Natalynn's Secret & The Sound Of Silence.....
March 18-19, 2009 Visalia, Ca.
Natalynn had a secret she didn't want to share. She wore it heavy on her face and in her heart, but she wouldn't speak of it. I could tell something was wrong, and I looked her straight in the eye and I asked her “Honey tell me what is wrong, why are you crying like that?” Her eyes welled up with tears and she blurted out “I just want to stay with YOU!” I was very puzzled by her reactions, none of them made any sense and it was really out of character for her to act this way. It's almost as if she has something she is afraid of at her mom's house, but she doesn't want to talk about it, (correction) she refuses to talk about it, and when questioned she gets extremely upset and starts balling her eyes out, and just wants to hold on to me and cry.
Her mother was supposed to come and pick her up last night but she called and asked if it would be ok if Nat stayed one more night. Of course it was ok, Nat started jumping around and dancing when I told her that her mother wasn't coming to pick her up, but now it was the next morning and Nicole was on the way. I had Nat all ready for school, teeth and hair brushed, clean clothes, breakfast, and her Bunny. Her Bunny was very special to her. I guess every child has a special toy that they decide is their favorite thing. For Nat it was her Bunny Peddle Rabbit. She had gotten it as a gift after she was born and it was so soft and furry, she loved to rub it against her face and she would always fall asleep sucking her thumb with one hand, and holding her bunny next to her face with the other.
I sat down on the couch and said, “come here” She jumped up in my lap and buried her head in my chest. I just sat there holding her head while she was sobbing. I squeezed her a little bit and reminded her how much I loved her, she let out a little whimper and said “I love you too daddy”. I asked her not to cry anymore and told her that her mom was almost there. I wanted her to have a good day at school. Today was Thursday, March 19th, 2009. My days to be with Nat are on Fri, Sat, Sun, and every other week she stays with me on Tues/Wed's. That was the arrangement her mother and I had worked out. I told Nat that since today was Thursday that she would be coming back tomorrow to stay with me. This seemed to give her a little bit of comfort and we both just sat there quietly while we waited for Nicole to arrive.
When we heard the car pull up I said “there she is” Nat started balling again. She held on to me and said “but daddy, I told you I just want to stay with YOU!” I kneeled down to her level and looked her right in the eyes again. She wouldn't look me in the eye and she just started crying more. I asked her again “why are you crying so much? What is wrong?” She yelled out in a sobbing voice “I told you I just want to stay with you” By now Nicole was at the door. I opened it and said hello, she had a puzzled look on her face, I think she could hear Nat crying before she got to the door. She said something like “what's wrong, why is she crying” I said I didn't know, but she keeps saying that she wants to stay here. Nicole looked down and gave Natalynn a dirty look. Nicole told Nat “lets go”. Nat refused to come out. She crossed her arms and planted herself down on the couch. Nicole looked around the door Jam and said “come on lets go!” Nat refused to move. Nicole said to me “can you get her please,” and started walking back to her car.
Thinking back to this point I should have closed the door and locked it. If only I had a time machine. I hate those movies when people are always going back in time, saving the ones they love, or correcting something that went horribly wrong. Because I don't have a time machine, and the consequences of bad decisions and the dark empty feelings they make you feel are very real, they never seem to go away, and there are no magic machines that you can use to fix it. No matter how hard you try to occupy yourself with positive thoughts & things, and the whole “be thankful for what you still have” type of attitude, which is important to have and sometimes the only thing that keeps you moving forward and holding on to some type of hope for the world, or for yourself. But it still plays over and over in my head like a bad dream that never ends.
