A Small Town Winter Wedding Wonderland.. Still Much to Wonder About And Honor People and Wisdom A Few Decades Later

This post took off in its own direction and is more about what happened After the wedding with the life and passing of our heroic teen son Kaelan..so step back in time with me to February of 1988, when a big blizzard turned the northwest hills of CT into a Winter wonderland and in our case a Wedding Wonderland.

About 250 friends and family members showed up or is that snowed up at our 3pm wedding which started a half hour late to allow for people to arrive (and truth be told for loose lace to be sewed back onto my wedding dress which had not been out of the bag in which I had picked it up from the cleaner’s — Thanks, Other Mama Ruth!)

So in addition to a Happy Valentine’s Day on the 14th, I got married on the 13th.

That whirlwind event that included a lengthy lovely Christian service with dance, folk music and modern as well as all verses of Morning Has Broken at the end was a historic 30 years ago this month.

My parents and father-in-law who all made it to 80 years of age in relatively good health, crossed over (yes, ‘physically died’) about a decade now. Reflecting on my life journey and major ‘transitions’, I honor the lives of all in my life.

The journey is more rich and overall interesting and full of possibilies with ‘good company’ but even the ‘wild curve balls’ add a dimension to our collective understanding or our human (and spiritual) condition.

Over the course of my life I recall many other close and extended family and friends from many chapters of my life and sadly our teen son Kaelan who passed away in June 2009 in fighting form to try to save friends from perishing in a river that had mainly been a source of joy for our family and community.

On a post online (on livfully.org called Remembering Kaelan Alexander Palmer Paton) I reflect on that turn of events which only claimed his life, thanks to the efforts of a rescuer going in for the third friend he was trying to save but had not been successful in doing so in the Housatonic River in northwestern CT.

My life changed quite significantly due to that walk through fire…of learning of my son’s passing a couple of hours after that occurred in my hometown, a place I had been grateful to rear our four children due to the idea of the added level of hometown knowledge, connections and the rural sense of simplicity.

What could possibly go wrong in a place with so few people and a lot of simple routines among kids who mainly were in school, sports and playing with friends outdoors or in theater or other school events?

The rescue and volunteer workers as well as the many dedicated school and community members that literally watch over our towns daily functioning and hundreds of school children have our deep respect and gratitude.

Many close family (counting both myself and his dad, David, my former husband) and friends of our son are all heroes and heroines in their own right for pulling through the time of Kaelan’s passing on the heels of other life challenges.

Such are the times in which we live and I explore at some length on www.livfully.org and in the piece Remembering Kaelan Alexander Palmer Paton.

I am always eager to take the story ‘on the road’ (mainly online) to help every state (and country) voluntarily adopt new strategies for helping keep everyone safe at each age and stage of life, with tips for self-care and agreements for caring for others with consistency and follow-through of plans.

That would include appreciating that minors are those legally under the age of 18 or maybe still in high school, and that generally speaking custody court orders as well as the laws of a state will hold a parent responsible for some ‘damage or harm’ their minor may do intentionally or accidentally.

While we did not pursue any legal action, the whole idea that a thorough investigation of all minors involved with the schools and parents being held accountable for permission or not knowing of the plans of their minors could have been highlighted.

That would benefit the entire state and country to set better standards and improve best (voluntary) practices.

What is more precious to protect than our youth, the sanity and hearts of parents and the safety of rescue workers? Of course Everyone Could Think More Carefully About These Kinds of Situations.

Some say there were permission slips for the youth to go to a friend’s house in the area, near the Falls but with no indication they were headed in that direction, even though it is only a mile from the school.

Traditionally many youth have gone to that certain area to jump from rocks into the river or swim even in whitewater, which could vary at times and look calm.

The hidden currents were explained as a danger in the memorial service held a month later by one of the rescuers, Skip Kosciusko, who braved torrential waters and barely managed to secure the last victim safely in a rope harness.

The communication I have heard from youth and parents over the years is that it was fairly well known that the group had plans to go to that section of the river. Some tried to tell the kids not to go, even one near the place as they were arriving.

Kaelan had told one adult who inquired whether he would ever risk coming alone without adult supervision when it was ‘safe enough’. He had said he wouldn’t even though he did.

That needs to be a key part of the lesson, telling half-truths or changing one’s mind or forgetting. That was all just a few days prior when he was visiting the area with many relatives, and had gone in with another youth.

That could have been ‘the day of our worst nightmare’, and sadly that indicates that many adults even one with a lot of experience who was there may have poor judgment or not be clear enough about Not Going Into Dangerous Water or Potentially Dangerous Water, Especially if one is a minor and or with other minors.

