Tuesday, July 3

The End of the Diving Board

I've always known how to swim.  My family had a pool while I was growing up, and my sisters and I would spend the majority of our summer swimming.  Sure, I can swim, thanks to my poolside upbringing.  But neither grace nor agility was necessary in our pool in the country.  On the contrary, doggie paddles and cannonballs were all that was expected.

Fast forward 10 years: I am 23 years old.  My friend Andrew teaches tries to teach me how to swim competitively.  We meet at the pool at the local university.  I am surrounded by nautical athletes.  He introduces tries to introduce me to terms like breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly stroke, front crawl.  It does not go well.  Andrew is frustrated.  Andrew gives up.  I am pleased (to put it lightly) that laps are over.  He takes me to the other side of the pool, where 2 diving boards are set up.  He tells me we're just going to practice diving instead.  *Piece of cake,* I think.  He dives off the tiny diving board with the grace of an Olympian.  I walk up to the tiny diving board (what is it, 3 feet above the water?) and he tells me to dive in.  I FREAK OUT.  Suddenly it feels like I'm 50 feet above the water. I will never forget the feeling of standing at the end of the diving board that day.  And sure enough, I back s-l-o-w-l-y off the plank, back to solid ground, and slip into the water from the edge of the pool instead.  Wuss.

Fast forward two years (to last week): I have the same feeling when I arrive at the office of the Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney.  I sit alone in the harsh lighting of a wood-paneled waiting room, clutching a manila folder filled with paperwork for my initial appointment with Friend of the Court.  With each minute that passes, I consider running out to my car and driving away.  I walk up to the reception desk and ask the girl a few questions about the process.  She can clearly tell I'm worried.  She advises me to sit down and wait till after the interview to decide what I want to do.

I sit down again and look at the floor.  It feels like I'm waiting forever.  A girl no more than 16 years old walks in with her mom.  The girl is carrying a baby boy, and her mom looks like she couldn't be much older than me.  I look at the floor again and wonder, How did I get here?  A tall man walks through the door and calls my name.  I walk up to him (we'll call him Mr. H), shake his hand, and he leads me to the copy room so he can make copies of my paperwork.  The copy room is also a break room, and there are fresh blueberries in a bowl nearby.  The copies are done, and Mr. H takes me to his office across the hall.  He closes the door and asks me to tell him about my situation.  I look around for a tissue box.  It feels like my initial visit to the adoption agency last summer.  I despise the feeling of deja vu. 

I start talking, and he asks questions periodically throughout my monologue.  I tell him I hope this isn't the strangest case he's seen.  He laughs out loud and tells me this is mild; he's absolutely seen more bizarre cases.  I am stiff and sitting straight up in my chair.  He tells me he can see that I'm on the fence about something, and asks me why.  I tell him the truth: I'm terrified of what Sol's father will do when he finds out I'm here; he didn't want me to come here.  Mr. H asks me why I feel like I owe Sol's father anything.  I don't have an answer.  Mr. H tells me I have a responsibility now, and I need to keep my daughter's best interests in mind. Does that mean I'm doing the right thing?  I think back to all the people who have told me to take Sol's father to court, since he's clearly incapable of staying true to his word in any regard.  However, he's paid me money every month - for 5 months.  5 months out of 18 years. I have a long way to go.  The odds are against me.  We have no legal agreement, and I have no way of holding him to his financial obligation.  I have no choice.  Choice.  The word gives me chills.  I think back to last summer, sitting on my couch, Sol's father screaming at me that abortion is my only choice.  It's hardly a choice if you're forced into it.

Mr. H asks me more questions.  Do I have a PPO against Sol's father?  Am I concerned for the safety of my daughter and/or myself?  I'm lost for a second.  My mind goes back again to last summer, when Sol's father threatened terrible things if I didn't have an abortion.  Empty threats.  I think of having to sit down with HR to tell them the story.  I think of Jenny Webb, and of Braxton.  I think of what must have gone through Jenny's mind during her pregnancy.  I tell Mr. H that I do not have a PPO against Sol's father.  He asks me if Sol's father was ever abusive to me.  I think for a second - no, he never hit me, but he scared me plenty of times.  Mr. H says that if I have to think about it, the answer is yes.  Mr. H tells me that I cannot allow this man to have any power over me. 