Nat's secret wasn't really Nat's it was her mothers. Now I know the dirty look that Nicole gave to Nat was to remind her to keep her mouth shut about the fact that the abusive boyfriend that Nat had already squealed on once, was back in the apartment living with Nat and her mother again. I told Natalynn that if she was ever left alone with him that I wanted to know about it, and that she should tell if anything was wrong, or if anyone was ever hurting her. I remember it had gotten so serious that Nat and I confronted Nicole about it together. When I first saw the bruises on Nat's chest I asked Nicole about it and she said it was just from her new BF playing so rough, there were some other younger relatives and they would all play together with Nicole's new BF and his nephews. They like to play rough and Nat must have gotten the bruises from then. But when I had asked Nat about how she got the bruises she told me a VERY different story. She told me that Ryann had spun her around by her hands and let her go, propelling her into a metal safe. I asked her If Ryann ever hits her and she said “yes”. I asked her how, (thinking: is he slapping her, spanking her, or what?) She put up her fists and started coming at me with punches (like a boxer) saying “like this”. Right after she showed me that I got on the phone with Nicole to find out what the HELL was going on. That's when Nicole told me about how her new BF Ryann was just playing rough with the kids, and that she would have a talk with him and ask him to be more careful with Natalynn. I wasn't really buying the whole, “playing too rough scenario” after what Nat had just told me, but I sort of went along with it, I told her that I didn't want Nat to be left alone with anyone she just met, and that I better not see any more bruises on her or I would involve the Police or CPS. She assured me that it would not be a problem and promised me that Nat would NEVER be left alone with him, at least until after she got to know him better. That night after I first discovered the bruises on Nat, Nicole came to pick her up. Nat had told me flat out that she was afraid of Nicole's new BF Ryann and that she did not want to be left alone with him. When I was questioning Nat she had revealed to me that Nicole sometimes would leave her alone with Ryann to watch her. She said he would “babysit me” I asked her if Ryann hurt her when he was babysitting her and she said yes, I asked her if she was afraid if him, (which I could clearly already see from her behavior that she was) and she said “YES”. I asked Nat if she had told her mom about how she felt about Ryann. She said “I want you to tell her.” I told Nat that she needed to be the one to tell her mother how she felt but that I would help her by being by her side. Natalynn agreed and we made the plan to tell her mom how she felt when she came to pick her up that night.
That evening when Nicole arrived I put Nat in the car seat and buckled her up, I said “Hey honey, do you have anything you want to tell your mommy” she put her head down and blurted out something like, “Rye Rye hurts me and I don't wanna be with Rye Rye” Nicole looked back at Nat kind of shocked and said “what is she talking about?” I explained how Nat and I had a talk and what Nat had reviled to me. I looked back at Nat and asked her, Natalynn, does Ryann hurt you? She said “yes” I said are you afraid to be left alone with him, she said “YES” Nicole got a disappointed look on her face and kind of smirked at Natalynn. Right away I got the feeling that she wasn't taking anything that Nat or I was telling her seriously. I wanted to go off on her right then and there. I had to hold my temper because the looks she was giving Nat and her reaction was very bothersome to me. I calmly looked Nicole straight in the face and said “Nicole, do you hear what she is saying,? She has bruises on her chest and she said she got thrown into something and that she is getting punched by Ryann” I told her she needed to make sure it didn't happen again. I gave Natalynn a kiss on the cheek and told her I loved her. We did our normal ritual that we have done since she was 1 where she blows me a kiss and I catch it from the air and put it on my cheek. She never forgot to do it. If I forgot to catch any of her imaginary kisses from the air she would get seriously offended. It was a big deal for us, I can remember running around the house chasing down kisses that almost got away. But I would always catch them and put them on my cheek. Then I would blow one to her and she would snatch it up real fast and put it on her cheek. One time she was blowing me so many kisses I almost couldn't catch them all. It was like machine gun kisses and I had to use both hands to make sure none of them got away. Anyway........ After they left that time I felt like Nicole wasn't taking it serious. I called her cell and sternly told her that I wasn't fucking around and if I EVER thought there was any type of abuse going on I would call the police and report her and her BF so fast it would make her head spin. She told me to calm down and reassured me that Nat would NOT be left with him and she would have a talk with him about the rough play. She said she respected my feelings but said I was totally over reacting and needed to calm down.
Now, It had been over 2 months since it happed, and like a God Damn fool I had kind of forgotten about it. During those two months I had asked Natalynn if she had any more problems with Ryann and she told me “Rye Rye doesn't love my mommy anymore” Hmmm, I guess they broke up. I asked Nat if she ever saw Ryann anymore and she said “NO”. I brought it up a few more times but the answer was always the same. Its funny how fast 2 months can go by, and all the things that can happen during that time. I guess after a few weeks everything seemed pretty normal again and I was back to struggling to survive and trying to provide for my kids, with rent, food, bills, 2 dogs, transportation, struggling to succeed at my new job as a truck broker, and having to close down my failing martial arts business that I had been running for the past 16 years, life was challenging. But it was good. I knew that once my new job started picking up I would be able to catch up on bills, make all my child support payments, and then take Nicole back to court and hopefully get full or at least joint custody of Natalynn. I had tried to do it already but for some reason and I honestly don't know why, especially now that I look back at it all, but the family courts gave Nicole full custody and I got the joy of being a weekend dad, and making child support payments. Anyway, I must have been living on another planet or something to not think to pressure Nat harder on the issue of why she was crying so much. Her mom was walking towards the car and I went around to the couch to pick my daughter up for the last time. Before we got to the door I stopped and picked up her bunny. She was still balling her eyes out and it was making me sad to see her cry so much. I put her bunny up next to her and said with a smile “Don't forget your bunny” She put her hands on her bunny and pushed it back towards me. She said “I want it to be safe with daddy” To be “safe with daddy?”