Week 21: T-Ball and Rock Climbing!

This week I introduced David to T-ball with a set I packed (instead of the basketball net). He caught on quickly and was giving the ball some good thwacks, or enjoyed getting it (he’s not quite catching flys yet) when I hit to him. And here are his new goggles; I don’t think this is the first week he had them, maybe just first pictures. He loves to swim with them.

We also came across a small rock face on our hike, so I helped him climb up a little, and put him up on a ledge, and he had fun with that.

As usual he always wants to play with his trucks, although the green Jeep seems to be one he was missing, according to Honey, and when she told me I got it out of the toy bag in the trunk (so it must have been a Saturday after I had checked out of the park lodge) and we’ve been keeping it in the car seat cup holder and he likes to “swoop” and grab it as I put him in the seat. And he still enjoys the fireman puzzles he got for his birthday. The picture on the screen behind looks a bit scary, but it’s just Puddleglum, the Marsh-Wiggle from the BBC’s The Silver Chair, which we watched this week.

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Week 20: “Up the Steps,” More Blocks, and the Slide Loop

Next to where I stay most of the week in WV at the Highwater Inn, there is a good-sized field of grass, David and I play there, and while the Inn owner doesn’t own it it’s FEMA-owned or something like that so he can use it for parking and someone comes to mow it every now and then and it won’t ever be built on. Across the field (from the street-side; standing on the sidewalk, the Inn is on the left and the field to the right) is a wall made of crumbling old masonry. Beyond that, another road comes down from right to left such that the wall, and various iron railings to keep those on it from falling to the field below, would be on one’s left as one drove from right to left, downhill, to the Inn.

David enjoys a particular routine most days I pick him up and take him there (parking on the left of the field near the Inn, as viewed from the sidewalk). He always wants to play “catch daddy on the grass,” and we do; and we ramble toward the right edge where there is a wall coming out at right angles that has fallen apart to be like steps. I lift David up to the highest brick-step we can put him on, and he jumps to daddy a couple times (and there tends to be random paper plates around, and feral cats, so he’ll frequently observe, “What a mess!”) Then on our way back to the Inn he climbs up on a smaller wall (maybe a couple feet high) and walks along it, stepping up to balance on a narrower line of cinder-blocks all the way to a mess of ivy where he again jumps to daddy. Near here the road is low enough (six feet?), and there is a gap in the railing, so that I can lift him “up on top” and he can gleefully hurl himself into space and again have daddy catch him, which we do a few times. (There’s a lot of jumping to daddy in this routine!) Finally, there’s another narrow wall right next to the downhill road that I help him climb onto and he balances on it (with me holding my hand), ending with a final jump to daddy at the end. (I tried to skip that last wall once, and it did not go over well!)

We built with blocks a couple days; he likes to keep the colors together. If I try to mix colors, he assiduously reaches over and puts the colors back where they belong.

This may have been the first week he climbed up the ladder on the jungle gym at the Twin Falls playground himself–in the past I’d lift him up or help him–and slid down by himself. He was looping around just fine, but still likes a lot of reassurance from daddy. When he was much younger he was very bold about sliding, and then he got skittish, and now he’s back to it most of the time.

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Travel and lodging in West Virginia

I wanted to write a little about the logistics of my weekly drive and accommodations while in West Virginia; and this is the way of it. I drive there Sundays; I used to leave at around 2 a.m. and attend the Lord’s Supper (Breaking of Bread) meeting at Otsego Bible Chapel, reasoning that if I went to my local church (Harvest Indy), I wouldn’t arrive in time to see David (every day of that week from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., except for Saturday where I see him at 11 a.m.). However, that was when my GPS was still set to avoid tolls (I thought it wouldn’t avoid the ones it knew I had an EZ-Pass for, but it avoided them too), and now that travel time is about an hour less–about six hours–I can go to Harvest for the first service at 8:30 a.m. (and meet my friend for coffee before), stay for the music/singing, leave around 9 a.m. (putting the sermon on in the car, phone over Bluetooth), and still be there in reasonable time and with a buffer to stop and rest if needed.

