May 15, 2013
It’s been a long time! I was busy writing a paper so I could finally graduate from my Master’s in Mental Health Counseling program. I did it! It has been a very long road and during the four plus years I was going to school, I got divorced (which took over 3 years), fell in love (which took about 3 days), ran my first (and only) half-marathon (which took 2 hours and 23 seconds), and jumped off a telephone pole (which took 3 seconds). I had two kids graduate from middle school, one graduate from high school and go to college, made new friends, moved out of my home of 19 years, bought my first house, started writing again, and got a job. You’re probably wondering about the telephone pole.
Going back to school was life-saving. Sometimes, it was my respite from the insanity of trying to divorce my alcoholic husband. When I first started school, I had only recently gotten my husband out of the house, but he kept coming back, unannounced, to alternately woo and threaten me back into submission. Of course, no one at school knew any of this. No one knew that when I left my house for my evening classes, I worried that my husband would turn up at the house and scare our children. I worried he would come back to the house and refuse to leave. He was always drunk when he came over, and I always put myself between him and the children, in an attempt to shield them. What would happen if he came when I was not there?
About a month into the semester, my girls and I were driving home from the barn when we saw ambulances and police cars surrounding a vehicle in a parking lot just up the road from our house. Standing in the middle of it all was my adult stepson; he was next to his father’s car and he was crying. I stopped my car and told the girls to wait, to not get out of the car. I was afraid of what they would find. The EMTs were pulling my husband out of his parked car. He looked dead. Apparently he had been on the way to our house. Maybe he knew he was too drunk to make it up our stairs. Maybe he wanted to sit in his car and drink some more. Whatever the reason, I’m glad he never made it to our house. Instead, he had pulled into the tennis court parking lot and, at some point, called his son, who then called 911. The policemen told me that they had found him unconscious in the car. During the few minutes that I spoke with the police, I knew my children had seen something frightening and confusing. When I went back to the car, they cried and asked me, “Is Daddy dead?” I tried to reassure them that he would be okay, but really, I wasn’t sure. As I drove them back to the safety of our home, and it was safe, for he would not be coming that day, I intercepted my 10 year old son and his friend who were on their way to discover the reason for the sirens. I lied to my son, telling him that I did not know what had happened, but later, I knew he knew, and I looked into his tear-filled eyes and told him the truth.
What do these moments do to a child? I wonder, because, as an adult, I continue to be haunted by these memories. I write of these memories here so that they have a place to live, instead of in my head, and I feel a little freer. Free from the idea that my children and I are trapped in our history. Because the truth is, bad things happen. Most of us do not have perfect childhoods, do not have two perfect parents. When I look at my children, I see that while they have their wounds, they are, in fact, strong. Stronger and wiser, braver and kinder than they might have been had they not lived through these challenges. I work on seeing them not as victims, but as the heroes they are. We are a family of heroes, standing up for ourselves and each other. And we are going to be just fine. Better than fine. We are going to be awesome.
February 23, 2013
Let me just start by saying that on Valentine’s Day, divorce court should be closed. It is a kick in the pants, a slap in the face, crappy icing on a crap cake, to have to go to divorce court on Valentine’s Day. But I did. Let’s remind everyone that I am actually divorced, and no, divorce court is not really called divorce court, but “matrimonial part” for all parts related to your dead marriage. I’m sounding bitter. I apologize. I went to divorce court on Valentine’s Day in my never-ending quest for justice. Hah!! Ooh, sorry, sounding bitter again. This is so unlike me. I am not a bitter person. Really, I’m not. I’m tired and I should be writing my paper right now, but let me just get this off my chest.
