Being Present

We have been driving a few hours and as we near our destination I look in the rear view mirror and see my daughter. Her eyes are big and round, but there is a noticeable distant sadness in them. She sees me looking in the mirror and looks back at me so our eyes lock, looking directly at each other. I am forced to break the glance and look ahead at the road. I cannot say what her thoughts were, only mine.

The last time we made this trip was as a family, with their father, not even three years ago. The last time I saw their brother, my step-son, was a few days after the shooting when I was still in STICU. I don’t remember which day. I only remember by then I had asked, and finally been told my husband had died. My step-son had come to have me sign the financial responsibility papers for the funeral.  I thought he had come to see me. Though we spoke on the phone several times after I came home from the hospital, the last time we’d spoken was the first Christmas after.

This journey, fraught with so many conflicting emotions I cannot possibly process them, begun so many years ago, is now through a new and unfamiliar landscape. Several times while driving I had to bring my mind back to the moment. The moment which was peace with my children, who were to be reconciled with their brother.

I am a mother. I am protective. I imagine all the conflicting emotions I have and am sure that my children, too, must feel both excited and apprehensive about the reunion. I want to shield them from any pain of a direct reminder of those days and months, really years after the shooting when their father’s family was a vacuum in their lives. Abandoned by him, left with barely a trace of his family.

We arrive, and within minutes I want to take the children and leave. I immediately sense they are safe to stay there, it is that I am overwhelmed. I stay long enough to be sure the children are comfortable and settled in, long enough to feel like I can leave though it is difficult to leave them.

I get into the car to drive another few hours to my aunt’s house to stay the weekend. I am emotionally numb, shut down, which frightens me as it is reminiscent of how I dealt with the abuse. The intensity of it offset by the impenetrable shell where nothing could hurt. I quickly realize this is not healthy and I need to process what I feel.

I search for and find some common ground with my step son. I realize though our struggles are different, neither would have chosen this. In our own ways, hard as it is to process what happened, we are both free. I don’t imagine it to have come easy for him either. He has worked for it. In him I see a man who chose and has worked hard to create a life quite different than his father. He is a dedicated, loving, loyal, physically and emotionally present father and husband, a forgiving person. He is everything his own father was not to his wife, to his children.

At some point of the drive I acknowledge this milestone in the journey for my children and for me. I celebrate new beginnings, which sometimes are created from painful endings.

Just for today…I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful. 

About Lisette d. Johnson

Murder-Suicide Survivor, Mom, Writer, Speaker, Serial Volunteer in the Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Assault Arena, Entrepreneur, &amp Friend. I survived, my kids survived, and I am here to tell the story.
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4 Responses to Being Present

  1. Mighty Casey says:

    Wow. Just … wow. As hard as it is to break up that scar tissue, it’s so much healthier when we do, isn’t it? Kudos, grrlfren. Big ones.

  2. Kim Allen says:

    Thank you seems not enough for what you share. Thank you for reminding me to enjoy what is beautiful…. Just for today….Just for this moment…. That is truly all we have…this moment.

  3. Kate Hall says:

    Amazingly-written. Hugs.

  4. Susan Payne says:

    The bastard who hurt us still lives…my daughter heard from him last week when he drilled off an abusive e-mail during one of his drunken rants. She’s 14, a lovely girl woman who dismisses his words as those of a mentally unstable bully, though she is horrified that he calls me “white trash.” That name is one of his kinder names for me…one of the more gentle and loving names he used.

    Nightmares return full force when I have to communicate with him which I immediately do when he turns up to harrass my sweet child who has already endured more than any child should. Though I haven’t laid eyes on him is a couple of years, I can feel his hands on me, his breath on my neck. I can smell his rancid alcohol scent and see his bloodshot eyes. I prepare for ….. what? I don’t know, I never knew was going to come next until it came, only knew it would be too much, much to much.

    I miss his son, my daughter misses her brother, he’s as lost to us as his drunk father. We survive in our safe little house away from the trauma and drama and danger. We thrive and live, regardless.

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