Little Things


My son had baseball practice yesterday. Tuesdays are days when he’s scheduled to be at his mom’s, so I don’t usually plan to hear from him or his sister on those days. However, late in the afternoon, I get an unexpected phone call: “Dad? Can you come pick me up from baseball practice?” I have two  choices: say no, it’s your mother’s problem, pick him up anyway and register a complaint with the former wife; or I can just say  “Of course,” which is what I did.

Since I get to be the hero of my own stories every once in while, I will add that if the shoe were on the other foot, I’d hear no end of the recriminations for having neglected my parental duties without so much as a text message. I try not to think about that,  to shove these thoughts out of my mind. The former is never going to change, and if the past 5 years are any proof (as if I needed some), the bitterness and the recriminations will not stop until the kids are out of college. Even then, I’ll probably get the occasional text starting Hey Asshole, because yes, the mother of my children has no problem addressing me like that.

But I’m not playing those games. I get the call, I go. I’m glad he’s called me. Thrilled. Another chance to see one of my children when it wasn’t expected.

He gets in the car, and I ask, What’s the best way to celebrate the return of warm weather? I know he knows the answer: ice cream, of course.

Off we go. We make our way through the horrible early evening  traffic that this suburb has.(Framingham! All the inconveniences of a city with none of the benefits!) I’m not in a hurry, though. I’m glad just to be passing the time with my son. In two years, he’ll be gone, off to college, off to wherever, and then three more years until the daughter leaves.

What then?

We go get the ice cream. I order a small, he orders a medium. We get cones, because even though it’s hot outside, we’re willing to risk the melting for the added pleasure of having the cone. They give me a safety cone, which is not what I wanted, but I don’t care. My small comes, and it looks like two scoops. Two big scoops.

I’ll eat the whole thing anyway. We sit down on the steps outside, and start talking. We’ll mostly talk about baseball, or whatever. I had pretty much given up on baseball after the strike of 1994, but having a son changed all of that. My son’s not the kind of teenager who will talk about himself. He doesn’t like reading (though when  he was little I read him chapter books, and he couldn’t wait for the next night’s story), so we can’t talk about books. He might ask for an update on the current turmoil, but that’s pretty rare. But baseball is good enough. We find things to agree and disagree on, and there are still a few–very few–things I know that he doesn’t (like what it is to have your town’s team lose for decades on end).

So here I am, enjoying an unexpected half-hour with my son, eating an unexpected ice cream cone on the first nice, summery day in what seems a long time. He’ll have to go back to his mom’s, but we’re not rushing. We eat the cones and then continue to just sit. I could be in Peru, or Italy, or who knows where else, but I’m in Framingham, and at least for the moment, it’s just fine.

Personal Stuff: Divorce + Fatherhood = The Worst, Most Painful Irony of My Life


I am sure that it is not an uncommon situation that I am in: I have two wonderful children, and an absolutely horrible ex-marriage. If I want to deal with my kids, I have to deal with this mess. Easy choice, but man, sometimes…

I’m not saying that the former wife is a horrible person, that she is x, y, or z (the variables standing for any number of derogatory adjectives or nouns that are used by divorced people all over the world to describe the other cohort in the crime of their coupling). I am willing to assert, though, that she is the ne plus ultra of the, hmmmm, how to put this, the epitome of the difficult former spouse; if in the afterlife she is to be judged by her co-parenting skills, well,  it’s going to be a tough trip through Purgatory.

Nor am I saying that I’m some perfect or even good former spouse and co-parent. I wish I were made of tougher stuff. I wish that I could always do the right thing, that I could let every insult, every attack, every pointless (except for the point of hurting me) act of revenge for G-d knows what misdeed (the misdeed of wanting a divorce?), I wish I could let them all slip by. I have thinner skin than I would like to have. I don’t know how to make it thicker. (Maybe Sean Sphincter and I should attend a class on obtaining some tougher emotional armor.)

Were there no kids? I’d be gone. I’d fly away. I’d head back to Charleston without looking over my shoulder, and there would be no sequel. But there are the children, and they are the greatest thing in the world that has ever happened to me. I feel a glow in their presence. I love doing things for them. Watching them stirs such strong feelings that even when I worry about them, even when I am mad at them, even when they are purposely difficult, there is not a part of me that doesn’t want to protect them, to love them, to make the world a better place for them. I do not know if I would ever have had this depth of feeling for anything were I never to have had children.

I wish more of my time weren’t occupied by the strife. But here I am, slipping down the backslope of my life, having to force myself not to answer hostile texts, steeling myself not to strike back at things perpetrated out of pure vindictiveness, working to keep my mind on other, more pleasant things, and most difficult of all, trying to construct a view of my life that isn’t so filled with this regret at the painful paradox of being a dad thanks to the biggest mistake in my life; all this, in order that I might just let myself be filled with the wonder and the privilege it that it is to be that dad.

La Bruja Continues A Costly–Emotionally and $$–War of Attrition


 

not cute
“Bless you, fair shrew.”        Twelfth Night, Act I, scene iii

 

 

Aren’t we done with this shit?

My friend’s cousin is from the Caribbean,and when she heard stories about the ex she just started referring to her as La Bruja. It wasn’t as if she said, I will call her La Bruja! or, She is really a bruja. Rather, the next time she referred to her it just came out in passing, as in, Is La Bruja watching the kids? There was no question as to who it was.  I rather prefer it to saying her name–one, because I have, alas, grown to dislike her name, and secondly, it seems more descriptive than derogatory.  I never say it around the children. By this point, I’d rather have nothing to do with her and not to have to refer to her at all.

But the need for punishing me in any way possible goes on, no matter the collateral damage.

Today I had to retain a Parent Coordinator–one is specified in our divorce agreement for the purpose of settling disputes concerning the children (there goes my son’s summer camp). You see: last year the kids were with their mother and her family in MA for Thanksgiving. This year, of course, was Dad’s family’s year– they were supposed to be in Chicago (which they look forward to) with my mom, sisters, etc.(whom they love immensely–my nephew is my daughter’s favorite cousin), but the edit that I put in the divorce agreement (the years were reversed )somehow got deleted before the final version. I should have looked closer, but the other edits were in and I must have overlooked it.  A purposeful trick, I’m sure, especially as La Bruja flat-out lied to me, saying the kids were in Chicago last year, as if that couldn’t be verified, as if the children don’t know. Anyway,  she refuses to do the right thing.

My remedy is going to the Parent Coordinator, at $275/hour, and the war of attrition continues. I would rather spend this money on my kid’s summer camp, but I cannot take away my 79 year-old mom’s time with her grandchildren.

Or can I ? What is this about? I hope it’s not about winning, but about the children. Is it about not letting someone get away with a purposely nasty act? Not letting a precedent get set that this won’t be tolerated? Shouldn’t I just suck it up (again!) so that my son can go to camp? Why should he suffer (additionally) for our idiocy (mind you of course, I’m responsible for only 49% of the idiocy)?

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