March 2009


Today, 3/08: K scheduled to arrive at 12:30. Called him at 12:21; he called back a moment later saying I had woken him up and he was in bed. Agreed we would pick him up on the way back from a party at 12:55 at the grocery store by his house. Texted at 12:50 to say we were waiting. Called at 1:00. He appeared (after two more calls) at 1:07 (putting out a cigarette and smelling strongly of alcohol).

Friday, 3/06: K scheduled 3:00, arrived 3:21.

Sunday, 3/01: K scheduled 12:00, called 11:51 to say running late because had to do errands, ETA “in twenty minutes,” arrived at 12:42.

Thursday, 2/26: K supposed to pick up Thing One at school at 12:30; arrived at 12:40.

Sunday, 2/22: K late (I don’t know if this was the 15 minutes late day or the half-hour late day).

This is typical. I don’t think he realizes it, but it seems that a combination of oversleeping and cutting things close makes him late more than half and possibly more than 75% of the time.

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Tonight we filled out the divorce paperwork.

I had asked that we do it, and K. came over at three (well, 3:20; he was late) to see the kids, so after they went to bed, we planned to sit down.

It was hard watching him with the kids today. He was passive and not especially impressive, lounging on sofas and chairs and deferring to me whenever I was around, but he was reasonably nice. Thing One seemed happy enough to play with him. At one point I suggested he take K. upstairs to play with the train tracks, and he excitedly said, “Dad, we can go upstairs! Mom says so! Let’s go do that! Mom says we can go!”

Odd, but not exactly discouraging. At least Thing One is making progress. Of course, he did say a bit later, “Now Daddy’s going to go home to his other house and you can read me a book!” when it was K. whose “turn” it was to do so, but there you are. Really, the adjustment is probably less jarring for him than it is for me; K. used to work four nights a week, and though the kids would see him a lot more in the late morning/early afternoon, he was barely present on those four days/nights. Now he’s over here two afternoons a week (the last three weeks) and he’s definitely nicer to them, certainly nicer than in fall ’08, just before he moved out, when he was frequently spanking Thing One and calling him an “asshole” and seemed put out by the children more than anything (he doesn’t seem overjoyed to see them now, but at least he’s not actively annoyed).

Anyway, I don’t know what I was expecting. I had been crying on and off some of the day. I was sitting there filling out form after form and wanting to ask “Why are we doing this? What happened?” — not rhetorically — but K. had expressed his impatience and irritation, and had done that thing he does where he first tries not to clean up any of the kids’ dinner mess (from the dinner I cooked and he served them) and then, at my reminder that we would have room after he cleaned up, had done at exceedingly half-assed job — but I knew that to ask those questions was pointless and probably counter-productive. So I bit my tongue and we filled out paperwork and I sat next to the man who’d promised to love and honor me for the rest of my life and thought how easy it is to let go of promises that no longer seem convenient.

He didn’t dispute anything. We filled it out (mostly). He left. I finished wrapping the presents (Thing One has two birthday parties to attend this weekend) and icing the cupcakes (Thing One’s allergies mandate that I bring egg- and dairy-free alternatives to such occasions). I thought about how I learned in the country mandated parenting class that such expenditures (birthday presents, music and sports lessons, field trips, after-school activities, etc.) were not part of the child support and how, really, K. should contribute to them, but how he probably wouldn’t because he would not see that by not contributing he was limiting his son’s activities; he would only see that he wasn’t with Thing One at the parties and so any presents or treats were immaterial.

In other words, for K. things are ending. He’s signing this papers — and disputing nothing, really — and he’s done.

For my children and me, things are just beginning.

I wish it would stop hurting so much. I try to be philosophical. I try to believe that things are better this way. But mostly I hate having to live in a world where your husband, the person who was your main support and confidant and safety, can betray and abandon you so totally. Having to live in this world is a hell I never imagined. Having to see his vague impatience and total lack of regret or compassion or empathy, having to see him not seem to care about anything but his exit strategy, having to clean up his mess and look at his impassive face without shaking him and crying, “what happened to you? What happened to us?” — this is more painful than anything I could have imagined.

Having to understand that I can never again take refuge in his arms when I feel this way, nor offer him mine, is still worse. Having to think about the break of faith with my own promise and desire to forsake all others that I will inevitably make in order to continue living is equally bad.

And having to do all this and watch him so often neglect and withhold and fail to respond to his children, watch him show up late and cancel and gradually let his time be eroded, and realize that he is teaching them that a father is someone who has better things to do, is more painful even than that.

I’ve been meaning to write a little about the relationship – independent of the children. I have a lot of anger and disappointment and, most of all, hurt. But I don’t flatter myself that I was a perfect wife or that I did no damage to the relationship.