I head back Saturdays at 2 p.m. after seeing David (I have asked for a little more time with him–I am there all week after all–or overnights, but she has never relented even a little). I was driving straight to my “D&D&D” (Dungeons & Dragons & Discipleship, a Christian small group and D&D group out of a church plant in Zionsville, Real Life Indiana) group for a while.

In 2018 when I got to see David while she was still claiming to be “thinking and praying” about her actions and restoring the family, I stayed at the Twin Falls state park campground some weeks, and the lodge there when it was colder (much more expensive, understandably). From near the end of 2018 until the above arrangement was court ordered starting August 2020, she withheld David completely; and then I started going to the lodge or camping again (I did pick up a larger tent, and reactivated my cell Internet modem so I could work). But at some point I saw a banner for a place called the Highwater Inn (kitchen and main room pictured above), and called the owner and arranged to stay there during the week (apparently he knew Roy, who vouched for me). That was cheaper than the state park lodge, much closer to town, more private, and had cooking facilities (vs. me bringing a hot plate and cooking on the room balcony!) – and Internet. Since the owner primarily rents to trail riders on the weekends, he was able to give me a reasonable deal during the weeks I was there, but I usually had to move to the lodge Fridays. Packing up Thursday night and Friday morning became a sign that the week with my son (even though the time is ridiculously limited), was almost over.

It is, as I said, around six hours, maybe 6h30, depending on time and traffic, each way, and about (a little under) 400 miles from my house to Otsego Bible Chapel (I use that because it is recognized by Google Maps, whereas their house, which is just a short walk from the chapel, has no address, although it has the number ‘226’ on it and is near a street marked as Carnation Lane, either in Otsego, or maybe Mullens annexed it?) Given that, and that (as of beginning June 2021) I have traveled there for 22 weeks (since August 2020, not counting 2018), I have spent 264 hours driving and driven about 17,600 miles (not counting trips to the park etc.). This is ridiculous, of course, and part of why I so wish to bring David Home to Daddy. It has also been hugely expensive (and a reasonable judge will subtract off the costs from her “child support” or other loot): about $1500/month (some variation, weeks I camped were cheaper, but can’t really bring David to a tent anymore; weeks I had to stay at Twin Falls all week were the most expensive), so for the same 22 weeks, $16,500. Of course I would pay that for my son, but it is so unnecessary, more “fruit of the poisonous tree” of Honey turning from God.

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Week 19: A Bit Unwell, Chronicles of Narnia, Horsepen Knob Trail

David was sick when I picked him up Sunday–had been throwing up, even; Honey even let me inside (her parents’ house where they have him) to see him for a while, for the first time in forever. I held him; he was clearly not feeling well, but was happy to see his daddy nonetheless. I brought him to where I was staying–we skipped our usual Sunday grocery shopping–and expected we wouldn’t do very much, that maybe I’d hold him or he’d sleep, but he seemed to feel better rather quickly on being with his daddy. However, we still stayed inside and he mainly sat on my lap and I held him and we watched part of The Chronicles of Narnia and read some books. But he also felt well enough to eat and we shared a chocolate muffin (brought from Indiana).

It’s always difficult to pick the photos to include; David has so many great expressions, and he’s so cute all the time. I wish he were back home, seeing his home for the first time, making observations, reading a book together on the big chair, showing him his room. I imagine him looking at the (big) lawn and asking if we can play “catch daddy” on the grass….

We hiked the Horsepen Knob trail–not for the first time–this Saturday. Also some pictures of David being “sack of potatoes,” which he loves –and demands, and having a snack at the table in the lodge.

