Weeks, months and years pass, with no contact, no word from loved ones. There is family news they should know, but no way to tell them. Are they happy or are they sad, and why? Are they healthy or sick? As their parent, I wonder where they are, so I might make a picture to see them in my imagination. These loved ones are my kidnapped children, Grace J Keene and James R Keene, now 26 and 22 years old respectively. [Full names Grace Josephine Keene and James Rogers Keene.]
This story may be best understood in the context of the basic facts of the kidnapping and abuse of my children -- Feb. 1, 1995 to present -- described on the Missing Keene Kids web site which presents original documents, chronologies of events, a series of articles and a "Dear Keene Kids Blog". This content, including the foregoing blog link as the most recent, documents some 15 years of effort to somehow reach across what seems to be an infinite spiritual chasm.
As described, I am the victim parent of a double child abduction by their disturbed, emotionally unstable mother. As I later learned by reading literature written by parental kidnapping experts, such kidnappings generally occur when the victim parent is preferred by the children. In 1995, Grace, 10, and James, 7, began to be aware of the erratic and unstable behavior of their mother, Nilda M Davis-Flores (aka Nilda M Keene -- my previous wife who calls herself "Keene" when convenient).
Those readers who have lived under the same roof with a mentally ill person can testify to how disruptive and disturbing the behavior of such persons can be. And at some point, young children sense something is very wrong and become worried.
I was a totally involved father. Since Nilda could not breast-feed, though she wanted to, I did almost all of the night-duty feeding and caring for baby Grace and James from the day they were born until they were old enough to sleep through the night. After work, I also spent essentially all the time with the kids until they went to bed, which most often, was after their mother was already asleep. The mother had periods of depression and spent -- hard to believe -- 12 hours in bed, about 7 PM to 7 AM. Thus, I was the parent getting the kids ready for bed at their bed-time at 8 or 9 PM, tucking them in, saying the prayers and so forth.
Fast-forward to years after the kidnapping where I could not even find where my kids were and eventually, as the kids reached adulthood, to my being shunned by my own victimized, brain-washed, abducted children.
As described in the "Dear Keene Kids Blog" link above, I have yet to make any contact with my son, James, after all these years -- one might say, a sort of 100 percent shunning, flawless intentional avoidance of his father. The March, 2007, entry describes a fairly brief exchange of emails and some phone calls with my daughter, Grace, and was a happy, optimistic time. She even sent photos of herself and my son -- imagine, the first time I could see them all grown up.
Grace wanted our conversations and email to be private (that is, not published) and so it is. When she decides to speak up and describe in her own words her experience as an abducted child, that will be when we learn her story.
That was about three years ago. Since then, I've heard almost nothing from my daughter. Fate put me back in the frying pan. Or maybe she is just busy. Now even her email address at camden.rutgers.edu no longer works. Maybe she has moved on and I am in the dark again.
Being shunned (deliberately avoided) is not fun, especially when one has done nothing wrong. It fosters loneliness and sadness. One can go through more stages of grief than anybody has ever described. Lucky for me, I've always had an upbeat temperament -- happy-go-lucky, full of energy, always active, which helps, especially if one attends to something other than the subject of this post.
There may be some relation between the present shunning story and those of Baha'is who have experienced shunning by fellow Baha'is, where there is an ample variation in stories. The variety of stories makes this a complex topic, but some general patterns might be valid.
1. One agenda item is coping with loss. As social beings, loss of Baha'i community fellowship and support, for shunned Baha'is, can have a huge negative impact. Same with loss of family members, for whatever reason, even from natural causes like accident or death. For a parent, loss of a child is huge. Unjust loss of child is worse.
A child abduction by a mentally and emotionally impaired person (Nilda), as in this case, leads to intense fear regarding the child's safety. I cannot really describe step one here very well -- it is something like being in a state of extreme panic and terror 24/7. Day after day, week after week, almost no sleep. While there is time -- as when one should be sleeping, it is tears and crying. But there is not much time, since every effort is focused on finding the children, trying to solve the problem.
Nonetheless, in this period after the kidnapping, I didn't miss a single lecture I was supposed to give at Ross University School of Medicine, meeting or other job-related responsibility. In retrospect, this is hard for me to believe. Maybe all the energy was from pumped levels of adrenalin, in the near constant panic state. Maybe the work activities were a welcome relief time to focus on something else.
