PCR past banners Nolan's Pop Culture Review--now in our sixth calendar year!
PCR #300 (Vol. 6, No. 51) This edition is for the week of December 19--25, 2005.

Deadguy's Dementia

The History of Miami International Airport--Part 2
 by William Moriaty
 by Mike Smith
Trials of a Mother
 by Mike "Deadguy" Scott
2005 Did Not Really Exist
 by Vinnie Blesi
In Search of Christmas
 by Mark Terry
The Point of Existence
 by Dylan Jones
True Christmas Spirit....Man of the Year....Biggest Surprise of the Year....Bigget Disappointment of the Year....I like Superman?...300?
 by Brandon Jones
Christmas Greetings....The Chronicles of Narnia
 by John Lewis
Issue 300....Freedom of Holiday Choice....Christmas Time
 by Matt Drinnenberg
The Big 3 0 0....Merry Christmas....What The?...Passing On....India On Line....WTF?, Part 2....Jaws: The Story, Part 48 -- Final Chapter
 by Mike Smith
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Trials of a Mother

Here's a nice little bit of drama for you, a few names have been changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent, but this is really happening. In Rhode Island, a few years back, a very pretty pregnant lady named Sherry, awoke to an intense pain in her ear. She rushed to the bathroom to see if she could determine what was causing it, and discovered that she was one of the few in a million that can get Belles Palsey from an ear infection. Sherry screamed, but only one-half of her face moved, the other half hung there slackly as though she'd had a stroke.

Fast-forward through a divorce that she had shortly afterwards, and the years of therapy she went through to be able to drink, talk correctly, and smirk, rather than smile. When the therapy was over, her face is clinically referred to as 95% paralyzed. The only reason it's not considered to be 100% paralyzed is because she can still blink with that eye. The problem isn't "glaring" though a cursory glance at her face will reveal that she has what appears to be a lazy eye. Further examination reveals that she simply doesn't move half of her face. She's unable to smile at funny comments, and can only smirk while laughing.

Fast-forward through another marriage that did well for a few years, but later began to suffer shortly after she had a second child. She's saving money in the hopes of affording a surgery procedure that would help her recover her appearance. There's two to choose from. One, is an eyebrow lift on the affected side of her face. Her unaffected eye is wide in comparison to the other one, and a lift would make her face look more balanced and symetrical. The other surgery would be to implant a spring into the cheek muscle on the affected side. This spring would allow her to smile again by acting as a sort of door hinge that would mimic the working side of her face. It also means she'd be able to laugh without self-consciously trying to hide her mouth behind her hand.

A third consideration was a boob job, in the hopes they would distract people from gazing too long at her face. People don't always have the intention of seeming rude, but most people make multiple glances at her face as she talks, and then start openly staring as they try to determine why "something just isn't right". She feels that perhaps having larger boobs would act as a diversion. She's unlikely to ever get a boob job due to the cost, despite being somewhat disappointed with her breasts. The option only exists in her mind because of contests giving away free boob jobs, but so far, she hasn't won any of them yet.

In any event, she was married the second time, and setting aside bits of money to save up for the cheapest of the surgeries, and the one that would correct the problem she feels most sensitive about, her eyes. Suddenly, out of nowhere, her husband was accused of sexually abusing a small child. Supposedly it was someone on his truck route. She never believed that he'd done anything, and believed him as he proclaimed his innocence. The lack of any evidence supported this theory. However, this was in Rhode Island where state laws dictate that the girl's testimony, even as a mentally-challenged girl, was enough to get him 10 years of jail time if was ever taken to court. Instead of fighting, he decided to go with a plea bargain that gave him 5 years of probation, and a lifetime of being labeled a sex offender.

Things were OK at first, but quickly became rocky at this point, and a divorce came soon afterwards. However, her husband was the primary breadwinner, and she was unable to support herself and two children. She turned the money she'd been saving for surgery and turned it towards trying to get a place of her own. At first, her newly ex-husband wanted to eject her from his house, but upon discovering that he couldn't take custody of his daughter, and knowing that Sherry couldn't support herself at this point, they agreed to continue living together.

