Why I Gave Thanks

April 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm (By Rodjean)

The call came the afternoon before Good Friday. They obtained custody of their teenaged grandson from their daughter six months before. Now during Spring Break a driver crossed the center line on a California highway. Grandma was still in the hospital, and their grandson lay dead in a Las Vegas mortuary. The twist was that the boy’s mother was fighting them over disposal of his body. She obtained lawyers based on the promise of a wrongful death suit against the driver of the other car. It turns out that the custody order didn’t survive the death of the boy, so the parents have priority in deciding what to do with his lifeless body.

It seemed a travesty on top of a tragedy to the grandparents. The mother was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She abused her son badly enough that she went to prison when the boy was two, but regained custody thereafter. The grandparents had acted when the kid, beaten and bullied, refused after a visit to go back to Miami with his mother. He hated the town and he wanted nothing to do with her. The court appointed psychiatrist said the relationship with Mom was awful. She hit her son and gave him a black eye between court hearings. Her lawyers finally convinced her she was going to lose and she conceded custody to the grandparents last fall.

Despite law favoring the parent, even a parent who had lost custody twice due to abuse, the grandparents wanted to bury this troubled child where they knew he would want to be: near their Indiana home, not in the city he loathed. There were negotiations over the Easter weekend. She might agree to cremation (paid for by the grandparents) and splitting the ashes. After several hours of attorney time devoted to hammering out the details of a deal, she backed out. She might agree to allow burial in Indiana at the grandparents’ expense if the grandparents paid to fly her and her three other kids and a boyfriend up to Indiana for the funeral, paid for her hotel room and got a her a car. Wait – that’s not enough. She needs to have a Catholic service instead of the one prepared by her Protestant parents. Would it work if the grandparents paid for a priest to do a Catholic service before the Protestant funeral? OK. More attorneys prepared the paperwork, then she backed off again.

By this point they had spent several thousand dollars on attorneys. They could probably prevail if they put together the evidence of her abuse and testified that Miami was the last place the boy wanted to be. But, that would cost thousands of dollars more and prolong their pain. They gave up, and they are now on their way to Indiana for a memorial service. And I, a witness to this family tragedy, thought about my children and my grandchildren and all the petty problems of everyday life and gave thanks.

1 Comment

  1. wj said,

    I think one of the ways we deal with the challenges in our own lives is to look at the mess that others are dealing with/creating for themselves.

    I know, that has been one of the ways my siblings and I have coped with my mother’s recent series of small strokes and the results. We contrast all of us, working together and towards the same ends, with the families we see where the children are fighting, sometimes pretty viciously, over what to do — or maybe just who gets to control what is done and how. We may have differing ideas about the means, but at least having a common goal means we can have a civilized discussion about how to get there.

    And the nice thing about “It could be worse” is that you can pretty much always find an example somewhere of where it is worse.

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