What Dick Said

January 27, 2014

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” is uttered by Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare’s Henry the Sixth. I don’t think I read that one, but the line is sure ringing in my head right now. I am sure there are some good lawyers out there. My dad is a lawyer, and he is one of my favorite people in the world, but truth be told, he should not have been a lawyer. He should have been an actor. He is handsome, with a deep resonant voice, and a french accent. He is debonair. And he’s funny. I bet he was great in court, but he should have been Perry Mason. If he had starred on LA Law, it would still be on. But I digress…

Here’s a joke… How many lawyers does it take to write a check? Answer: None. They only know how to cash them. Ba-dum-bum.

I know, it’s not funny. True story, I went to court in August 2012, because I was owed 5 months of child support. One year and a new judge later, an order was signed requiring ex-man to place into escrow 6 months of child support in case (haha) he did not send a check each month. Finally, in October 2013, 14 months after I went to court, the escrow was placed in an account with ex-man’s ex-lawyer, who had been acting as the well-paid escrow agent for the horse trust fund. Shockingly, for two months in November and December 2013, I actually received support checks directly from ex-man. This has not happened once in two and a half years. I should have made copies and framed them. Now, it is the end of January, with no child support received, so I requested a check from escrow agent. He won’t write it. He won’t write a child support check for a woman with three children because ex-man’s new lawyer and my lawyer have not been able to settle on how escrow man is going to be paid, and this man won’t work for free, so he has said, repeatedly, ad nauseam. Does anyone think he is really not going to get paid? But he will not write that check. Admittedly, I was given the option to have him get paid out of my son’s summer program escrow fund, but I refused. No one is touching that money. I mean, really, you’re asking my son to pay escrow agent? Quick, how long does it take you to write a check? An hour? Here’s $450.

So, yeah, maybe Dick was right.


How To Be Miserable

December 15, 2013

First of all, I am generally not a miserable person. Really, I’m not. I’m quite cheerful, content, even happy much of the time. Earthworms in my garden, sunshine on my face, the dogs being silly, my kids being nice to each other, that’s really all it takes. Sure, sure, you’re saying, she’s weeping all over this blog. It’s in the name of the blog, for Lord’s sake! And that is true, I do a lot of weeping here. And, aside from here, I have wept in some rather unorthodox places. There’s my car, for example, but who hasn’t wept in their car? I used to cry in my car all the time. Sometimes I would be crying, driving along, and I would catch someone looking at me and I would think, “Please save me. Motion to me to pull over. Hold up a sign that says, Are you okay? and I will shake my head No, and you can rescue me.” That never happened.

I have wept in the produce aisle at the A&P, more than once. I have wept there with a friend and I have wept alone. One day, a produce man said to me, “Smile, you look so sad.” And I replied, “I am sad,” and I started to cry. The poor man followed me through the store, trying to comfort me, which made me cry more because I could not bear a stranger being kind to me. I have cried in the post office, embarrassing my son. I have cried while I’m running. I have cried at the hair salon, the dentist, and the Lexus repair shop. All right, so sue me, I cry a lot. Actually, don’t sue me, I’m already in court almost every month with ex-man.

My point is that lately I am feeling rather miserable, and I do not like it one bit, but misery sure has a way of sucking me in. It’s seductive. Let me give you a few pointers if you’d like to join me there.

Think about death. Don’t worry. I don’t think about my own death, I worry about everyone else’s. I’d say I’m healthy as a horse, but if you’ve ever had a horse, you know that would not be saying much. Let’s just say that I’m very healthy and plan on living until 120 and I have the same expectation for my parents. Some may say that I’m in denial, but we all know I have a lot of experience with that.


Mostly, I worry about my pets dying. You see, I got my pets all within a rather short span of years, and now they range in age of about 6-11 years old. My dog, Frisco, has lymphoma. My vet calls it “indolent” form, so that’s like lazy lymphoma. That’s lymphoma that can’t be bothered to get up off the couch to kill you, but you never know when one day it might. His lymph node in his neck is getting bigger and I think something terrible is just around the corner. My other dog, Zoey, is lumpy. She has been lumpy for years and every once in a while, we take out a lump and test it, and so far they are all benign, but one day they might not be. So I think about them dying. My cat, Simba, is looking skinny. Skinny is bad. Skinny could mean something is wrong. When I am sad or stressed, I tend to get skinny. Maybe Simba is sad. Or maybe Simba is sick. Before you go jumping all over me about bringing these animals to the vet, did I tell you how much I spent at the vet in the past year? I can’t tell you. It’s embarrassing, but it is approaching, hold on, I’m counting,.. five figures, not including horse vets. Back to my death watch… My cat, Mimzy is obese. He supplements his diet beyond the Fancy Feast and Iams. I had to stop filling the bird feeder because I felt like an accomplice to a serial killer, but that has not stopped him. He’s so fat, I worry he will wind up diabetic. My vet says he’s not that bad, but Mimzy does have a heart murmer so I worry about the strain of carrying around all that weight. And please don’t get on me about Mimzy being a girlie name. “Mimzy” is what happens when you let your kids name your cat. He’s very masculine and can handle it just fine.

