Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Big Bang, 10 Years Later

It was Valentine’s Day. Yet there I was, blubbering in the bathtub.

I’d spent a fabulous romantic 45th birthday in San Francisco with Noah, and chose to look at the 10 year anniversary of the Big Bang as a necessary evil that, in one fell swoop, practically catapulted me into a new life and later, the arms of a wonderful man who cherished me.

On the afternoon of February 14th, our plane landed back in Portland and Noah and I were picked up from the airport and taken to dinner at a small Italian restaurant in the St. John’s neighborhood. Noah’s parents graciously wished me a belated happy birthday and toasted Noah and I with glasses of red wine over calzone. Later that evening, as I relaxed in a bubble bath, my phone rang. The word “kids” flashed across the screen and I cheerfully answered.

My heart sank when I heard Mike’s voice on the line. Today of all days I didn’t want to even think of him much less speak to him.

“Hey, Soph, on Friday Faith is going to a slumber party then Wanda will drop her off at her dance practice in the morning."

It wasn’t a question. Mike was informing me of how Faith wouldn’t be dropped off on my weekend. Again.

This time, I didn’t push back. For the past several months I’d been firmly but politely telling the kids and Mike that there were going to be times I would veto a slumber party or volleyball practice on my weekends so I could spend time with my kids. The older kids get, the more challenging it is for any parent to count on face to face time with a teen or pre-teen and even harder to have that time as an every-other-weekend non custodial parent. My children are extremely social and athletic, which is good. But if I said “ok” every time they wanted to make other plans or their dad and Wanda insisted they go to a practice or game, I’d never see them other than on a field while I sat on the sidelines cheering from a distance.

I’d tried to express this to Mike in counseling. He’d simply reacted by blustering about the importance of sports. I knew exactly where he thought I fit into our children’s lives and it was several levels below athletics.

After eight years of acting against my maternal instincts and disdain for the habitual over scheduling of my kids, I finally stood my ground early one Saturday morning in September and for the first time, didn’t take Faith to her 3rd season in a row of “Fall Ball” softball. It was an all-day tournament 20 miles from home, in the rain, and she was too tired to begin with. That was definitely not the way I wanted to spend my precious time with my daughter that weekend. I told Faith she didn’t have to go. I emailed her coach, copied Mike, and let him know that since I’d only found out that Mike had obligated her to the tournament the day before, we were making other plans and the team would have to do without her that day at least.

Mike was furious. He pulled Faith off the team entirely and told her it was her mother’s fault for influencing her and he told her that she had to pay him back the money he’d spent signing her up. Our parenting plan states that we have joint legal custody and decisions about school and sports activities are meant to be discussed and agreed upon together, before obligating the other parents parenting time. He also told Wanda to block my telephone number, and Noah’s, from all three of my children’s cell phones as my “punishment,” which was even the word he used when we met once with a counselor about the level of difficulty between us.

“Damn straight, it is like punishment. She didn’t take Faith to her game that we paid for.”

He also said that the cell phones they’d bought my children as Christmas gifts the year before, and most likely used a portion of the child support I paid, was a “luxury” and that they didn’t buy the kids cell phones for my convenience therefore, they had every right to block my land line and cell phone numbers from them.

“You can just call the landline at night or go through me and Wanda if you need to talk to them.” The counselor just shook his head and nothing was accomplished by the end of our hour.
When I later insisted he be rational and fair and unblock my number after months of the blocking continued, he’d been so miffed at my audacity to ask instead of “dropping it” as he’d ordered me to do that he took the kids phones away from them completely, telling them it was their mother’s fault they’d lost the right to them.

Several heated conversations followed. I asked Mike and Wanda multiple times, week after week, in a fair and polite appeal, to please unblock my phone from my children’s.

Mike sneered at me and his voice was condescending as I crouched in the bathtub on Valentine’s Day, cringing as I heard myself wimpily asking him yet AGAIN to unblock me from my children’s phones.

“I’ll think about it,” he finally said.

On the exact 10 year anniversary of the day my ex husband did what he did to end our marriage, I finally felt something deep within me snap.

Not only did he not even fathom the fact that he was mocking and bullying me, but he didn’t realize or know it was exactly 10 years to the day that I had answered the door of our safe, suburban home to two policemen looking for my husband.

When I hung up the phone, instead of feeling hurt and helpless, a new emotion surfaced, and for once, I embraced it.


(To Be Continued)