Adults Do Not have permission to give Other People’s Kids Permission to do Potentially Dangerous or Fatal Things. That is what we need to clarify and broadcast so more parents have a ‘cool reason’ to tell their hip teens, that is a “NO GO!!”

Most adults have an instant reaction to either say that is the Job of Parents to supervise and train their minors.

Or it is not for the school to preach or teach safety beyond their four walls. Or it is not okay for people to address other parents or youth about these issues in a direct or even indirect manner.

One parent had called a number of parents, but did not quite get to calling one of the many adults who knew Kaelan as a family or friend.

Most knew he had a bit of experience in the whitewater field since his Dad David had almost made the Olympic Whitewater Team years ago and basically had a lifelong boating passion.

There still is not a clear ‘warning system’ to have parents pick minors up from the school, even if it is one getting a group and seeing them to a safe destination.

One man was held back by the youths, which eventually included both young men and women, on bikes before they got to the Falls.

They were blocking his lane in the road intentionally. He had a mind to put a stop to their fun and games there by stopping and lecturing them and likely would have done a great job of that since oh yes, he happened to know Kaelan from our small town recreation programs.

No problema, my kid would be alive and no one else’s would have lived through hell and deep regret.

But he was glad they finally let up and he sped by, indeed regrettably I learned. We all have regrets and mine is that while I spoke to hundreds of people and dozens of experts online and hotlines I was not getting the right support to keep my kids supervised for a few years.

And not one of them ‘saw this kind of tragedy coming’ and warning me to find people to have them supervised 24–7 during the days of court matters for a divorce that was finalized the day prior to his passing.

He was not in a stable place for the most part about understanding what a divorce is legally and how it would play out practically and socially for our family. That was the case for all of our children and the confusion continued for years, as did a major kind of ‘separation and cold war.’

That is something more families need to heed as a Major Warning and prepare their family to Not Allow for such extreme dynamics that leave the children largely unsupervised and particularly without access to their protective mother figure.

There are cases where the situation may merit keeping a child(ren) from an abusive parent, generally a controlling father, and rarely the mother.

But America and most of the world are not prepared or educated about this Plain Fact. We all have various versions of what could be and should be yet very little first hand education about What IS and What Has Been Happening Behind Closed Doors, not only in homes or bedrooms but in Court Rooms where supposedly victims will be protected.

There is a great deal of information on www.civicresearchinstitute.org about Domestic Violence and Representing the Survivor in Custody Court.

Every state has different standards however and before one can feel secure in Trusting anything that is ‘law’, one needs to know the attorneys largely take those as suggestions and many judges are not really clear on the laws to begin with.

That is partly due to the former ‘training’ these parties had and their unwillingness or worse their inability or worse still, corrupt dedication, to not learning safer practices for all involved.

The other huge part of the equation for divorcing parties with children is the role of the custody and how to provide for the children’s basic needs. There may or may not be short or long term domestic violence shelters.

The area of CPS, Child Protective Services is suspect often for good reason and for more than most can imagine.

What seems like a lamb may be wolf in sheep’s clothing. Do the faith groups, recreation or civic social or scouting groups seek to educate women and girls, and yes boys and even men about the imbalances and gaps?

Not exactly. Actually the men who need reforming of their thinking often get a primer in how to do more and get away with it even from the Batter Intervention Groups (BIG nothings unfortunately from what I’ve heard experts say.

It’s a money making band-aid that appeases people’s worries and sometimes gives the criminals more subtle ammo in the way of court or controlling tactics.. NOT Good for the goose or the children, only the gander.

Well this was not in my original set of reflections but that kind of information was not easily learned or found.

Another few dozen experts sharing over a few weekends annually and in books many hundreds of pages thick just broke through my hopeful mindset that ‘this was all some kind of terrible mistake.’

The alternative healing programs I took from folks at Crystal Essence in Great Barrington MA and many other online or helpful folks along my journey got me thinking ‘out of the box’ and thankfully ‘out of the courtroom’.

The quick easy starting point I am exploring as I find time is how to have Alternatives to Marriage (such as discussed by a group in NY).

Keep the good feelings and agreements about fidelity (if one can trust one or both parties to do so over time, even in on and off-again scenarios or for five years etc as they agree since in the modern world that is not always a criteria for a primary relationship.)

Then think about pacing the life events of living alone, with another person, with a partner, having a child, having another child or more or other pets or people to care for on a daily basis, afford the cost of said housing and people, and determine at what ages and stages of life one is hoping to do these things.

How much help and networking can one do based on one’s life work, location, finances (and the idea of a budget or spending plan for present and future earnings such as on ynab.com You Need A Budget is something I’ve heard many times and may actually try soon.Some using it say it’s ‘better than www.mint.com since you can adjust things and plan for the future more readily.’)