Pets never live long enough. That fact makes me want to not love them, but I do.  Sometimes I think loving anyone is a set-up. It is a set-up for sadness and loss. Of course, somewhere in between is joy, and warmth, and laughter, and comfort. I will remind myself of that when I am ready to stop being miserable.

Cleaning Out the Basement

November 17, 2013

It’s time to clean out my basement. Not the basement in the house I live in now. My old basement in the house I left behind when my three children and I moved out two years ago. My old house where my old husband lives with his new girlfriend and the five Russians in the basement. She may not know about those Russians, and he may not remember them, but I do and they scare me still.

Back in 2006, on my oldest daughter’s 13th birthday, my husband was drunk. A birthday celebration with cake and presents ended with the children disappearing into their rooms, with him becoming belligerent and threatening. Ended with tears and angry words, and the word “divorce” tossed into the air like a live grenade. My birthday girl could be heard crying in her room and my husband stumbled upstairs to make promises he would never keep.

The next morning, he declared that he would stop drinking. The weekend unrolled, with the children and I tiptoeing around my husband as he appeared restless and agitated. At that point, I had no idea the extent to which he had been drinking in the past months. I later learned how masterful he was at hiding it, and how truly easy I was to fool, especially within my nest of denial.

Because I did not know how much he had been drinking all those months, I did not know that what I was seeing was delirium tremens, or DTs. As the weekend progressed, so did his symptoms. His hands were shaking and he was sweating. He seemed disoriented and was hostile to any advice or help I offered. He insisted that these were signs of cirrhosis and that he had a letter from the doctor telling him as much. In fact, no such letter existed, but warnings to him had apparently been given about his risk. Doctor-patient confidentiality had precluded me from knowing his true condition. I kept an eye on him, suggesting several times that he should call his doctor and he refused.

He stayed home from work that Monday, and some of his  symptoms seemed to lessen. That night he woke me in the middle of the night, shoving me, saying that he saw someone on top of me. I told him he was dreaming, and fell back into a light sleep. A little later, I woke up and heard him downstairs. I found him walking around the house with the fireplace poker in his hand, saying that he heard noises. I offered to sit with him and watch tv and eventually we went back to bed. Again, he insisted he heard someone in the house and he went downstairs, grabbed the poker and walked around the house. I waited for him in the family room, where, upon his return, he told me that there were five Russians in the basement and they were there to kidnap me.

For nearly two hours, my husband made me sit in the family room, as he whispered to me of the Russians’ plans. Of course, I tried to tell him that the only person in the basement was our housekeeper, asleep in her room. I tried to tell him that we should call the police for help, but he would not let me. All the while that I tried to reason with him, (an impossible task, as he was psychotic), I thought of my children sleeping in their beds upstairs. I thought of what would happen if his hallucinations led him upstairs, with that poker in his hand. I made contingency plans in my head for such a scenario and knew I might not be able to protect my children from his insanity. He would not let me leave the room, except for a moment, when he told me to grab his jacket from the office. He watched me, not giving me the opportunity to pick up the phone and call for help. Wild-eyed, he told me that if the lights flickered, we had to run out the back door. His panic grew, and he grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the sliding glass doors, his hand grasping the door handle, ready to run. He had on his shoes and a jacket, but I was only in my nightgown. I imagined us running through the backyard and into the woods. I imagined him pulling me behind him, brambles tearing at my nightgown and sticks and stones bloodying my feet. I imagined my children upstairs, waking to find me gone. I imagined my neighbors’ dog waking, barking at the noise outside and I imagined my neighbors’ confusion at finding us. I imagined being rescued, but only for a moment, because I realized that I would have to rescue us.

I told my husband that I thought he was going to have a stroke and that I had to call 911. He told me no.  I told him he was going to have a heart attack and I had to call 911. He told me no. I told him that if he died, the Russians would get me. Finally, he gave me permission to call, with strict instructions. No sirens, no lights, be quiet. The police had to call me when they arrived and ask permission to come to the door. They were told to come around the back, because if the Russians heard them, there would be trouble.