In addition, as the Missing Keene Kids web site documentation shows, during this immediate post-abduction period, I produced a number of letters, chronologies, etc, trying to describe the case and seek help. Reading them as I reformatted them for the web site in subsequent years, I saw that they are generally well-organized, cogent and relevant, even though I was at that time in a more or less constant state of pure terror.
In my shunning story, I was then and remain now a Baha'i in good standing and must give credit and thanks to the Baha'i Administration and appointed Board Members in this case. As described, many documents were written and distributed. Having spent most of my adult life helping build and support Baha'i institutions, I knew the story -- as most readers here, that these institutions needed nurture and were for the most part, in an "embryonic" state and so forth. This only magnifies the credit due to them in this kidnapping case, since I did receive much support and help -- perhaps much more than anybody could realistically expect.
2. Being subjected to injustice -- I was basically a crime victim, can be a character builder. After all these years, it is still impossible to conceive of how anybody could unilaterally take children from a parent -- no hearing, no due process, no justification, just here today and gone tomorrow, because somebody thought it was a good idea -- in this case, a psychotic mother. Maybe the lesson is to count one's blessings, since one never knows when misfortune will visit.
3. Through the whole episode, over the years, up to the present shunning by at least one of my children, James R, one comes to appreciate in great detail how powerless a human is -- something Baha'is testify to in the short daily obligatory prayer: "O God, my God, ... I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth..."
In particular, one can be a parent today; and a nobody tomorrow. A person today; a thing that does not exist tomorrow. A father with beloved children today; a non-entity tomorrow. A parent who was listened to by loving children today; a nothing tomorrow. A citizen with rights today; an outcast with no rights tomorrow. What a difference a day makes, as the song says.
At one point, as described in the chronologies, I learned that my children were being home schooled but as the father, I could not get any official information about what grades they were making, etc. According to the school providing the home schooling materials, it was as if I was no longer a parent.
4. Being shunned by one's own children is almost like ceasing to exist. But a parent cannot just disappear, however much a kidnapper might wish it. My Grace and James lost, in effect, one parent already -- the one who decided to switch from mother to abductor and abuser. In my heart I know that one day my Grace and James will want to have a parent and so I continue to exist. They will want that education I was not allowed to give them since their abduction. They will want knowledge about their own history that I can give them.
Parental kidnappers want to demoralize and break the spirit of victim children, as described on the Missing Keene Kids site. Contrary to the anti-family training these two victim children were forced to endure, I do exist and believe that one day my Grace and James will seek the father they have been wrongfully denied, the father that, in effect, they were taught no longer exists. They will strengthen their spirits to help their disturbed mother.
5. Shunning creates in the shunned one a feeling of being unwanted, not needed. As of a year or so ago, my son James was traced by internet search to playing violin in the Symphony Orchestra at the New Brunswick, NJ, campus of Rutgers University. Daughter Grace was taking some courses at the Camden, NJ, Rutgers campus and perhaps living in Medford Lakes, NJ. But I now have no indication that either child wants to see me. I was raised to not impose myself where I am not wanted and so I wait for a day when that might change.
Being unwanted is definitely a negative factor for self-esteem. It is not exactly a fact one would ordinarily want to advertise: "My own children do not want their father". This thought pattern doesn't do much to reinforce self-confidence.
6. Being unwanted, being rejected, being discarded, excluded and shunned can also cause a feeling of shame, even if the shunning is completely unwarranted. So the shunned will not talk about it, will remain silent to avoid embarrassment. Who has their children kidnapped? Not the average person. It is not something that one would want to bring up or discuss in almost any circumstance. Who wants to have it known that they have been rejected by their own children?
Being shunned can carry the implication that perhaps the shunned person deserves it. So it can be a loosing proposition, inadvisable to even bring up the subject. People do not want to hear tales of misery. It is such a depressing topic that discussing it is not exactly a good way to win friends or to bring cheer to the weary. Indeed, others may have even more horrible stories to tell.