. Thats what she said. Hmm, what does she mean by that? Is it going to get dirty or something? What does she mean by “safe with daddy?” hmmm, anyway Nicole is sitting in the car looking at me and I don't want to make them late so I carried Natalynn one last time to her mothers car to buckle her in like I had done so many times before. The tears were flowing down her cheeks like water falls from her eyes. After I snapped her buckle I whipped her face and asked her not to cry. I said “remember, its Thursday and you are coming back here tomorrow. With that Nicole said “oh yeah, about that, its Jessica's last weekend in town so they made plans to hang out this weekend.” Jessica (Natalynn's Babysitter and close family friend) was moving to Texas. Oh thats right, I had forgotten. So I looked at Nat again and said “ok, so you are going to see Jess this weekend and I will see you again next weekend ok” She said “ok” and put her head down. I gave her one last kiss on the cheek and closed the door to the car. I stood on the curb waiting for Nicole to make her U turn with the car, as she always did, and wait for Nat to blow me her kiss so I could catch it and blow her one back. As they made the turn I could see Nat still had her head down and she was crying. I stood higher on my tipy toes so she could see me better but she didn't look towards me. She just kept her head down. She was just passing me and I was waiting for her to blow me my kiss but she just went on by. I watched the car until Nicole turned the corner thinking maybe Nat would pop her head up at the last second and blow me her kiss. I remember feeling really strange and sad. I was thinking wow, she must have really been upset not to blow me a kiss. It was the first time she hadn't done it and it was really strange. Oh how I wish I had a time machine. It would be so great to back at that moment and stop the car, or get in the truck and drive to wherever Nat was and rescue her. Ohh... if only time machines were real.
After that I went back into the house and started my work day as usually. I had started working from home as a truck broker and there were lots of phone calls to handle and things to do. Life gets so hectic when you are a single parent struggling to make ends meet. You try to do the best you can to provide and balance your time between the kids, work, and all the other stuff life throws at us. It's easy to go through the motions of our day and get so busy or distracted with life, and chasing our dreams that we might loose sight of the subtle little things that need more attention. We try so hard and we think we did everything right but you never know when something in your gut tells you something is not right but you just ignore it and keep trying to make those ends meet, and find those dreams knowing that in the end it will all be worth it.
What a fool I was! Not seeing what was happening right before me. It seems my life has never been easy. Who ever heard of an easy life, right? Well I'm not trying to make excuses but my life has been no picnic. Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to complain or express any type of regret for who I am and how I became who I am. But there have been times when I have had some pretty deep regrets about my life and how things have played out, especially in regards to Natalynnn, and how I feel like I let her down.
On Sunday March 22nd, 2009 at around 6pm I got the call that changed my life forever. The next 5 years would be spent making phone calls, writing blogs, and raising awareness and becoming something that I didn't ever want or intend to become. To be the voice for Natalynn and to be an advocate for truth and justice. Its not like I had any choice right? People say they admire strength in a parent who speaks out for an abused child but, really what choice do we have? How can anyone turn there back on a situation were a child is hurting suffering, or abused? I would much rather have a normal life with my family all together. Nat would be 11 now and I am sure she would be doing some amazing things. I will continue to be her voice and to do the work that I feel is necessary to keep children safe and bring those who would do harm to justice, and to help heal the hearts and souls of the victims that are left behind. To help educate parents to look out for the signs. I am sure there are lots of things that can be done if like minded individuals with a true intent to make a difference joined together to form a foundation In Natalynn's name.
I am going to end it here for now, I want to thank everyone who is reading this, and to all the supporters and advocates who have been there for Natalynn and so many other children over the years. You are the bright shinning stars that help guide us through troubled times. I would like to invite you to join us as we form Natalynnswish.org. We are forming a foundation in Natalynns name and need your help to make it a success. There has been a lot of preparation going on getting ready but there is still more work to be done. Please like and follow all Nat's pages and her website and help in any way you can. We haven't finished putting up all the info and mission statement etc. at NatalynnsWish.org but its coming soon, I promise :) By the time you finish readying this I might already have it done. Lol Still need to file our 501c3 hints the reason I am accepting contributions through LogicBMS.com and Not Natalynnswish.org If anyone has any questions or ideas as we move forward with the foundation I would love to hear from you. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org Please no spammers.
If you would like chip in and help move the project forward I have an account set up on my server at www.logicbms.com/content/sponsorship. Logic BMS is my company and I am hosting and developing all of Natalnnswish.org there.
Thanks again for reading, and God Bless you all!