Chapter 12

I glanced at the clock as the intercom buzzer sounded. Kathy Stammus was right on time.


“Yes!” came back her cheery reply.

“Caitlin’s still sleeping, so knock softly.”


I buzzed the downstairs door to let her in. Moments later, she quietly knocked. Kathy’s hair was wrapped in a thick coil on the back of her head. Her gaze was direct and friendly.

“Come in, Kathy. Did you have any trouble finding us?” I gestured her in towards the sofa.

“No, I’ve lived in Holland all my life and do quite a few home visits. I know the area well.”

“Oh,” I glanced around anxiously. The magazines were stacked neatly on the coffee table and the coaster was waiting. “Can I offer you a coffee or tea?”

“Yeah, tea would be great, thanks.” Sitting at the couch Kathy looked around the small apartment.

I put the kettle on to boil, searched the cupboard for some breakfast cookies, and put them on a tray with the milk and sugar bowls. Blue-Casey trailed me around the kitchen. “Sorry, I let Caitlin sleep in when it’s not a school day.”

Kathy reached into her briefcase and pulled out a file folder. She pushed aside the magazines and opened it. “I need to take some notes,” she apologized. Once the water boiled, I returned from the kitchen with the tea and plate of cookies.

“So, Caitlin’s in school half-time?”

“Yes, she’s in senior kindergarten and goes to school on Mondays, Wednesdays and alternate Fridays.”

Kathy continued. “You have joint custody with Rod – you having primary residency, right?”

“Yes, she visits with him every other weekend.”

“How long have you and Caitlin lived here?” Kathy asked before taking a sip of her tea.

“We moved in after Rod and I separated.” I said, sitting down in the rocking chair. “I wanted to be somewhere close enough to walk to work and also keep Caitlin at the same school. We like it a lot. The other people in the apartment are really sweet. Lots of older couples.”

She nodded encouragement as she wrote. “Where does Rod live now?”

“He doesn’t really have a permanent address. As far as I know he stays at friends’ places or his sister’s home.”

“Can I ask why you and Rod broke up?”

“We had a difference of opinion,” I said. “I thought we should be together forever and he thought nine years was long enough.”

Kathy scratched notes quickly between bites of her cookie. Just then, Caitlin appeared at the end of the hall, clutching her teddy bear. Her hair was unruly, her face sleepy; she looked like a baby mole. She yawned.

“Mommy?” she asked. Caitlin shuffled over to me, keeping her eyes on the floor.

“Hi, Caity-Cat.” I responded lightly to reassure her and lifted her into my lap. “Caitlin, this is Kathy Stammus. She’s going to visit with us this morning.”

Caitlin eyed Kathy carefully then turned slowly back to me. “She’s a little shy and quiet when she first wakes,” I added.

Kathy lowered her chin and gave me an all-knowing look. “Well, you sure have a nice bear there. What’s his name, Caitlin?” Caitlin just touched her curls and looked down at the floor. Kathy tried a different tack. “Mind if I look around? Caitlin would you show me your bedroom?” Caitlin shrugged and I interpreted for her, “Sure, go ahead.”

While Caitlin took Kathy for a quick look around her bedroom, I set out a bowl of Cheerios for her.

Kathy returned to her seat on the couch, only to find Blue-Casey sprawled on top of her notes. “And who do we have here?”

I shooed Blue-Casey off the papers and apologized, “So sorry. This is Blue-Casey. He loves to lie on papers.”

“Blue-Casey? What an interesting name. Where did it come from?”

“Well, simply because he’s a Russian Blue cat that looks blue; Caitlin wanted to call him Blue. But
I wanted to call him Casey. So we compromised and combined his name. It suits him, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, he seems to be a character. It almost looks as if he’s smiling.” Kathy wrote a few more notes and then asked me, “Do you have any questions for me?”

“How long do you have?” I said with a weak smile. “This is all so foreign to me, I really don’t know where to start.”

“Were you able to get counseling for Caitlin and yourself?”

“Yes! I was thrilled when I got an appointment with Bradley Booth on Monday.”

“That’s wonderful.” Kathy’s smile was warm and genuine. “He’s a great therapist. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. He’s helped a number of our kids. What about for yourself?”

I felt my face flush. I’m a parent first, then a person. “No, I haven’t really had time,” I faltered. “But I do journal.”

“Writing about your experience is good. But you may also want to consider counselling.” Kathy reached into her briefcase and pulled out a business card. “This is the number for the Holland Counseling Service. They specialize in these sorts of cases.”

“Thanks. I’ll think about it.” I took the card.

Kathy finished her tea and put her cup down on the empty cookie plate. “Well, I won’t take any more of your time. I’m sure you and Caitlin have plans today.”

“That’s it? I thought you were coming over to interrogate me,” I said with a laugh.

“No, just a formality really. I need to ensure that you have a safe and stable home for your child. Your apartment obviously has adequate living and sleeping space. I’ve seen Caitlin’s room and she has personal privacy and possession of her own property.” She reached over and tapped Caitlin’s bear on the head.

With a smile, Kathy continued, “We look to ensure that the child receives sufficient and adequate clothing for her size.” Caitlin pulled at the sleeve on her pajamas. “Caitlin looks healthy and I can see that you provide her with nutritious meals.” She waved her arm toward the kitchen where a bowl of fruit sat on the counter. “I’ve seen that you’re able to carry out the essential parenting duties.”

Impressed I said, “You got all that in just one short visit?”

“Trust me, I’ve been doing this for a long time. Sadly, I can tell right away when it’s not being done. Throughout any investigation, our agency's primary focus and responsibility is the safety and well being of the child. It’s obvious to me that Caitlin is well taken care of here.” She started towards the door. “Have you met with your lawyer yet?”

“I’ve booked an appointment to meet with her on Thursday.”

“Good. I’ll be filing my report with the courts. I’ll see you again at the Settlement Conference.” Kathy reached out her hand to shake mine. “Nice to meet with you again.” She came back and knelt down near my still-sleepy daughter. “Bye, Caitlin. It was nice to meet you, too.”

Caitlin looked up from her bowl and gave a small wave. “Bye.”

After Kathy left, I turned to Caitlin, “Well, now that we’re both up, what do you say we go out today and pick some stuff to create a nice flower box?”

Caitlin smiled. “Okay.”

I looked at my young daughter. It’d be nice to spend the morning together outdoors collecting ornamental grass, dried flower heads, and red-barked dogwood. I’d like to just hang out, doing something light and breezy.

Tears glistened in my eyes. “I love you, Caity-Cat.”

Caitlin bounded up and with a big, smacky kiss on the side of my head she said, “Love you too, Mommy.”