Even before we decided to sit at a table outside of The Coffee Grind we had begun spilling our story. It had been hot enough that day that I had taken Sophie, our 4 year old, swimming rather than riding her bike around the grassy area, but it was now 5:30 and the table was in the shade; a perfect place to sit for the next hour or two while we share our story with the reporter.
One hour, two at the most, is what my wife Tammy and I were thinking.
Tammy, besides teaching 5th grade, is the district’s Math Field Day coordinator; the event is this Saturday. She still had to meet with one of her lead teachers later in the evening and go over some final details. At home with Grandma Lois, we had a house full of girls who needed to have their homework checked, fed, showered and put to bed.
But right now we were talking to a reporter from a local paper. We are telling our story. Trying to pick out only the most relative details as to not overwhelm our listener. Our story is a convoluted mess, I began and wondered if she would have the patience to sit through what would amount to a fraction of our ordeal.
A few days earlier the reporter had run out after us as we exited the Cathedral City city council session where my wife and I had been presented with a Proclamation naming April 25, 2013 Parental Alienation Awareness Day.
“My name is Tamara Sone, I am with the Desert Sun,” she said. It happened just like that. Just the way I had imagined it would a thousand times before.
Tamara was very patient and attentive. She was easy to talk to, stopping us on the rare occasion that she had a question or to comment about something that resonated with her experiences as a well. She had some experience with alienation we would find out. Good. She could relate, therefor she would understand.
We told our story.
We talked about our wonderful relationship that a father once had with his daughter. We talked about how my wife’s relationship with our daughter may have even surpassed mine. We talked about our daughters at home, 4, 8, and 10 who weren’t sure what has happened to their big sister. We talked about Parental Alienation, custody interference, and heartbreak. We talked about our alienated daughter caught in the middle. We talked about being taught to hate a loving parent and the damage that would do to a child.
It seemed like we had just getting started when an aproned young man came out to our table to let us know that they would be closing in 10 minutes. I paused long enough to wonder why a coffee shop would close so early and then continued with my narrative.
Tammy and I took turns as each one of us would remember one repulsive event after another. The shameless interference, the manipulation, the lying, the audacity of it all.
Then we talked about the mediators. The God-awful mediators.
Perhaps I tried too hard to make sense of their incompetence. Regardless of the reason, if they were over-worked or not, or simply not properly trained, they were dealing with children’s lives. Every extra effort should be taken to insure accuracy and every precaution should be in place to protect their relationships with both parents. Do they not realize that lives are in their hands?
Before I began telling her about our judge, about Commissioner Deborah Daniel, I mentioned that I had ordered the transcripts from my court hearings.
I think their might have been a tinge of doubt when I told the reporter what Commissioner Daniel had said on August 7 that hadn’t simply turned the tide but drastically changed it. How things went from a raging rapid to a Niagaric plunge.
The words she said are ingrained in my mind:
"I can tell you that in my experience,” Commissioner Daniel volunteered, “no law enforcement officer is going to force a teenager to engage in a visit."
I made sure that I maintained eye-contact with Tamara Sone, checking for signs of skepticism, when I went on to tell the reporter from the Desert Sun that the commissioner had also said that courts don’t read past the first five pages of declarations.
I leaned back into my seat. I almost expected her to call me a liar in that instant. If she would have turned off her recorder and closed her notebook, I wouldn’t have blamed her. I mentioned again that I had ordered the transcripts as if to say in case you find my story too incredulous -- too over-the-top. Things like this happen in badly scripted movies but not in real life courthouses.
Tamara listened as her mouth fell open but not to call me a liar.
I told her how I felt that I had been denied due process but even more tragically how I have been denied my God-given rights to be in our daughter’s life. How a loving, doting, and involved father has had his time reduced to a 5o minute visit every other week and only in the presence of a therapist.
Fifty minutes a week.
Then I echoed the words that so many other alienated parents say, “It’s like we are in the Twilight Zone.”
We paused took a breath and allowed Tamara Sone to take it all in. I believe that she had no idea what just hit her. Welcome to our world. We had shared only some of the craziness with her. Some.
I glanced down at my cell phone--it was past 10 o'clock at night.
The rest would have to wait.
Tammy would meet with her lead teacher the next night before her class and they would go over Math Field Day stuff. Grandma Lois would have our girls fed, showered, and in bed by the time we got home. We would have to check their homework in the morning. Because tonight a promise was kept. We got to tell our story.
(Note: Our story of Parental Alienation due out on April 25)