One of my favourite channels on cable TV is the Investigation Discovery Channel. I am intrigued by the “Why” of crime. Why people commit a crime. Why they choose to hurt friends, family, loved ones in general – people they once swore to protect with their all through one inexplicable act. Why a woman would kill a man she claims to love after having an affair with his best friend. Why a son would orchestrate the murder of a father who gave his all to see him become someone in life. I am captivated by mystery, I fascinated by thrillers, I am curious about anything that has other layers to it. Perhaps, if I wasn’t a writer, I would have been a detective or psychologist.
I think about relationships a lot (maybe a little too much), and lately, I have been doing even more thinking. One phenomenon that never ceases to baffle me is how quickly relationships can deteriorate. How a once loving couple can begin to despise each other within a short space of time, and even go as far as hurting each other. Last Saturday, I decided to binge on a couple of episodes on Investigation Discovery as I am inclined to do when time permits. There, I stumbled on a story that inspired this piece.
An eighties boy meets girl story with its own twists and turns. A young lady had met a man through a classified ad he placed in a magazine. He was seeking a romantic relationship. She responded by writing him a letter and he replied with a letter of his own. One thing led to another and they met up and eventually began to date. The couple got married some months later and soon had two sons within two years of each other. Charles was a real estate broker, he took charge of the finances, while Ruth took care of the home front after her husband persuaded her to resign from her social worker job.
At some point, the couple began to drift apart and even started to live separately, until one fateful day when Charles announced he wanted a divorce. Even though Ruth was shocked by the suddenness of his decision, she got a lawyer of her own and filed for custody of their two sons – Charles Jason, who was called C.J and Williams Martin, nicknamed, Billy. The estranged couple seemed to have developed a mutual arrangement where Charles could come visit or pick up his sons to spend some time with them.
Everything was fine until Charles informed Ruth that he would like to take the boys to visit family in another state. He was supposed to take them on a Friday and bring them back on Sunday as he had done on a couple of occasions. Ruth agreed. She had no inkling it would be the last time she would ever lay her eyes on her children. Sunday came, and Charles and the boys were nowhere to be found. All efforts to trace them proved abortive. His parents, who were in on his plans to abduct the kids claimed they didn’t know where he was.
Apparently, Charles had been planning the abduction for months. When he was leaving with the boys that October day, he also left with all their pictures and birth certificates, which meant their mother could not produce a photo for anyone to even recognise them by. The couples joint account that took care of their bills was also emptied by Charles; and the house they bought, put up for sale too by his parents who claimed they actually owned it. This effectively rendering Ruth without the much needed financial muscle to search for her missing children.
As I listened to the narrative of how a man willfully deprived a mother access to her own biological children for no just cause, I became disturbed. I couldn’t comprehend why anyone could be so callous. As the story progressed, it became clear that Charles never wanted to get married. He only intended to have children by a woman and then take them away after a while. That was his plan from the get-go. Ruth had done no wrong. She was no adulterer, neither was she a bad mother. He hadn’t been compelled to marry her, yet he chose to treat her so badly, with the most damaging weapon anyone could use against a mother.
The saddest part of this story is that 31 years down the line, Ruth is still missing her children. They grew up without knowing her and the law enforcement agents only came close to catching Charles once. C.J and Billy are most likely oblivious to the fact that they have a mother who’s alive and still yearns to see them. They were probably told she had died in an accident or had abandoned them as kids.
I took the time to share this story because the one thing Ruth didn’t do right was marrying Charles. She married a monster and he succeeded in turning her existence into a living nightmare. I cannot even begin to imagine the depth of pain and anguish she has been living with for over three decades. Worse still, she may die without ever seeing her sons again.
It’s a heartwrenching, gut-ripping tragedy.
As humans, we will always make mistakes. What’s a life without mistakes anyway? Boring and unfulfilling. However, while errors in the choice of career, residence, political affiliation or even friendship can be rectified with relative ease, error in judgement as regards the choice of a life partner often spells doom. Not many people are lucky to walk out of a bad marriage unscathed. Many times, one or both parties lose a vital part of themselves in a bad marriage even when they manage to get a divorce.
A victim of physically or emotionally abusive marriage would require plenty of therapy to overcome the feelings of worthlessness they have been used to over the years. A man who has had the misfortune of raising children who were not his courtesy of an unfaithful wife would find it almost impossible to trust any other woman.
The choice of a significant other is one decision where making a wrong call could literally mean a death sentence. The more I try to wrap my mind around marriages that turned a party or both parties into a shadow of what they used to be, the more I am convinced there’s no other option but to get it right when it comes to saying “I do”.