I am discombobulated and my heart aches today. I will say goodbye to a life cut short this week. My sadness for her is beyond the lost life, but also the skewed and distorted way the world presented itself to her. She had little chance of success, but she did one thing that will outlive her and be her lasting legacy. Her son.
This is a mournful rant about how beautiful women are treated as objects by most men, and like whores by most women. Move along if you don't like it. Names have been changed to protect privacy.
We met Dawn through our sons about 6 years ago, because both were on baseball, and briefly, football teams together. Benjamin is one of the most poised and thoughtful young men that I had ever met. He and my son were good friends almost immediately because Benjamin and my son have high standards for their grown up lives and are the kind of rare children that can see clearly what they want from their futures.
Dawn was a young, single mother that was always smiling and laughing. She drank Big Gulps filled with Coke all the time. You could hear her laughing all the time and she adored and loved her son with everything she was. She was not someone I would normally get close to, simply because we moved in completely different circles, other than the sports teams our sons were on. But my husband is a social man, a very social man, and he would talk and get to know everyone. He is a good listener and pretty soon, he and Dawn were chatting pretty often at the games and practices.
Dawn had the same emotional maturity as a teen aged girl. She was in her late 20's when we met her, but she had never really grown up emotionally. She talked on her cell phone all the time, drank huge amounts of regular Coke even though she had juvenile diabetes, and her interests were all those of a young girl. Dawn was bubbly, warm, and a beautiful looking woman with big breasts.
I said it, yup I went there. She was stacked and consequently she held herself like a woman that had been defined by her breasts. You could tell immediately from her stance, demeanor and dress that she had been sexualized by almost everyone she had met because of her breasts. She had never been taught how to define herself on her own terms and she struggled with herself every day. She struggled with the choice of being what people expected her to be, and who she really was. She wanted so desperately to belong, to be excepted and liked, and yet everyone had expectations of her that were not who she was. She was trapped. Just like millions of girls every fucking day.
Benjamin is a quiet young man and always has been. He took on the role of parent very young and this trait carries into everything he does. He is thoughtful, kind and has more integrity than most grown men I know. I grew to love him as did everyone who has ever met him. Benjamin was Dawn's key for every kindness anyone ever showed to her in the time I knew her. Benjamin was welcome in everyone's home and people were always making sure that fees were waived or paid on his behalf. Not only is he a great kid, he gets great grades and he is an exceptional athlete.
He can play the hell out of baseball. He throws hard, he is very focused on the field and he bats consistently well, most of the time. But as well as he plays baseball, that kid can freaking run the football. He is quick and has great hands. He has a future with a college with his grades and perhaps a full ride for sports. I want everything for Benjamin. Everything anyone could want for a child. Anyone that has ever met him feels this way, and now he has lost the one person that means the most to him.
This is where I have to delve into some of the ugly that I am sure was just a tip of the iceberg for Dawn.
When we met Dawn, she and Benjamin were living with a recently widowed man. He had children and Dawn was really good with children. It seemed like a good set up for them because Dawn could not really work a regular job as her blood sugar was always so off. She needed to be monitored regularly, her diabetes was severe, but she never really checked her levels more than twice a day. She also smoked at least a pack a day, and drank alcohol without regard to her sugar levels at all. She mostly monitored by how she felt and she was not a good gauge.
If I were a shrink, I would probably say that she never felt worth the trouble. Even with a son she could not have loved more, she had no regard for herself at all. I liked Dawn, I had met women like her before, I could see the pain behind her eyes all too well. She and I started speaking during the 2008 election season, and were probably the only Obama voters on the field in the western suburbs of Denver. Her son, Benjamin was 1/2 black, and she was so very proud that he looked a great deal like the man that eventually became our POTUS, that it was funny.
One Saturday, at a practice I couldn't attend, my husband found Dawn crying in her little fold out chair by herself. My husband set his chair up next to her, and he being the sort all children and animals love, was able to coax out that she had been raped by the man she and Benjamin were living with. The man had drank with Dawn until she passed out on the couch, when Dawn woke up she knew she had been raped. She called the police and pressed charges, leaving with her son and taking everything she could in a huge hurry and had left coming straight to the field for Benjamin's practice.
My husband called me on the phone and told me the story. I immediately told him to bring her and Benjamin to our house. Dawn's mother lived in the area, but far enough away and in an area that Dawn's car had a hard time making it up the steep mountain drive. I knew that she was also married to a man that I had heard nothing good about since I had been speaking to them. Dawn's mother often came to Benjamin's games and obviously loved Dawn and Benjamin, but could not protect them from the man she married. So it was not an option for them at the time.
The one night was good, but my husband and I knew that Dawn and Benjamin needed a more permanent situation, so we called together our little family. We had a quick meeting with our children and told them the situation frankly, and we all agreed that they should live with us until Dawn could get on her feet. It was a huge decision that I am not sure anyone of us was prepared for at the time, but that we have absolutely no regrets for doing. We all agree, we would do it again in a heartbeat.
The next few months required a great deal of tolerance and patience on everyone's part. My house is a very small two bedroom with a basement room we converted to a bedroom. It has one bathroom that is between bedrooms and the privacy here is practically non existent with no locks on the bathroom doors and nothing but a layer of wood flooring between basement and main floor.
