Living In A House Divided

Divorce-Settlement

 

If we couldn’t live together in peace as a married couple, why would it be expected that we should cohabitate harmoniously  while going through the divorce process?

Honestly, sometimes I wondered who created the laws and whom they were designed to protect.

I didn’t need a jurisprudence  degree to ascertain that the abused wife and impressionable, innocent offspring who were put in the middle of all the tension, fighting and mayhem on a daily basis were not at the top of the list.

Crazily, the statutes seemed to safeguard those that others needed protection from.

Here’s how it worked in our abode:

Dick provided for our family financially. Since he was the sole breadwinner and I did nothing with my life except sleep all day and watch Oprah (according to Dick), there wasn’t enough money for him to move out temporarily and provide for my and our kids’ living expenses until the divorce was final. He had every right to stay in HIS house.

And boy did he milk that experience for all that it was worth.

Honestly, I didn’t know how he was able to effectively treat his patients, considering that he must have spent an exorbitant amount of time conjuring up ways to continually torment me (all within the confines of the law, thank you very much).

While living separately under the same roof, Dick and I had a “legal” temporary arrangement set up regarding what days/evenings of the week we would spend with Ashley. Since Josh was of the “age of majority,” he didn’t need to be included in the agreement. However, he just went along with the plan to uncomplicate a complicated situation. Or something like that.

When it was Dick’s turn to be with the kids, he always took them out to eat. On my evenings, I cooked.  Josh, Ashley and I ate at the kitchen table.

Many evenings when I was the custodial parent, Dick would  pick up some fast food, bring it home and coordinate the time he sat down at the kitchen table to when the three of us were about to eat.

Heaven forbid he should let me have alone time with our kids. He had to always be hovering over, keeping watch and putting in his two cents when it wasn’t appropriate, requested or desired.

As if we were all dogs participating in a Pavlovian experiment, as soon as the dinnertime hour rolled around on “Mom’s night,” the kids and I simultaneously lost our appetites.

One evening, things escalated and the sh*t hi the proverbial fan.

As usual, I got the table ready for dinner and put my setting in the place that Dick usually sat at. He came into the kitchen, moved my dish, silverware and glass to another spot and announced that he would be joining us.

Since it was his home too, I technically couldn’t tell him to get lost. Although, if he wasn’t trying to be such a dick, he wouldn’t have pulled what he was about to do. And he wasn’t honoring the agreement of allowing me my time uninterrupted with our kids

I tried to ignore him and completed my meal prep.

That evening I grilled steaks for my kids and myself. As we were starting to enjoy our dinner, compliments came forth from my offspring about how delicious the meal was.

At that point, Dick asked me if I bought him a steak. Without missing a beat, he continued, “You only bought three steaks. This will be documented. You are spending MY money.

Buy him a steak? Make him dinner? We were separated, and going through a divorce. I wasn’t his cook, servant, maid, etc., etc., etc. I wasn’t supposed to be doing a damn thing for him at that point. He knew it. But he was going to try to make me out to be a horrible person anytime he could in the presence of our offspring. 

I tried to be nonchalant and answered, “Whatever. Do what you want.”

Of course, things escalated into a huge argument, tempers flew and appetites were lost.

Of course, this wouldn’t have happened if there were some laws in place stating that the custodial parent would have uncompromised time with the kids or consequences would result for the noncompliant party.

Looking for some peace and quiet, Ashley went down to the basement.  I went to Josh’s room and he joined me. Dick went to get a car wash.

Josh and I had a long discussion.

He told me how uncomfortable it was for him and Ashley when Dick did this.

Duh!!! You think???

Josh went on to say that when he was away at college, Dick would call him up and ask if I yelled in the house. He proceeded to inform  Josh that if he would testify in court against me,  he would fly him in from school.

Of course, Josh refused.

The nerve of that sorry excuse of a man to put his son in that predicament.

My blood pressure was soaring at that point. I tried to remain outwardly calm and rational.

It was a practice that was getting harder and harder to do.

My mind went into self-pity mode.

Why was this happening to me?

I was a good person. I didn’t deserve this treatment.

Life was so unfair.

I didn’t know how much longer I could continue on like that.

And that was exactly what Dick was hoping for and counting on…that I would break and insist that we end the divorce process swiftly and I would agree to his terms and conditions.

Realizing that if I lost it, Dick would be the great benefactor in this sick, twisted game.

I couldn’t let him win.

So I returned swiftly to my survival mode of reasoning:

I don’t think. I don’t feel. I just deal.

 

 

 

 

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The Home Stretch

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Somehow we all survived graduation weekend.

It wasn’t the celebration I hoped for and anticipated when Josh was just an infant and I held him in my arms, envisioning the idyllic life he would have.

But, then again,  as it’s been said, We make plans and God laughs. I just couldn’t grasp or comprehend how this Divine comedy would turn out and who would be chuckling when the final scene played out.

Taking an educated guess and basing my assumptions on how life was unfolding, I had a very strong feeling that I wouldn’t be the one rolling on the floor in a fit of uncontrolled hysteria when all was said and done.

Upon returning home from helping Josh move out of his frat, it was time to play another round of Musical Beds.

The only problem was I was the only active participant. The other members of our family, very comfortably and without disrupting their daily routines,  got to stay put in their original slumber rooms.  I felt like Goldilocks maneuvering around  the Three Bears’ humble home, testing out numerous sleeping arrangements until “the one that was just right” became obvious.

In my case, it was not “just right,” but it definitely was a no-brainer. For all practical purposes,  I had only one option left. Until the divorce was final and at that point, there was no way of knowing how long that would be, I would be sojourning in the basement, spending my evenings on the aging hide-a-bed sofa with the bulging springs in the mattress.

That final arrangement came as somewhat of a shock to me.

While Josh was still in school, he made it clear that when he moved back home, he wanted to live in the basement. He felt that it would be like having his own “space,” away from the rest of the family. The plan sounded ideal to me. While he was away at college, I took up residence in his room.  I was actually getting quite comfortable and cozy in my teenage-aged sons’ enclave.  Being surrounded by posters of athletic superstars  was the motivating force I needed to fight the fight and fill me up with positive encouragement.

Michael Jordan’s mantras became mine too:

Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.

I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.

Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.

Yes, I felt driven and on the winning team when I locked the door to “my room” every evening.

Then, in what seemed like a last ditch effort at the end of a crucial game, Josh informed me in no uncertain terms, that he would be returning to his quarters.

What??? I didn’t see that coming. Who called that play?

When I questioned him about it, Josh became very defensive, cold and calculating. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought for sure I was conversing with Dick. They sounded exactly alike. In fact, Josh had Dick’s facial expression, demeanor and stance down pat.

Unfortunately, much to my dismay, the apple was not falling far from the tree.

Where did his sudden change in attitude come from?, I pondered to myself.

Over time, everything became crystal clear.

When Josh shared his plans with Dick for taking over the basement as his “home-within-the home,” Dick became livid and told Josh that he was not going to give up his bedroom for me. Furthermore, Dick informed him that this was Josh’s house and not mine.

Really??? I mean, REALLY???

Dick’s and my home was not mine, but it was my son’s???

Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course we had the documents to prove that the home was in both of our names. Josh was not a co-owner, nor would he become one at any time in the upcoming future.

Dick’s behavior and actions were becoming very frightening. He was no longer rational.

Unfortunately for me, I no longer had any privacy in my home. The basement was used by the family every day.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse and I’ve reached rock bottom, I was taken down to a new lower level…literally and figuratively.

 

Friday, May 7, 2010… Graduation Weekend-Day 1, Part 2

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Not only was I stressed about getting to the campus and into the auditorium before the program started, but I was also famished and needed to eat something ASAP.

Then the anger and the self-pity started welling up inside of me. No matter how hard I tried, things always went against me.

Why was I always the one who had to be rushed, stressed, starved and exhausted?

How come Dick always seemed to sail through every experience unscathed? Where was the justice in this world???

After the train finally passed, I tried to make up for lost time by speeding down the highway. Fortunately, no police pulled me over, ticketed me and delayed me even further.

I made it to the school in the nick of time, pulled into a parking lot and ran into the student union where I snarfed down a personal-sized Pizza Hut Veggie Pizza that I quickly snatched up in the mini, over-priced food court.

Then I sprinted over to the Auditorium, found Dick and Ashley sitting toward the back of the room and collapsed into the seat Ashley had saved for me next to her.

