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Ezra Chapter 10: Supervised Custody

September 2, 2013

How does this scene remind you of supervised visits with people in your life?

Chapter 10: Supervised Custody

I hadn’t seen Aba in weeks. That was what my mom wanted. Here’s a typical conversation about it. We are at the dinner table. Dinner is just served, and I am not pleased. Mom sets out the apricot chicken with steamed broccoli. Great. The “atmospherics” – a campaign word in an election year – are just right for a talk.

Me: “Mom?”

Mom: “Yes, Ezra?”

Me: “Don’t you miss Aba, even a little bit?”

Mom: “I thought I told you not to talk about him.”

Me: “I had asked you to let me stay with him more. Is that why you won’t let him see me?”

Mom, raising her voice: “The judge says it’s not safe for you to see him. That’s all, Ezra!”

Me, raising my voice back:: “I want you to tell him that you’re the mom, and you want to take it out of his court! It’s just what Aba warned me about!”

Mom: THAT’S ALL, EZRA!

Me, in full anger mode: NO! IT! ISN’T! GIVE ME BACK MY ABA! I’M GOING OVER THERE RIGHT NOW!!

Ruchama, crying: DADDY! I WANT DADDY!

Mom: EZRA: UP TO YOUR ROOM! NOW!!

Me, throwing chair against the wall: “DAMN YOU!!”

I storm out the front door and slam it for all I’m worth.

Mom, calling out the door: “You go and I call the police! Then you can visit your father where he belongs, in jail!!

I freeze.

Ruchama runs to the front door. “EZRA! COME BACK!!” I turn around, and when I get to the door, I see Ru on the floor, sobbing. I try to comfort her.

Mom’s last line in these conversations was not a variable; it was a constant.  “EZRA!! TO YOUR ROOM, NOW!!!!”

I don’t know who will break first. After the third or fourth time of hitting the repeat sign, Mom put me on dinner – room protocol, took away my phone, and eliminated my email account. And no TV, except that I would always get Ru and come down to watch Nick at Nite when it was 2 or 3 am and I couldn’t sleep.

It was after the third of these idiotic farces wearing a Halloween costume called conversation that we were scheduled to see my dad for the first time since Mom took him away. Mom said we were going to the court to see him, so we didn’t get to go to Hebrew school.  Ru asked, “Is Daddy in jail?” She knew that’s what happened to people who lost in court, because Aba said so. I don’t think that was very smart of Aba, but how was he supposed to know that his words were coming back at him on an express train in a dark tunnel?

Mom replied, “No, Bunny Rabbit, but there will be all kinds of bad men there, but they have people in uniform to protect you.”

“Protect me from Daddy?” Ru asked.

“Just protect you, that’s all.”

Ru got as silent as a corpse. The color drained out of her face too. You don’t want to see a Central American whose color has drained out of her face. She looked sickly green-yellow to me. I nodded my head really hard to get her attention, and then put my finger over my lips. She didn’t say a word until we were around the corner from Supervised Custody.

“Is this the jail?” Ru asked.

I reached out and put my hand over hers. She fell silent again. Neither of us said “boo” until we saw Aba on the steps of the courthouse. Ru didn’t know what to do. Aba split that dilemma by bounding up the stairs and sweeping us both into his arms. I guess the court would say this was “inappropriate.” I say it was Aba. Ru said nothing, but threw her arms around his neck. In a stage whisper, I gushed, “Aba!”

Mom’s eyes drilled holes in the back of my neck. Aba didn’t notice; he was too busy hugging us.

Supervised custody happens in a place that might as well be a jail, for all the warmth it has. We trudged in to a big, huge, cavernous room with tree-high ceilings, dingy beige paint, and grimy linoleum tile. There must have been a hundred wooden chairs, all connected, all anchored to a baseboard that itself was riveted into the floor every ten feet. What did they think was going to happen, Aba would steal a chair? Or maybe that some parent or child would erupt and smash one of the chairs into splinters of pain and fury? That must be it, if they thought at all. I don’t think anybody in that court thinks. They just get bullied around by lawyers.

We sat in those high-security chairs, waiting for Aba. I didn’t tell you that he had matching bouquets for us from his garden, and sweet matza brie. So he tossed the flowers and the food down on a chair with his right arm, and gave us more hugs with his left. We talked about almost nothing. At some point, we even had to play Connect Four. You don’t want to play any strategy games with my dad. You will lose. Ruchama hates to lose, but even she didn’t care this time. We talked about how awful this was, and how much we missed each other. I told Aba that I was still golfing, using borrowed clubs because Mom wouldn’t buy me a set for her house. Ru was wait-listed for gymnastics for the winter. Aba didn’t ask. He didn’t have to. If one gym wait-listed her, and he had anything to do with it, she’d go to another gym.

I lied about borrowing the clubs.

You never would have known that this was a room full of bad parents. All I saw was tip-top parenting. I think that every parent there, from the crack user to the prostitute to the wife-beater, was auditioning for a Seal of Approval to take to their own judge to get their children back. The only difference with Aba is that he was always this way.

On the way home, all Ru wanted to talk about was Aba, and why did we have to leave, and could we see him tomorrow, and could we miss regular school to go see him like we had missed Hebrew school, and… “Stop it!” Mom snapped.

It was time for me to pay a visit to the angry red holes.

 

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