Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO – About a year ago, the Curmudgeon in another publication compared the case of Sean Goldman to that of Elián Gonzalez, both of them victims of their mother’s death and the competing affections of their biological father and an extended family in another country. Both custody claims ended up in court, and in both cases, the courts held that the son and his father had stronger rights than the extended family, and they were re-united.
The Curmudgeon had posited that in both cases, there were no bad guys. In both cases, the biological father loved his son, as did the extended family. Both father and family were able to provide love and affection and material basics to the child, in either country.
The Curmudgeon was, it would now seem, mistaken, about there being no bad guys. Let’s look at the history.
On December 16, 2009, after almost a year of legal wrangling, a Brazilian Federal Court of Appeals affirmed a Lower Court decision and ordered Sean to be delivered to his father within 48 hours. Seven days later, delivered he was, and a chartered jet took off for Orlando, carrying father and son.
Did they live happily ever after? Not yet. The father speaks little if any Portuguese, and the son speaks little if any English. Although the grandmother who raised Sean after his mother’s death strenuously denies this, human nature tells us that she has attempted to prejudice Sean against his biological father.
She hired a famed attorney to make her case that Sean’s father was unfit to have custody, for various lurid reasons. When her attorney advised her she was going to lose the legal battle, she went to the newspapers and enlisted public support there.
But she lost the legal case in Brazil and has lost all of her subsequent attempts to continue to hold on to Sean. In a ludicrous bit of street theater, she tried to board the plane that had been chartered to take Sean back to the US. She tried court appeals in Brazil. She has now traveled to the US, and went to court there to be able to see Sean. A judge in New Jersey denied her petition one week ago. Kudos for the judge, says the Curmudgeon.
Why is she doing this? Put simply, she has deluded herself into believing that she should be Sean’s mother, replacing her deceased daughter. This is not uncommon, it is based on (grand)motherly love, but it remains a delusion when the child’s biological father is alive and well and able to care for and love his son.
So, the Curmudgeon asks, what is the purpose for this visit, some three short months after father and son have been reunited, other than to try to drive a wedge between them? And, the Curmudgeon asks, what will be the effect upon Sean of any such visit? It cannot possibly be helpful.
For the grandmother to persist in her quest is at best quixotic and at worst solipsistic; in either case, no good will come from it. She should therefore, at the risk of being unmasked as a bad guy, allow her grandson to live as normal a life with his father as is possible under the circumstances, and hope that he will one day forgive her for trying to separate him from his father.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)