The father of her first child, Steve, wasn't paying child support during Sherry's second marriage, even though he was court-ordered to. Sherry didn't say anything much about it until the second divorce had finalized. At that point, Steve was still not paying her, and she needed the money to get a place of her own. Months passed, and her situation wasn't improving.

Sherry had a friend in Florida that offered to give her a place to stay until she could get on her feet. She was skeptical about it, but realized it was really her only option, in order to get away from John. She needed a support system that she could use to move forward, and relations with John were becoming strained. She began seriously looking into it.

Her first ex-husband, Steve, lived in Florida, too. In fact, he lived near Sherry's friend. He was told about the idea, and told that this would allow him to see his son more frequently. He liked the idea because he had no court-ordered visitation rights with his son. Sherry had always allowed him to be with his son when it could be afforded, but it was a costly endeavor. He agreed to help her move to Florida by paying a decent chunk of the child support he owed her. Sherry's father agreed to drive a moving van from Rhode Island, and then take a plane trip back to Rhode Island, paid for by Steve's late child support, and the money Sherry had saved for the surgery. This would permit Sherry to drive down in her car with the kids.

The plan to get down there was settled, but the proposed living conditions left a little to be desired. First of all, her friend Kristin was married and had a child of her own. This meant 3 adults, 3 children, and 2 cats living in a very small 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house that would probably fit into a 3 car garage if you didn't include its car port. She was going to be housemate to a guy that she'd only met once in passing, and didn't really know.

However, she DID know that she was just about out of options. Fortunately, Kristin's work had some job openings coming up that looked as though Sherry would be well suited for, and Kristin was in a position to assist her in getting one of them.

She put in her two weeks notice at her job, and began planning the trip. Figuring a few days off work to make final arrangements before leaving.

Then everything quickly went from bad to worse. The ex-husband she was living with ("John") was borrowing money from her parents and had an altercation with Sherry's mom. Suffice it to say that Sherry's mom has mental issues that make her difficult to deal with at times, and SOMETHING happened between John and Sherry's mother which made her extremely hostile. Sherry's mom called Sherry and told her one side of the story, and then John came home and gave her a second version of the story. I won't relate the details here, but it was clear to Sherry that neither party was telling the truth, so she refused to choose a side of the argument.

Sherry's mom was furious that Sherry wouldn't side with her, and decided to file sexual battery charges against John, who was, of course, already on probation as a sex offender. The police came to Sherry's home to question her about her husband. Sherry's mom decided that she hadn't done enough, and left a message on Sherry's answering machine, stating that since Sherry didn't believe her, she was going to call child protective services, anonymously, EVERY DAY, and claim that Sherry was abusing her own daughter. Lucky for Sherry, the police officer was still at the house asking questions, and heard the message as it was being left on the machine, otherwise she might have lost custody of her kids.

As her mom followed through with the threat, Sherry had to file a restraining order against her own mother.

Even though Child Protective Services were aware that the daily anonymous reports were being filed as a harrassment tactic against Sherry, they decided that they still needed to investigate the claim before writing it off. Upon investigating, it quickly came to light that Sherry was still living with her ex-husband, thereby allowing a sex offender to have unsupervised access to her daughter by sleeping at night, or quick trips to the store without her daughter. No one had thought to tell Sherry that there was a problem with her daughter staying there. Sherry maintains that John was a good father to their daughter, and further investigations, medical and psychiatric evaluations, all agreed that her daughter had not been subject to any abuse.

In a subsequent hearing about the case, it was determined that Sherry's daughter was to become a ward of the state, though she would still stay with Sherry. Part of that ruling indicated that if Sherry continued to live with John, and/or failled to go to court-ordered counseling, her daughter would be taken from her. The judge was aware that Sherry was trying to leave the state, and supported that decision.

So, she still needed a place to live, and the court dates had required that she push back the leave date. During that time though, her employment ended when her two weeks were up. At that point she was living on her travelling money, and at one point, even requried to spend some of the money on a lawyer. A few court delays pushed back the date even farther, and she had to pay for a hotel, to stay out of John's house until the move.