Well, those are the kinds of things people are used to planning for but in the context of being aware of laws and exit options and ways to actually be safe and accountable for all involved, that may take a little more thinking.

Still,while the legal and practical marriage part ended almost 10 years ago, I and most folks who get divorced (even if not requested or easy to manage a confusing and challenging set of requirements particularly if one has minor children…), it’s Survivable and Quite a Real-Life Learning Curve. I will add that the marriage and family part of my life was overall a positive experience.

I gained many friends through being a mother and part of a folk music circuit and even connected to Olympic endeavors as well as living at a nature center. All while living not far from my childhood home and family and friends and college (Vassar in Poughkeepsie NY.)

The small CT towns were amazing learning hubs for my country self and many talented parents and folks shared their insights over the course of rearing four kids..but that’s another post.

Likely more people should have a ‘just in case’ game plan. Reading online or seeing nolo.com for forms that would be helpful for parenting plans would be reasonable for anyone to use as a practical help voluntarily without the context of separation.

Keeping track of schedules year-round and over a few years as well as key people who help with logistics and funding and forms is all worthwhile.

If people are ‘mature and capable enough’ to work that out even as a practical ‘what if the future held that for them’ exercise, they likely would actually go the amicable route if they Did need to explore that option or pursue it after due consideration (and possibly a Controlled Separation which is not necessarily the wisest thing for everyone but may be helpful to know exists.)

While that would be a great option, one must check the legal implications of even leaving one’s home for a day ‘voluntarily’.

Some have said that could be grounds of ‘abandonment’. In most states there is a strict prohibition of taking the child/ren out of state (to visit or move) without permission of the other spouse during a divorce. That can be deemed ‘parental kidnapping.’

So again something that used to happen as a helpful strategy for someone to get away fueled a federal law.

Likely starting with such basics would be a wake up for more youth and others wanting to have children ‘someday’ or learn all they can to avoid having one or more CPS (Child Protective Services) calls which can come on the heels of anyone reporting a concern.

Most teachers and ministers are mandated reporters so that is important to know what would count as a’qualifying event’ such as an unexplained bruise or injury, dirty clothes or signs of neglect, parents or others arguing in front of the child, any report from the child of abuse, etc.

There are other ‘caveats’ to slow a divorce process down once it’s going (if someone is feeling bewildered or abused by the whole turn of events, for instance.)

If one or both parties would consider seeking ‘reconciliation’ and go to a couple of counseling sessions (ideally after one or both have taken time to understand if they have a good health record mentally, no serious drug problems, a balanced lifestyle and fair understanding of parenting and relationship skills so not blaming the other person for their symptoms or lack of skills and also for appreciating what a separation may address and what it may not provide.)

Understanding the practical and financial costs of a process and adjusting would also be reasonable if parties can take the time to do so or have an advocate check into such things. A Legal Aid call may be helpful or other services on a 211 or 311 (in NYC) phone call or online resource.

If there is not abuse or if even if there is and the courts do not seem to know how to protect a victim and the children, getting a continuance may be an option.

That may require people getting some counseling or finding other support to pace the process with both parties feeling they have a wing and a prayer to see their lives unfold somewhat reasonably. Ideally no one should be ‘taken to the cleaners and hung out to dry.’

The grim reality is that the divorce process can really do a number on people’s sense of stability on many fronts, particularly if one party is not on board with the idea or the way the process is going.

This post is not offering legal advice but rather trying to cast a glimmer of wisdom for anyone to consider well in advance so that IF anything should rock the boat or shift so that people choose or need to live apart and/or explore a legal or practical separation or divorce, both parties would have had permission to learn about such things and find a team of support.

Every state is unique in its approach and likely there should be one common recognized practice that would suffice to allow anyone to know the basic parameters of what would be required.

That is where doing research early and checking in with ‘current laws and ‘best practices or best interests of the children’ criteria’ would be reasonable for more sectors of society to learn about and discuss with men and women and others separately. Now back to the rosier ideas about Valentine’s Day.

The idea of sharing as part of a Day of Friendship likely would catch on naturally with so many shared causes and an awareness of needing one another as team players.

See more on www.livfully.org about a new idea I’m exploring about Bro’KLYN, as in Brother Kaelan (and Sister Lyn) energy…striving to help one another and make the world a better ride for one and all of good will, starting in historic Brooklyn, NY (or USA) and echoing out to other states and countries.

We all matter in this big game of life and can be good sports in the process. Looking for more win-win and ‘stay in the game of life’ strategies and meaningful patterns is all part of this new bright idea. Hope that rings true for you and yours!

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Catherine Palmer Paton

Catherine Palmer Paton

Catherine Palmer Paton of CT is the mom of a heroic teen son Kaelan who passed saving his friends from dangerous water in 2009. Writing on Livfully.org also.