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Week 18: Building with Blocks, Balancing, Swimming Again

For several weeks I was able to stay at the Highwater Inn all week, and the Twin Falls lodge pool was also down for repairs (heat went out after the “blizzard” a few months ago); but this week we were in the lodge two days, so we swam both days – unfortunately no pictures, since I didn’t take phone or camera since I wouldn’t be able to both keep David safe and keep them dry. He had a great time, still swimming in his “Puddle Jumper” life jacket/vest with the shark on the front. Since it had been a while, he was a little scared about floating on his own or jumping in from the side, but he managed to “swim to daddy” a few times and felt better about it, and jumped in a number of times too.

We walked the Huckleberry Trail at the park on Saturday this week, a 1 1/3 mile trail (seems longer, some places are quite steep) which loops around and crosses the road twice, and has its own parking area. It passes close to the pioneer farm, and some of the animals, which David got to see up close when we walked along the fence. We had a picnic and read some books. We also stopped at Second Street Station after hiking. I got a burger, wish I could have gotten David one too but he still won’t eat most of what’s on it, or the burger, so I got him some cheese and a slice of tomato.

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Three years since my son was taken

It is coming up on three years since my wife Honey ran off with our son David Geoffrey. She had claimed then to be going out for a “girls’ night” – I still do not know if this is true – with some friends from university (IUPUI), and took David because he was breastfeeding (he was seven months old). I didn’t think much of it at the time; who expects this kind of crazy to suddenly happen? Then the next day when I was at work (2018, pre-COVID, I actually drove in each day, it seems so long ago) she came back to the house to take things (I later saw it on the security cameras), and cleaned our our checking account. I thought maybe she had been kidnapped or hurt while visiting her friends in Indianapolis, and had to find out from the sheriff’s office, when I called to make a missing person report, that she had had them escort her to the house while she took things. To say it was a most difficult time puts it mildly. But God has been with me the whole time, and he has brought wonderful people into my life to help me through it; iron to sharpen iron.

I started listening much more to the Sirius XM Christian music station “The Message” then, and one of the first songs I heard a few times and really latched on to was Matt Maher’s “Lord I Need You”:

Lord I come, I confess
Bowing here, I find my rest
Without You, I fall apart
You’re the one that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh I need You
Every hour, I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

While I love this song, because of the circumstances in which I heard it, it always brings on that “sinking feeling” in the pit of my stomach: my wife has left me, and taken my son, and I don’t know why. I still don’t, three years later. She won’t talk about it. So I spend what little time with David I can, trying to bring him home – justice delayed is justice denied – and hope she will, like the prodigal son, come to her senses. I have hoped so much she would have just one Christian influence who would encourage her to keep our family together, or listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to turn from evil and do right. Many friends have offered, but she will not hear any of them.

I see many difficulties in the world; and I have gone through some of my own, such as my mother passing away when I was nine – I am so thankful for my “step” mother (I use quotes because I hardly ever use that qualification) – but generally those are not deliberate harm done by one person to another, but sickness or accident. It is especially difficult to deal with this deliberate harm Honey has done to our family, and for what? So she can live in West Virginia, perhaps? So she can avoid ever working? I can only guess. The unrelenting cruelty of it all, the lack of explanation preventing closure (although what could explain?), the continued withholding of my son – it is all much harder to deal with than if, for example (and may it never happen) David was taken away by sickness. I have been fortunate to know of man’s inhumanity to man mainly from history and not experience. I did not protect myself from it; she had full access to everything and my complete trust, and that makes the betrayal worse.

Continue to pray for reconciliation, and for David to be able to come home.

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Week 17: Educational Curriculum

My Aunt Sharon (David’s Great-Aunt – which is important to note because he also has an Aunt Sharon, my sister) kindly sent me a Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills book (big picture of a crab on the front), thinking of David while she was getting one for a grandson. We’ve done a lot of drawing with crayons on a sketchbook which he enjoys, and I have other books for him that he’s not ready for yet, but this one we were able to start in on exercises, like identifying and drawing shapes, coloring scenes, or navigating mazes and other games. We work through it together, and he enjoys it a lot.