The police never did look in the basement. My husband would not let them. He only agreed to go to the hospital if I rode in the ambulance with him. He was still afraid of the Russians.  I don’t remember much after that. I don’t know if I wore my nightgown to the hospital. I don’t remember if I kissed my children good-bye. I remember all of us leaving through the back door, at my husband’s insistence. I remember wet grass. I know I rode in the ambulance and I remember lights and colors, voices and movement, but that’s all.

I do remember the Russians and I wonder if being kidnapped by them could have been any more frightening than the years that would follow that night.

* Delirium tremens is very dangerous, and, if untreated, can have a mortality rate of up to 35%. To learn more: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000766.htm

No Thanks

October 28, 2013

I have a court date the day before Thanksgiving. The day before my whole family comes to my house to celebrate Thanksgiving and my father’s 90th birthday. This is typical. Not quite as ironic as my Valentine’s Day in divorce court, but still… Did I mention that I have to be deposed on Election Day? This deposition will not get in the way of my voting, but it does get in the way of my plans to spend the day with my kids, who happen to have a day off from school on a day I am not working. My plan was to either visit colleges or simply spend some time with my kids, whom I miss terribly. You see, I’m exhausted, and when I come home from a day of work, I am sometimes too tired to eat, and my kids are busy with homework, and the house has golden retriever tumbleweeds floating down the hallways, and there is no milk. And none of that is really what is exhausting me. I’m exhausted because I know that ex-man will never stop trying to break me. I’ve stopped trying to make sense of a man who destroyed his own life and now wants to take down the very people who tried to help him. I’ve stopped trying to understand how a man can deliberately and methodically try to take everything away from his own children, and then turn around and buy them dinner. What I want to understand is how our court system can allow this to go on, and on, and on. 

I hate resentment and I am full of it. It eats away at me, does nothing to the object of my resentment (ex-man and the legal system), and makes me less available to the people I love and who love me, and less available to myself. So what’s a girl to do? How can I not feel angry when ex-man is now dragging me back to court because he wants to have his support obligations reduced? This is the man who has not paid one on-time support check without court intervention, despite having millions of dollars of assets. This is the man whose support obligations for the children end when they each will still have two more years of college. Does anyone imagine that when my kids complete their sophomore year of college, I will say to them, “Adios, fare thee well. Good luck out there in the world, being on your own.” Of course not. 

On Thanksgiving, I will have to clear off my dining room table which has been littered for years with legal and financial documents related to my never-ending court dates. Because ex-man wants his financial obligations reduced, I have to provide every bank statement, credit card statement, tax return, paycheck, life insurance policy, loan application, etc… since the 2011 date of our divorce decision and order, the one with which he has never complied. But wait there’s more: a list of all gifts I have received, including giftor’s name and address, value, and date received. Forgive me if I call to ask how much you spent on that sweater you gave me for my birthday 2 years ago. I have to provide a list of my furniture; my latest purchases from Ikea are sure to impress. I’m supposed to provide a copy of my parents’ wills, or wills of anyone else who might be leaving me something, so you might want to write me out of yours, if you’d like to keep it private. And they want my passport., which is fine because I’m not going anywhere. And there’s more but I’m too tired to tell you about it.

My blood pressure is rising right at this very moment. And I want to cry. I have no secrets. Truly. Except perhaps the true depth of my sorrow. Having to take the time to dig up, gather, and reproduce copies of every piece of paper related to my life since 2011 makes me want to weep. I would rather have the FBI come into my house and raid it, take my computer, turn my underwear drawer upside down and dump it on the floor, sweep everything off my desk and dining room table, shake out my cereal boxes and flour bin, and rifle through my file cabinet in search of evidence. Evidence of what? Evidence that I need less? They will not find it. I need more but I accept less. I accepted the binding arbitration decision. I accepted that it was unappealable. I accepted that my children’s father’s financial obligation to them would end before their childhood was over. I accepted that I would be the only parent that would love and care for our children, the only one there for the challenges and  joys of raising them. What I cannot accept is that ex-man’s actions take me away from my children, make me less available, make me less of a person, and less of a parent when they still need me oh so very much.  



Shark Week

August 7, 2013

Last week, my subconscious ran a preview for Shark Week. It came in the form of a dream, and let me tell you, my dreams are not that complicated to analyze. And just when I think, yeah, I’m doing fine, I’ve got this all figured out, my subconscious slams me in the head with a dream to tell me, “You’re messed up.”