Finally the time came to leave, and she snatched her kids up and left for Florida.

In case someone's missed the obvious connection, I'm Sherry's friend's husband. I offloaded about 90% of what I owned, including toy collections, comic books, etc., to clear out our Florida Room for a Futon going in there for Sherry to sleep on. My son offloaded about 80% of his toys to make room for the bunkbed/extra toys/extra clothes he was going to have in his room, and prepared to share his room with Sherry's son. Kristin got rid of a bunch of stuff, too.

They arrived on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My friend Eric and I unpacked the moving truck at both the house, and at a storage unit.

I think we'd be in better shape if we'd had a larger home, but we're making it work the best we can. When Sherry's working, and therefore able to contribute a bit, we're tentatively planning to enclosure our carport and turn it into another room...hopefully around late February, early March. Unfortuantely, the house itself isn't in good shape and we need to redo the roof and fix all kinds of water damage to the walls first. So realistically, perhaps the roof work will start in Feb/March. The room that Sherry is in isn't insulated, and get's pretty damn cold sometimes, so there are a lot of blankets in there.

My stepson always wanted an older brother, so for the next 9 months or so, he's going to get a good feel for that, AND a younger sister.

Here comes Christmas, though. To say things are going to be tight this year is an understatement. Financially, we were just getting by, and now with 3 extra mouths (including a little girl who's allergic to dairy products), it's becoming quite strained. For Christmas, we're just getting the kids stuff, and my parents agreed not to exchange gifts with us, though they're still getting some stuff for the kids, too. I'm going to make Christmas happen for the kids by using two $50 giftcards I've gotten over my last two birthdays. Hopefully, they'll still work, at least it looks like there's no expiration date on them. My son's birthday is the day after Christmas, so I'm trying to pull that off, too.

To save money, we're pulling out the old plastic Christmas tree this year, and I've started skipping lunches at work. I'm working hard looking for little side projects I can do without pulling me away from being able to look after the kids. For example, I'm in the process of building a website for a company that only has a basic website, in the hopes that I can sell it to them.

The extremely close quarters are really kinda' turning us into a bit of a family unit though. Kris and I are concentrating on finding ways to make three kids happy on a budget while also trying to help Sherry get adjusted. Sherry's got my cellphone for now, and applying for jobs all over the place, and her son is enrolled in school. A delay in the job openings at my wife's work has forced Sherry to do some serious job hunting, but she's remaining optimistic. The only problem is that she needs to make quite a bit of money in order to get her daughter into full-time daycare and her son into before-and-after-care, plus car payments, food, and still have enough left to save for getting her own place.

Plus, she also has to pay for that court-ordered counseling I mentioned. If she doesn't go, they'll take away her daughter. The counseling itself is special, the court decided that Sherry was a victim during the whole sex offender thing with her husband, so her counseling is tailored for that. It's not something that just any headshrink can do, and when Sherry went for her first $80 visit to a guy that her lawyer found, the shrink announced that he was actually closing his offices within the month and wouldn't be able to help her. Now we're dashing around trying to find someone else that'll be open after 6:00PM to allow her to drop off her daughter with my wife (at work sometimes), and get in there while still holding down a job. (Update: she used the phonebook, and managed to find one for $1 per visit for as long as she isn't working... It's not too far away, either).

That's not her only problem though.. It would seem that her son is being given all sorts of preferrential treatment, undivided attention, and suchlike at his dad's house that he doesn't get at our house with two other kids running around clamoring for attention. He's in the unfortunate position of being the oldest at our house (8-yr-old...the other two are 6 and 4), and therefore not the one that needs the most attention, nor is he the one demanding it the loudest. Suddenly having three kids takes a little getting used to. Currently, his dad is spending money on getting him things like a pocket rocket, mini motorcycle, for christmas. So obviously, he wants to go live with his dad and wants to force the issue by being a huge burden to his mom.

