There’s something I’ve been really thinking about since my last trip up north. Usually I avoid our old neighborhood, I see no reason to inflict pointless emotional pain on myself. But last time I drove through. I noted who was still keeping up their lawn, who had moved based on cars parked in driveways, who’s home was for sale. I drove through the new sub that is only a paved, winding road through what was land owned by a couple of elderly sisters. It was supposed to be a subdivision, but all these years later there are only a few homes back there (yes dad, your lot is still for sale!).
The old homestead was looking ok, the same window treatments we left were hanging in the windows, the lawn needed to be cut, the garage door was open and a dusty mini van parked inside. On the way out I passed Rosemary’s house. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Ruminating. Pondering.
When Kaia was just little, I waited and waited for the daycare down the street to have openings. How perfect, I would think, to have her so close to home, so convenient! And one day there was an opening, and Kaia was happy there and well cared for. We would have dinner with Rosemary and Dan, Casey would borrow tools or automotive know how from Dan, Dan would borrow Casey for a heavy job.
We knew about their sad story, about their previous marriages, about Rosemary’s daughter being killed by her own son in law. We thought that we carried burdens all together, that in knowing each other’s struggles we were somehow more free. I knew the date that her daughter died, because her eyes would leak all day. She knew how much I missed my family when everyone moved away. We hugged a lot.
And then Ave came along, and I stayed home my six weeks and then the day came to turn her over to Rosemary, who had of course met her, who came to the hospital while I was chomping at the bit to go home and held her and cooed over her and brought her a present.
All was well in our little neighborhood, jobs worked, children cared for, our big lawn always mowed.
We received a call from a detective in the early Spring of 2009. Kaia’s good friend and arch nemesis (funny how kids can have such passionate love/hate relationships) reported that Dan had abused her sexually. Had been abusing her sexually. And then our whole perception of what was and who was, was shattered. And then we were in fear of our own daughters also being misused. And then we had to talk to counselors about ways to tell if a little girl has been molested. And then my husband put a hole in the garage wall with his fist and wept while the detective on the phone talked him out of killing his neighbor.
They swore it wasn’t true, that it hadn’t happened. The daycare was closed immediately. I didn’t go back to work for a long time and am lucky to have had such a caring person for a supervisor. I remember standing on the deck out back, and the sun was warm on my face, and I was crying, telling my supervisor I just couldn’t come back. Pleading with her, asking her, who can I leave them with? Who can I trust?
The trial ended with a hung jury. I went back to work, we found a wonderful woman named Amy to care for our children. We started to heal, just a little, just the thinnest scab formed.
Another unexpected phone call, I had been subpoenaed. There was a new trial. And this time they were lying. They said that he had never been alone with the girl, that was not true. And that was all I needed to know that it had actually occurred. He had actually done the things she’d said he’d done. Why would he lie if it wasn’t so? I told the truth.
So he was sentenced to thirty years and no parole. Seeing as how he was in his fifties when this happened, I sort of think it will end up being for the rest of his life. We saw Rosemary by accident a few times, handing out pretzel samples at the mall, passing each other in the subdivision; but we never spoke to her again.
I am the only one who knows what the little girl actually said, what she specifically accused him of. And you know what, he did NOT physically hurt her. It doesn’t really make it any better, but there it is.
So all of these years later, miles and miles from up north, and I still think I see his truck parked at Meijer sometimes. I turn into an aisle and see a tall, thin man with wavy white hair and glasses and my throat tightens and my chin trembles. It is really hard to trust anyone with our children, and we are so careful when we have the care of someone else’s. Casey especially, would rather not even be home than ever be alone with a child that is not his.
And that is sick. It is really sick. And really sad, that we have to safeguard our family this way. That we have this inherent mistrust of anyone, even a small child, who literally could say anything at any time; we have to make sure there is no way it could be true.
So that is what I’ve been thinking about.
And I’ve been thinking about how it hurts me more than it hurts him that I am still mad, that I haven’t been able to forgive him. And I’ve been thinking about how my forgiveness isn’t something he probably wants, and how it isn’t even for what he did to that little girl, but about what he did to my family. He didn’t hurt my children sexually or physically. I feel sure that he cared for my children just as he cared for me and Casey. I feel sure that he is ill, that there is something wrong with him that makes him want to do things like what he did.
Kaia cried for days after the daycare closed down. We stopped driving that way so we wouldn’t have to pass that house and bring it all up again. Her little girl voice, eye shining with tears in the backseat, Mama, why can’t I see my Rosemary? Mama, I miss my friends. Does Rosemary not like me anymore? She said she loved me, but she didn’t I guess.
As mentioned previously, I shy away from hurting myself on purpose. And I’ve learned a lot from my brother over the last two years or so. My heart has been tenderized, which hurts a good amount, because then I have to let it all in. But I’m wondering if I can’t let it go, if it’s finally time to forgive. If it will hurt less somehow, if I will stop seeing specters of an old man who I thought was my friend. If I can stop mistrusting people with my children. If I can trust myself.
I don’t know to forgive though, I mean, is it like stamping a file and closing it up and putting it away?
I want to, I just don’t know how. So I guess I will keep ruminating, pondering, thinking. And someday maybe it won’t hurt as much.
And someday maybe I’ll meet an old woman, with white hair and glasses, and her name will be Rosemary, and she will hug my children, crow with delight at the lovely young ladies they’ve become. We will meet each other’s eyes, not like that day in the courtroom, where she sat behind him and sobbed and never looked up as I answered questions while my heart raced and my palms sweat.
We will say we are sorry.
And somehow this will all be mended.