We went to the Twin Falls playground and David learned to climb the ladder and went down the slide by himself – once he saw he could stick the landing without me catching him, he was good. I still stood close while he climbed, but he was doing great.

Our weekly hike was the 3-mile Cliffside Trail, with a picnic on the rocks at the end. It was a bright sunny day – I packed his cowboy hat for the next week, and encouraged him to take his wool hat off but he wanted to keep it on. We made it in the 3 hours I have with little to spare – but made some stops besides the picnic, like to walk along fallen trees or jump from them.

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Shared Custody Bill Passes WV House

Article in WV MetroNews: Shared custody bill passes House after debate. Wikipedia tracks the shared parenting legislation across the several states (but doesn’t have this development yet). As far as I knew only Kentucky had passed a 50-50 bill, which has been working out very well for them; some others have weaker versions, like “consider” 50-50 (which seems like it probably wasn’t worth the time) – other states listed with bills passed into law are Arizona, Missouri, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Hurdles seems to be special interests (e.g., the ABA is reputedly against such bills – one can easily imagine why), and apparently Republicans are more likely to pass them than Democrats, especially “left-leaning” ones.

The WV bill is of the Kentucky sort, not a weak “consider” but something that requires 50-50 physical custody unless an “adversarial hearing” provides, by a preponderance of the evidence, just reason against it, which must be incompetence, abuse, or neglect. It should pass the senate, and then becomes a matter of Governor Jim Justice signing it into law.

It would I think be helpful to me personally; but the egregious kidnapping, moving out of state, and withholding of David from me that Honey has engaged in, plus the better opportunities he would have in Indiana, and other factors, mean that even without it it can be expected that he would be able to return home to Daddy.

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Week 16: Building a Blanket Fort

This week we built a fort with the chairs at the Highwater Inn, where I generally stay when in WV to see my son, and a blanket from one of the beds. David loved it, so much so that he requested it the next couple days too, and we rebuilt it then (we needed the chairs to sit on to eat and I needed the blanket to sleep under). I had a flashlight with me (probably several, lot of camping stuff is still packed in the car), so we had it in the fort for light and he had fun with that. He drove his trucks through it and we read some books in it too.

I apologize for the quality of the pictures: it’s low light with a phone, and David doesn’t like the flash (sometimes the phone flash is OK, but he wasn’t happy with it with such a strong contrast like in the fort). I’ll see if my Nikon can do better, maybe f/2.8+ and high ISO-equivalent.

On our hike, I didn’t have his mittens, and it was a bit cold, so I put my gloves on him – didn’t fit, of course, but probably trapped enough heat to keep his hands warm.

This might have been the first week we did “up in air” – holding him up over me lying down, and “flying” him as far as I could reach, but sometimes, “Oh no! Plane crashes into the ground!”, which he enjoys as much as the flying.

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Week 15: Drawing, David and Daddy hiking

We walked (some of) the Cliffside Trail this week, which we haven’t for a while – since summer, when we would have our picnic on the rocks at the cliff. That worked better when I was at the campsite in the park already; hiking the three mile loop with time for a picnic took most of the three hours I have with David, without having to add 1/2 hour to travel to the park (shorter in summer even when I’m not staying there, because a shorter route, Cabin Creek Road, is opened). It was snowy, so we dressed warm in our “big hats”; I got some pictures of the two of us.

David loves to draw; I had to get him a new sketchbook in town after he filled up the old one, which was a gift from (my, his Great-) Aunt Sharon and Uncle John with the crayons, stickers, and some books and a bag I used for a long time before getting the big black Adidas bag (which David likes to look through and get toys out of).

He also likes to line up his cars and count them – 22 of them here (few more with the race track etc.) – and then he counts backwards when he removes them from the line.

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