Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Conservatorship, Part Five

So, it's done. The Husband and I took Sophie downtown yesterday morning and waited with many other families before filing into a small courtroom where we waited some more for our turn to stand in front of the judge, raise our hands and swear our truth. We sat quietly and listened while a grandmother petitioned to become the guardian of a fourteen year old girl. The girl's father objected, and there was some intense back and forth between the man, the judge and the girl. The court security guard stood up and walked over when the father pulled papers out of his bag and then pushed them toward the girl and her lawyer. It was hard not to notice the gun. A large young man with Down Syndrome stood between his mother and father, his arms thrown around their shoulders, a huge grin on his face when the judge pronounced them guardians. Throughout the entire proceedings, I heard the most horrific clicking, grinding noise coming from behind me, althernating with screeches, and I strained to not look back. At some point, a young man in a wheelchair was pushed up the aisle toward the judge. He was small and shrunken in his chair, rubbed his hands together over and over and ground his teeth so hard that I closed my eyes, imagined my hands on either side of his small face, willed it peace. Sophie hummed and shifted in her own chair, the judge was respectful and greeted each conservatee by name, both when they entered and when they left, was almost sweet in mien.

I realized that in the not so distant past, all of these young adults would have been chained to beds in institutions. I was grateful for the reams of paper, for the waiting and the officialese. I was grateful for the absurdity of all of it.

Eighteen years ago, on June 17th, I was in New York Hospital with Sophie in a room with six cribs and six sick babies. I sat in a plastic chair by a dirty-paned window and waited for the hours to pass, the nightmare to end. Instead, I learned how to inject steroids into Sophie's legs by practicing on an orange, the nurse cheerful in her demonstration. I pressed my nose on the nineteenth century glass of the parents' lounge and cried, my tears running off my nose and down the window. I waited for tests to come back, for reasons and answers to whys, the baby sleeping and crying and seizing in the metal crib, while I sat in the plastic chair and just kept waiting.

The papers have not been officially stamped and could take up to eight weeks to be delivered (wait for six and then call, our court-appointed attorney said), but we are now Sophie's official conservators, granted the seven powers of conservatorship.

So, that's it.

My main thought is whether I check the box next to the word Guardian or the box next to the word Parent - Mother on future official documents.

Does anyone know? I'll wait for an answer. I'm still waiting.


  1. I feel, having just read this, as if I have been taken under by a huge, gentle, rolling wave.
    I have no answers, you have no answers, no one has THE answers and maybe that's the hardest thing. To realize that really, there are none. Just questions and questions eternally, and boxes to ponder over before we check.

  2. Oh Elizabeth, oh.

    Is it strange just to say that I love you.

  3. I believe you are her conservator, not her guardian, though some courts use those terms interchangeably. And yes. I would check that box every time. In fact when I sign something that doesn't have a box I put mother/conservator. This is what you are now. You don't stop being her mother, but you have an additional role, and it's good to let people know. Most folks won't notice, but those who know what it means will get it immediately and you may avoid a bunch of crap.

    If I can avoid those ridiculous conversations about Maggie being over 18 by doing so, that's good enough for me.

    And yes. This imperfect system does have its benefits. And it's all we have right now. The square hole that is the system is trying to fit our smooth round pegged daughters and their peers in somehow.

  4. It sounds as if you are close to keeping Sophie safe in the hands that have always kept her that way.


  5. I thought I was reading a post about what might be in our future but your brought me back to the past too, the NICU, the tumult of those days when we couldn't even touch our child and now, NOW!, we can hug, TIGHT, as in your post parents and their children are doing. Love

  6. You are LOVE. That encompasses everything. May the Lord bless you and keep you, all.

  7. Such a weighty, heady day. I find myself thinking of that judge and what it must feel like at the end of a day like that. I hope it feels hopeful and full of gratitude and awe for loving people like you who are committed to seeing the spirit within their children.


  8. This post makes me happy although i don't suppose that's what you were going for. I'm glad these people have places in the community. I'm glad it's OK to still care for your children when they're older.

    But I do feel that there's more here. More that I can't really imagine as I'm only seven years into the journey. Not sure exactly how I'll feel in 11 more.

  9. Horrifying to think of those people chained to beds. You're right, the paperwork nightmare is better. I'm glad you're done, or very nearly done. Please keep us posted as to the parent/guardian question.

    Sending love.

  10. I hope it's a relief to have the legalese done with, at any rate. You are one of the strongest people I know!

  11. We were appointed guardians of my son a couple of years ago. I always sign "Mother/Guardian". I want everyone to know I'm his Mom first and then his guardian.

  12. So interesting who and what you saw this day. You are a loving and fortunate family. I am also curious about this kind and respectful judge?

    I can imagine you are feeling all sorts of mixed emotions and a flood of memories dear friend. Please know that I think of you and send you love and peace.



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