I WENT TO DIVORCE COURT ON VALENTINE’S DAY AND THAT SUCKS. OK, I feel a little bitter now, I mean better. I wanted to give the judge a Valentine’s Day card that said, “Be Mine.” I wanted to give him one of the chocolate heart lollipops that I had made for my clients. I wanted him to look down at me from his holy bench and see that I was just a nice chocolate lollipop-making mom who needed protection and justice, and he, when he was finished with his lollipop, was just the man to deliver it. No lollipop for the judge, because someone would have objected. “Someone” meaning my ex-husband’s dorky lawyer. That’s mean. He is dorky. He’s the kind of kid who would have been picked on in middle school. Now I sound like a bully, but really, I just want to “pants” him. This is called displacement. All of my anger at my ex-husband is being directed at his lawyer. I’m going to stop now.
As you know, nothing ever really happens in divorce court except that I get another court date and my lawyer is able to add an extra night to his vacation and his wife gets an extra spa treatment, courtesy of me. To be fair, I owe my lawyer a whole load of money. He had told me that since my ex was non-compliant with the court order for support, the judge would order him to pay my attorney fees. BUT THAT HASN’T HAPPENED YET. And it’s been going on since last August.
As I was saying, nothing ever happens in divorce court except that now ex-man is trying to fight the horse trust fund payments, for no reason other than to mess with me and the kids and to distract everyone from his unwillingness to pay child support. He is still so angry about the arbitration decision. He was thinking that if he wasn’t going to get to keep us, then he’d be damned if we got to keep the horses. Yeah, so damn him. Last month, ex-man made a big noisy fuss and escrow agent said he could not cut a check, so now the court needs to get involved. So dumb. So pointless. So I did it again. I tried to talk to ex-man. After we walked out of the courtroom, I approached him and asked him why he was doing this. Asked him if he had any questions about the way the money was being spent, because I’m an open book. He said, “Are you going to start yelling again?” Remember my little moment of crazy? Apparently he does, remarkable given how much he drinks. So I said, “No, I’m not, but since you haven’t seen our daughter in a year and a half, that would be reason enough to yell.” And that was that. Happy Valentine’s Day.
February 8, 2013
Back in 2008, when I was trying to end my marriage, trying to just get my husband out of the house for the second time, a frequent topic of our debates regarding his leaving or not was that a divorce would “ruin” him. “If this gets out, it will ruin my reputation, ruin my business,” he said. Who did he think we were? Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook? At that time, Christie and Peter had been all over the news as their marriage was coming to an end. Now, I can tell you, my husband was no Peter Cook, either looks-wise or sleeping with an 18 year old-wise. My husband’s lover was a bottle of vodka.
It puzzled me that he thought our divorce could be a New York Post-worthy social scandal. Page Six? I don’t think so. True, Christie and I have a lot in common. She and I are both blond. We both have three kids, she with three different husbands, I with just one. We both like horses. She was married to Piano Man; I have a piano. She was a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model; I have a swimsuit. Oh, and we both have a Total Gym, although from the looks of things, she is using hers a lot more than I am using mine. Still, our divorce, no matter how ugly it got, and he promised me it would get ugly, was not bound for tabloid headlines. And there were already plenty of falls from grace to fill the Wall Street Journal; besides, would its readers even care about the demise of a family?
My husband thought that no one knew about his drinking, and to a fair degree, he was right. Excess in the world of investment banking was the norm. Remember the 90′s? Bankers were the Masters of the Universe. They were getting haircuts and shoeshines in their offices, blow jobs under their desks and multimillion-dollar bonuses in December. Things were different after 2001, but he was still making a lot of money. My husband was convinced that because he was so successful in business, he could not possibly have a drinking problem. For years, he was able to keep these areas of his life separate. He went off to work each day, sharp as a tack, spring in his step, and capable of speech. My children and I got him home each night, slurry and stumbling and eventually unconscious, if we were lucky. Like any good alcoholic, his disease progressed. He continued to believe that no one knew, but between his drunken stumbling in town as he made his way to the bar or liquor store, ambulances and police cars in our driveway, and my own physical deterioration and frequently tear-filled eyes as I told friends and neighbors that I was fine, I wondered how people could not know. He clung to the idea that his secret was safe and his reputation was stellar.
