Has it really been three months since I last posted?

Perhaps in your time, but not in mine. Grief stretches the long hours into endless days that swing like a pendulum between occasional work productivity, to hours of Internet obsession about Anne-Christine’s murder trial, the search for articles to post on my “therapy” Facebook page “Why Did She Stay?” annoying friends (especially lawyers) by insinuating observations and speculation about case law and legal maneuvering by Shaun’s “dream team” into every conversation, binge-watching European crime dramas on Netflix to numb my mind, pining for and worrying about Roland . . . and futilely tamping down the horror and sadness that just stop the clock.

My time is trauma time. Before and after. After is not measured in days or hours or even months.

The occasional Neurontin helps. I hope the new Palouse Mindfulness eight-week MBSR course recommended by my psychiatrist will bring temporary respite from what I believe Buddhists call “the monkey mind.” Or in my case, trauma-based reactions to horror that include swelling of my throat, forgetting where I’m driving, wondering how Anne-Christine’s eyes looked as life receded, flashbacks that creep up so unexpectedly they can’t be parsed from real-time and worst — and most recently — seeing Shaun Hardy in my mind’s eye, standing outside my window with his shaven head and soulless eyes.

Anne-Christine with her boys

Anne-Christine Johnson in late 2011 with her sons, Roland (center), whose father is Shaun Hardy, and Julian (right), whom she had with her first husband.

Looking at the devil

A survivor in another domestic-violence case told a reporter that when she was down on the ground, her abuser’s hands tightly wound around her neck, it was like looking at the devil. At least my daughter was spared that. Shaun confessed to finally suffocating her with a plastic bag from the grocery store she loved for its kindness to special-needs kids like Roland.

I promised (see above) to tell this story in the hope it will never become yours.

Except I can’t. I’m too busy avoiding the real work of grieving to think in a linear fashion. One of my Internet trances inadvertently discovered someone who could. Olivia Gentile of GrandparentEffect.com, which considers the growing importance of grandparents to their children and grandchildren. I messaged Olivia via her Facebook page after hours of web-surfing about the infamous (to grandmas) U.S. Supreme Court ruling Troxel v. Granville. I was looking for someone who might know of any grandparent-rights groups in Texas that could help me interpret state code for family law. Her expertise is grandmas and grandpas.

Olivia didn’t, so I thanked her for her time and redefined the parameters of my next Google search. Unbeknownst to me, she typed a few keywords of her own into the search engine. Anne-Christine’s story swiftly became hers to tell.

The debasement of domestic violence

Olivia Gentile

Olivia Gentile of Grandparenteffect.com.

After months of research and interviews with dozens of people, Olivia posted here one of the most extensive accounts yet of Anne-Christine’s slow slide into the debasement of domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence. Please read her comprehensive account if you really want to understand the arc of terror my daughter endured to protect her autistic son. The story is objective and thoroughly and exhaustively researched, meticulously dissecting what for me was a six-year blur of fear, terror and dread.

Next week, I’ll be in court watching Shaun’s dream team try to toss his confessions and (if I understand correctly) invalidate the warrants that led to his arrest. If they’re successful, the jury will not be allowed to consider the details above.

My Long Year of Magical Thinking (the name of Joan Didion’s famous elegy on grief) now ends and the narrative clock starts ticking again in the 212th District Judicial Court in Galveston. The proverbial fight for justice begins in criminal court even as we await an appellate court ruling on our fight to see Roland.

So, you too can understand what it’s like to be at the center of your own little crime noir story, I’ll try to rouse myself enough to post my thoughts and feelings about what happens. But in case I don’t or can’t it’s because, well, grief. Meanwhile, I’ll end this with something I said to Olivia:

“Because of the disrespect with which my daughter was treated in life, not to mention the abuse, both physical and mental, I know this is a trite word to use, but I want justice. I want the world to know what he’s done. I want the world to know that despite the fact his father has enough deep pockets to hire the best legal representation in Houston, Shaun’s going down for this.”

%d bloggers like this: