Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2014
I’ve so long neglected this blog, that this post feels a bit like writing a journal entry – I doubt anyone reads this, which is fine. I guess it still serves as a record of sorts of these last few years of crazy.
A few months ago, in early January, I went to visit my cousin in the UK. My family, both my father’s and mother’s side are in England. My parents came here shortly after my dad got his doctorate in physics. He was offered a job at Stanford’s then new accelerator center. He’s a physicist by training, a particle physicist if I have that right, and the center was doing groundbreaking work with particles. My parents met in Manchester and then found their way here. But no one else came really and so extended family is still in various parts of England. My cousin lives in Newcastle, a few hours outside of Scotland. She has children around the ages of mine and we get along so well that we lament often the miles and ocean between us.
I’ll get to where I’m going.
On my way to the airport, I got a text from my ex-husband’s wife (the stepmother to my children). She wanted to talk to me. We had, over the course of the past few months, forged an uneasy peace that was actually working decently well – still is, actually. She wanted to talk, she said it was urgent. My mom was in the car, as was Roo. But I texted her that I would call her once I was at the airport and through security. When I was finally settled in the boarding area, I called her. She sounded sad, anxious, scared. My ex, (her husband) travels a lot to the east coast for work. That in itself wasn’t new, but her anxiety about what exactly he was doing while there, was. It was a creeping doubt I knew well. I had lived it myself. Trips not adding up, odd receipts, weird phone calls…and then finally confirmation that some trips were not for business. She didn’t know what to do about it all, but she thought he wasn’t trustworthy, which sounded right to me. To make matters worse, when she questioned him, he attacked her – she was paranoid and crazy he told her. We talked a little about how she might get proof of what we believed he was up to (I’ll let your imaginations fill in the blank, but it’s likely all the things you are thinking) because I sensed she needed something concrete to leave the marriage. But I also knew that if that proof didn’t materialize, it didn’t necessarily mean he was an innocent man. Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior and I was intimately familiar with his past behavior.
No more than a few weeks after my return, I got a text from her to let me know she was filing for divorce. Just like that. “I’m filing today” she said. It was surreal to see it spelled out on my phone like that, so simply, so plainly. In a way I had wished for this for some time. For lots of reasons, but lately because I knew there was strife in the household and it felt to me like the wounds in the relationship were still bleeding and the only way to staunch them was to just end the whole thing entirely.
As is always the case with my ex, he cares little for the mess he makes. Or if he cares, it is too late to do much about it. And so when he casually asked to meet me for coffee, a week or so after her text, I knew this was his forum for delivering the news. We met for coffee on a Friday. It was a Friday I was to get the kids for the week (we alternate weeks). He told me he had already moved out, that the moving truck was coming on Saturday (the next day) and that on Monday he wanted to pick them up from school, announce to them the separation, then that next Friday move them into a new house he had already rented. They would never go back to their old house. A house they’d only lived in for a few years, but still a house where their two half brothers were born, a house that probably had seemed more permanent to them than the other six or so their father had moved them to previously. This is unfortunately what he does. He decides what’s best for him and everyone better get on board. So there I sat at Starbucks, trying to get on board.
With the plan for him to tell the kids on Monday, I took the kids skiing, alone. Roo had recently had surgery in our never ending quest to get him some sleep (deviated septum) and wasn’t in any shape to come skiing. I had a somewhat irrational fear that the kids would somehow happen to see the moving trucks outside their dad’s house and learn of the divorce that way. He doesn’t live near me, but it seemed to me some kind of Murphy’s Law that this would happen. Over the course of the weekend, I kind of snapped out of the fog I’d been in since he sat me down at coffee and realized that him telling them on Monday, then delivering them back to my house on Monday night (so that I could dress their wounds and put them back together) was completely fucked. If he was going to tell them, then he needed to deal with the fallout. So I emailed him and said essentially, the plan is off. Think of something else.
All this was for nothing though because once we returned home from skiing, I remembered that my eldest daughter was scheduled to go with her stepmother to a concert (a reward for her straight As the quarter before). She wanted to spend the night at her dad and stepmom’s house after the show, which I knew to be impossible given that the moving truck had already been to the house. Her stuff was completely gone from the house – no opportunity for her to say goodbye, no chance to pack up her own things – just gone. Of course she didn’t know this and didn’t seem to understand why I kept hedging when she asked to spend the night there after the concert. I texted my ex, who was conveniently in New York, telling him he was going to have to tell them all sooner than he thought or come home early from NY or…I don’t even know what, but in any case it seemed to me like it was his problem to solve. His response was absurd: “Okay. I’ll FaceTime them to let them know.” Which I guess in the modern age is the way some poor children learn their family has just blown up. At which point I thought: My children are not learning of their father’s second divorce, another move and their stepmother leaving…all via FaceTime. So that night I sat them down on the couch and I told them. And my eldest, three when her dad and I split, eleven when her dad and stepmother split, sat crying the noiseless tears of an old man – no sound, just tears. My son said nothing, just looked into his lap. My youngest daughter suggested hopefully that it would be okay because they would at least be able to see their stepmother in their old house, which I had to tell her was not the case. Their stepmother was moving out. The house was going to be sold. And then she cried too.
It’s been about two months now I guess. He’s moved into another house. The old house sold in a day. He shares custody of his two children he has with her as well. So occasionally he has my three, occasionally her two and occasionally he has all five. I’m still numb, still annoyed, still happy and still sad all at the same time. I got what I wanted in a way – a resolution of sorts. But I’m angry that once again I am trying to navigate his mess and to some extent her mess too. What a terrible thing they have done. And yes we all know marriages fail, perhaps second marriages even more so. But marrying after knowing each other a few months, then having more children, then returning to your old fucked up ways – the drinking, the cheating, the gobs of money on strippers. Then the result of all that – the fights the kids witnessed, the police, her moving out, then moving back in, then moving back out again..all of this dumb bullshit that I’ve tried to steer the kids through. It makes me very angry.
“It’s like,” a friend said to me recently, “he’s forever the rock star trashing the hotel room.” And she has it right. In this scenario I am always the hotel manager. He breaks shit, ruins things, pisses people off, and I stand in the doorway taking in the mess while trying to come up with a plan for how to clean it up and assuage the angry hotel guests. Just once, I’d like to be the rock star. I’d like my own put-upon hotel manager to take a long look at the mess I’m in, survey the damage and say: “It’s okay. It’s alright. I can fix this.”