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.

IMG_0608

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.  

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Trust Fund

November 21, 2012

Image

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.”

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.

rhondastephens

To Catch A Falling Cactus

Long Haul Trekkers

Adventure Travel with Dogs

donuts, dresses and dirt

living a well-tended life... at any age

HeartBeats

Monthly Tips for EFT Couples Therapists

Bonnie Rae

simple days with bonnie rae.

Ferocious Foodie

One man's brutally honest opinion about all things edible.

TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

Straight up with a twist– Because life is too short to be subtle!

Empty House, Full Mind

Views of life from the empty nest

RobSwihart.com

Life By Design ... One Day At A Time

World Cup 2014

welcome! Please contribute your opinions about world cup

The New Elizabeth

Reinventing Myself

PeanutBubba & Fluff

The "just for your entertainment" tales of mommyhood

Lessons Learned

Life has taught me well

WriterMason

Mermaid on a bicycle

3kids2cats1divorce

Muddling through with humor, grace, and hairballs

Ambling & Rambling

Scattered thoughts and general musings