I'm afraid of what's to come once I leave the office.  Mr. H finishes his questions, and I begin signing the papers as he explains the process to me.  I get the same end-of-the-diving-board feeling.  I can still back out.  Still seated, I look up at Mr. H before signing the last page.  He tells me to think of the reasons I came here today.  I think of Sol's father - the love, the lies, the betrayal, the happiness, the anger, the regret, the absolute despair, the abortion pleas (disguised as impromptu lunch dates), the months of tears, the feeling of not having a choice, the long days and longer nights of pure loneliness - and I sign my name one last time.

So that's what it feels like to dive off the diving board.

The drive back to work is silent.  I feel sick to my stomach all day long.  Faint nausea continues for the next few days as I await a phone call from Sol's father.  The call is inevitable, once he receives his summons in the mail.  He begged me not to do this.

Some days later, the call comes.  I answer, expecting an angry man on the other end.  But he's not angry.  He's unequivocally irate.  He says the most terrible things to me.  I remain calm and tell him he's overreacting.  He calls me the worst names imaginable, and informs me that he will not pay any money for the month of July (this is your daughter, not a credit union; you can't just skip a payment).  I try to think back to what it was that I ever saw in this man... I can't remember.  I tell him I hope he feels badly someday for the things he's saying to me.  He tells me he will never feel badly for them, and he hates me more than he ever thought he could hate another human.  I listen to his toxic rant for a few minutes and hang up on him.  Shaking, I tell myself that this was the right move.  I think of what Mr. H said: I cannot allow this man to have any power over me.  I am not an unlovable whore.  I don't deserve to die.  And my family and friends do love me.  I write down some of his evil words and hide the paper. 

This is likely the last conversation I will ever have with this man.  I feel sorry for him, since he must be living a hellish life.  This last conversation is just solid proof that I'm better off without him.  Is this what brave feels like?


  1. You are a strong beautiful lady with a wonderful baby girl. Your support (family&friends) is as strong as your faith is. You and Sol will have an awesome life, with or w/out biological father. Do only what is right for you and Sol. He is the one loosing. You both will survive just fine.

  2. You are brave. And strong. And the most wonderful role model your daughter could ever have. That's what love looks like.

  3. You're doing what is right for Sol. She's going to thank you tremendously someday. She doesn't need that poison in her life from that "man", or whatever he is. Stay strong, you're doing the right thing for sure. <3 Love you, Mel!

  4. You are the one who has the prize,beautiful Sol. And if he ever calls again, have a tape recorder ready, it may come in handy if you need any kind of evidence against him, if he tries anything. There is a real father for Sol out there somewhere, we just have to be patient. I admire you for how you have handle things. You are a great person and Wonderful Mom. Sol was meant to be.

  5. We back whatever decisions you make regarding Sol and your well being. A PPO might not be a bad idea. Why deal with this sort of harassment.

  6. Thank you for bringing more sunshine into the world. We love you and Sol.

  7. You are an AMAZING mother and Sol is so lucky to have you as hers. You did the right thing. Thank goodness he will have no part in her life.

  8. Bierliff Industry EmployeeJuly 3, 2012 at 9:58 PM

    That Andrew guy seems like he is a straight shooter. Hope all is well with you Mel, wish you the best :P!

  9. Ok Mel this is me (Penny) ..... That NO GOOD SON OF BITCH!!!! I could just kick him in the balls. What the hell right does he have to tell you those things. I hope he has a life of hell as he better get used to it as that is where he is going. Mel you & Sol are LOVED by so many. You did the right thing. Now go get the PPO on this unstable useless piece of shit. I would like to thank him for one precious thing . Sol is a blessing from God. I no we all of us love you two so much!!!!!!!!

  10. Oh Melanie! I cried reading the end of this!! You are incredibly loved and strong, and by the sound of it Sol's seems to be better off with just you and her large amount of loving family-blood related or not!
    Love you!!!!