So I happened to know that there was going to be a shark feeding frenzy. Have you ever seen a shark feeding frenzy? Terrifying. I saw a picture of one in the encyclopedia when I was 9 and apparently, I never got over it. So, anyhow, I also happened to know that my ex-husband was going to be going snorkling near the feeding frenzy. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Great. Good riddance,” but I was thinking, “Snorkling? He doesn’t even know how to swim!” And then I was thinking, “I have to save him.” This, as you may know, was the theme of much of my marriage. I had to save him, and Lord knows I tried, but you know how that went… So I called him, and called him, and called him, to warn him not to go snorkling with the sharks, but he would not answer my calls, so finally I called his house phone and his girlfriend picked up. His 30 year old girlfriend who could be his daughter, but that’s another story, and I told her to tell ex-man to not go snorkling with sharks. And while I had her on the phone, I told her that since I was saving his life ONCE AGAIN, could she please tell him to pay the child support ON TIME. Got that settled, however, despite the feeding frenzy, the kids and I were going boating. In a tiny boat that sharks could bite into bits. I was ignoring my knowledge of the imminent feeding frenzy, and we were going boating. Sure, I went the extra mile to protect ex-man. In fact, I was so busy trying to save his life that it never occurred to me that my kids and I were in danger. Finally, it hit me. PROTECT YOURSELF. PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN!. And I cancelled our boat trip. Then I woke up.

That’s messed up. That was pretty much my life when I was married to ex-man. I kept trying to save ex-man, all the while, not even being aware of the danger I was putting myself and children in. So that was then. Why this dream now?  Because it’s SHARK WEEK!

Ex-man is back in the picture. He’s been gone for years, 4 miles away, except for texts here and there. Now he’s back, asking to see the children. Of course, they were a little excited. a little curious, and I was a little scared. Scared because my kids, after having pieces of their hearts stomped on and left by the side of the road like they didn’t matter, are doing okay, and I don’t want him to hurt them again. So when my middle one asked what I thought about them seeing their dad, I told her the truth. I told her that I felt like I was letting them go swimming in the ocean, where there was a riptide. Where there was an undertow. But I had to let them go. I had to let them go, even though we know there are sharks out there. So I’ll be standing on the shore, and when they are in danger, when they get pulled under, when they are drowning, I will swim out there and I will save them.

Father’s Day

June 11, 2013

Beautiful things can break my heart. And they are everywhere. Impossible to avoid. A father crouching down and tying the hood on his daughter’s winter jacket. A child sitting on her father’s shoulders, fingers grasped in his hair, holding tightly. A little boy, sitting in a shopping cart, tossing groceries to his father in the checkout line, as his father calls out in encouragement. Saying to my father on the phone, “I love you, too,” and worrying that my children can hear me and wondering if it makes their own father’s absence more acute.

There are a lot of good fathers in the town where I live. I know, things are not always as they seem, but really, there are a lot of men here who clearly love their children, who show up for them, who take pride in being a good dad. My children’s father is not one of them. If you were to ask him, accuse him even, he would say that he texts them all the time. The truth is that months can go by without my children hearing from him. The truth is that years can go by without them seeing him even though he lives about 4 miles away.

My friends tell me that my children are lucky to have me, that I am a great mom, but I worry. I want to be twice as good, but twice as good does not make up for a father’s absence, and I’m not even half as good a parent as I wish I could be. I’m tired. It’s exhausting being the only parent of three teenagers. I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, worried about mistakes I’ve made, the things I’ve neglected to teach my children, and despairing of the father I chose for them.

There is a moment I think of often. My son, about 13 at the time, had been sporting a shadow above his lip for several months, and had been asking when he could start shaving. I was aware that this was supposed to be one of those hallmark moments between father and son, when father teaches his son to shave. At that time, like most times, my children’s father was out of the picture. And so, I bought my son a razor and some shaving cream. We stood side by side in front of the bathroom mirror, and I watched him cover his upper lip with shaving cream and drag the razor through it. As he shaved, I unconsciously drew down my upper lip, as if I were shaving too. I tried to give him advice, but really, I didn’t know if he was supposed to shave up or down or across. We muddled through it and at the end, I took the razor from him and carefully went over a spot he had missed. We stood together in front of that mirror and looked at our reflections and at each other and I think we were both a little proud and a little relieved. My son didn’t need his dad to learn how to shave. It would have been nice, but it was okay because he had me. I doubt my son thinks of this moment often, as I do. For me, it is is incredibly poignant. Painful and beautiful.

So to the dads who are there for their children, I wish you a very Happy Father’s Day. You matter. The love you give your children makes a difference in their lives. And to the moms who try to fill the empty space left behind by a missing father, I wish us strength and encouragement.

Long Time Gone

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.

Oops, I Did It Again

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’s the kind of kid who would have been picked on in middle school. Now I sound like a bully. 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.

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.

Sorry, Wrong Number

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. do-not-call 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.

Dr. Jen Gunter

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