To add insult to injury, it was an extremely hot and humid day. Needless to say, I was totally disheveled, completely shvitzed and ready to keel over from heat exhaustion. Dick glared at me, disgust seeping out of every pore in his body. He, of course, looked perfect as usual.  So, what else was new?

About 15 minutes into the program, Ashley started complaining that she couldn’t see. She was very warm and clearly panic-stricken.

Since I just endured the morning from Hell and since her father decided that she was spending the day with him, I told her that her dad needed to handle the crisis.

Dick took Ashley outside. (Maybe there was a teeny-weeny bit of justice in this world after all.)  About a half hour later they returned. Ashley told me that she was feeling much better.

An Indian gentleman who was standing outside the building noticed that Ashley wasn’t doing too well. He came up to her, put his hand on her face, said a blessing in a foreign language and instantaneously she was healed. *She claimed this really happened.

I asked her if she got his phone number, e-mail address, skype and/or his twitter information. Since he performed a miracle for her once, maybe there was a way she could contact him on an as-needed basis.

Unfortunately, she didn’t obtain any of it.

To be continued…

Friday, May 7, 2010…Graduation Weekend—Day 1, Part 1

 

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It was hard to believe that Graduation weekend was about to begin.

All the planning, preparation and packing were finally finished. Both Dick’s and my cars were loaded and we were ready to embark on our separate journeys to the same location.

Yes, that was absolutely correct. The same location!!!

Unbeknownst to Dick, I booked a room at the same hotel he did.

More about that later…

Dick and Ashley took off around 7:00 a.m. Because I had to wait until Dick was finished in the bathroom before I could finally shower, get dressed and pack the things I still needed to use that morning, I wasn’t able to leave until 9:00 a.m.

As I merged onto the tollway, initiating the first stretch of the long drive out to the IU campus, I thought about how positively petty, ridiculous and totally childish Dick was behaving about the whole thing.

What did he think he was gaining…aside from showing up before I did and making my life totally miserable??? Come to think of it, that probably was exactly what he had to gain!!!

We were both going to the same town to be part of both OUR son’s graduation festivities. Yet, it was obviously way too much for Dick to travel in the same car with me.

As irritated I was at the onset, the more I drove, the more I realized what a blessing it actually was.

At least I had peace and quiet, listened to the music I wanted to and got to stop wherever and whenever I needed to. There were a lot of positives when I stopped and thought about it. And as I began to appreciate them, I settled back and enjoyed the journey.

I was even making pretty good time.

However, when I reached Indianapolis, (where Dick and I were both staying) it was obvious that I would be cutting things way too close if I checked into the hotel and dropped my things off in my room. Oh well… I couldn’t have everything.

While stopped at a red light, I called Josh. He informed me that Dick and Ashley were already with him. This certainly wasn’t a news flash for me.

Since they left two hours before I did, not only did they have plenty of time to get settled in at the hotel before continuing on their way, they even had the luxury of sitting around relaxing with Josh before all the festivities began.

Not me! I was busy playing Beat the Clock all morning.

Before the light changed to green and I would have had to hang up the phone, it was decided that I would drive to the frat house and leave my car there. Then we would all grab some lunch together and walk over to the Auditorium for the Business School’s ceremony recognizing the Honor Program’s graduates.

At that moment, it actually seemed that for the most part, things were going to turn out okay.

I was just about to give myself a proverbial pat on the back for a job well done when all of a sudden traffic came to a complete stop. For cryin’ out loud, I couldn’t believe what was happening. I totally jinxed myself for having  a positive thought.

A very, very, very long and slow-moving train was creating a parking lot on the road for as far as the eye could see. I was stuck with nowhere to go. As time rapidly ticked by, I kept glancing at my watch and panic began to set in.

Damn it, I thought to myself. Why did this kind of crap always happen to me??? It was evident there was no way I was going to make it to the frat before the ceremony.

Feeling totally demoralized, I called Josh back and told him that they should eat without me. I would have to meet them at the Auditorium. Before I hung up, I asked Josh to please tell his dad to save me a seat.

My heart began racing a mile a minute.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same thing about my car.

To be continued…

 

Sneaky Is As Sneaky Does

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After this latest incident, my body was called into and admonished to stay in “high alert” mode for potential attacks.

Unfortunately, as I was quickly discovering, this would be the new status quo for a very long time.

