One phone call, hours of anxiety

It was just one phone call from my ex, but it left me with hours of anxiety.

It started with what I thought was a harmless text. HA!  I should have known better.  After all of these years, it should snap that a text is merely a fishing expedition.  Throwing out the line to see if I bit.  Silly little clown-fish me bit.

You see, I’ve been trying to get medical and dental insurance from my ex.  According to the divorce degree (and standard Texas child support laws), The Ex is supposed to provide the insurance.  That hasn’t always been the case, since he spent some time out of work.  Once he started working again, he did the right thing and signed them up for insurance.  Unfortunately for me, he chose the cheapest insurance option, which means big out-of-pocket expenses.  LoverBoy has been complaining of a toothache, so it was time to bite the bullet and contact The Ex again for the insurance cards that he never wants to share.  I asked last week and again this week.  He called me the other day with some run-around explanation that they must have screwed some things up because they can’t find him in the system.  They are looking into and will call him back.  Obviously, I’ve been holding my breath.

Then the other night, out of the blue, I get a text telling me that he should know something pretty soon.  I should have clued in that the text was bogus because obviously, he wasn’t at work at 8:00pm and wasn’t discussing his benefit issues with anyone.  I simply responded, “Thank you.”  Within minutes, the phone rang.   Light bulb…you screwed up.

He called to tell me that he is having a problem getting LoverBoy to return his texts and phone calls.  He has called and texted repeatedly for several days and “crickets.”  I know that he tried the day before because he pulled MonoBoy into the middle of it.  He called him and sent him to his brother’s room to tell him that he was calling him.  LoverBoy was busy fighting with his girlfriend on the phone, and we all know what the priority is in that situation.  Then The Ex sent MonoBoy snapshots of his texts to show him just how many times that he had texted his brother.  Essentially, recruiting him to his side.

(Oh, did I mention that he called MonoBoy crying because he was looking at baby photos of them and he just missed them sooooo much?  That’s the only reason that he wanted to talk to LoverBoy.  The Ex swears that it wasn’t to hound him about a ski trip that he wants to take them on during spring break.  Yeah, right.)

I suggested that MonoBoy try to stay out of it as much as possible.  There was a time that he and his dad had problems, so he didn’t need to get upset with his brother over this.  “I know, Mom, but Dad puts me in the middle.”

So The Ex goes on to ask if I knew what was going on.  Is there a problem that he needs to know about or is he just being 16 and running wild?  “Because if he’s just running wild, then we need to talk about it.  All of the counselors and all of the people who I have talked to agree that he could at least send a text.”  He rambled more, but I had to interject.

“All of the counselors that you have talked to?  What counselors have you talked to?”

“You might not believe this, but this kind of stuff really tears me up, so I am personally seeing a counselor to handle just these types of things.  I’m a good person.  I have a big heart.  I mean, I know that I made some bad choices in the past, but I know that I was always a good person.  I don’t think that I still deserve to be punished for that.  I’m trying to be a better man, but you keep punishing me for what happened in the past.  You won’t recognize that I have changed and try to help me with my kids.”

At this point, I couldn’t even remember what the phone call was about.  I was mad.  All phone calls ended up with him bashing me, and I am SO TIRED of hearing about what a good person he is.  He spent years begging me to help him out of this situation or that one because “You know me.  You know that I have a good heart.  I just made a mistake.  I need help.”  These are the words that he says when he wants to pretend that he is taking ownership of his actions.  He’s not.  He’s making excuses for them.  He refuses to take responsibility for the fact that his “bad choices” hurt people.  Many people.  For many years.

“I’m going to stop you right there.  I don’t appreciate that you chalk up everything that happened to ‘bad choices.’  There are other ‘good people’ that didn’t deserve what happened.”

“You mean the divorce?”

“No, I mean the marriage.”  Why does this man so easily forget everything that happened?  Sure, the divorce Sucked (notice the capital S), but let’s be honest, the marriage was probably worse.  He doesn’t seem to remember his pregnant wife waddling into a bar, begging him to come home, only to have him hand over his house key in front of everyone.  He doesn’t seem to remember when my mom called me to tell me that our toddlers yelled, “A big truck is taking Daddy’s truck.”  He doesn’t remember when the bars or police would call the house because he walked a tab or abandoned his truck at a gas pump.  He doesn’t remember the cops coming to the house because of our fighting.  And why should he?  He just made some bad choices.  Ten years or more worth of them.

