strength comes from the fact that I have seen this brave little man stand up for himself and tell the ghost that he calls the shots and he doesn't have to be afraid of her any more.
I ask all of you who read this to do me one small kindness... Pray for us. Pray that he continues to grow and that he doesn't let this haunting take control of him. The ghost has taken so much away from him in his short life. I pray that she cannot take anything else away from him. Pray for his happiness.