One Fathers Journey into the American Nightmare
By: Donnie Casto II
The American system of justice was a constant. Anyone who watched Perry Mason, Andy Griffith, Dragnet, or even Matlock with their grandparents on a Tuesday at 7pm knew that.
“Just the facts, ma’am.” I recall Jack Webb uttering in those retro episodes. It was those constants that carried me through with utter confidence and hope that along with my custody hearing being on my birthday, were all good signs that a three year ordeal to get full rights to my sons and daughter were about to come to an end.
As I looked up to the elevator door, sitting beside my sister in law, who in this portion of the story was to be my own personal Dr. Gonzo of sorts, and my mother, that as the door opened, I seen the laughing and arm in arm creeping death tag team of my ex-wife’s lawyer and the court appointed attorney for my children walking towards the judge’s chambers, I knew, I knew I was f**ked.
I flashback to that foul year of Our Lord on planet Earth called 2008. A world disgusted by the piss ridden ignorance of one George W. Bush, a mutant primate of a man handpicked by whatever whim the great cosmic magnet was on, to lead our free world. Much like the scales of justice were to be made aware to me on about 2 short hours, were as unbalanced and as chaotic as a Marilyn Manson fan showing up to a ‘Youth for Jesus’ concert. I recall walking into the principal’s office at the local elementary school, wading through the feeling of if I was an adult, or still the rebel hell raiser repaying karma for all the extremes of edge behavior I pulled in high school being revisited upon me.
Sitting down in a chair way too small for a man of a stature of 6’4” and half inches, half in and half out on no sleep and exhausted after what was my twenty-first straight 12 hour shift working nights, I was simply there. Now, now it was time to do the ‘job’ as it were that came with the responsibilities of being a father. Surrounded by a team of teachers, counselors, ‘experts’, and the man in charge himself, what was to be revealed to me regarding the concerns of my children’s well-being was comparable to a bad written ‘Dear Abby’ article. The kind you find yourself reading thinking on one hand, “my life isn’t so bad”, while on the other, asking yourself “Can there be this many souls on God’s green earth really this hopeless?”
“Hey”. . . “Hey, you ok?” sitting back in the chairs directly in front of the double elevator doors of purgatory my sister in law’s elbow poking me out of a slumber. “Please tell me you’re not high, surely to good you’re not baked at 9am on a Monday morning already?”
“No Sis I’m not, although based on what feels like the ass ramming about to receive seeing these two walk arm in arm together, it might not have been such a bad thing if I were would it?” I whispered back.
At this point, you’re likely asking yourself how it is my sister in law is the Dr. Gonzo of my story. While making a successful transition to adulthood, she herself was a product of the absent cosmic magnet that the inquisition of family court often places children in while maintaining the ‘looking out for their best interest’ fallacy. She was the one of many that while not too rare to live and too rare to die, she was one of many prototypes that wasn’t on a rare mass production scale of nature, but was one who the justice system produced at their own gain and benefit.
Despite the air of a normal life and one that was productive by the standards of the modern world, to the observant and open soul with a cognitive and useful third eye of awakening, one could see the scars and destruction wrought on her by a system that weighed and measured healthy parent and child relationships much like the moneychangers weighed out coin before the great man known as Jesus overturned the tables on those bastards.
I hadn’t quite ‘fit in’ in regards to having a close bond with my sister in law to that point. We both had similar experiences as rebels, hell-raisers, and discontented souls in our younger years. The sole difference being she took the detour route away while I had pushed it to the edge only to grab the lone thin tree branch before busting myself open on the sharp rocks below at the bottom.
“Hey, you can come back now.” responded my lawyer, with the professionalism of a televangelist, and the look of an oncologist, about to deliver terminal news of a hopeless cancer that no treatment would cure. Walking back to a room full of cubicle areas that reminded me of a processing center for prisoners or the insane rather than a place in a hall of justice, I sat down. In that moment, I wasn’t in the courtroom office; I was back at the school. “13” while an unlucky number for the superstitious who abide their life according to the horoscope written in haste by some non-believing editor or self-proclaimed prophet of the stars; it weighed upon me like the mark of Cain.
“Thirteen times, we’ve reported Mom to Child Protective Services” said the principal. “Even the Superintendent of the schools, made a report.”
Sitting there, I wasn’t sure if I was indeed in a public school with self-deemed state professionals or if I was in a bad Monty Python sketch of bumbling idiots trying to drag me into a poorly written comedy that between wanting to cry or wanting to laugh, left me feeling as if I was on the outside of my being trying to look inward.
There was a sense of pride that I wasn’t the unfortunate parent mentioned and deep rage that these children had been neglected like a paycheck that had been cashed and spent before the bills were paid, I was given the rundown. The ‘inside story’ of things that for whatever reason, my own children, at that moment shielded from me. While I didn’t know it then, the news from my lawyer was to be as equally worse. At that point, it was as if I was on a game show and won the big prize. A prize that offered me not a vacation or money, but a prize of which venereal disease I would be infected with.
“I got the report from the GAL, and it wasn’t too good for you.” said my attorney, who spoke as easily as asking for a super-size meal in a fast food drive thru. No emotion, no empathy, no outrage or an explanation. “Your request for full custody is going to be denied, and her request for full custody, full custodial rights, and visits every other weekend is going to be recommended by the GAL.” In that moment, it was as if a great vacuum had risen from the bowels of hell, and sucked all the color out of my life and my soul.
While the news rolled off the tongue of my attorney as easily as placing an order, or maybe even saying “Good morning”, I am convinced she either didn’t realize or for that matter, didn’t care, that she had literally ripped the soft parts of my heart out, where my ex-wife had already taken my backbone and balls as a father. I always known defeat in times of my life, but today, on my birthday no less, I knew full well what it truly was to be destroyed.
END OF PART I