Anyway, it took me quite a while to recover from the phone call.  We are back in one of his phases where he is trying to convince the world that he is the good person and that I am the evil one.  I know this because in one of his  follow-up texts to the phone call, he said, “You’re evil and only look to punish me STILL TO THIS DAY.”  I know that if he is saying that to me, he is telling the world the same thing.  All the way down to the nonsense about seeing a counselor.

It bugs me.  All of it.  I don’t care to punish him.  I want KARMA to do that for me.  I just want to live my life.  I’d be happier if my life was a little bit easier.  Similar to his.

You know the word I’m thinking, right?  UNFAIR.  He doesn’t worry about homework and car insurance and setting a curfew for a school dance.  He doesn’t schlep a kid 25 minutes each way for a 55 minute basketball lesson.  As a matter of fact, when he was in the full swing of blaming me for his life’s woes on the phone, of course he brought up the basketball game that he missed because I didn’t tell him about a schedule change.  He’s now expanded the argument to say that it’s my responsibility to inform him of EVERYTHING because I have the “luxury” of picking up our son from basketball every day.

Yes, that’s right…LUXURY.  I left work EVERY DAY last year at 3:00pm to shuttle kids from high school to various places.  Then went back to work until those activities ended and it was time to shuttle them home.  That’s the new definition of luxury???  Geez, I don’t need any more of those luxuries in my life.

Nor do I need any more phone calls.

 

Unanswered Prayers

I spent 2007-2010 (and probably some years before that) praying to God that he would make my ex see the light, straighten up his ways, and come back to me to make things right.

At 2am last Tuesday, I was thanking God for those unanswered prayers.  (A little irony is that my first date with The Ex was to see a Garth Brooks concert and “Unanswered Prayers” was a pretty big hit for him then.  Touche, Garth.)

It was at that wee hour of the morning that The Ex decided to leave the safety of the bushes that netted his falls to go and stand in the middle of my yard FACING THE STREET to urinate.  While wobbling.  At the risk of sounding like my mother…Can you imagine what my neighbors must think???

I figured that he was no where close to sobering up enough to drive and the risk of the police or an angry girlfriend had diminished, so I ushered him into the house to the couch. He kept saying that he didn’t want the kids to know that he was there, so he was going to be up and gone before they ever figured it out.  Have you met our children?  I still tuck them in at night.  If I fall asleep on the couch, they will wake me up when they tire of the x-box so that I can put them to bed.  Do you really think they went two hours without noticing my absence?  Not likely.  Not to mention that you are like a bull elephant in a china shop.  There isn’t a wall you haven’t knocked into and your whisper could wake the dead.

Sure enough, there was MonoBoy “asleep” on the couch.  I got him up and ushered him into my room.  (I decided that it was probably best for The Ex to sleep at the back of the house in his room, and MonoBoy would sleep with me.  Like my own personal little Watch Dog.)  As MonoBoy climbed into my bed, he made a motion like he was chugging, pointed to the living room, and shook his head.  Yep, that’s what I thought.  Awake and aware.

I then drug The Ex to my son’s room.  He kept protesting in his loud whisper that he was afraid that MonoBoy would sleep walk back into his room and find him there.  Also not likely.  He hasn’t done any sleepwalking in years.  Probably since you lived here.

“Well, he sleep walks when he stays with me!”

Hmph, doesn’t that say something?  Anyway, I set the alarm on his phone (all four of them) and asked if he was sure that he would hear them.

“I do every day!”

I wondered if he was this drunk every day, but decided to let it go.  I turned out the light and headed down the hall, running right smack into MonoBoy who had crept out of bed to keep a watchful eye on the situation.  He said that he just wanted to make sure that he didn’t hit me.  (I’m guessing he saw the blood on his father’s arm.)  I assured him that things were fine and that his dad just needed a place to sleep for one night.  I laid in bed staring at the ceiling, lamenting about how terrible it is for a child to have that fear.  What he must have seen over the past few years.  Finally, I drifted off to sleep.

At 5am, LoverBoy came into my room and woke me up.  “Mom, make it stop.  His alarm has been going off FOREVER and it is driving me crazy.”

