My daughter’s father

The trajectory of her life changed because I allowed a monster to meet his daughter.

Last Summer I found out my daughter’s father used her death as a means to get out of a felony assault charge. He claimed that he was distraught by the death of his daughter and their close relationship. Here was my response:

Regarding Scott’s “relationship” with Sarah J Troyer

I met Scott as a teenager. We were friends for a while and then dated briefly. I became pregnant at 19 years old, and at Scott’s request, we had a daughter at 20.

Scott attended one childbirth class with me and said he didn’t need to participate in the other classes. A few weeks before the baby’s due date, after breaking into my apartment while I was at work, he discovered that I was not wearing the necklace he had given me and ended our relationship. He left a nasty note, telling me I disrespected him by not wearing the necklace at all times, and that the break-up was entirely the consequence of this disrespect.

The baby was nearly two weeks overdue, so my doctor scheduled a labor induction. I called Scott several times to see if he planned to take me to the hospital and if he would be at the birth. Even the morning of the induction, my mom called Scott to see if he would be there. He called my mom “a bitch” and told her to mind her own business. Scott did end up taking me to the hospital and staying with me through most of the 36 hours of labor and delivery.

Sarah Jordan Troyer was born April 14th, 1992 and Scott left immediately after her birth. Before we were released from the hospital, I called Scott to see when he was picking me up and told him we had to fill out the birth certificate and other paperwork. He told me to get my own ride and that he wasn’t even sure if Sarah was his child. I was left to handle everything myself. I chose her name alone and knew at that moment, I would be raising my child alone.

Scott popped in and out for the first few months of Sarah’s life. When she was 5 months old, due to a high dose of prednisone, Sarah was hospitalized for 5 days. A few days into it, Scott came to visit her in the hospital. He stayed for an hour or so and played with her. Then he said he was going to the cafeteria and asked if I wanted a soda. He called me THREE DAYS later from Arizona!

This pattern of behavior continued throughout Sarah’s first year. Since Scott still contested that Sarah was his child, the state forced a DNA test, which proved without a doubt, he was Sarah’s biological father. 

When Sarah was starting Kindergarten, the state set a court date to establish child support and custody. Scott asked to meet with me for coffee before our court hearing. He’d had no contact with Sarah since she was about a year old. I told him he needed to be in her life consistently or decide what he wanted. All he wanted was to avoid child support and was opting to stay out of our lives. At Scott’s request, I sent the Division of Child Support a letter asking not to collect on my behalf. He made zero attempts at a relationship with Sarah.

When Sarah was 13 years old, I contacted Scott and asked if he would help pay for braces. I reminded him that I had never asked him for anything. He insisted on meeting Sarah. I told him if I allowed him into her life, he needed to stay for good. He needed to be all in or stay all out. He assured me that would not be a problem, but he was quite angry. Scott was irate that I needed to discuss it with Sarah first to make sure she was okay with meeting him. He acted like he was entitled to make decisions for the child he had neglected for well over a decade. I had forgotten about Scott’s ill temper and ego-driven entitlement. I wish I had made another choice.

Sarah was both excited and nervous, but the three of us met at a coffee shop in Seattle after her basketball game one weekend afternoon. Scott showed us pictures of his family, and we were both surprised to find out he had another daughter. Sarah said, “I have a sister? I’ve always wanted a little sister!” Scott reminded her they were only “half-sisters.” I remember the look of heartbreak in Sarah’s eyes. When Scott asked if she had any questions, Sarah asked him what her grandparents had been like, assuming they had passed away. He told her, “Oh, they’re alive and well and living on Whidbey Island.” Sarah was distraught. She said, “Wait. My family has been living two hours away from me my whole life and has never tried to reach me? Not even one birthday card my whole life?” Scott’s demeanor changed in an instant. It was clear he was angry and did not like being questioned by a teenager, much less a girl.

We all exchanged phone numbers and email addresses. Scott gave Sarah $100 toward the $7500 braces bill and additional required jaw surgery. He reassured her and made empty promises about making up for lost time together and her being “daddy’s little girl.” They scheduled time to meet up on the following weekend for just the two of them. Sarah was excited and filled with hope. Unfortunately, Scott no showed. Despite Sarah’s phone calls, texts, and emails and despite mine, Scott never responded or reached out. When my mom pleaded with him, “Please don’t break Sarah’s heart,” he told her if she ever contacted him again, he would sue her for harassment.

Scott destroyed my little girl. He never made a single attempt with her. After that weekend, Sarah continually asked, “Mom, what is so wrong with me that my father and his whole family don’t want anything to do with me? How can he live so close and never want to see me?” Scott broke Sarah’s heart. My chipper, always happy, funny, athletic, poetic girl with a terrific GPA, became a different person. This is when her drug problems, eating disorders, and abandonment issues began. Sarah became a heroin addict. The trajectory of her life changed because I allowed a monster to meet his daughter.