Sometimes I threatened to “out” him. I thought that maybe if other people knew what he was doing, he would stop. After all, I had seen him stay sober for a business meeting, but not for his daughter’s birthday dinner. If there had been a headline, “Managing Director Drunk on Christmas Eve: Can’t Put Together Son’s Train Table,” perhaps the embarrassment would cause him to change. In the privacy and secrecy of our own home, he did not change, except that he got worse. He went from being a fairly benign drunk passed out in a chair to a dark and frightening presence. It was my oldest daughter, thirteen at the time, who begged me to call the police. “He’s scaring me, Mommy. It’s like having a stranger in the house,” she said, adding, “If there’s no consequence to what he’s doing, he will never stop.”
I think his imagined anonymity allows him to continue to drink and to behave badly. Despite regular detox visits to the hospital, he refuses to go to rehab. He does not see our children, even though he lives four miles away. He spends thousands of dollars on lawyers, trying to appeal an unappealable divorce decision, but has not given his children a birthday or Christmas present in over two years. He does not pay child support until the very moment he faces jail, arriving at court, check in hand. He denies his reputation as “town drunk,” despite this label having been bestowed upon him by local merchants and bartenders. My ex-husband’s denial is too big for subtle hints from friends and private pleas from family. His denial needs a bigger audience forcing him to face the truth.
We all remember Christie’s interview on the Today Show. Matt Lauer bullied Christie over her speaking out publicly of her ex. Christie had decided to speak out only after her ex’s public ”character assassination” of her and a desire to set the record straight. I remember her saying, “I just want peace.” That is what I wish for, not only for my three children and me, but also for my ex-husband. Why would Matt Lauer ever interview me? I am just an ordinary person, who once loved a man who has been slowly killing himself over the past 15 years and whose children are the collateral damage to his self-destruction. Would my story be compelling? Perhaps. It is one that is shared by millions of people who mostly suffer in silence and isolation. I wish I could sit with Matt Lauer, like Christie did, to finally address my ex-husband’s actions, so that my ex would have nowhere left to hide. I would not do this out of spite or some desire to hurt him. I just want him to stop hurting me, our children, and himself.
January 5, 2013
Do you think there is a reverse “do not call list” ? You know, a list for the telemarketers and pollsters and surveyors warning them about me? Since we moved last year and changed phone numbers, we mostly get wrong numbers, or someone wanting to sell me something, take a survey, or make a donation.
Ring ring. “Hello, may I speak to the person who pays the electric bill,” the person on the end of the line says. “Well, that would be me,” I tell them, “That is, when I can pay it, when my ex-husband actually pays the child support, which is like never. Except when I take him to court and he’s about to go to jail.” Click.
Ring ring. “Hello, I’m calling from the ASPCA to thank you for your donation and was wondering if you would be able to participate in our monthly donation program,” says the woman on the phone. “Well, I would love to,” I reply, “if I had any money. My dog has cancer, I just found out and, (sob) I’m sorry, but you caught me at a bad time, and I (sob). ” “No worries,” says the woman on the phone, “Have a nice evening. And I’m sorry about your dog.” Click.
