It's hard to stomach reading the news stories about a mother, tucked away in a small town very close to my home, who quietly slid off the radar with her three children. One of them had a medical condition, which she decided not to treat. The others were kept home to be "schooled", although they were discovered to be neglected and illiterate... all the while bearing witness to the decline and ultimate demise of their big brother.
I make no excuses for her,but I feel a need to understand what had such a grip on her she lost her protective mother instincts, or if she ever had them.
I have friends who are sitting by their son right this moment, willing him to heal, wishing they could trade places with him just to ease his pain. Nothing could tear them away.
I've been there as well, watching Steven breathe with tubes and wires everywhere, making bargains of all kinds with a God I'm no longer sure even exists, just to see his eyes open and to have that smile back.
I've also been close to the edge of isolation and depression so thick my world got smaller and I built walls out of "stuff" because my life had become a barrage of missed sleep, fear for my son, surgery, trying to keep things running with the house, the vehicle, fighting the weather, wishing for someone to come riding to the rescue but not wanting to be dependent.
They were waiting for me to ask for help.
They didn't know how to insist.
They did what they could, as anonymously as a small town will allow. It hurt, but it was better than not caring.
In the most dehumanizing week I've ever experienced, I let my pride go and accepted help before I got so sick I risked the very meaning of my life because "Mind your own business! We're FINE!"
So don't mind your own business.
Try offering help, then insisting on it if you have to . Aiden had people who saw him fading, who say they reported the mother's neglect, but nothing was done. Everyone is pointing fingers at each other. The air is thick with should haves and would haves. I don't understand giving up, throwing your hands in the air and saying "But I tried!"
Remember the girls held captive for many years, hidden in plain sight? That's big city stuff, not small-town stuff, right?
That's the kick in the gut.
We small-town folk are up in each other's business like no others. We have all the dirt... but... We're also very good at pretending and keeping our noses turned the other way. It must be a pride thing. On the brighter side, people who don't even LIKE you will still line up to help when there's a need.
We know there's a need now, too late for Aiden.
It's not too late for who knows HOW many other children.
It's hard to imagine, looking back, that isolation and depression were so powerful they hid from me in plain sight. It's still hard for me to admit weakness, but I've learned to be honest with myself about my own needs. I am truly taking care of myself and not just paying it lip service because I don't want anyone to know I can be vulnerable.
We made a fresh start by moving to where help is all around us, and weavng a strong support network that will be in place for the Chick Magnet long after I'm gone.I still prefer to do things myself, but now it's by choice and not because we have nobody else. I still feel shame in admitting I let things go, but it's being replaced with pride for having built something better.
In the end, Aiden's mother will get what passes for justice when there's nothing that can bring her child back. Hopefully, his brother and sister will get the help they need to try to grow through the scars on their souls.
The rest of us will move on.
Some people will forget, others will resume pretending bad things don't happen right under our noses...
But I hope most of us will have an eye out and be more generous with the risk it takes to stretch out a life line when we see a child in need.
News Story about Death of Child