In the end Marielos's intravenous "vitamin" treatment had the desired effect. You may recall that she spent a week or so in the public hospital after her “vitamin” intake threatening to miscarry, which did not happen. Still pregnant she took to her bed with what appeared to be clinical depression and left the care of her children, once again, to others. She gave up the only job she had ever had at Cris and Mishelle’s school.
We all pitched in and maintained the routine for the three as best we could. The family chattered endlessly about what to do with Marielos. Gladly her mother talked so fast that I didn't catch most of her complaints but I too wondered why this twenty-nine year old couldn't tell the truth about anything, keep herself from getting pregnant or earn enough money to feed and clothe the kids she already had. All she did was sleep and eat her mother told me. "What are we going to do with another baby?" she wailed.
Gladys, Marielos's older sister thanked me for having the psychologist elicit the truth about the baby's paternity. So, the father was either, as Marielos reported the nineteen-year old kid in the market or, as everyone else reported, some old guy in the market. Or someone else entirely but most certainly not Alex.
|Boys being boys, Diego and Denis, in Rio Dulce|
In late November and early December a trip to the eastern part of Guatemala and the Caribbean coast with Denis, Astrid and Diego gave the latter a break from his parenting duties. A week or so later Denis and Diego had the thrill of their life (as did many of the adults) by joining a helicopter visit to a recently discovered archeological site in the northern Petén region. I have discovered that when Diego is really happy he sings. En route back from La Corona Diego was the co-pilot and entertained us all by singing into our headphones.
|Diego, the singing co-pilot.|
Shortly thereafter along with my visiting nephew and the younger three we traveled up several thousand feet to a Christmas tree farm where it was cold enough to make one believe they were not in the tropics. Hot chocolate, grilled chorizo, blue corn tortillas and guacamole all tasted pretty good while the tree was tied to the top of my car.
|Cris and nephew, John, at the Christmas tree farm.|
|Mishelle warming up with hot chocolate, chorizo and tortillas.|
The week before Christmas I received a text message that Marielos’s baby had died and that she was in a private clinic in nearby Ciudad Vieja. I went to the clinic where the story was confirmed. Marielos was in labor and receiving medication to speed the process. I left, as there was nothing I could do. It was to be a very unpleasant waiting game which I hoped might convince her to pursue birth control going forward.
Later that evening a call came from one of Marielos's sisters saying that she needed to be moved to a hospital for surgery. Off I went collecting their father along the way. I had to show him how to use the seatbelt to keep the buzzer in the car from sounding. The small clinic was overrun by family members; each sister gave me a different story. She had to go to a private hospital. She had to go to the public hospital. Finally, I was able to find a doctor, a European woman, who knew exactly what she was doing and was likely, more competent than any other doctor in the area. She told me that Marielos was in no danger, that things were progressing as expected and that the best thing I could do would be to take all of the family members except Gladys home. She further told me that Marielos seemed to be terrified of going back to the public hospital, which is how she came to be in the clinic. I didn’t have time to enlighten the woman about the fact that Marielos was likely fearful of legal action as no doubt the public hospital knew exactly why she had threatened to miscarry a couple of months earlier.
I packed everybody off and the next morning Marielos went home after delivering the deceased fetus. Gladys assured everyone that she personally would see that Marielos was relieved of her ability to conceive as soon as it was feasibly possible. I wonder. The family rabbit.
Christmas was, as usual, a great success. The three younger children received bicycles. Cristofer has asked for one “with those little wheels.” Diego received a cheap tablet which he is using to study music theory which he can access without internet at home using a $35 computer called a Raspberry Pi (google it) and offline educational content from www.worldpossible.org. Denis and Astrid received cameras to augment their old iPad1s and Jackie an iPad mini so that she can document the life of her son with photos and videos. A few days after Christmas I asked Diego who carries his tablet everywhere with him what he was using it for the most. “Music,” he replied, “mostly Beethoven.”
|Baby Liam's first Christmas.|
The first week of January I sent Estela to the capital to get passports for Denis and Astrid. She was denied twice because their father had not accompanied them. The first time she was told to come again with a copy of Alex’s prison sentence. She went to the court and was told that, after two and a half years and several notices in the newspaper, he had not actually been sentenced. His sentencing is scheduled to be April second. Estela called immigration and explained that there was not yet a sentence and asked what else they would accept and the answer was a letter from the court indicating that Alex was incarcerated. When she went the second time to immigration with the aforementioned letter she was again denied by a low level, power hungry, macho male bureaucrat who snarled at Estela, the children’s sole support, and said “how do I know that you are not going to take the children away from their father?” Their father the kidnapper and rapist. The same father who had been given a passport with no questions asked so that he could abandon all of his children and go to the United States. Sure I get it. Makes complete sense to me.