This evening I got a call from TD Ameritrade, asking if I would participate in a customer satisfaction survey. Given my bad feelings toward TD Ameritrade, which I will get into later, I was about to say “No,” but then the man on the other end of the line said it would take just a few minutes and for my trouble, I would get a $25 gift card to Amazon and so I agreed to do it. It started out innocently enough. I started out innocently enough. A few questions about my account, how I had used their services, and if I was satisfied. Yes, 15 months, a house, Citibank, no, yes, not really, … ummm, can I just tell you something, I asked the survey man. Survey man, I really hate TD Ameritrade. They gave my ex-husband a margin loan. A big margin loan. And then they gave him an even bigger one. My ex-husband was not a sane man, Mr. Survey Man. My ex-husband drank, all the time. He bragged about how he was the biggest client at TD’s Waldorf Astoria branch. He bragged how everyone there thought he was Mr. Big (he is NOT). Waldorf people, did you not see how he could not walk straight? Did you not smell him? He perspired vodka! Survey Man, TD Ameritrade gave my husband a $#% million dollar margin loan, allowing him to lose all of our family’s assets. All of them. Survey Man, I’m really mad at TD Ameritrade. Survey Man asked me, “Is there anything that TD Ameritrade can do to win back your trust?” I will not repeat what I told him, but he asked, “Are you sure you want me to write that down?” I laughed, a little madly, and said, “Survey Man, you can have the head of TD call me. I would like to tell him how his company hurt my family. I would like to tell him that my kids have almost no college fund.” I let out a little whimper. Survey Man, who must have been trained in IMAGO therapy, mirrored back to me, “So, you’d feel better if the head of TD called you? Is there anything else TD Ameritrade can do to win back your trust?” “Well, Mr. Survey Man, they can give me back my money.” So then Mr. Survey Man says, “So if TD Ameritrade gives you back your money, you will feel better about TD Ameritrade?” Yes, Mr. Survey Man, that would do it.
I’m still waiting for them to call me back.
December 4, 2012
The other day, I had to go to my ex-husband’s ex-lawyer’s office. I’ll call this lawyer “Tim,” since that’s his name. The arbitrator made Tim the escrow agent of a 3 month emergency fund in case my ex did not pay the support. My ex has not paid the support once in 18 months. I have been able to go the the emergency fund 6 times, when it has been funded, and the other 12 months I just sat and waited for a court date. We’ve been over this. I know. It gets boring. You get the picture. My ex does not pay support. ANYHOW, when I went to pick up the check, I actually saw Tim for the first time since the trial. We made small talk, and he was kind of a jerk, and the last thing I said to him as I walked out the door was, “”Remember, Tim, I was the good guy.” After I walked out of his office and stepped into the elevator, I started to shake and I couldn’t stop. Just being in that space with this man brought back a lot of trauma for me.
You see, long ago, and in a not so far away city, a trial took place. It did not occur in a court room, but in the arbitrator’s law office. He was a good man, this arbitrator, if not a little naive (which coming from me, says a lot!). In any case, he is one of the most well-respected matrimonial attorneys in the county. He acted as judge, jury, and executioner (I wish), over all the financial aspects of our divorce.
I am not a fighter. I am not good at defending myself. On the first day of the trial, I was in the hot seat first. My lawyer asked me a whole lot of questions, and Tim kept objecting. The thing is, when someone asks me a question, it is in my nature to be extremely helpful, sometimes going beyond the scope of the question and that’s what Tim objected to. The arbitrator had to admonish me, and I do not take well to admonishment. I got a little teary. I knew that on the second day, Tim would cross-examine me. I was scared, not of telling the truth, because that’s all I know how to do; I was scared of being questioned by a man whose goal was to hurt me and my children. It was his goal because he was representing my husband, and my husband had repeatedly told me he would leave us with nothing.
So the next morning, I arrived at the office building where we were having the trial. I went into the ladies room and took out my iphone and turned on the theme song to Rocky, “Eye of the Tiger,” and I boxed. Left hook, right jab, left cross. Those kickboxing classes came in handy for my bathroom boxing sessions. I did this every morning before trial, and occasionally during a midday break. No one ever caught my boxing sessions, but now you know.
I’d like to say I gave as good as I got during that trial. I felt pretty bloodied and beaten at the end of each day, but every once in a while, I got in a good jab, a jab that made my lawyer smile and the arbitrator’s eyes twinkle, as they admired my spunk. I’ll never be a person who enjoys a fight, but I’m learning to not back down and I’m learning to protect myself. I just need a good theme song to get me going.
