“I never want to see you again! If you know what’s good for me, you’ll leave me alone!” These are the words I screamed to someone who once was my hero. I thought he was caring, loving, considerate, and the best dad ever, but as he crumbles my heart with his bare hands, at the same time telling me that “it’s what’s best for me,” and causing tears of lies and betrayal to stain my face, realization finally sinks in; he is not my hero, but instead it’s the person who held me tight, stroking my hair, and telling me that everything was going to be alright, even though we both knew it wouldn’t be. Yes, my hero is indeed that person, and she happens to be my mom. I know, it sounds like a childish thing to say and that maybe by now I should have a more significant person to choose, but in my world, she is the most significant person who will ever walk into my life. (Written by LD for an 8th grade English assignment on “Who’s your hero?”)</em>
For three months we lived there. We trustingly packed every belonging we ever owned or cared about and moved 2,000 miles away from any friend or family member other than him. No, I didn’t have a job when we moved. Apparently, that wasn’t a huge issue to anyone except me…at least not in the beginning. Yet, moving into a very expensive rental house in a nice suburb of the city was beyond uncomfortable for me with no income at the onset. So, as the months passed and I wasn’t finding work, my patience for this situation grew as thin as a balloon stretched beyond its capacity, actually about to the point where if one might simply brush against the damned thing it would POP! Yeah…not a good scenario…
The first week of my daughters’ school, after dropping them off, I was rear-ended by another car. This shook me up, but I blew it off with some deep breathing and soaking in a hot bath for a few evenings afterward. The guy was honest, saying, “You know, I just wasn’t paying attention. I’m really sorry.” No worries, I said as I checked out the damage to my car. It was minimal, so I said, Hey, let’s just forget about it. The distracted, but kind gentleman responded, “Thank you! That’s very nice of you. I’m really sorry.”
Yeah, seriously, no worries…the car was still drivable and that’s what mattered most to me – that I had a car to drive my children to and from school in a still-strange city, and 30 miles back and forth to cheer practice five evenings a week, and a method by which to get to my job (once I found one). No big deal. Accidents happen. How many times have I driven along not paying any attention anyway? Ummm more than I want to admit! Have a great day and take care!
Prior, during, and after this rear-end episode, my ex was being beyond a douche bag. Insulting, belittling, and worst of all entirely apathetic to any of my concerns or worries about our daughters. My youngest was typically crying for at least an hour after every visit with dad. This was particularly bad on cheer practice days when he criticized her no matter how hard she was trying to learn a sport she had just started a few weeks after moving here; several years behind the other girls on the team whom he regularly “compared” her against publicly and privately. I was so proud of her resolve. He would insult her and she’d come home, cry for a while and then the very next day she would say to me smiling big and confidently, “I’m so excited for cheer tonight Momma…I’m going to try even harder today so Daddy won’t have to yell at me.” This scenario was repeated regularly.
Meanwhile, “Daddy” was constantly reminding me how expensive cheer was for our two girls… and I do mean constantly. I was already losing sleep over even utilizing the standard utilities: saving electricity and gas like a monstrously concerned environmental-freak; afraid to use the pool, afraid to dry our clothes in the dryer, and conserving water like we were ship-wrecked bordering on death by dehydration… Sure, living in a big beautiful home was nice, but not really appropriate under my financial circumstances. I tried to let go of the resentment that we were living under this kind of stress in spite of the fact that the three of us had wanted to stay with the “Daddy” until I found a job and could afford to live independently with the children.
OH yeah and we didn’t live alone…there were the roaches. They made their presence known about a month after we moved in. I brought this up to the Daddy who laughed and called them the “702 bugs”; who also assured me he would talk to his “guy” to see if we could get a better monthly price for pest control than the several places I called for quotes. By the way, roaches really DO multiply faster than rabbits! Within two months of living there, they had taken over our “beautiful” home. My daughters were often too freaked out at bedtime to sleep and we had nightly episodes of them running to me fearful that roaches would crawl over them if they fell asleep. If you could have seen how badly they infested, you’d understand that this wasn’t necessarily an irrational fear of theirs. I slowly became more and more disgusted to even eat in this house, but finances surely didn’t allow us to eat out either. I never mentioned my eating fears to the children. After the third or fourth “rough” night we had with them terrified to go to sleep at night and crying hysterically over roaches EVERY where, I finally called the “’Daddy” again. Ahhhh….It was okay; he just hadn’t yet had time to phone his “guy”. He would, though.
