It is my great privilege to introduce a guest blogger, our precious, ‘Ms. Carrie’. This woman spent years training, feeding, cleaning, praying for, cuddling, and loving my children. From the first day we dropped off our fat, round 10 month old Charlie Jo, to the last day I dropped off Nora and Graham… She was essential to us. An incredible gift in the midst of a tumultuous, joy-filled season of child-rearing. I am so grateful for her, so tangled up with her… Forever.
When I look back at Graham’s final moments, they don’t begin on that chilly February afternoon. Although we didn’t realize it, his final moments started months before that. Normal, everyday toddler happenings that were actually moments of preparation.
Toddler teething….drooly and uncomfortable and not to mention the never ending stream of tears! Who knew that Graham’s teething was going to turn out to be such a gift? His little tush fit perfectly in the crutch of my arm, my hand wrapped around that oh-so-squishable chubby leg and his head nestled into that part of your neck that God put there specifically to hold a baby’s head. I can still feel his little fingers, twisting around the back of my T-shirt sleeve and the ever present drool spot on the chest of my shirt. This is where Graham spent most of his days during those last weeks, latched onto me like a little monkey as I went about my daily tasks one handed.
Those teeth were why I held him 90% of the day. Those teeth were why he spent many of his naptimes on my chest watching HGTV together in the afternoons. Those teeth were an immeasurable GIFT of time together. Unbeknownst to me, those teeth were the start of Graham’s and my goodbye.
Fast forward to the early evening of February 11, 2014 at the Douglas County Sheriff’s department. In a small room with no windows, florescent lights, a little round table and two chairs – one of which is suspiciously tucked into the corner of the room – that one’s mine. I kept my winter coat on because the room was ice cold and my whole body felt shaky.
Somehow it felt like the coat sheltered me from these very unfamiliar and unnerving surroundings. It felt like a movie set – the surveillance camera up in the corner, the two way mirror that I know had people on the other side drinking coffee and scribbling notes on their clipboards – notes about me….voice intonation…facial expression…body language… Take a deep breath and don’t flip out.
“Carrie, I want to go over everything from the moment you woke up this morning to us sitting here now. Don’t leave anything out. Every little detail is important. We just want to get a clearer picture of the events of today.”
I could tell the detective was trying to make me comfortable but she was doing an awful job at it. This is not where I should be. I should be at home or with Kristin & Evan or with Charlie and Nora, ANYWHERE but in this room with this woman! Deep breath, you need to get through this.
“Well, the kids arrived in the morning.”
“No, start from when your alarm went off in the morning.”
“Oh sorry. Ok so my alarm went off and I got up and got dressed, made coffee, flicked on the living room lamps and turned on Curious George and waited for the first knock on the door – which would be the Engels. They were always the first ones.”
“Did you look forward to them coming?”
“Yeah, of course I did! I heard the knock on the door and opened up as they shuffled in, along with a gush of wind. The kids were bundled up in thick fuzzy blankets.”
“Why didn’t they have coats on?”
“Uh…umm…because having kids wear bulky winter coats in their car seats isn’t safe.”
“Did the Engel kids ever wear winter coats?”
“Of course they did, but coming in and out of daycare they just bundled them up in the blankets to make it easier.”
“So, I opened the door and said “Hi! Good morning guys!” in a hushed voice. Helped Nora get her boots off and then held my arms out for Graham. Kristin kissed him on the top of his head, like she always did and he reached out for me and cuddled into my shoulder like always. Then she said “Thanks!” She always thanked me. In the mornings and the evenings. Then she left for work. Nora sat down to watch cartoons and wait for her little friends to arrive and Graham and I got stuff set out for breakfast and I had a cup of coffee.”
“How many cups of coffee did you have? What did you put in it?”
“I had one cup and I drink it everyday…..so the other kiddos trickled in over the next hour or so and they all had breakfast, washed their hands and faces, went potty and then we headed downstairs to the basement to play. The kids played nicely and…”
“Wait, what was each child playing with?”
“What were each of the children playing with?”
“I don’t remember! Have you ever watched children? How could I keep track of that?! All I know is that there was nothing abnormal about playtime this morning. They all played nicely together and it was just a normal morning!”
We went hour by hour at this pace. What we ate, what we played with, where Graham was when I took someone else to the potty. After a while I began to feel a slight bit of defensiveness because it seemed as though all of her questions were slightly accusatory, pointed and looking for a certain kind of response. Was she trying to put words in my mouth? I don’t know, but it felt like she had an agenda.
Did Graham get dropped at all that day? Did he drink breast milk? Did I hold him when I fed him? Did I rock him to sleep? Did he always sleep with that blanket? Who brought that blanket? Did you check on the kids while they slept? Why didn’t you put your hand on their backs to check on their breathing? Did you sleep at all? Did you get along with the Engels? Where you ever resentful of Graham? Did the Engels co-sleep? Did the Engels spank their children? Did their children go to the doctor regularly? Did you ever witness them endangering their children in any way?
Time felt like it was creeping by at a snail’s pace….and her questions just kept coming.