December 2, 2012
Confession: After my Crazy Part 1 post, a few friends, near and dear and knowing me perhaps too well, asked me about what “Part 2″ would be, and had a few suggestions, indicating to me that there is the possibility that there were more than 2 incidents of crazy in my life. I am open to the possibility, but in my mind, what I am about to describe definitely goes on side 1 of My Greatest Hits of Crazy album.
I go to court several times a year. You’d think I would be used to it by now. I think that my first visit to divorce court, almost 4 years ago, spoiled me. I had been separated for over 7 months. My husband had closed all of our bank accounts and left me with no money. Fortunately, I had credit cards and overdraft on my newly opened account, so I did have some way of taking care of myself and our children, but my credit was about to run out. Strangely, I went to court with an incredible amount of optimism. I remember wearing a gold sweater and thinking to myself, “I am golden.” Yeah, that’s crazy, I know. But I just felt this sense of calm as I sat there awaiting my fate. I sat next to people in the waiting area and marveled at the emotional chaos around me. People were angry and bitter. I sat in my golden bubble and offered them empathy and kindness. Ahhh, innocence. But here’s the thing. I walked out of court with a pendente lite support order that provided enough for me to take care of my children, at least temporarily. Pendente lite: that’s Latin for ”pending the litigation” or “the temporary order that your husband will ignore.”
So I went back to court every few months to get my husband to comply with the order. This went on for 2 ½ years. Finally, in the spring of 2011, we went through binding arbitration and got a final decision and order and I retreated back to my golden bubble and thought the fight was finally over. Ahhh, innocence.
Yeah, yeah, you’re thinking “So, where’s the crazy part?’
My husband refused to accept the BINDING arbitration decision. Once again, he stopped paying all support. So after 3 months of anxiety and waiting for a court date, my lawyer and I returned to court. Maybe I should have worn my gold sweater, but it was August. Maybe the heat had already gotten to me, but for some reason, I had brought pictures: 8×10 glossies of my beautiful children. Through this whole process, I had been trying to tell the court that this was all about the children. That all I cared about was my children. So maybe I could not make my husband be the father they deserved. Maybe I could not make him love them the way all children should be loved. I just wanted someone to see them. I wanted the judge to look at my children and see that they were not just names in pile upon pile of legal papers. They were beautiful, innocent, loving, and vulnerable children who needed this judge to protect them.
I’m not sure how it happened, but we walked out of the courtroom and nothing had happened. I walked out with exactly what I walked in with, and I never said a word. Never said a word until I walked out of the courtroom.
I suppose if you’re going to go crazy, it’s better to do it outside of the courtroom. As soon as I walked out of the courtroom, I lost it. (However, there was no snorting.) I started to cry, loudly, holding up the photos of my children, approaching people in the waiting area, saying, “Wouldn’t you love these children? Wouldn’t you take care of them if they were yours?”
Gosh, I wasn’t holding out a gun or anything, but I remember being encircled by men in uniform, men with guns. That’s weird, right? And so I held those photos up to the policemen surrounding me, and asked them if they would love my children. Asked them how my children’s father could abandon them. I remember soothing words from the policemen and my lawyer, who managed to ferry me to the elevator and back down to the main floor of the courthouse, where we were met and again encircled by a few more men in uniform. This is the part that makes me giggle. I imagine them getting the heads up that a crazy, distraught woman was coming downstairs and that they should be prepared. OK, I know bad things can happen in courthouses, but imagine the call coming on their walkie-talkies, “There’s a woman coming downstairs. Watch out, she’s got photos.”
And maybe that’s why I was so dangerous. I was asking people to look beyond the words printed on stacks of paper. I was asking them to look beyond the lawyers and the husband and wife at war. I was asking them to look at the truth. And the truth was that I had 3 children who didn’t ask for any of this. Who deserved a childhood, as all children deserve, a childhood free from strife and chaos, and full of joy and love and peace.