I swear these damned bugs multiplied before our very eyes. This situation escalated at a rate that I could never have imagined in my worst creepy-crawly nightmares. They were in our toilets, our food pantry, our living room, our bathtubs, our patio, our furniture, our clothing… I cannot stress how horrible this became or how quickly it worsened. It broke my heart to feel so helpless to resolve this when it went from an occasional fear to a daily struggle and the only relief my children had was the occasional nights at their dad’s, which of course, was beautifully (and entirely) roach free. In my desperation and after numerous (the number for this is truly embarrassing) calls and texts to the ex; pleading with him to help, I began to imagine scenarios where I would phone all the pest control services and offer up sex in exchange for roach control. Putting aside any pride I might have ever had in me, I contemplated how one goes about offering that kind of thing without the possibility of getting arrested. No, I’m not kidding. These were the thoughts that began to consume my mind.
Sum this all up with the chronically terrifying financial fears of stressing literally every single solitary CENT, not finding any work, and the ugly manipulative insults and/or absolute disregard my children and I were learning was just to be a part of our new lives, now add a second random car accident. Sadly though, this one totaled my car.
This time, dude in an SUV makes a left turn on a two-way street (not at an intersection) right into the driver’s side of my car, as if my car was actually invisible! BAM! He slams directly into me, forming my car into a near 90-degree angle! The car was never to be drivable again. We were literally lucky to have survived the accident.
I had no one to call to drive us home from this accident…not a single soul within a 2,000 mile radius who might come to pick up my children and me…except the “Daddy”. After nine desperate phone calls, six frantic texts (not to mention how many the children must have sent) and over an hour of time passing sitting in a demolished car the “Daddy” finally texts, yes, TEXTS, “is everything ok?” Ummm….NO..it’s NOT… That would be why your children and your ex are blowing up your phone in the middle of the afternoon with calls and texts, you self-consumed idiot.
But yeah, he finally arrived. I was hysterical at that point and more than a tad irritated at his nonchalance to our desperation. When I hinted at this, he was quick to remind me that I had no right; that I should just be grateful that he even came for us at all; after all, he’s a busy, important man who doesn’t have the time to be dealing with his ex’s little traumatic crises.
And right here is when the true, deep terror of our situation hit me fully. Under his designed choices and reassurances surrounding our move here, along with my failed attempts to get a job and secure any income of my own, I WE were completely and totally under his tyrannical control and at his mercy, which I stupidly had been under before and that had not turned out pretty by any means.
So, by his grace alone, he drove us directly to a car rental place to rent a car for the duration of the insurance to take over (not my insurance, you silly goose….I had no insurance. I had had to let that lapse almost immediately after moving. The at-fault driver did have insurance thank God!). And now we add in the(up-front) cost of this rental car until the insurance company reimbursed him and the insurance on said rental car which provided me the means to drive my children around at our assumed daily frantic pace and the ability to continue looking for work… to the rest of the story, the stress, the mass discomfort, the verbal and emotional abuse we were enduring, the roaches, the crying bouts of my children over their dad’s chronic public put-downs and the fear of sleeping or eating at our own house.
The straw that broke the camel’s back though, was when my 11 year-old mentioned that she liked Daddy’s girlfriend okay, but that since we hadn’t lived here for long yet, she really wished she could have some daddy-daughter time just once in a while. Given that this WAS the reason we moved here and this “girlfriend” was only a few weeks into the situation, I did not hesitate to reassure my daughter that it was okay to discuss her feelings and wishes about that with her father; that she had every right to request occasional “Daddy” time minus the girlfriend. I told her I was certain he would want to know that she felt that way, would very much care and would honor and respect her wishes, since they certainly were not at all unreasonable. And strangely, I really believed this. Never imagined it would even cause a hiccup.
Please bear in mind that “Daddy” told us on the way in from the airport at our arrival, how he had been crying in his office earlier that morning because he was so overwhelmed with happiness that his children would finally after all these years be close at hand, close enough to have a regular relationship with on a daily/weekly basis. He had cried so hard he needed a tissue, but didn’t have any and had even “had to” buzz his secretary to bring him some tissue. And secretary was just, “awwwwwww… it’s so beautiful how much you love your children…you must be the greatest dad ever!” I hate to demonstrate my inner cynic at this touching, Hallmark card episode, but I know this man’s theatrics and I was silently disgusted that he was clearly making such a dramatic show about our move. Anything to present himself as the hero-Dad! Anything to make the whole thing all about him…having little, to nothing, to actually do with his children or being a dad. I suppressed those past-influenced thoughts at his story and convinced myself he might have really been being genuine here…after all, he’d been a great dad for 10 years from 2,000 miles away…hadn’t he?