The “enemy” was a constant in my home and in my life. Under the circumstances as they were, he was able to pounce whenever he felt the whim to spew out more of his poisonous venom. As the tension continued to escalate in our house, it was becoming crystal clear that these assaults would become more frequent, personal and vengeful.

A few days after Dick unloaded his Graduation Weekend agenda on me, I happened to drive past a country club in my neighborhood. As I was motoring by,  the sign outside the facility promoting upcoming events caught my eye.

In big bold letters, an announcement for Mother’s Day Brunch appeared. With everything going on in my life, I completely forgot about that upcoming holiday. I checked the date, did a double take and then my stomach lurched up to my throat.

Mother’s Day was the day following Josh’s graduation. That’s the day we would be returning back from the festivities. That was also the day that Dick decided he would be driving Ashley home and spending the time with her.

Coincidence???

Absolutely, positively NOT!!!

Dick had every intention of screwing me over!

At that point, I was majorly pissed off. He had so much damn nerve.

It was only a month earlier that we met with the mediator. With her, we set up a holiday schedule to abide by while we were separated, but still not divorced. The parameters outlined in that agreement stated that Ashley would spend Mother’s Day with me and Father’s Day with her dad.

Yet, Dick went blatantly against that and planned on being with Ashley on MY holiday.  How dare he be so bold, brazen and beastly. Knowing him as well as I did, I realized that he felt if I were stupid enough not to notice, then he would do what he wanted and he would deserve to get away with it. If I would call him on it after the fact, then he would say, “That’s your problem. You should have spoken up sooner.”

So I needed to orchestrate a tactic that would cause him to reveal himself as the conniving piece of crap that he was while I avoided getting sucked into his ploy and losing control.

Later that evening, when Dick and Ashley were both home, I sweetly told Dick that there was something I needed to discuss with him. With Ashley in earshot, I explained that he must not have been aware that Mother’s Day was the day that he planned on driving back home from the graduation with Ashley, otherwise I was sure he would not have suggested it.

*That was definitely an Academy Award winning performance, if I must have said so myself.

I continued on that we would have to reverse the driving order: Ashley would go with him and come home with me. He acquiesced and went to Ashley’s room and announced to her that there would be a change of plans. The two of them would take his mom out for Mother’s Day the week before graduation, since Ashley would be spending the day with me and they wouldn’t be able to see his mom that day.

So that was what was going on here…

Dick not only wanted to keep Ashley from being with me on Mother’s Day, he was planning on the two of them celebrating with his mom.

WHAT A MAJOR MOTHER F%&*ER!!!

Boy, was I glad I was able to get that out.

It’s just not healthy to keep those things bottled up inside.

 

Planning Ahead…

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I received an email from Josh.

After opening it up, the first thing that caught my eye was that Dick received a copy too. Before I delved into the contents of the correspondence, I was suddenly struck by the miracle of modern technology.

It was absolutely mind-boggling to think that a child could communicate with his mom and dad simultaneously without actually conversing with each one, and on top of that, both parents would be aware that the other was included in the discussion.  The three of us could chat without ever having to look each other in the eye, be in the same room or respond when addressed.

How remarkable was that?

Okay, I totally digressed here. I realize that this wasn’t something most people would contemplate upon receiving a letter from their child.

However, being in the middle of a nasty divorce, I definitely was impressed by the significance, irony and beauty of this.

So, getting back to the email, Josh informed us that his graduation weekend was swiftly approaching. He took the liberty of making reservations for the four of us at several restaurants; one for Friday night, (the evening before graduation) another for lunch following the commencement ceremonies on Saturday morning and the third for dinner on Saturday night.

He made it clear that he wanted our family to all be together for this major milestone in his life.

Since he had to leave a deposit at all of the establishments, he needed both of us to let him know as soon as possible if these plans would work for us. If not, he would have to make adjustments right away. After all, his money was as stake here.

Josh didn’t want to be on the losing end of anything else in his life, especially cash.

Did I mention that he was majoring in Finance and Operations…and that he was in the Honors program at the Business School?

Immediately I responded to Josh that he could count Ashley and me in. I said how happy I was that he made the arrangements and his sister and I were looking forward to the festivities. I thanked him for taking care of the plans and how excited I was for his upcoming graduation. Not wanting to go overboard, I held back from including a few lyrics from “Sunrise Sunset.”  Is this the little boy I carried…

In addition to being immensely proud of Josh for taking charge of and handling everything on his own, I was secretly relieved that he did so.

