2: “He Shut the Door…..”
When Jen arrived at our home, she could tell immediately that something was wrong. I took her through to the lounge room and asked her to sit down. I then told her what the girls had revealed that morning. I expected Jen to get angry and yell at me. Instead, she said repeatedly, “Leon…what have you done to our girls”. She then went on to name other children, with whom she had a similar relationship as ours. She was almost trance-like saying “what about Sarah?” “What about Sophie?” and then vocalising other things that she remembered about the times that Leon spent on his own with our children.
I expected her to yell and scream and call my girls liars. I did not expect her to read over the memory that Kate had shared with me and add details to it. For one particular incident she said “Oh my God, I remember…he shut the door”. She then stood abruptly and said that she had to confront him and left.
You hear people frequently say that in times of trauma their “life flashed before their eyes”, well in the time between when Jen left and returned to my home, every opportunity that we’d given Leon to be with our daughters started playing on repeat in my head. I couldn’t believe that I could be so stupid.
Quite simply, anyone that knew Ruby, knew that Leon was one of her favourite people. Together they would do the gardening, go out for coffee and complete puzzles. He attended grandparents’ day at preschool and would occasionally drop and pick Ruby up from places if we needed help. Some of you are probably shaking your head right now and, I get it. Writing this makes me feel incredibly stupid. For me “hindsight is not a wonderful thing”, it is a thing that makes me regret what I did not see and if I let it, hindsight could make me freaking batshit crazy. To understand how we allowed this man so much access to our children, I need to explain to you our relationship with Jen.
As I stated earlier, we had moved to a new town with our baby daughter, Grace, in 2003 and knew nobody. We didn’t have any supports in place and we were doing it on our own. When Grace was 7 months old, I went back to work part time and Jen became her carer. We made a deliberate decision to place our children in home care as we wanted to create an environment that would be similar if they were growing up in our home town. We chose Jen as she was a similar age and personality to my own mum and Grace fell in love with her, from the first moment. Overtime, for me, Jen was like another mum to me and her family became our family. She looked after the girls, even when she had retired and the two older girls had gone to school. She told anyone who would listen that my girls were her surrogate grandchildren. Being an extension of Jen, Leon attended all our special family occasion- birthdays, celebrations, dance concerts, grandparent’s days. We in turn would celebrate special occasions with them- even their daughter’s wedding. Together they formed our most reliable and trusted support network.
Our kids stayed over at their home if we had to go away, on the occasional night out, they would offer to have them, rather than have us call in a babysitter and at more difficult times when I was unwell and in hospital and when I had a sudden death in my family, Jen took the girls without hesitation to help us out. As much as we knew that Leon was around, for us, it was Jen who looked after our girls and who wanted them. She would sometimes send me messages that said things like “Leon is missing his girls, when can we see them?” and I assumed that was her way of reassuring us that he didn’t mind if she had them over. I know, hindsight is a bitch.