Fast forward to June 2013. Sarah went missing. The University of Washington had just released a study on the black tar heroin epidemic crippling Seattle’s youth. A local news station interviewed me about Sarah. We discussed how heroin impacted our family and in exchange, they aired Sarah’s Missing Persons photo along with my plea for help and aired the interview several times.

Scott called me the night the interview was aired. The first words out of his mouth were, “If I’d known you were going to be that kind of mother, I would have stepped in and taken custody.” He went on to tell me that he had “successfully raised three children” and blamed my “liberal views” on Sarah’s addiction. He never even considered how his actions changed Sarah’s life.

I messaged his sister Adrienne, and she responded that I had told her to stay out of our lives. But this never happened. I believe Scott had someone else call her, pretending to be me. I would never say those words or intentionally watch my child suffer.

Sarah called me the next day and I picked her up. She was sitting underneath her own Missing Persons photo. She had heard about the news story and saw the posters. She asked if her “other family” had reached out. Sarah was suicidal. She was committed for 5 days at Harbor View.

Sarah struggled with heroin addiction for 13 years. I tried everything. I put her into seven rehabs, two detox facilities, had her stay in sober houses, see therapists, etc. You name it, I tried it. More importantly, Sarah did everything she could. She put herself through two additional rehabs, was on Methadone for a while, was on Suboxone, and briefly saw a therapist on her own. She was excited about entering drug court and finally, after more than a year being homeless, could not wait to be clean again.  Sarah went to her court date two days in a row, but due to the snowstorm, court was not in session. Our last conversation was via Messenger. Four days later she was found dead in a tent in the snow.

Sarah died February 10th, 2019, after 36 hours on Maximum Life Support while “brain dead”. She was only weeks away from her 27th birthday. My sweet, loving, completely family-oriented, compassionate daughter was gone for good. There are no words for this kind of pain. There is only an absence of hope and an abundance of suffering.

To add insult to injury, we found out about a little-known law in Washington State, that both biological parents had to agree on cremation, regardless of the child’s age. My mom and my sister were with me when the Funeral Director called Scott and put the conversation on speaker. Scott had already heard about Sarah’s death. His only question was about how much money we were going to try to get out of him. The answer was none.

Scott said he would complete the paperwork and send it right over. A few days later, the Funeral Director had to plead with him to sign papers and reminded him that he was holding up Sarah’s cremation. She told him that since I was having a Buddhist cremation ceremony and did not have Sarah’s body embalmed, we were in a fragile yet urgent situation. He called her back and said, “I’m entitled to my daughter’s ashes, correct?” Scott finally agreed to cremation but only if we would send him her ashes.

My daughter had been officially dead for 8 days before I could cremate her body. Sarah was in a box with her whole face turned yellow because of Scott’s actions; His final act in destroying my daughter.

Jennifer L Troyer

~ Jen Troyer, March 2021

The Do Over

 

It’s been 730 days since your last breath

Since the machine stopped

The hardest decision

The shock of your death

 

It feels like we both died that day

 

It’s been two years since my heart was violently ripped from my chest

Since you were taken away

Since a doctor said your name in the most tragic way that day

 

My heart’s mutiny

 

Two years has taught me a lot

And nothing at all

Learning to live without you isn’t easy

I don’t recommend it to anyone at all

 

There are days I still can’t get out of bed

A body dehydrated from all the tears shed

There are days I can’t leave my desk

Throwing myself into work, the only way to give my heart some rest

 

I don’t want to learn to live without you

Grief is just too heavy

My eyes, a broken-down levee

 

I have pleaded with the universe but she’s not listening

I scream at her, “There’s been a huge misunderstanding!”

She tells me ‘patience is a virtue’ and look at all the love you had

But I want a do-over

I’m tired of being so fucking sad

 

She gives me moments of happiness and joy

Then dumps on me the agony of guilt

Momentary bliss destroyed

 

I’m supposed to say, “At least she’s no longer suffering,” and of course I’m glad you’re not in pain

But what about my broken heart

Will the heaviness of grief ever wane

 

Your struggles with addiction were hard enough to watch

You were supposed to get better

To just fucking stop

I wanted you to shake it

Desperately wanted you to make it

 

Sweetie, I have so much left to say…

 

If I had talent

I’d make a quilt of 10,530 squares

One for each day I have loved you

A tapestry made from our tragedy

 

It would require a million stitches

One for each memory

My heart’s treasury

Sarah’s documentary

 

Our lives woven together

Nothing in this world could ever be better

That was the three of us

Just better together

 

But I’m no seamstress

Just your life’s witness

A mother’s love amplified

My heart’s apartheid

 

I know that I was the luckiest

Not everyone gets a child of their own

Sarah, I hope you knew, you and Parker are the greatest love I’ve ever known

Raising you kids is truly the most amazing thing I have ever done

 

And maybe that’s why I can’t find love that sticks

Maybe I gave all my love away

And if that’s the case, well, it was 100 percent worth it

I’ll take that do-over any day

 

I carry your heart, Sweetie. I carry it in my heart.

 

~ Jen Troyer, February, 2021