Saturday, March 24, 2007

death on pittsburg

Please note: this post includes a graphic description of child abuse in paragraphs 2-4.

Several years ago when I was still doing child abuse investigations and Mike was trying to die on me, I arrived home late after a particularly difficult day spent watching a tortured baby succumb to her injuries.

She was a tiny, ethereal thing only four months old, an amalgam of palest cream and red and deep purple, the combination of her fair and perfect skin and her hideous injuries. She lay in the pediatric ICU absolutely still, incapable of movement as the result of a fractured skull and a massive intracranial bleed. The unrelenting pressure in her head would have been enough to kill her, but she had a ruptured liver and fractures, a battered doll-sized human being.

She died at 4:30 that Friday afternoon. Her wounds were uncountable and included tiny pearl-like toes nearly bitten in two, contusions and bruises covering almost every inch of her tiny body and, of course, the catastrophic internal injuries. Her mother had been "unable to revive her this time" ~ a direct quote I will never forget, implying as it does that there had been many other times.

It was the boyfriend who killed her "out of boredom" ~ another monstrous statement which I have tried and failed to extricate from my memory. His nightly antics with this fragile infant included throwing her across the room, swinging her around his head by one foot, one arm, biting her feet, toes, fingers, ears, suffocating her and reviving her, over and over and over. The inhuman being who gave birth to this infant had found the baby unconscious several times upon arriving home from work. A cold water bath had previously revived the little girl and for the sake of a twisted love ~ of the man, not the child ~ she remained silent.

This was running around in my head, one of the most revolting episodes of child murder I ever encountered, when I pulled up and parked in my driveway at the end of what was a hideous day. Exiting my car, I noticed a pair of downy woodpeckers at the feeder. They were clearly companions, feeding each other suet and seeds, and I immediately decided they were in love which took my thoughts to my love, Michael, sick in bed and not getting better.

He and I have a history of comparing ourselves to birds: the mourning doves nesting on the windowsill one year, beautiful birds who mate for life, caring for one another with such solicitude, reminding us of ourselves. The swans at the lake across town ~ another pair, mating for life, constant companions, obviously devoted to each other. So these small black and white birds hanging out together, feeding each other, fluttering about and notably enjoying life made me think of us in happier times, when our life seemed enchanted, when happiness was a constant and joy a permanent resident in our home.

The birds took off as I approached the front door and I turned to watch their swooping low flight across Pittsburg Avenue. What a stunning thing, to be able to fly, and these two were graceful and lovely, virtually dancing through the air. One swung especially low and POW was smashed by a passing car. The car sped on and the companion bird fluttered to the street, standing by the still body on the concrete making a soft chirring sound, nudging his felled companion with his head.

Having had a close up of this disaster, I found myself sobbing so hard I could barely breathe. I flew up the walk, the stairs and into the house to tell Mike about the bird, to ask him to go and see if there was any hope for the stricken creature in the street. I could not do it, could not look at that small feathered body, and he could not either, being too sick and weak on that day to even get out of bed.

I wept and prayed and raged at God and demanded to know how shit like this can happen. The birds, that innocent little girl, and foremost in my heart, of course, the two of us. How can two people be so completely happy, so joyously content, doing good work, living a charmed life and POW out nowhere comes the speeding car of devastating illness, laying one low and breaking the heart of the other.

This is the eternal question, I suppose, but the universality of it in no way diminished my own heartbreak nor my own fury over the unfairness of it all. All illness is unfair and I'm not one to whine about it as a rule, but watching the love of my life dying every day was intolerable. It was more than I could bear and I don't know yet how he survived or how I got through it. I don't know how people do these things and I will whack the next person who says "God doesn't give us more than we can handle," because I know that He's confused me with some strong bitch, some backbone-of-steel disciplined rigid unemotional wench who can handle this sort of thing because I can't. I can not.

And yet Mike did survive and he thrives and I survived too. That is a gift and I am entirely grateful for it. At the end of another day spent in a good life with my soul mate, I give only a passing thought to those years of illness which are almost beginning to seem like ancient history. There's laughter in this house again, much love and that extravagant joy that sweeps in out of nowhere and lifts up my heart.

I am standing on the restored floor of a life I once thought was completely solid and unbreakable. It's easy to think that when things are so perfect and there's so much love and passion and kindness and affection. The floor is good and strong again, but it has been broken through and will never be 100% and I will never quite relax into this life and this love as I once did.

I don't think of the future much and I have moments when I think "how many more years do we have?" It's sad and it's life and it's okay. We're not guaranteed anything, I know that. We had a spectacular 10 years of heaven and some folks never get any heaven on earth. But then spring comes and the world feels so fresh and new and I imagine for just a moment that we are back in those first innocent years of our life together and I can actually feel my heart expand, physically feel it. I love this man. I love this life. We have this day, just like everyone else and I am grateful for it.

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Anonymous Tater said...