Estela went back to court and was referred to a family law attorney who told her that she would need to have Alex to sign over custody of the two minor children and advised her to go to the prison and ask him if he would sign the necessary document. Of course he would sign as he never really cared about his children anyway or he would not be where he is.
That same day, coincidentally, Alex called my house and left two messages by the time Estela had returned from court. He called again and reported to Estela, the mother of his eldest children that the woman he had left her for and who had just lost someone else’s baby had come to see him the previous Tuesday. He said that Marielos had insisted that the baby was his and that she had lost it because of his operation, his vasectomy six years prior. This story is true; it is not fiction.
Very reluctantly, Estela dragged an unwilling Denis along, and found her way to the infamous prison in zone 18. Alex agreed to sign away his parental rights and, in the course of the brief visit, told Estela that he believed that Marielos’s baby was his. I put my money on the fact that his “belief” was about nothing more than the prospect of another conjugal visit. And further that she had promised to put her two youngest children, who scarcely remember Alex, through a visit to him in prison, which Estela reported was one of the scariest places she has ever been. She had been told that Denis could only visit for fifteen minutes and then he had to go somewhere with the guards but that she could stay. She was smart enough not to let Denis out of her sight and limited her own visit to fifteen minutes. She reported that the place was overrun with obvious gang members covered with tattoos and body piercings and that Alex seemed quite at home there.
I guess I would rather not know what risks Marielos subjects her five-year old daughter to during her conjugal visits.
So, I no longer question the sanity of Alex or Marielos but my own has come into serious question. Am I throwing money down a rat hole by paying to educate Marielos’s kids? Can I possibly overcome the influence of an incarcerated felon father and a sociopathic mother who can’t keep her knees together? Should I just cut my losses and run? But if I run what happens to Diego who wants to write computer code and listen to Beethoven? Since Alex is not his father (nor is anyone else) at least he doesn’t have to go and see him in prison.
On a recent trip to the beach I had a chance to talk to Marielos. She is the third child of seven children, the last two twins, which might explain why her mother has a drinking problem. However, of the seven, Marielos is the only one without at least a primary school education, the only one with illegimate children and the only one with a penchant for felons. Diego’s birth father was reportedly assassinated because of his kidnapping activities. The rest of them seem fairly sane which might well explain why the children are doing reasonably well. They are, in reality, being raised by the extended family in spite of their biological parents.
Diego started the new school year on Monday and was thrilled that he was allowed to skip fourth grade and go into fifth. He likes his teachers and has friends in class. His favorite class, once again, is robotics and he said that they are allowed to listen to music while doing math problems. He takes the chicken bus to school and I collect him in the afternoons. Arrangements have been made for some tutoring and homework assistance so that he won’t have to rely on his family to help him with homework. At eleven he is an old soul, all grown up in many ways. He likely feels much more mature than his mother. He takes his parenting duties of Cris and Mishelle very seriously. I enjoy giving him a break now and then and seeing the child inside of Diego emerge. Today was Cristofer’s birthday and I had asked Diego to find out what he would like for his birthday. The answer was a remote controlled car. As I had a meeting I sent Estela to the store with Diego and told Diego that he, not me, was to give the gift to his brother. He was very excited that he had a gift for Cris.
So, sane or not, I will likely continue on the same course as long as I see forward momentum. I no longer have any hope at all for Marielos but I do think that what I am doing is important to her extended family as well as to the kids. Together we may be able to make a difference in the children’s lives and through the course of their education they will hopefully see that there is a better way.
Now that everyone is back in school they are seeing better ways and better people. They are out of the market, which seems to be the only life their mother knows. Will Gladys succeed or will Marielos soon be pregnant yet again? Will she be able to convince Alex one more time that his vasectomy causes miscarriages? Will she take up with another potential felon? Will her family put her out of the street as she feared before?