Oh no, Sweetie, you must be mistaken because Daddy hears his alarm EVERY DAY.  And look at that!  Pigs really do fly.

I spent the next 44 minutes trying to get The Ex up and on his way to work.  I hollered.  I shook him.  I put the alarm up to his ear.  I might have even kicked him.  “Ow, why do you always have to be such a bitch?”  Gee, I wonder.

I finally got him up and out of the house.  No shower.  No toothbrush.  Probably still half drunk.  Yet I lost the ability to worry about him dying in a car crash.  In fact, I might even have prayed for it.

Shirtless, drunk, and bleeding

Late Sunday morning after my 2am wake up call, I received a text from The Ex that said, “My bad.  I’ll never learn.”  Learn what?  Not to drink so much?  Not to contact your ex-wife when you’re drunk?  Not to ask your ex-wife for help?

Nope.  He didn’t learn any of those.

On Tuesday night, I was on the couch watching The Mentalist through my closed eyelids when I was startled by a knock on the door.  C’mon, if I’m not used to late night phone calls, I’m REALLY not used to late night visitors.  Especially on a Tuesday.  Or ever.  Since I have a glass front door, I could make out the shape of my visitor – male, hat turned backwards, shirtless. Yeah, this wouldn’t even describe any daytime visitors that I might have.  I was instantly nervous as I tried to remember if I had already set the alarm.  I flipped on the front porch light,  and there was my ex – shirtless, drunk, and bleeding.  Not his best look.

“I need to stay on your couch tonight.  I have to be at work at 6am and I need to get some sleep.  I can’t lose this job.  If I do, you’ll lose child support.”  Is what I THINK he said with his slur and bobbing around trying not to fall.

“One question.  Are the police on their way for anything?”

“Maybe.”

I decided that we should sit on the front porch and talk, for obvious reasons:   (1) If the police were on the way, it’s better to give the neighbors a show, not my kids.  (2)  There is no way he can get back behind the wheel and drive anywhere, but maybe he’ll sober up a bit after a chat and then I can send him on his way?  (3)  If we sit outside, there is less of a chance that he will try to kiss me.  If you think my ex has no boundaries on a regular basis, you should see him when he’s drunk.  He leaned in for a kiss as soon as I suggested that we sit outside and talk.  Really?  As if.

He rambled on for a while about the weekend that the boys went to stay with him and the troubles he felt we have with our son’s new girlfriend.  He proudly bragged about how he threatened to fight our son because he thought he was a bad ass.  Umm-hmmm, that’s all very interesting.  Where’s your shirt? Why are you bleeding?  And why am I watching every passing car to see if it’s a cop?

Obviously, he and his girlfriend had a fight.  They both enjoy the partying lifestyle, which has been great for them with the exception that they get drunk and jealousy and fighting sometimes come into play.  (Trust me on this one.  I used to live with the man and his jealousy.)  According to The Ex, his girlfriend has been going to parties at her aunt’s house, even though he’s told her time and again that he doesn’t appreciate it.  He doesn’t think that she’s cheated on him or anything, but it’s just so disrespectful.  In his opinion.

Y’all, I could have smacked him right at that moment.  On my front porch and all.  Because ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Can we just pause for a moment and remember the last DECADE of our marriage?  I think you just described it.  Only then you thought it was ridiculous that I thought you were being disrespectful for hanging out in bars all night, even though I had told you a million times that it hurt my feelings.

“Whatever.  That’s why I’m here.  I get it.”

Anyway, from what I can gather from his story (in between pulling him out of the bushes where he stumbled), is that they had a fight about the parties at her aunts and it led up to him throwing a drink in her face.  His “whole entire drink” as he described it.  I’m not sure if he was just trying to paint a picture of the scene or if he was pausing to mourn the loss of his drink.  After all, it was a “whole entire” glass of vodka with a splash of water.  His new drink of choice.

So the girlfriend, oh let’s call her Bambi, grabbed her phone and threatened to take pictures and report it as abuse.  So of course, he did what he had to do – grab her phone and run outside to smash it with his heel.  Bambi seized the opportunity to lock him out.  If I followed his story correctly, somehow he got back in and then got to lock her out while he tried to call friends to find a place to stay.  She was screaming like a banshee, so he let her in and started hauling his stuff out, which she gladly helped him, tossing his shirt out the door and tossing his new whole entire drink on top of it.  As he was carrying a load to his minivan, he heard the apartment door close, so he took off running to get back before it locked.  That’s when he lost his footing and fell.  Hence the bloody arm.

