Black and White and Gray

“Well, I think it is time for a road trip.”

Of course Jewel would say that.  She was always the one up for a challenge, and she was indignant that I should have to even bother with such a thing anyway.  But she was up for it.

I had filed my suit for paternity back in the winter, in the hopes of establishing Joe as the legal father of my son.  Unfortunately, things were just not that simple.  Apparently, since we had no idea where Joe was living, there was no way of “serving” him, or giving him legal notice, of the proceedings against him.  Without giving him legal notice, the lawsuit couldn’t go forward.

We had just filed an extension of the lawsuit, otherwise it would have expired after six months of filing, without being able to serve Joe with notice of the proceedings.   The friend of my mother’s that was doing all of this legal work for me as a favor to her advised me that I had two options at this point; to try and serve him myself, or to post notices in local newspapers in his last known address area.  The latter would serve as legal notice, in which case a court date could be set and matters could start moving forward.  However, without Joe a part of the whole thing, I didn’t really see much of a point.  All I really wanted was Joe to be a part of my child’s life, and no notice in the newspaper was going to bring that about.

So Jewel, Karen and I decided it was time for a road trip.  I had a vague memory of where Joe’s mother was living in secret (his mother was avoiding the financial aftermath of a disastrous divorce), so we hit the road with Z in his carseat in the back and decided to serve Joe ourselves with the lawsuit.

It was a fun three hour ride up to Mt. Pleasant, with us talking and singing along to the radio and generally behaving like twenty year olds, but as we grew closer, the task at hand grew heavy in the air.  I grew quiet in the back as I fed Zachary crackers and helped him with his pacifier.  Finally, we turned down the street that I remembered from my one visit, towards the split level home divided into two apartments.  But I couldn’t do it.  I sent Jewel up to the door with the blue folded papers in her hands, because I was shaking and sweating and couldn’t stand not knowing how he would react.

Only I never got to find out.  There was no answer at the basement apartment door, and Jewel came back to the car with her hands up in a “I have no idea, but there is no answer there,” pantomime.  I couldn’t possibly think of turning around just because Joe or his mom might be out getting some milk, so we sat in the air conditioning for a few minutes trying to regroup.  Finally, Jewel and Karen offered to knock on the upstairs apartment door, just as if they’d knocked on the wrong door by mistake, and see what information they could find out.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of them as they knocked and the second door slowly opened.  I couldn’t see much, but I could see plainly that they were talking to a woman that was clearly not Joe’s mother (she was very overweight and this woman was slim).  They traded a few comments before my friends came back to the car, the blue papers still in hand, with strange faces.

“They moved.  They moved out just last week,” Karen offered.  “The woman said they had been friendly with them and all, but that all of the sudden, out of the blue last week they just packed up everything and left.”

They left?  “They’re…gone?”  I looked over at Z in his car seat, sleeping quietly through the entire proceeding.

“They’re gone.  She had no idea where they’ve gone.  They didn’t leave any information with her, no forwarding address, nothing.  She said it was just like they…disappeared.”

Indeed.  Karen passed back the blue papers of the lawsuit.  I looked down at the official papers with a sense of bewilderment.  Everything was so clear in these papers, black and white:  here are the facts, this is it, let’s just wrap this up so we can all move on.

And apparently, I thought, one of us has.

I wondered aloud:  “Now what?”

The car was silent except for the sound of Jewel putting the car in gear and heading back to the highway.  None of us knew.


One Response

  1. […] legal paternity.  But not long after I’d filed and tried to find Joe, I discovered that he’d moved away and left  no way for me to get in touch with him.  I’d finally given up trying to bring my son’s biological father into his life.  I […]

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