Monday - I woke up
Patrick always made me laugh. He was a well educated man, and a man who had accomplished quite a bit in his life. Like me, it was the love for a child that threw him into the arena of standing up to his local school district, the Illinois State Board of Education, the US Department of Education to having meetings with the United States Justice Department.
He, along with other friends at the time, sat with me in meetings for students, in meetings with state and federal officials, as well as next to me as we protested the US Deputy Secretary of Education with hundreds of people behind us on his front lawn. Some may say we were radicals...but we were being parents to our children -
Patrick could steal the stage, the man was funny - quick witted and sharp sarcasm. He always appeared confident in all he did but the truth was he and I shared one other aspect - we were alike in the fact that we both quivered inside as we showed that strong front to others.
I remember once and while at a public meeting our group hosted to address issues with Ron Gidwitz, the then chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education - a, in my opinion, pompous ass ...the heir to the Helene Curtis fortune (which, btw, have been on the list of companies who think it's worthy to test their products by torturing animals) - Guess I will never work for them, huh?
Anyway, both Patrick and I had significant roles at the meeting - it was a coalition of parent groups and we represented Parent-2-Parent for Special Students...the organization I started back in 1999. It was backstage before we both headed out to take part in the meeting. I was standing behind Patrick who had his hands behind his back holding a piece of paper....and that's when I noticed - he was shaking. It surprised me as he always seemed so calm and at ease with himself when he was on "Stage" - I whispered in his ear and asked him if he was okay - he whispered back, " Of course I am not - I hate having to do this sh!t - but someone has to - time to hold the bastards accountable!" Then he winked at me and walked out for his part in the meeting - Only I knew how nervous he was.
Watching him gave me the strength I needed to do my part - to give my speech as hundreds of complaints of non compliance were being one by one delivered by parents to a pile before me....then to me standing before Ron Gidwitz and telling him how we were now giving to him the pain, the heartache, and frustrations each one of us has had to deal with while watching our children be denied basic federal and state rights in their school - I then told him it was in his lap now, and did that as I dropped the pile in his hands.
It was a beautiful moment if I do say so myself...but, really it was for another reason - Patrick helped me through that in just knowing we were alike and both quivering on the inside pushing ourselves to do something just because it, in our hearts as parents, was the right thing to do for our children.
Sadly, just a couple of years later, my friend Patrick died in his sleep - a healthy and physically fit man at the age of 50 fell victim to stress and his heart gave out - he was found 2 days later.
So, as the stress of my life has been building this year...things that really I'd rather not detail....Patrick has been on my mind a lot, including last night. Maybe I am trying to channel his courage as today I need to appear in court - a child support hearing. A place I do not want to be as my ex, via video, will be there attempting to end his responsibility -
But it's all deeper than that as he is making me sit across from him - the man whose crime upon me and our children sent our lives spiraling out of control. According to him he cannot afford to pay the pennies which lately have made their way to us for the first time in 4 years. Pennies he earns at his job while he serves time for sexually, physically and emotionally abusing me in front of his two sons.
Yes, those pennies just started coming for the first time this summer - approximately 10 dollars every 2 weeks. He wants those payments to stop. I wish I could walk in that court room today and tell him to take his money and choke on it...I don't need it. But, I cannot. I cannot do that because I receive some benefits through that state, and they want me to have that 10 dollars every 2 weeks so they don't have to pay it.
I hate every part...every detail of what is about to take place today. But, like so many millions of Americans...a number that is growing by the minute...I live under that poverty line - despite everything I do to crawl out of that hole - So, I am forced to sit in front of my abuser - the man who gave me nightmares for years, and caused my children to grow up without a father - and fight for 10 dollars every 2 weeks - I have no choice - I was subpoenaed - When I get home I will try to figure out how to put food on the table and keep my water from not being shut off.
Ten years ago I was a housewife and advocate/activist. My greatest worries were planning actions, and where we would vacation that year. Life is filled with curve balls - I'm not complaining, I know there are no promises in life, and you need to think positive - but, lately I feel like Patrick did that day when he was putting on that strong front while his hands shook behind his back.
Oh well, it is what it is - in the words of Patrick,,,, "I hate having to do this sh!t - but someone has to - time to hold the bastards accountable!"