I went back to court this week. I had told my lawyer that I would want to speak, but when I had my chance, I didn’t have the words. Or maybe I was afraid the words would not matter. Because what’s really crazy is that I’m sitting here weeping as I write this. I’m weeping because I am still wishing that my children’s father would love them the way children should be loved by their father. I guess there’s no court in the world that can make that happen. And it’s crazy that I thought, even for a moment, that my words would make a difference.
November 26, 2012
Have you ever just let yourself go off the deep end, and then stood on the other side of the room and watched yourself go crazy? I’ve only really done it twice. The first time was when I was 22 years old, had recently graduated from college and was staying in London with my boyfriend.
He was my first true love. He was handsome and kind and had an English accent. We were together for our last two years of high school and then stumbled through the relationship in college, until it was finally over sometime at the end of our sophomore year. After pining for him for a year or two, I gave up all hope of our getting back together, graduated from college and moved to Nantucket to work and not get on with my life, and that’s when he turned up on my doorstep, wanting me back. It was an impossible dream come true, emphasis on “impossible,” apparently.
It all seemed so romantic at the time, his invitation to move to London, live with him in a flat, find a job in a proper English pub. And it was romantic, until I actually got to London where I found letters from some college friend of his about their making love in a Louis XIV chair (which I suppose was romantic for them, if not a tad uncomfortable). This love-making must have occurred after his invitation to me and shortly before my arrival in London. Back then, you didn’t have to sneak peeks at cell phone texts or break into password-protected emails to snoop. All I had to do was open a drawer to find the evidence of his philandering, and it was not limited to a chair. I spent several weeks there, acting pathetic and demeaning myself in all sorts of ways and then escaping to “the continent” to visit my family in Belgium. Because my flight back to the States left from London, I returned there for a few nights, with the understanding that my now ex-boyfriend (Neb) would deliver me to the airport. The night before I left, I was informed that Neb would be unable to take me to the airport because he was meeting his new girlfriend at the train station. It was not at this point that I went crazy. It would take more than that. I cried, I wailed, I may have even cursed. I smashed a mug. It was all very appropriate behavior considering the situation. And then in the middle of my sobbing, from somewhere deep within my suffering soul came a snort. I snorted. Loudly, and so fully that my nostrils vibrated. And that is when I went crazy. How can you not laugh at a snort? I started laughing – a crazy, sad, maniacal laugh and at that point, my consciousness got up from my body and went to sit in a chair on the other side of the room. I sat on the other side of the room and watched myself completely unravel. I wasn’t just laughing. I was guffawing. As I watched myself acting completely like a crazy person, I felt love and understanding for that crazy girl who, now guffawing and sobbing at the same time, had just thrown a shoe at Neb. At that moment, I felt compassion for myself, compassion and love and respect that Neb would never have for me. And so if I had to step outside myself for a moment to see that, then it was well worth the trip.
November 21, 2012
This is Lucky. She is the first pony we bought for our younger daughter, back when our daughter was 10 years old. Lucky has a trust fund. Lucky now lives on a farm with a herd of miniature horses. Lucky is a big shot. She never has to worry about where she’s going to live, or if she can afford to go to the vet, or if she has enough money for oats. Her bills get paid through her trust fund.
When the divorce decision came in over a year ago after a 6 day trial by an arbitrator, it stated that money from marital assets be set aside so that our girls could continue riding until they finished high school. This was done because my ex-husband had demonstrated during the nearly 3 year separation, that he would not willingly pay for the girls to keep their horses.
In 2008, when he left, my husband would turn back up at the house, drunk and ranting. He would stand in the kitchen while the kids sat in the adjacent family room watching tv, and say, “I’m going to sell the horses. I’m going to sell the house. I’m going to shut this whole thing down. You guys can go live with your mother.”
The temporary order for support required that he make monthly payments so that the kids’ lives changed as little as possible. He would go 8 months without sending a check, and I would live on credit cards and overdraft. In the last year before our trial, his lawyer would write me monthly checks out of an escrow fund the judge ordered to be put in place because everyone knew that my husband would not write those checks.
