''The Law Works For You, Son, Not Against You'' By Michael Peck

"The Law Works For You, Son, Not Against You"
By Michael Peck

   I woke to a bright, sunny day.  Usually a day like this would put me
into a good mood, but not today.  I felt very upset ... and afraid.

   Today was the conclusion of four years of turmoil, four years of not
knowing where, or who, to turn to.  The end of four years of being
hurt, of sleepless nights, and four years of dreading this day.  I had
already been to court once for the same reason, but due to dishonesty,
I would have to experience it once more.  Last time, the court had
decided that I was to live with my mother, but I didn't want that, nor
did I want to live with my father.  I simply wanted both.

   Now, instead of being a young, ignorant person, I knew the system.
I realized that I had to choose, but also knew about a joint-custody
law which enabled a child to live one half of the year with one parent,
and the other half with the other parent.  Unfortunately, the
joint-custody law didn't exist in Massachusetts, where my father lived
with his new wife and the children from her previous marriage.  So I
didn't have a choice.  I had to choose.

   I climbed dejectedly out of bed, hoping that the hearing, scheduled
for ten o'clock a.m., would be delayed.  After cleaning up, getting
dressed, and eating a light breakfast, I prepared to leave.

   I recited a familiar prayer, and seated myself in the back seat of
the car.  Moments later, my mother, Karen, and my younger sister,
Alice, boarded and located themselves in the front seat of the car, and
we were off.

   The twenty minute ride was nerve-wrackingly quiet, the radio wasn't
even on.  The ride seemed interminable, but we finally arrived at the
courthouse.  The time was nine twenty-three, thirty-seven minutes
before I would be forced to break somebody's heart.

   My mother offered to buy a donut for me, and I accepted, only
because I had nothing else to do.  Immune to my surroundings, I closed
my eyes and hoped, hoped for something to save me.  As I had expected,
the something didn't come.  When I opened my eyes, I found myself
staring at my worst fear.  The clock read nine o'clock, fifty-two
minutes, and about forty-five seconds.  Time was running out!

   The minutes seemed like seconds, and soon it was nine fifty-seven.
Abruptly, my mother and sister rose from the table and headed for the
exit.  I followed numbly.

   Strangely, now, just before I felt my world would end, I found
hope.  The hope I found was in the law.  My father had always told me,
"The Law Works for you, Son, not against you."  Relying on this, I
began to think that I wouldn't have to choose, that the law would solve
my problem.  But these thoughts were washed away in a wave of fright, a
feeling that I was the cause of this nightmare.  Sure, everybody always
said that children felt responsible for this kind of thing, but they
weren't in my position.  The feeling passed, and I considered my
choices.  Which home would be more enjoyable?  Which home would be
warmer in the winter?  I dismissed the thought angrily, remembering
what my parents had always told me, "It doesn't matter how much money
you have, what counts is how much love you have."

   My thoughts were dispelled when, after rounding a corner, I
confronted my father.  I spoke briefly with him, not voicing my
problem, fright, and ...  pride preventing me from doing so.  Then my
sister and I were led into a small, isolated chamber where we would be
kept until it was our turn to speak.

   As I pondered my decision, my sister spoke to her "bodendisle"
(bo-d-un-disil).  A "bodendisle" is an imaginary creature invented by
my father to protect you.  It was kind of like a Santa Claus.  As I
recalled the history of the "bodendisle," I found myself envying my
sister's position.  She didn't even have to speak, it was almost
certain that she would remain with my mother.

   Then I continued mulling over my possible alternatives.  I could
propose living with my mother during the school year and my father
during the summer.  That wasn't joint-custody, or was it?  Or I could
actually choose a ...  No, I couldn't choose.  Choosing would mean
hurting; the two actions were linked together like husband and wife.
My only hope was some sort of not quite joint-custody idea.

   Now that I had decided what I was going to say, I could worry about
the present.  Studying the small chamber, ignoring the table, two
chairs, and the door, my eyes came to rest upon the clock.  It now read
twelve minutes after ten.  When would I be called upon?  My nerves
couldn't stand any more waiting, I had to get it out, get it over with
once and for all.  I had to get the experience behind me.

   Surprisingly, my sister remained quiet, leaving my nightmare and I
alone in a silence which throbbed in my ears.  I glanced up at the
clock.  It now read six minutes after eleven.  How much longer would I
be forced to wait?  I felt like screaming, but that wouldn't solve my
problem.  Nothing could.  I continued pondering all of the ways in
which I could propose my suggestion.  One way would be to just come out
and say it, but I wouldn't have the courage to do such a thing.

   Suddenly, the door swung open, admitting a short lady.  Beckoning
for my sister to follow and me to stay behind, she turned and left, my
sister right behind her.  Now I was alone, and the horrible thought of
me deeply hurting my parents returned.  My mind was so cluttered with
emotion that I couldn't reject the thought, only let it travel through
the mess.  Eventually, twelve o'clock came around, and I couldn't
withstand the waiting anymore.  I felt I was on the edge of sanity,
with each minute pushing me closer to the fall.  Then, to my relief,
the door opened and the same lady motioned for me to follow her out.

   The walk was short, and I soon found myself in the Judge's private
office.  Once again reciting the prayer, I seated myself at a long
wooden table.

   The Judge began talking about what had taken place so far during the
hearing.  She spoke of upsetting events related to quarrels between my
parents, asking me questions about them, obviously
beating-around-the-bush.  She must have bad news.

   Then she cleared her throat and stated something far worse than
anything I had imagined.

   The question was already answered.

   Custody had been decided.