So there he was, outside of her apartment, shirtless, drunk, and bleeding, surrounded by his belongings.  And now here he is on my doorstep, shirtless, drunk, and bleeding.

I’ve taken off the rose colored glasses

Last weekend I took the boys to the Big City. MonoBoy was registered to participate in a competitive basketball camp, and LoverBoy… Well, I bribed him to go on the makeshift family weekend with tickets to a Major League Soccer Game.  And I invited his girlfriend to spend a day by the pool with us so that he wouldn’t pout the entire time.  Let’s just pretend we’re a happy, normal family.  For one weekend.  Is that too much to ask?

Almost.  It was a packed weekend. We had some fun in the sun, got some back-to-school shopping finished, and of course, the main events – basketball and soccer.  Whew, exhausting.

I’m even MORE exhausted as a result of a startling phone call I received at 2:00am Saturday night.  There I was, happily slumbering, dreaming of my acceptance speech for my Great Mother Award for planning such a whirlwind of a weekend in lieu of a real vacation, when RRRIIIINNNNGGGG…RRRRIIIINNNNGGGG.

Holy Batman, Robin, what the heck is that?  I fell out of the bed and lunged for the phone on the dresser.  I was so completely jarred that I didn’t even look at caller ID.  Did it really matter after all?  If someone was calling at this hour, it wasn’t to sell me a magazine subscription.  And since I haven’t had a date in two years, it was safe to rule out a booty call.  Someone was either in the hospital or in jail.

When I heard his voice, I immediately settled on JAIL.  “Hey, what are you doin?  Hiccup.”

I’m sleeping.  Just like everyone else in the hotel.  And probably most of the people I know.

“What?  You’re ashleep at thish hour?”

After his awkward attempt at jovial (drunken) banter, I asked, “So are you going to tell me why you’re calling?”

[I’m going to pause right here and advise you to take a seat.  Prepare yourself.  Unlike me, who was completely unprepared and standing in the hallway of a hotel when I nearly FELL over upon hearing his response.  Okay, so are you ready?]

“I was calling to find out how this is going to work.  Do I have to take you on a date or can I just move my s#%t back in?”

Drunken man who sounds familiar, but surely has a gun to his head or a wrong number, say what?

I swear to you that’s what he said.  Only with more slurs.  Seriously, I couldn’t make it up if I tried.  And I certainly didn’t expect it.  You know, on account of the fact that he HATES me.

Apparently, he and the girlfriend had a fight sometime earlier in the week and he had been looking for a dwelling of his own.  My guess is that the prospects were bleak, so he decided that living with his sworn enemy was his best option.  For whom?  Well, him obviously.  Isn’t it always all about him?

My mind was scrambling as he rambled on.  How do I get out of this conversation with the least amount of collateral damage?  I knew that the slur indicated that I was a mere insignificant comment away from the disappearance of dear Dr. Jekyll and the sudden appearance of the evil Mr. Hyde.  Turns out, I didn’t even have to say a word.  He gradually morphed  as he talked about the struggles of blending a family and how much time and effort his wasted on somebody else’s kids.  He became more hostile as he lamented about the current state of his relationship with his own children. Without saying a word, I suddenly became the target of his anger.  It’s my fault that his kids have turned against him.  Oh, hello sir, I wondered how long it would take for you to develop the drug to release your evil side.

To say that the conversation took a turn for the worse is infinitely more than an understatement, but the good news is that it gave me my out.  I was already the bad guy, so I didn’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing.  So I told him that I was too tired at this wee hour of the morning to endure a bashing session dedicated to me.  He tried to object that it wasn’t a bashing session, but he only wanted me to admit my wrongdoings.  How I had wronged him by carrying out my personal vendetta by using the kids.  He might have said other things, but it was hard to hear him over the dial tone.  Oops.

He called back, but c’mon now, did he really expect me to answer?  Well, yes, obviously he did, as evidenced by the flurry of angry texts that followed, demanding that I own up to my evil deeds so that we could put it behind us, since he knew that I still loved him.  Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, dude. 

