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.


  1. WOW–you are THE MOM!!!!! What you did for your son is fantastic! He will never forget how Mom came through for him. He probably realizes how hard it was for you to get the car for him–although he might never vocalize those feelings to you. If your ex missed out on the great moment–his loss. I know it’s hard, but danggit———–you did good in my opinion!!!

  2. OK, prepare yourself. I’m going to yell at you. STOP THAT! STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP! YOU ARE AN AWESOME MOM AND YOU MANAGED TO PULL OFF THE BEST BIRTHDAY SURPRISE EVER! Really, how lucky is your son? It sounds like the way you did it, with his soccer team there to share the excitement, was perfect. If dad had been there, I bet he would have spoiled it in some way, and you and your son would’ve been stressed by his presence. So hurray for you and your son and the car!! Oh, and DO NOT LEND YOUR EX MONEY AGAIN!

  3. That was an amazing moment for your son, because he sees how hard you work to help him be a better person. Congrats on the car! As for your ex, all you owe him is a phone call and when he doesn’t responded the first time you move on! At this point there is know reason to beat yourselves up, you have nothing to feel guilty about! You have nothing to feel guilty about! You have
    no-thing to feel guilty about! In Spanish “tienes nada que sentir culpable sobre!” you have to stop beating yourselves up over a person who has his own twisted agenda about everything…. And last remember you are a wonderful person who loves to help, but you are not the Bank and Security Trust of Stronger.. KEEP your money!!!

  4. Wife Goes On says:

    AMEN again!!!!!!!!

  5. Wife Goes On says:

    And finally, Ditto to all the above and you are such an awesome mom. I understand the sadness, but sometimes we have to understand that people are who they show us – not what we wish were true. I wish I could smack your ex with a 2×4….

  6. your ex is a total douchenozzle and wow so many kids can’t even conceive of having their own car so way to go MOM!!!

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