coparenting, mental health

Look for the helpers.

apology never got Brault

Late Sunday afternoon it occurred to me that I had heard nothing about Hurricane Harvey. That was all we’d heard about Friday and Saturday, the massive storm about to hit the Texas Gulf Coast. I found it odd that there wasn’t a prayer said for the victims of Harvey at church that morning. Though I hadn’t been on for a significant amount of time, my Facebook feed had not shown any signs of trouble. I was laying down, trying to sleep off the last week of XN drama, and decided to get up and get online. At the top of my feed was a phot from Brené Brown with an update. Her street was four feet deep with swift water. Her family had moved upstairs, the first floor completely underwater. I quickly turned on the television.

The last thing I wanted to see was how our “president” was responding so I was hesitant to turn on the TV but thought it might be safe to tune to CNN. I turned over to see a reporter boating around a neighborhood, showing images of homes where families, forced to move to the attic of their single-story homes, had chopped a hole in their rooves to escape and await rescue. People were wading through streets, pulling children in life vests in tubes and rafts or carrying them on their shoulders. The interstates looked lie rivers.

I started to feel helpless and guilty for my luxury of power and dry clothes. But I wasn’t helpless. It didn’t take long for me to make a donation to the Red Cross. Instead of going out to eat that night I thought we should enjoy the food that wasn’t spoiling in our fridge and give our restaurant money to the people who truly need it.

As I did this, CNN went back from the newsroom to the reporter on location. He was riding along with a young man who had heard a call for volunteers with boats. The young man, Austin, had driven two hours with his boat and was helping search and rescue efforts. They heard someone calling for help. On live camera, I saw the reporter and Austin ride up to a front door where a woman in her sixties handed over a small dog. She was up to her mid-chest in water. She told them her elderly parents were inside and that her mother had Alzheimer’s. I watched in amazement as three men helped to get a frail elderly gentleman onto their boat. He must have been in his nineties. What happened next floored me. The reporter told his producer and the studio anchor that he wanted them to cut away for a few minutes. He wanted to respect this family and didn’t know what condition the elderly mother would be in and wanted to grant this family their privacy. He chose humanity over a story.

In that moment, I was reminded of a Mr. Roger’s quote that I hear a lot during times of crisis or natural disaster:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Though I was now in tears, I immediately felt better. This is what was being reported, the helpers. People sacrificing their time and sometimes safety to help others in need. I got on my cell phone, chose a Facebook status background of two people holding hands and shared “’Look for the helpers.’ – Mr. Rogers.” A friendly reminder in a time of chaos for so many.

Not long after, my phone lit up. The ringer was set to priority still from earlier events of the day. I had missed a call from a (914) number. Moments later I got a text from the same number. “Hi, Elle – Liam was trying to call and speak with you and say hi and tell you he’s safe. If you are free I can have him call again.” The phone rang again and it was my little boy. There was no sound of XN in the background. But at one point I heard a friendly voice say, “tell her you ate African food!”

It was my former sister-in-law, the one I liked. XN has three sisters. Most of the family I consider my out-laws, but this sister had been my friend. Early in our separation, I turned to her for help with Liam when he was with XN. She made sure that my toddler had sunscreen and fresh fruit. Her husband occasionally stopped by with their son to see Liam. They, I thought, were good people and I was grateful that they were there to look after Liam when I wasn’t allowed to.

Last summer, XN submitted a certification from this sister with his Order to Show Cause (emergency motion).  It said that I was never a victim, that I like to pretend to have been a victim so that I can get attention. It said that she had stopped communicating with me because she thought that I wasn’t in my right mind. I am used to hearing these things from XN and opposing counsel. They hurt to hear still, but this was a brutal blow. Though I knew we could never be friends again I could not believe what she was saying. Then it occurred to me that she hadn’t written it. XN wrote it. But it appeared she signed it. So, I was still really hurt. She had witnessed so much and here she was telling the Court I was making it up.

After I spoke to Liam I texted her back and thanked her. “No worries. If you want to speak with him just let me know. I’ll make sure he checks in as well.” Look for the helpers. I opened that phrase up to the universe and I found my helper for this long ten days while Liam is away.

As I was making dinner tonight he called again. I didn’t expect to hear from him for two days in a row! I thanked her again. “I’ll have him check in at least once a day. It shouldn’t be a problem.” Mother to mother.  Never again will we be friends, but I was reminded that there is someone who is looking out for our little boy while he is away from home and that is going to make this week so much easier. It also cleared a pathway to forgiveness. We do thoughtless things in the name of the family sometimes, and maybe that certification was hers. But she is the only one who has reached out to me in support of this little boy and for that, I am truly grateful.

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