Elster's World

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Like Spinning Plates

Last night, at around 10:30, I settled into my brand new, high thread-count sheets and prepared to drift off for a second consecutive early night, when nighttime silence was shattered by the sounds of screaming from outside. My wife and I went downstairs to check, knowing already what we would find.

As heat lightning crackled in the distance, there was our neighbor, barefoot, pregnant and hysterical crying, chasing after her husband’s SUV as he drove off to wherever it is that he goes every night until all hours in advance of his Jewish reggae career. My wife went out to calm her and I stayed behind at first, watching from the door but not wanting to leave my three little ones alone in the house. And there they stood, under a windblown, dying oak, as “Sally” broke down sobbing and recounted the events of the evening, the events of the week, the whole nine yards.

They were out there for over half an hour when her husband, “Greg” started driving past the corner. Never stopping, back and forth, observing his wife telling over a tale so horrible to strangers. When Sally saw Greg’s car, she freaked. “Now I’m in trouble,” she cried. “He’s gonna kill me.” At this point I went outside, not knowing what to do, but knowing that a seven and a half month pregnant woman needs to be calmed down for her baby’s sake if not her own.

And so I listened to her tale. Her side of the tale anyway. As I mentioned before, Sally is very damaged, emotionally and mentally. She is a woman drowning in her own worries, paralyzed by doubt, unable to make decisions. Unable, even to stop talking about her minor troubles and instead try to focus on her larger ones. I gave what counsel I could. You cannot do this alone Sally. You need to speak to someone. Unfortunately, the Rabbi proved to be very unhelpful (not surprising, he is very green).

But Greg tells her things simply to upset her. And she goes for it every time. And to top it off, her oldest child is already (at age five) in trouble at school, recently even biting another child. Her twins (two years old) don’t eat. Who can blame them? There is so much discord in the house, even I’d have no appetite. And the baby may have Downs, according to a recent test. She won’t take an Amnio, she’ll wait to see when he (oh, it’s a he) is born. Oh and the child was an accident. Greg asks her is he is actually the father.

I could go on and on. The stories came out in a flood, like the impending rains that would soon come. In the end, I told her she needs to go home and check on her children, who were alone in the house for over an hour and a half. And she needed to call someone who can help her. I suggested OHEL, but I have strong doubts about her making the call. She is too paralyzed by her own doubts, sweating the small stuff, failing to see the big picture; the destruction of her kids.

And it makes me wonder. Why can some people emerge from the depths of messy divorce and still function while other become so damaged that they perpetuate the cycle by bringing down the same misery on the next generation? I recently had conversations with someone whose parents are going through a divorce. Obviously affected by the trauma, this person is still able to function on all cylinders, even excelling in society. It’s all about mental makeup and support systems. Poor Sally has no one but a mother who doesn’t want to get involved. Her father is dead. She believes she will die soon too.

Maybe a piece of her already has.

12 Comments:

  • This is so sad. Is there a battered women's shelter for frum women in your area? Does such a thing exist? Sally has a right to choose her own existence, but she has no right to allow the continued traumatization of her children. What about calling social services? They would make a home visit and at least be able to help her. Is there a Jewish Family Services? What if they were called with a tip that a family was desperately in need? The frum community seems to work wonders when it comes to someone who is hungry, but it seems the ball is consistently dropped when someone has bigger problems.

    By Blogger AnySara, at 4:14 PM  

  • Calling social services is probably a mistake - you don't want the children taken away unless you absolutely have to. I was pushing her to call a well-known Jewish family services organization - though I doubt she will. Also, I have been in contact with someone from the community who may be able to help. He was going to place some calls on their behalf and see what he can do. I have not heard back yet, but hopefully the process is in motion.

    By Blogger Elster, at 4:18 PM  

  • Sadly, there are too many women in the frum community that stay in miserable marriages for all sorts of wrong reasons! Her kids (and her) would be better off without him! And why on earth does she continue to get pregnant by him? sad. The Rabbis are part of the problem, not the solution for the most part in these cases!

    By Blogger Lakewood Venter, at 4:18 PM  

  • Point back she told me the kid was an "accident". Even worse, this kid will be told this by his parents I'm sure at some point. It's disheartening to think that this kid's life is effectively ruined before it even began.

    By Blogger Elster, at 4:21 PM  

  • Very sad. Some people in these situations almost have a need to dwell in victimhood. Others want help but just can't see a way out. It is tough to have to stand by and watch this happen and not be able to do anything about it. I hope she seeks the help she needs. At least the Orthodox community is better equipped to deal with these things than they were even 5 or 10 years ago...

    By Blogger MC Aryeh, at 7:17 PM  

  • MC - I hope this works out for the best, i really do. i have my doubts. i think there is almost no chance the kids get out of this ok.

    On a side note, I see someone's been making up for lost time.

    E.

    By Blogger Elster, at 10:14 PM  

  • I feel for this woman and I commend you for taking action. I also commend you for listening to her and your observation that you heard "her side of the tale anyway." Every "tale" has at least two sides doesn't it? There are people who choose this blog circle as home that have expressed their own issues with divorce. They are also telling their "side of the tale." At least you know your neighbors as husband and wife, as a mother and father. You know their children and you live in their community. There is real information you can use to make conclusions and reasons if you decide to be sympathetic to "her side of the tale" or not. As bad as the situation sounds it's great you are there for the whole family and isn't it better when you can get involved from an informed position? It sounds like your course of action is right on. Keeping yourself in the background while trying to get her some qualified help is a good thing. It gets professionals in who know how to sort out the "tales" and help everyone in the best way. Kol HaKavod

    By Anonymous Mental Health Nut, at 2:12 PM  

  • mhn - I agree with you. Every case has 2 sides and I don't pretend to know his position. In fact, everyone who I have subsequently spoken to about this I have made that point abundantly clear.

    By Blogger Elster, at 2:23 PM  

  • barefoot and pregnant? gimme a break!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:38 PM  

  • this is so tragic. it's obvious that she's reaching out, but she needs to reach out to people who can really help her. even if you or your wife offered to let her call OHEL from your home, or gave her the number, you'd be empowering her more. often people in these situations feel like even if they wanted to do something to change their situation, that they have no idea what or how to go about doing it, no matter how simple the task.

    By Blogger bec, at 11:54 PM  

  • Anon - She was LITERALLY barefoor and pregnant at the time. 7 and a half m months pregnant and wearing no shoes, chasing after her husbands Honfa freaking Pilot. You cannot make this stuff up.

    By Blogger Elster, at 9:23 AM  

  • And a quick update - My blog entry Like Spinning PLates seems to have put certainl wheels in motion. I hope to be able to report progress soon.

    By Blogger Elster, at 9:24 AM  

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