“THE LOSS OF A CHILD IS MY GREATEST NIGHTMARE.’ – Angelina Jolie

Here’s the thing … like all families mine too have skeletons in the closet. Unlike most families, my skeletons include drug addicts, prostitutes, sexual abusers, “suspicious” death, manslaughter and sundry other decrepit souls.

Following is my accounting of one truth that hasn’t been told in 41 years. It is about my eldest sister whom I have not seen nor spoken to since 1985.

Having left home in 1971 at age 16 and becoming pregnant shortly after, my oldest sister gave birth to her pimp’s son. He was unwanted and immediately given up for adoption. As unlikely as it would seem she eventually married her pimp and again became pregnant. Questions about the unborn child’s paternity swirled among family and friends. My sister swore the father was her husband and the pregnancy planned, but her actions spoke otherwise.

Early in June of 1975, weeks before the baby was due I came across my sister sitting on the cottage dock, cross legged, punching her own stomach. I could hear her grunts of pain with each blow. Perhaps they were grunts of determination. I’m not sure. She was sobbing as tears ran down her cheeks. I approached her from behind, walking briskly and calling to her. I was trying to ask her what she was doing, wanting to know what was wrong. As I crouched down and touched her shoulder with my hand she whipped her head around as far as she could. The expression in her eyes was one of pure hatred and evil. Saliva was collecting in the corners of her mouth like a frothing dog. I realized then that the groans I heard were actual words. She was chanting in a low, gravelled voice. “Die” she growled. “Die, die die” in time to the blows she was inflicting upon her unborn child. It was like watching a scene from the horror film The Exorcist play out in front of me.

Very clearly she was trying to kill her own baby just weeks before it was due to be born.

Jason was born a healthy 8 lb. baby boy on June 14, 1975 and my parents welcomed their first grandchild to our family. My two other sisters and I became an aunts for the first time and I was immediately besotted with my new nephew. He was a beautiful child. He was always happy, laughing, his eyes always twinkling. He was a charmer as a toddler. He had an impish quality about him that you couldn’t help but love. He was lively and engaged and very intelligent. It was clear from the day he was born however, that Jason’s mother did not share our pleasure at the newest addition to the family.

During the month of March, 1978 Jason was admitted to hospital for “unexplained” injuries on two occasions. On a third occasion toward the end of that same month Jason was admitted to hospital and treated for a broken leg. He was only three years old. A few months later my sister and her husband separated and divorced shortly after.

Jason’s father was given complete custody with the full blessing of his own mother. It was apparent to all of us that she was relieved to no longer be a parent. She openly admitted this to Vicky several times in the months following the divorce. Jason and his father moved 3000 km to the east coast of Canada and his mother promptly moved to the west coast, putting over 6000km between herself and her son.

By 1989  Jason had become a big brother to his new step mom and dad’s recent arrival, a baby girl. Jason began to feel like an outsider to his “new” family and asked his dad if he could fly across the country to spend some time getting to know his mother. He told his father he wanted to see if he would like to live with her for a while. As would later become stated in trial proceedings, Jason’s dad was apprehensive but understood his teenage son’s feeling of “not fitting in” to the new family and reluctantly agreed to let him go on a trial basis. My sister agreed to have him, again, on a trial basis. It would be their first visit together in almost eight years. Jason’s mother was reportedly overjoyed at the prospect of increasing her social assistance payment by having a dependant and was not shy about admitting this to her twin.

In the spring of 1989 when he was just 14 years old Jason was killed in a car accident while visiting his mother on the west coast. The car he was in was struck broadside at 90km an hour by a Canadian Blood Services transport truck.  He was killed instantly. Ironically, the transport was loaded full with life saving donated blood. The entire family was devastated. My sister was critically injured in the same crash. She was in a coma in the hospital for over three weeks. My mother and father flew out to be with her. When she finally awoke it was left to my parents to tell her what had happened and that her son had died. My parents had arranged a small memorial for Jason, a cremation and ash disposal while she was still comatose. In a phone call to her twin, Vicky, a few short hours after she was told of the death of her son, she stated “Damn! Now I won’t get welfare credit for him anymore”.

Charges were later brought against my sister. Investigation into the accident determined that she had been drinking heavily prior to the accident. She was charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death. My sister was not driving that night, but was the only licensed driver in the car. The crown attempted to prove she was responsible for the circumstances that placed her paraplegic boyfriend behind the wheel. They were not able to prove the case. Her boyfriend was found to be responsible for the crash.

In very short order Jason’s father, together with his father’s parents, brought a civil suit against my sister. They contended that she was wholly aware that she was the only licensed driver that night and had in fact driven the car to the location where she then proceeded to drink. Unlike the criminal court finding, the civil court determined that indeed she was negligent and responsible for causing her son’s death. There were a few less substantial but equally disturbing findings against her.

The court awarded Jason’s father and grandparents a very significant settlement. My sister’s automobile insurance paid out most of it but there was still a considerable amount of the settlement exceeding her coverage.

Where did that large sum of money come from? My mother of course. My sister had a very long history of major financial dependance on my parents, a “privilege” if you will, that they did not extend to the rest of their daughters. My sister was very good at manipulation. She had learned well from my mother. My mother was very good at using guilt to further her own interests and did so against my father time and again to bail my sister out of one financial crisis after the next. In the years following my sister’s divorce, my parents spent or gifted my sister nearly $300,000 according to my mother, not including the court ordered settlement following Jason’s death. This was her first born, 8 minutes older than her twin sister, her favorite, as my other sisters and I had known from a very young age, and she could do no wrong.

By the time all of this occurred I had become a mother to two young children of my own whom I loved and cherished beyond words. I was floored by my sister’s cruel and callous nature (although I shouldn’t have been so surprised). I simply could not comprehend how a mother could have such a cold heart toward her own child. It confounds me to this day.

In the wake of Jason’s death I was plagued by nightmares. I never saw photos of the accident site nor had I ever seen my sister’s car. To the best of my recollection neither was ever described to me. It was not the sort of thing one talks about in the days and weeks following such a devastating loss. I was not at either court trial and my parents, who were, did not talk about it for several years. Nonetheless I began having recurring dreams only a few short days after the accident. I dreamt of a black Pontiac Trans Am, black and gold, crushed and at rest across two lanes of a four lane highway. I dreamt of the t-roof of the car missing and copious amounts of glass shards on the road. In my dreams I saw my sister laying face down on a road, head turned to the left, arms splayed and both legs apart but bent at strange angles. Worst of all I could see Jason in the back seat, on the passenger side, slumped against the remaining rear passenger window with his face pressed against the glass. I could never actually see his features but in the dream he was clearly dead.

Over time I became used to these dreams but I would still wake myself when I would cry out during them. They slowly dissipated in frequency and it has been about 9 years since I can recall having the last one. In their place I often find myself laying awake long into the night, unable to sleep, my thoughts dominated by this period of my life. I begin by thinking about Jason and the young man he should have grown up to be. I think about my mother’s seemingly unbalanced ability to place blame and offer forgiveness.

I think about life wasted and premature death. I think about the people in my life whom I have loved and lost and how much I miss them all. Most of all I think of my own children, how much I love them, how proud of them I am and how much I miss them in my life.

SS

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