I am a stay at home mom and activist, so luckily I had time to get organized and schedule showers and keep the house running as smoothly as one can with six people where there had previously been four. Benjamin moved into my son's room, and the first night we had a blow up mattress on the floor for him. Between my son's bed and the blow up mattress, the whole room was bed. Benjamin was quiet, so I tried to make sure he had whatever he needed to feel at home. He expressed politely that he really, really did not want to have a bed on the floor. The way he said it, we knew it had to be our first priority.
So, we went on Craigslist and bought a trundle bed set up for the boys. We moved our son's bed down to the basement and Dawn shared my preteen daughter's room. It was tight living, and since I stayed home, I made sure the children got out of bed, in and out of showers in a timely fashion and meals were always ready and on the table for a family dinner. We included them and integrated them as quickly and as much as we possibly could.
Dawn would sometimes wake up with PTSD and shake and cry so badly. We would sit together and smoke cigarettes until she could crack a weak smile and tell me she thought she might be able to go to sleep. Since the house is so small and privacy is at a premium, it was hard for her to go off and cry without someone knowing. Benjamin never mentioned the assault or anything about the house where he had been living. I never brought it up and didn't think it was something he was willing or prepared to discuss. It was something he had seen happen to his mother time and time again. He was the product of a married man much older than Dawn when she was a bartender in a restaurant. I never asked much about him and she never spoke a lot about him, but I gathered that he had dumped her after finding out that Benjamin was on the way. As far as I knew he had never laid eyes on Benjamin in person and only had an inclination that he might have a baby picture of the boy.
We went through a lot together in the six months Dawn and Benjamin lived with us. It turned out that Dawn had many problems that included binge drinking. It got so that we did not know if she was drunk or if she was having an insulin reaction. She would do things like hit my car and then lie about it like a teenager in trouble. She ruined a baking mat I had, and hid it away in the bottom of the garbage, rather than admit the mistake to me. It got very hard for me to mother everyone in the house at times, so we gave Dawn some goals and deadlines. We put limits on her drinking, and talked to her about taking care of herself so she could be safe and keep Benjamin safe. I was afraid to let her drive sometimes. She had a car that a man I never met would make payments on for her so she could keep it. She always told me that they were just friends and I never understood the nature of their relationship. I wanted to take care of her like the child she was, but she was legally an adult and had been out in the world posing as one for a long time now. I could not really lay down rules as for a child.
It became a huge strain on our family. Although we loved them both, our house was stuffed to the gills with humans and my parenting of my own children and the quality of their lives became untenable. So after missing several goals and deadlines, we gave Dawn the final deadline of finding another place to live. It was really hard for us. I knew that she was needing more than any of us could give anymore.
After Dawn and Benjamin moved out they moved into an apartment that Dawn liked. Then she said it had roaches and was disgusting. So they packed up and moved up the mountain with Dawn's mother and step-father. A terrible, horrible, racist man if ever there was one. He hit on Dawn a lot and talked to Benjamin like he was less than dirt in his house. Dawn and Benjamin put up with it and made the long drive to Benjamin's school every day. Dawn kept telling us she had some plans to get into some section 8 housing close to the school. She never got the chance.
Friday night we got the news that Dawn had passed away. She had fallen and hit her head and died from heart complications at 35 years old, leaving behind an amazing son at 14. We know that Dawn has two brothers and that Benjamin is loved and wanted by one of them. Everyone knew Dawn might not be long for this world, we had just hoped she would live to see her son graduate from high school.
When I think of Dawn, I think of this woman that was always treated by the men around her like meat and by the women like the whore of Babylon. She was shunned by some on the ball fields, because they knew the man that assaulted her. It was pretty obvious to them that she had been asking for it. I mean a woman like her, with big breasts, all on her own, living from day to day the best she could with her young son. I overheard people talking like this, and I was shaking when I told them that even if she had been a prostitute, she would not have been asking for it. I had to also repeat this to her over and over. She was not the one at fault. She had not asked for it. She didn't deserve it.
I made sure everyone on the teams knew that Dawn and Benjamin were now under our care, and that any talk of her faking the rape or "asking for it" would not be tolerated. I can be a bit scary, so most treated her with a modicum of decency.
Dawn had slept on some of their couches or extra bedrooms with her son when she had been without a place before. Many of the women told me that she had hit on their husbands. It made me angry, because although Dawn was overtly sexual, you could also see that she had the maturity of a young preteen girl. She was flirty and yet, it was for some affection, not sex. Dawn had quietly told me how their husbands would make passes at her when she and I had been talking during one of her bad times at night. I believed her. I had seen the interactions and the faces the men wore when they spoke of her or to her. One time after they had moved from our home, Dawn pulled my husband aside and told him she was very grateful that he had never come on to her. The sadness in his voice when he told me of this exchange, was soul wrenching.
Thursday night Dawn passed away, leaving her 14, soon to be 15 year old son without a parent to put him first. We have called him and told him that our home is his home. I weep for him, because I know he will weep little. He has been mentally preparing for this for several years now. Dawn had had a heart attack about a year ago, from the stress of her sugar levels and smoking. She had been in and out of the hospital a lot recently with diabetic ketoacidosis several times. It prepared him for the worst.
My family wants Benjamin to live with us, but we will support him no matter what he wants to do. He has an uncle in Maryland, and we have met him and his wife. They were so amazingly nice and they seemed to have it together in their lives. We know Benjamin has many ties here with his teams and school, so we will also make sure he understands he has our home too as long as he needs one.
This is for all the Dawn's out there. Your children love you as much as you love them. Take care of yourself, because many of your children have no one else. Please, YOU ARE WORTH IT.
I love you Dawn, please find peace.