OMG. What a heart wrenching post. God. How the hell did you do that job girl? You are simply an amazing person. Your capacity to reach out, and your ability to not kill someone in the face of such monstrocity is beyond my comprehension. Thank you for sharing that, even though it will never again leave my mind or my heart. You are such a better person than I am. I would have hunted down and killed that mother fucker. I guess that's why I'm not suited for any form of position in the public health or human services sector.
Grief is such an overpowering and all encompassing emotion. The only yang to that yin is that it does make you appreciate what you have even more. Your relationship with Mike is spilling over with love and devotion, and is stronger than most people will ever experience. The fact that you almost lost one another, makes it important to cherish one another. The story of the birds made me teary eyed as well.
A complete trifecta.
You are an amazing person, and very gifted. To be such a nurturing and loving person after having lived through so much just leave me speechless. Love. You. To Pieces.

March 25, 2007 8:34 AM  
Blogger Lotuslander said...

Belle, that was horrific and beautiful and you, my dear are an incredibly eloquent talented writer. My spouse lives with a rare disease ( Scleraderma ) which recently, after years of remission has returned with a vengeance, and I know my time with him is numbered, and he is my joy, my heart, I don't write about him because I'm embarassed by how much I love him, embarassed by my capability to feel this much love. I think when it comes to the end, I imagine myself crawling in to bed with him and dying along side him, as I can't bear to think of life without him. How many years left, how many years left. The story of the murdered child left me feeling outrage, especially since one of the biggest regrets of my life is that I could not have children.

March 25, 2007 1:20 PM  
Blogger angelfish24 said...

I've heard of you write of this child abuse, this child that died before. It makes me sick, it makes me want to cry, I hope that man was shot or I wish he could experience what that baby had to go through. I've often thought of this child through reading what you wrote. God, I could never do that type of work either. I would want to strangle the parent of this child that put them in harms way with this man. Stupid people like this don't deserve to bree and have children!
Anyway, sorry to hear of all the pain you carry within you heart and mind. I'm glad to hear of your happiness with your husband, it is a rare gift indeed to find real love.

March 25, 2007 2:37 PM  
Blogger Wanna_B_slim said...

I am not good with words.. But I am just going to say that you have left me with goosebumps...and a sadness knowing that there are such sick people in this world that get away with doing these things...
I am sorry also that you and your man have had to go thru so much also...
but happy knowing that you are both very happy together...
Hugs to you both..

March 25, 2007 6:37 PM  
Blogger p.alan said...

I really want to cover my children with sloppy wet kisses, hold em' close and tell them how wonderful and beautiful and amazing they are. But...they are hours away. I suppose Joe will be in for the same tonight when he gets home from work:-)

Life is hard at times. Life is sometimes very troubling. But for those days it is not... always be present in those fleeting moments of perfection, and SAVOUR EACH BREATH. God love ya, Belle!

March 26, 2007 10:37 AM  
Blogger Ms. Place said...

One can only beg God and all the beings that watch over us that these small children have some place their minds can retreat to, that while these hideous acts are being performed on them their brains shut down and their neurons stop working. That somewhere during this horrible torture, their bodies can feel not one more despiscable act, and that they go catatonic. Please God I hope this is true, because the other thought, that they are feeling every moment of pain, is truly hideous and unbearable.

I am a peaceloving person who cherishes all living creatures, but I feel strongly that this man and woman should be stripped naked, covered with honey, and staked over a fire ant hill every day for four months in a row. Afterwards we should ask these lower than insect life miscreants, are you still bored? Need a little more action? And do it all over again.

March 26, 2007 11:23 AM  
Blogger Ms. Place said...

Mmm. I did not mean to ignore your pain as you sat by helplessly as Mike lay ill. I am so happy that he recovered, but the outcome is the same, isn't it? Live each day fully, and tell your loved ones you care. Wonderful post.

March 26, 2007 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is so much suffering in this life, and so much joy. You eloquently bring the both together here.

I am haunted by this post ... am in tears now. Can you tell us, were the, uh, people responsible for this successfully prosecuted? It would be in no way justice, but I hope neither will ever hold an infant again ...

March 27, 2007 2:26 PM  
Blogger Honi said...

I read about that baby and it is made me so ill.. I just have no understanding how a man can do that to a child.. where are his brain cells.. does he have have any? what kind of monster.. is he that he behaved that way and worse yet what was that bitch that failure that pathetic excuse for a mother thinking? NOTHING apparently .. I hope she gets struck by a bus.. infact that would be too good for her... Any kind of torment for both of those .. creatures.. would be too good.. I think the same torture he cast upon that child should be cast upon him.. and then lets see how he feels..
Now to you my friend and lovely writer.. what a heartfilled post regarding your husband.. wishing both of you many more years of happiness and love.. I can only imagine how heart wrenching to see that little bird must have been...

March 27, 2007 6:16 PM  
Anonymous said...

Yeah, that poor poor baby. I remember that post. You ARE a strong bitch. You ARE. Unemotional, no. NO NO NO NO. And thank God for that. I cross my fingers almost every day, that I find a love like yours and Mike's. Could something like this bubble up in cold, unemotional Manhattan? Wish me so. XO.

March 27, 2007 6:42 PM  
Blogger Alicia said...

Belle, I have never read any of your posts before, but I have to say that was an incredible piece of writing. I am so amazed by the strength some people have and after reading that you have shot straight to the top of that list. You have just added to my appreciation of this day greatly.

April 04, 2007 7:45 AM  

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