Years ago, I was in my mid twenties, and a coworker, Karen, was in her late 30’s. We became friends, and one day I asked if she ever served jail time, expecting her to say no. “Well, yes, I have. Remember how I told you I don’t have kids? I lied. I have 2 sons.”
And she began a harrowing tale of marrying into a very wealthy and very controlling family in Kentucky. After years of emotional abuse, and fearing for the future of her sons (and after hearing of sexual abuse that the youngest had endured), she filed for divorce. She had not worked outside of the home, so she had limited financial means to fight for her freedom and her boys. A very nasty legal battle ensued that was devastating. In the end, she had no proof of abuse, was labeled emotionally unfit, and lost custody of her boys. She was awarded limited visitation. Fearing for her boys, she visited them one day and fled with them. She took them to Kansas, where she had them for a few months before being found. She served 90 days in jail, and lost all parental rights.
Her boys contacted her a few times on the sly, but Karen was informed that they were severely punished when caught, and they stopped trying to reach her at all. Out of fear for them, she didn't attempt to contact them.
“When people ask me if I have children, I tell them no. They wouldn’t understand how I can let go of my children. People assume I was an unfit mother or I was doing something illegal. But I let go of them because I didn’t have a choice. I did all I knew to do, short of killing their father.” She had tears running down her face by now.
She hoped eventually they would understand that she fought for them. She started over in Oklahoma and earned a degree from OU. She had to move on, in case they did find her one day. At that time, she had no contact with them for years, and the oldest was nearing adulthood.
I have never had to let go of anything that serious. I have had to let go of a marriage, along with many relationships and careers. I usually stayed in them much longer than I should have. I don’t let go easily of things I care about. But I’ve done it enough I should be a pro at it by now.
Today I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go of some things once and for all, and Karen came to mind. I had let go of these things previously--or so I thought. But the desire for a husband and a child, along with other things, have continued to bother me periodically. Apparently, I've continued to secretly hope for them. If my friend can let go of such a huge part of herself, I can let go of these small things in my heart. Her desires were tangible--they were human, and she had once held them in her arms. Mine are mostly intangible, and only ideas and dreams.
I have held onto them for so long that letting go isn’t easy. It’s going to be a long process. But I have to do it, before bitterness becomes a permanent part of who I am. I don't want to be bitter, but I am. I hate to say, "Stop dreaming" or "give up hope". But for my own peace, I believe I need to do just that. I need to live in the now, because tomorrow is too uncertain.
As an end to this story, Karen contacted me again a few years later. Her oldest son had found her through the internet while serving in Afghanistan. He then paved the way for her to obtain custody of her youngest son, since he was a witness to abuses in the home and was now willing to go public with it. The last I spoke with her, she had remarried, and her sons were with her.