So I encouraged my child to discuss her feelings honestly with her dad, assuring her that he would not be angry and that I knew he would respect her feelings and make some of their limited time together just daddy-daughter time. I told her that I thought he would even feel extra special to know how much time having time with him really did mean to her.
No. Although she’s the overly criticized child, fearful of upsetting her father or disappointing him more than she already did daily by just being her own, wonderful but imperfect of course, self, she braved this conversation! And he didn’t even acknowledge that she had spoken. He ignored her completely although she knew for certain he had heard her speaking. She waited a few days and hesitantly mentioned it again, Daddy, I like (insert name of girlfriend here), but could we see you once in a while just the three of us? Maybe have an hour with you to ourselves? He responded with an adamant and vehement, I’m not breaking up with (insert name of girlfriend here) for you.
My daughter did not understand. She hadn’t asked him to “break up with his girlfriend” at all. She did understand, however, that her wishes not only would not be granted, but that her father had no interest whatsoever in her wishes.
Which, I do understand. After all what I’ve failed to mention here is that this wasn’t just any girlfriend in his long list of failed relationships, this was a rock stars’ ex-girlfriend! I mean, really, of course nurturing that relationship was to come before time with the little girl who gave up all her kindergarten friends, her happy roach-free home, her beloved school, all her other relatives, and her peaceful, happy-go-lucky mother! GOSH…there were priorities here people! Because having your dream job of big power, absolute financial security, an obnoxiously extravagant home, all of your childhood friends and relatives close at hand, you ex-wife under your total control, and (finally!) your two children too, could never be satisfying enough. You have not actually “arrived” in life until you have the ultimate ego-inflating status of dating a “rock stars’ ex-girlfriend”…and that delicate factor of this complicated equation must, without question or hesitation, then be put above all, since without that part of it, you’re still just not totally convinced that you are absolutely and unequivocally THE man.
You all understand, right?
Yeah, me too because here is where I snapped. And I mean snapped. Enough. No more attempting to reason with this man. No more making up flimsy-ass excuses for him that my children weren’t buying anyway. I merely shoved aside 10,000 roaches to sit on my formerly comfy (and sanitary)sofa, phoned up the ex and said, I think it’s best we go back home. This just doesn’t seem to be working out for anyone except you, on any acceptable level. To which he responded by screaming, I don’t care what you do! You have 30 and I repeat THIRTY days to get your ass back there or I’m renting out the Michigan house and I’m not helping you one bit to get back there either. And I’m canceling the rental car immediately so you’d better find a way to pay for a rental car on your own.
And here is what we did (had to do): we left everything we’ve ever owned, packed one small suitcase of clothing each and our cat, and used the insurance money from my totaled car to drive back to Michigan in order to save our home. Even my daughters with all their beautiful things and all our precious life-time mementos chose to give all that up to go home and live in our safe, peaceful house, in our safe peaceful small mid-western neighborhood far away from the “Daddy”.
We drove for three days, making it a fun family adventure. Laughing through our sadness and our fears, giggling as much as possible, and talking about how we still had all that really mattered in life: love, peace, respect, our beloved home, and each other. The rest was just stuff and stuff could be replaced…slowly in time, we’d get more furniture, ipods, televisions, computers, clothing, family pictures, etc, etc, etc… Good God, I have the most amazing children!!
And after three days on the road, we finally reached our destination…HOME, SWEET, SAFE, HOME… to discover another family had already moved into our house.
My next conversation with the ex went something like this (and this is obviously a mere excerpt):
Me: the roaches really were unbearable and disgusting and you didn’t care at all how horrifying and unsanitary that was for us.
Douche Bag: Ask me why I didn’t do anything about the roaches.
Me:(genuinely confused) What?
Douche Bag( a tad louder this time): Ask me why I didn’t do anything about the roaches!
Me: (now confused AND irritated at his tone) Ummm…huh?
Douche Bag( full-fledged yelling now): ASK ME WHY I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THE ROACHES!!
Me: Umm…okay, why didn’t you do anything about the roaches?
Douche Bag: Well, you didn’t seem to mind living with them, so why would *I* care if you did?