In court, Lucky’s name frequently came up, because my husband did not want to take care of her. She had injured herself while bucking around in a field, taking herself off the show circuit and guaranteeing herself an early retirement. She was our family’s responsibility and, besides, we loved her. She was a part of the family.
We went to binding arbitration. During the trial, I showed videos that my girls had made about their horses, love poems to their horses, psychologist’s letters confirming the therapeutic value of the horses. In the end, the judge handed down his decision, which included a trust fund (all right, he called it an escrow account), from which horse expenses would be paid. So each month, if I am careful, I can pay for the girls to continue to ride and show on a limited basis, until they each finish high school. So the horses have their support but the children do not. The trust fund cannot be used to pay for groceries, unless it’s oats for the horses.
During the trial, my lawyer asked that all support be paid up front, or placed in an escrow fund, because we knew that my ex would defy any order. While I appreciated that the judge found a way for the girls to keep riding for a few more years, I question how he did not see this coming. My husband had already had 8 contempt of court violations filed against him by the time we went to trial. His arrogance and defiance has stunned and shocked even the most seasoned of judges and lawyers. The arbitrator’s decision did not go far enough in protecting my children. Expecting that my husband would suddenly start complying with an order for monthly child support was very naive and careless on the arbitrator’s part. My ex-husband continues to defy the courts, forcing me to pay attorneys to try to enforce his compliance.
In the 18 months since the decision was effective, my children’s father has not written one monthly child support check. After the binding arbitration decision was announced, he fired his attorney and did not pay any support for over 6 months. Finally, a money judgment was ordered against him, and I received back support. Then he did not pay for another 8 months, and only recently paid because he was threatened with jail.
Next week, I am back in court, asking for 3 years of advance support to be placed in a trust fund for my children. My lawyer says this would be highly unusual. He says to prepare to be denied. I imagine myself speaking in court. I have, at times, spoken up in court, but never without almost breaking down. I’m tired. I’m tired of having to stand up in court and repeat the same story over and over, of my ex-husband’s physical, emotional, and financial abandonment of our children. I’m tired of having tell the court of my children’s loss and pain; I see and feel it every day.
Maybe I should have named one of the kids “Lucky.”
November 11, 2012
I am not good at Armageddon. I learned this from Sandy. First of all, I did not prepare well. When they say you should fill your bathtubs with water, I always thought, “Why? It’s not like you’re going to drink bathtub water.” No, but when you have a well, and your pump stops working and you have no water, it would be nice to flush the toilets. And speaking of wells, remember that scene from Snow White where she’s singing as she pulls up water from the well? That’s what I pictured when I bought my house with well water.
It’s not like that.
My iphone was a lifeline to the outside world. I learned we would not have power for 1-2 weeks, so I got my kids settled in homes with either power or generators. My old neighborhood, where my ex lives in the house my kids grew up, never lost power. My ex never lost power. Is there a metaphor there? God, I hope not. Anyhow, seeing his house all lit up, knowing that my children could not, would not, seek shelter in their old home, in their father’s home, in the midst of a natural disaster, magnified the fact that my children basically had no father. He never texted or called them to see if they were okay. It apparently never crossed his mind. He lacks the most basic of instincts, to protect his children. This is demonstrated again and again by his deliberate decision to not pay child support, but also carries over into not caring for their physical safety and well-being.
After getting my kids safely settled, I was worn out. My house was cold, but I could boil water on the grill for instant coffee. It’s embarrassing, but I actually like instant coffee in the morning. It’s like having a colonic. TMI, I know.
I discovered a gadget in my garage that allowed me to charge my computer through my car, and so every night I watched episodes of Parenthood until my battery wore out. I wore my hat and down jacket, and curled up next to my pets, and ate Halloween candy in the dark. Despite the reported phenomenon of the “Sandy 10,” my pants were starting to fall down, because if all you eat is KitKats and Reeses, chances are you will lose weight.