The last text at nearly 3:00am declared, “Forget I asked.  I don’t need you, Ms. High and Mighty!”

Now I’m not going to lie.  I was awake for each of those texts, even though I chose not to respond.  And I didn’t sleep well after that.  I wasn’t so much bothered by what he said about me being a vindictive b#%&h.  (No guarantees it won’t haunt me in the future.)  I was really just tossing and turning and trying to analyze my emotions.  Or lack thereof.

Oh sure, I experienced a certain level of panic.  That emotion was there.  All contact with him seems to require some mental maneuvering, which brings a certain amount of fear and anxiety.  I just didn’t feel anything warm and fuzzy or nostalgic in reaction to his declaration of love.  This, I realized, was a HUGE change.  Once upon a time, not so long ago, I would have believed him when he said that we shared something.  I would have argued with him when he said that he was willing to give up sex because he knows how much I hate it.  With you, dude, I only detest sex with you.  And well, quite possibly other drunken, abusive men.  When he talked about the ways that I turned his boys against him, I would have cited all of the examples that I was his biggest cheerleader with the boys.  Instead, I got off the phone.

As I stared at the ceiling, I understood what a monumental change this is for me.  Before, I would have felt a sense of obligation in response to his statement that I am the only person that really knows him and loves him.  I now realize that, although the first part of the statement might be true (I do know him), the latter part about loving him surely isn’t.  Not any more.  Yes, there was a long period of time, like 16 years or so, that I loved him more than anything.  I would have done anything for him and quite often did.  I stood by as he made one stupid choice after another.  I clung to those promises and false words of hope that we were something special.

We’re not special.  In fact, we are practically cliché.  He is the alcoholic and I am, or was once, his ever faithful enabler.  He doesn’t love me.  He simply needs me to save him.  He sees a possible bottom approaching, and despite his OBVIOUS hatred of me, he’s willing to ask me to be his safety net.

rose-colored-glassesI see it all as clear as day.  Because I have thankfully removed my rose colored glasses.

Like a Moth to a Flame

Where to begin…

This is one of those weeks that felt like a year and a summer that has felt like a lifetime…prison sentence.

To catch you up to speed in as few words as possible (yeah, right), next week my son turns 16.  That reality hit me this past school year when I had to pay for Drivers Ed and take more than a few rides in a car whose passenger side brakes don’t seem to be working.  Or exist.

If you remember correctly, I had a moment of insanity in March when I thought it would be a good idea to ask his father for help with the car purchase.  I told him the amount I had saved and asked him to do the legwork and negotiating.  It seemed like a fair offer.  He made some comments about waiting a while and splitting the cost.  The he tried to convince my son that he needed a truck for a chick magnet. And finally, he asked me to loan him some of the money that I had saved up.

I knew then that I was on this car-buying journey alone.

I’ve spent the last few months looking at every car with a shoe polish price on the window, hoping a dream car would appear for next to nothing, as in my budget.  Miraculously, it did.  My friend’s neighbor decided it was time to trade in his small SUV for a newer model.  She mentioned that she knew someone who might want it.  When I saw the car, I embarrassed myself with a happy dance in the man’s driveway.  I was a bit worried that my son was still living the “Dad’s gonna buy me a truck” dream, but he seemed completely happy with it.

It was perfect.  The problem was that despite the incredible discount the man was offering as a favor to my friend, it was still a bit out of my price range.  Once again, I lost my mind and called my ex.  I asked him to please repay the money he borrowed LAST AUGUST along with the 50% of the medical expenses he owes so that we could get this car.  He gave me one empty promise after the next, and I finally had to turn down the car.

My search for a cheap used car resumed, but my enthusiasm did not.  With each car that I found, Carfax hit me with the reality of why it was so cheap.  It was depressing.  Then lo and behold, what do we have here?  The neighbor waited and JUST posted an ad for the vehicle?  Is this a sign from above?  Are those trumpets that I hear?  Why yes, I believe that I am meant to pinch pennies and buy this car.