7. A good dose of intense suffering also favors not dwelling on traumatic experience. Indeed, a Baha'i prayer I like and have memorized includes the line -- "I will not dwell on the unpleasant things in life." A proven method to achieve this is to busy oneself with lots of work, projects and activities. This redirects attention and psychic energy. It is constructive. It builds confidence, as might be needed, providing demonstrable evidence that one can do things, can succeed at things.
While being shunned is being deliberately avoided by other persons, the shunned one might well shun (or deliberately avoid) even thinking about the whole experience. For example, I avoid writing about this subject, since it is so painful to deal with it. For the Missing Keene Kids web site, if some new idea or approach comes to mind, I sort of grit my teeth and attempt to write something coherent about it -- all to try to reach in some way the souls of my children. Otherwise, best to direct attention to other activities.
The two other victims in this story, my Grace and James, might well be doing a similar thing. Namely, it is so painful to attend to this abduction experience, best to avoid thought about it at all. This may partially explain their avoidance of making contact with their father. I understand.
Lucky me, my science training seems to fit with my general psychic energy with the result that I always have a number of projects in the fire. Those I can control, so to speak, and master, things I cannot do with my most likely troubled children (what else could they be?), who have minds and spirits of their own to decide if and when they might want to have a father.
8. In addition to being shunned, one may also be treated to persecution and slander. In the kidnapping case, Nilda also suffered from fear of going outside the house by herself and of public transportation. She duped fellow Baha'i Sandra Cooles to provide transportation as described in chronologies and "Cast of Characters" links on the "Missing..." web site.
In effect, Sandra became an accessory to child kidnapping. Sandra is wife of Dr. Philip Cooles, then an Associate Dean at Ross University School of Medicine, where I worked as Professor of Neuroscience. Dr. Cooles has never revealed his own activities on the day of the kidnapping.
In brief, I became the object of intense slander and defamation from both doctors: Philip Cooles and my then wife, Nilda. At that time, Philip and Sandra Cooles, Nilda and I were all members of the NSA of Dominica. With Nilda gone, the Cooles used their position on the NSA to block any real help.
On the Ross campus, Dr. Cooles opposed every move I made in my work activities, though with little effect, since I was quite popular with students, fellow faculty and administration alike. Indeed, through those friendships, I learned of his relentless efforts, from his power base as a Dean, that my yearly contract not be renewed. He may have hoped I might then leave the island. For a faculty position in this particular institution, it was customary to have one year contracts without explicit future commitments -- all based on good faith.
Philip finally succeeded and 1998 was my last year as Ross employee. There was a new Executive Dean, and he could not even explain why my contract would not be renewed. Since I knew the real reason under the table, I told him not to worry and very best wishes to Ross University. This achieved the goal of removing my income, perhaps so I could not continue to pay lawyers in Dominica, Puerto Rico and New Jersey.
Apparently Philip Cooles had extended his slander efforts all the way The Universal House of Justice (UHJ). I received a hand-written letter from Dr. David Ruhe, a Baha'i friend, almost a father figure from the 1960s and then a UHJ member, all the way from Los Angeles where he was traveling at the time. He was quite concerned about the situation and provided ample detail, thereby revealing to me that he had obviously received false information. So I replied to Dr. Ruhe, not to worry since the details he had received were falsehoods.
Then, I wrote to the UHJ requesting detail on the source of this false information. Happily, the House replied including copies of the documents it had received, confirming that the source of the slander was Dr. Philip Cooles, then the Chairman of the NSA of Dominica.
Since my Grace and James were friends with the Cooles children, letters were exchanged after the kidnapping. They also received at least one letter from Nilda. Yet Dr. Cooles, contrary to his duty as a physician, in my opinion, has refused to provide to me, the father of the abducted children, those letters which might have helped provide evidence in the case and even to locate them.
The NSA of Dominica was, in effect, abused by the Cooles, considering all the facts. In short, a national Baha'i institution might be added to the list of victims of the kidnap gang in Puerto Rico led by Nilda and the gang's "field office" in Dominica led by the Cooles. That Dr. Cooles would engage in such unprofessional behavior only raises suspicion that he, too, was involved in aiding child abductor Nilda on Feb. 1, 1995, commit an extremely serious crime in Dominica.
9. Given the root-canal level of pain associated with wrongful loss of young children, one learns that the last of the stages of grief is that there is no last stage. The loss some 15 years ago remains a loss today.
© 2010 James J Keene