Meanwhile though, he's burning bridges at home by acting out, and calling his mother names, etc. After a particularly bad bit of mouthing off, I went in and talked to him about it. I think our talk was helpful to him, but his selfish wants for materialistic stuff is threatening to outweigh his sense of reason, plus he's got a heck of a temper that he doesn't understand is a bad thing. He's a child though, so that's going to be tricky for him. Meanwhile, Sherry was very hurt by some of his behavior, and with everything else going on, is having trouble understanding where he's coming from. It makes for a bad situation, but I think I've managed to get in the middle before it could get irrepairable. Time will tell, though...they're both under pressure and her son had the illusion of having an easy way out through his father. Two days ago, his father announced that he was unable to take him. That seemed to be a pretty heavy blow, and he started acting out again.

Last night, after going to my son's YMCA Christmas play and announcing to all the little kids that there's no such thing as Santa, he became unruly again when he was sent to his mom's room and told to go straight to bed. He sat there crying and repeated over and over again "I hate myself". We could also hear him hitting something, but we were trying to do the whole "if we don't fall for his attention-getting stunt, he'll stop doing it and go to bed."

Eventually, his mom said, "Please go in there and tell him that this is your house, and in YOUR house, you don't want him making noises at bedtime when he's supposed to be sleeping."

I walked in to discover that what he was hitting was his own face. I didn't know what to say, so I said "OK, quit.. that's not going to fix anything, or make anything go away. Take some deep breaths, get some sleep, and then you and I will figure out some kind of solution this weekend."

I went back into the main room and told Sherry that I have a friend who's a child psychologist but she says that her husband will pay for counseling for him, starting in January. I just hope her son lasts that long. I think the situation needs a more immediate fix, but I'm not his parent, so I'm going along with it. My concern is that if her son talks to a shrink and starts saying that he's going to kill himself or threaten someone else, or even claim that Sherry hit him, they're going to look closely at Sherry's situation, and discover that her daughter is officially a ward of the state already. Then it's all going to hit the fan, and they might decide that Sherry is an unfit mother or something. OR, they might just decide to Baker Act her son, and put him into a hospital. I'm sort of stuck on the edge wondering if I should prepare the boy and tell him what to avoid saying to the shrink in order to maintain confidentiality, or just let him do his thing and let the chips fall as they may, in order to get him the help he might need.

Other than that volatile issue, we're doing OK. Sherry's daughter is noisy, and can get pretty obnoxious, but there's still a pretty neat little girl in there that's taken to calling me "honey". She's a little confused about all that, because last night she and my son were both laying on me, watching an animated movie, and she suddenly sat up, looked me in the eye and asked, "Are you my stepdaddy now?".

If we can get through this Christmas intact, and get Sherry's son into counseling, we'll be fine. Sherry has a pretty solid-looking resumé and when she starts work it'll take a good chunk of the load off of us. She won't talk about it much, but part of what makes her nervous about getting a job is that she's in Customer Service, and her appearance with the hint of palsey, might put off an employer a little bit. It'd be illegal of them to do so, but it's human nature. Right now we've got increased water/power/food bills because of the extra people in the house, but we only have to hold on a little bit longer...just hold on.

If you have fingers, I'd really appreciate it if you'd cross 'em for us and please say prayers for Sherry and her kids, if that's your thing.

We're gonna' need it.

I'll hopefully do some follow-ups later, but just in case I don't get time to write again before the holidays, Merry umm....Holidays, and Happy Restart of the Calendar to some of you. (I'd say New Year, but you know, the new year starts at different times in some countries, and I'd sure hate to offend anyone.... sigh).

Ohh.. and Nolan, Congratulations on this 300th issue of the PCR!

Thanks, Mike. And I think I speak for everyone on staff when I say your actions regarding this young lady and her family are beyond altruistic, they're heroic. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone in your house, God knows you all deserve it. ---Nolan

"Deadguy's Dementia" is ©2005 by Mike "Deadguy" Scott.  Webpage design by Nolan B. Canova.  The "Deadguy's Dementia" header graphic and background tile are creations of Mike Scott.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.