I kept up with what was going on in the world through Facebook. There was a group I had joined called “******** (name of my town) Moms.” Originally, it was a great resource if you needed a referral for a plumber, or a dance class, or a babysitter. It became the best source for information about road closures, Con Ed, and other storm-related issues, hands-down. It also became a place for encouragement and support and an occasional bit of humor. It was there that I found an electrician who I thought took pity on me because I cried when he came over to see what kind of generator I would need, but in reality, he was nice to everyone. He drove upstate and filled his truck with generators and spent the next several days hooking people up. I hugged him after he was done at my house, and paid him what was a more than fair price for his work, and was heartened by his goodness.
Still, I did spend some time feeling pathetic and sorry for myself. I resented having to be the man of the house, but felt a little proud, too. I went out hunting for gas, proud because I never came home empty-handed. It was kind of like Pa Ingalls going out in a snowstorm to find food for his family. Laura, her nose pressed up against the window, her breath making clouds in the cold, waiting for Pa’s return. Yeah, that’s what my kids did. And when I returned with the bear, I mean gas, I would lug it to the back of the house and attempt to fill the generator gas tank without spilling too much. For 3 days I smelled like gasoline and worried that someone would light a match near me.
And so, now that we have gotten through the storm, I am thinking what’s next? I feel better prepared for the next storm, although the next storm already came, with 6-8 inches of snow. My neighbor kindly snow-blowed (snow-blew?) my driveway. I’m thinking of getting my own snow blower. And an axe, maybe. And I’m going to learn how to use a chainsaw. I’m going to wear more flannel and eat more steak. But first, I’m going to get a pedicure.
October 25, 2012
Was that a harvest moon? Large and orange, hanging low in the sky. Hanging low in the sky on an evening while I followed the ambulance transporting my husband to the emergency room. What is wrong with me? Seriously. How could I notice the moon in the middle of all that chaos. How could I not notice the moon? You would have seen it too. The world could have been coming to an end and you would have looked up at the darkening sky and said out loud, “Wow, look at the moon.” Of course, I don’t think I spoke out loud, for with whom would I have shared my awe. With whom would I have shared anything?. I was living a big secret. A big messy, ugly scary secret and that night it started to unravel.
The evening began as it had for the past few months. I listened for the garage door to open, feeling the rumbling beneath my feet. And then I held my breath, listening, counting the footsteps as my husband made his way from the car to up the stairs and with each of his footsteps I tried to discern his condition. How slowly he walked, how heavily his feet hit each stair, but tonight instead of the slow, heavy, cumbersome steps, there was a stumble, a crash, and then silence. I ran to the stairs and found my husband slumped awkwardly there and I’m sure I said his name. “What are you doing?” One of the many silly questions I would ask him over the years. And I helped him to stand and led him to the couch in the family room and he mumbled, “I’m fine.” One of the many silly lies he would tell me in the years to come.
If it had not been for the blood, I would not have called 911. If it had not been for the blood, perhaps my husband would not be alive today. Within minutes of being deposited on the couch, my husband passed out. This was not unusual. In fact, generally, I was relieved when he passed out. But tonight there was blood. He was bleeding from his head. This very fact, these very words allowed me to call 911 and say, “My husband fell down and hit his head. He is bleeding.” Yes, they would send an ambulance, but details. They wanted details. Where did he fall? Is he conscious? Is he breathing? “No, I can’t wake him up, but he’s breathing. I think he fell because he is drunk. I think he has a problem with alcohol.” There I said it.
Back to the moon. Sometimes I think my ability to notice the moon, to be distracted by its beauty, was what kept me sane for all those years. But sometimes I think it’s what kept me in that marriage for so long. Now that I’m out of the marriage, but not completely out of the mess, I still look for the moon. I look for the light in the darkness; and when the moon has waned to nothing, I search the darkness and wait for the stars to come out.