Since “the War” broke out, I wondered, worried and writhed about how this momentous occasion would play itself out. As far as I was concerned, that should have been a time for a ceasefire. For our kids’ sake, and in everyone’s best interest, Dick and I needed to put down our weapons, call a temporary truce, show a united front and be civil and friendly during Graduation weekend.

Afterward, when we would once again be renewed, refreshed and revitalized, we could resume combat. Yes, this made perfect sense.

For the first time in a long time, a feeling of euphoria came over me.  I was thrilled that in spite of the turmoil we were all living with, Josh would have what he deeply desired and deserved: celebrating his college graduation with his family — all together peacefully and joyously for what would be probably one of the last times — if not THE last time.

Unfortunately, that thought and fantasy died quickly.

 

Guinness

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I’m sure I’ll either be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records or achieve some other historically noteworthy distinction as being known as the “Human Equivalent of Murphy’s Law.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that if something could possibly go wrong in my life, it definitely did.

Case in point: A few days after I obtained my new mailbox, I came home from running errands in the early afternoon only to find Dick sitting in the family room watching his favorite show, The Young and the Restless. 

In his hand was a postcard which he immediately thrust at me and then confronted me about. After reading the message scrawled on it, I inwardly silently screamed at the top of my lungs, OH…F*#K!!!

As my luck would have it, somehow when I was filling out the paperwork for my P.O. Box, I inadvertently managed to leave off the name of our town where my mail should have been delivered.

The clerk checking over the information obviously overlooked that too.  But lo and behold, it was eventually discovered and instead of contacting me by phone to obtain the correct village, I received a card in my home mailbox informing me that I needed to provide the necessary data before my request could be processed.

And as everything else in my life and divorce process seemed to be going for me, it should have been no surprise that Dick would be home in the early afternoon on that particular week day to intercept that correspondence, read it and react to it, instead of being at work, treating patients like most normal physicians would have been doing.

Immediately, like a panther stalking its prey, he pounced. “You can do whatever you want with your mail, but you can’t do anything with Ashley’s mail. We are both her parents and you have no right making this decision for her  without consulting me. I talked to my attorney and you are in serious trouble for what you did. You  better take her off the P.O. Box or we will take you to court over this,” Dick announced.

*What he really meant here was that I couldn’t do anything that concerned our daughter, but he had every right to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, without discussing it with me.

With total disgust welling up inside of me, I replied as calmly as humanly possible, “At this point, you have no right touching anyone’s mail but your own.

Ashley and I both know that you took a letter that was addressed to her, opened it and took out the contents. She never got a chance to see it. This was her mail.

She is a teenager and deserves to have her privacy respected.  But no, you couldn’t stop there. Recently you opened other letters that were addressed to her.

You now have a P.O. Box where your mail is being delivered. There is absolutely no reason for you to be handling ANY mail that comes to this house. It’s not for you.

But, not only do you bring in the mail, you also go through it and open whatever you want.

That’s mail tampering and it’s a federal offense.

So in answer to your demand, NO I will not have Ashley’s mail delivered back to this house. As long as it is being delivered to our P.O. Box, she will receive all of her mail UNOPENED!!!

The only reason we had to get our mail delivered somewhere else is because you crossed the line and have taken things way too far. If you’d mind your own business, this wouldn’t have happened.

This is your fault. Don’t turn around and blame me for your actions. You think you are threatening and scaring me?

*Actually he was, but I was damned if I was going to let him know it.

Go to court and waste more time and money over frivolous matters. I can’t wait to tell the judge what really went on here.”

With that, I turned around, walked out of the house, got into my car and drove to a (thankfully) uninhabited park in my development. I turned off the ignition and sat in the driver’s seat trying to come to terms with what just transpired.

My body couldn’t contain itself any longer and finally let loose with what it so honorably kept together until I reached a safe location.

Shaking like an addict going through withdrawal, I sat alone in my vehicle until the spasmodic convulsions ravaging my muscles eventually subsided, the explosive cacophony of voices in my brain muffled and the violently throbbing blood vessels in my temples simmered down.

As I slowly breathed in and out, I refused to even consider what “Murphy” might possibly conjure up for me next.

I guess some things were better left unknown.