I contacted him, and as it turns out, he had taken it to the dealership to make sure that everything on it is sound before he put an ad in the paper.  He said that he and his wife had decided that if there was something wrong with the vehicle, they couldn’t sell it to anyone, and they would just sell it to the dealership.  The dealership fixed a wheel-bearing and replaced the windshield wipers, but determined that the car was mechanically sound.  The car was mine if I still wanted it, and he would honor the original price.  (It was listed for more online.)  Yes, yes, yes!  (Imagine my reaction as one of those awkwardly inappropriate shampoo commercials.)

I asked for a couple of days to get everything together, and he said that was fine because he planned to clean it up for me since it had rained. I called my ex ONE MORE TIME.

moth to a flameListen, I know it sounds ridiculous.  I’m like a moth to a flame, hoping that each time I’ll fly away without charred wings.  I texted him to ask if he had figured out a way to pay me the money he owed.  He called me and started rambling almost inaudibly.  I heard things like “found a couple of good ones” and “should be able to pull the trigger on Friday” and what is he talking about?  I assumed that his girlfriend was around and he was talking in code.  You know so that she didn’t figure out that he owed me.  Instead, he was acting like we were on a car search together and trying to figure out the shared funding.  But all I wanted to know was CAN YOU PAY ME WHAT YOU OWE ME?

I called him the next day for clarification.  Again it was the double-speak and vague statements.  He said, “It would be better for you to get the loan, but maybe if you just co-signed, but I don’t want to ask you because you will say no, but maybe if you just go with me and verbally tell the bank that you agree with it, they would be okay.  You know, it’s really hard to do without a VIN. But I can probably do it.  I’ll call you tomorrow and tell you what the bank says.”  (Whew! My head was spinning.  Is yours?)

I already knew what the bank would say.  He’s being sued by a credit union for the unpaid balance of the truck they repossessed.  He’s also being sued by his bail bondsman for skipping his court date and forfeiting bail.  I already knew that his dream of contributing to a car through bank financing was his pipe dream.  Just like getting the money he owes me is my pipe dream.

The next day, he called and left me a message.  He said that he thought he had the loan in the bag, but he just had to take care of one thing and then they would probably give it to him.  He said he would call me within a week to tell me the status.  I didn’t call him back.  I didn’t hold my breath.  Instead, I moved forward with the help of a friend and went to pick up the car that I had found.

Y’all, it looked amazing.  When I clean up my vehicle, I simply remove all of the boys’ soccer equipment, random socks, and rogue french fries.  This man had the car detailed.  AND he put coupons for two free car washes in the glove box as a present for my son. I drove the car to my mom’s house to hide it in her garage.  I have never been so touched by the kindness of all of the people around me that helped make this dream come true.  It was such an exciting moment for me.

And yet, part of me was sad.  Sad that The Ex wasn’t part of it.  Sad that the phone conversations I had weren’t with him, but the sickness that controls him.  I decided that I would still include him in giving this gift.  I even decided to invite his girlfriend to the big reveal.  I had that knowledge that I did it, and that was enough for me.  We could share in the surprise.

He didn’t agree.  When I told him about the car and asked him to meet me at my mom’s to see it, he was furious.  How quickly I forget how cutting he can be.  How degrading it is to be cussed out.  How unnerving it is when someone threatens to tell your son how awful you are.  Then threatens to separately buy him the truck to compete with the vehicle that I had purchased.  I forgot about the fear and the panic and the stress of dealing with him and not just agreeing with his ramblings.

I had a week until my son’s birthday with the threat of his surprise being ruined.  The Ex called the boys and asked if they had soccer games on Wednesday, and then asked them to come over on Thursday to grill out.  They’ve been missing him so they agreed.  I knew what he was planning.  I knew that he was going to sabotage this exciting time.  I was already robbed of the joy.

I invited the team to eat after the soccer games.  (Which by the way were the FIRST games of the summer that The Ex chose to attend.)  My sister drove the car to the restaurant along with a cookie cake.  The staff sang “Happy Birthday” and when he opened the cake box, the keys were right on top.  It was so exciting.  The entire team and several other tables of patrons RAN to the parking lot for the big reveal.  He was thrilled.  It was an amazing moment.

And yet I was still sad.  I felt guilty that his father didn’t get to participate in that moment.  I felt overwhelmed because the moment was thrown together on a whim and not carefully planned.  I felt anxious because I knew the fight wasn’t over.

My son had a great moment that I hope he always remembers.  But I hope I always remember the pain, so I can stop being like a moth to a flame.