I have so many regrets, and since K. left I’ve second-guessed myself so many times. If I had praised him more, I think. If I had asked for less. If I had told him, when he told me the joke about how a woman introduced her partner as “my first husband” at a party, that I would never say that, instead of just laughing along. If I had nagged less. If I had appreciated more. If I hadn’t thrown out the word “divorce” in moments of anxiety and frustration. If I hadn’t made him feel that he couldn’t keep working nights forever. If, if, if. If I had invited his friends over more (even though he didn’t). If I had been less critical, not just of him, but in general. If I had gone right down to the bar where he works and made friends with Jezebel when I sensed something was up instead of never meeting her. If I had encouraged him to go out to shows more instead of encouraging him to stay home with me. If we had gone on that honeymoon (our first was canceled by his grandmother dying). If I had gotten someone to take the kids for a night and taken him to a hotel. If.

It’s not that I didn’t want to do these things. It’s that I thought we had time, I thought we understood we were in it for the long haul, I thought that the demands of having two young children and jobs and an old house that’s falling apart were enough. And sometimes, yeah, I lost my sense of humor. But I never lost my sense of love, not for more than a moment.

We used to talk about the things we’d do when the kids were older, the traveling when they graduated from high school. All of the fun we would have together.

And then in November, when things started getting hard, I realized how much fun we could have right now, how much fun we were having, how our children and our lives and each other, even though taxing, were also delightful and serendipitous and beautiful, and how lucky we were to be able to share them.

Sometimes I have moments when I think that if K. really didn’t want to do it — the work of parenting, of being married — (and there was plenty of indication that he didn’t, or at least that he didn’t understand what it entailed) then I’m better off losing him. The situation reflects the reality. Any of these ifs I’m entertaining — they might have prolonged his sticking around, but they wouldn’t have made him do so with grace and love and understanding.

And then there are the moments like now, where I am playing with Thing Two on the bed and she is doing her new game of rolling over and hiding under the covers and laughing, and I marvel at how wonderful it is to have her and to be with her, and then I am overcome with grief at the knowledge that K. and I will never share this moment, or any other like it, again.

Number of minutes before K. was due that he called to say he’d be late Sunday: 9

Number of minutes he estimated before arrival: 20

Number of minutes elapsed: 51

Number of assertions that the drinking/sleeping/shoving people around problem that K. displayed in November is no longer a risk: 3

Number of times it’s been tested: 0

Relationship, in value assigned by K. as implied through an equal exchange proposed, of “I get to drink when I’m with the kids” to “I’ll agree that you can have sole custody”: 1:1

Chances sole custody would be assigned elsewhere than to the mother in a case where mother is residential custodian, expresses commitment to children, and has always been primary parent and where father legally ‘abandoned’ family, has consistently reduced parenting time, asserts no ability to live with children, and displays questionable judgment/lifestyle in terms of child safety  by Oregon family court, which does not assign joint custody: 1 in 1,000,000

Number of times K. has asserted that “two or three times [afternoons] a week” is the most parenting time he wishes to have: 4

Number of times K. has verbally acknowledged that this is based on his personal desires and contrary to what he believes to be best for the children: 2

Percentage of children fathered by K. who currently have my surname as the last name and his surname as a  middle name: 50

Number of times, in the last three weeks, K. has canceled parenting time with less than one week’s notice because of personal feelings or work conflicts: 3

Percentage of children fathered by K. who spend more than 7-10% of their time with him: 0

Number of times K. has expressed interest in declining to work whenever dictated in order to maintain a regular parenting schedule: 0

Percentage of children fathered by K. who currently have his surname as a last name and my surname as a  middle name: 50

Rank of “identity and preference of the custodial parent” in Oregon state court’s determination of “the best interests of the child” in minor name change proceedings: 1

Rank of “avoidance of embarrassment, inconvenience or confusion [ensuing from having a different last name as sibling(s) or primary custodial parent]” in Oregon state court’s determination of “the best interests of the child” in minor name change proceedings: 2

Rank of “identification of the child as belonging to a distinct family unit [of others with the proposed last name]” in Oregon state court’s determination of “the best interests of the child” in minor name change proceedings: 3

Rank, in order of frequency, of cocktail service concerns, celebrity sightings, and drugs done by coworkers in K.’s half of recent interlocutions: 1, 2, 3

Rank of parenting issues: n/a

Number of times K. has expressed strong emotion through tears at hearing that Thing One or Two is experiencing emotional trauma, physical symptoms, or severe distress: 0

Number of times K. has expressed strong emotion through tears at hearing that I think it would be easier for Thing One to switch the order of his names so that my last name is the legal last name: 1

Number of times the admission that a name change “would probably be easier for Thing One” was made on Sunday night: 4

Rank, in order of frequency, of “I need him to have my name” as a rationale for not doing so: 1

Judicial weight given to father’s “protective interest” to have a child bear his surname: 0

Ratio of mother’s rights to name child to father’s rights to do same as asserted by Oregon courts: 1:1

Rank of “It’s not about what the family needs; it’s about what I need” or similar as umbrella explanation for K.’s actions: 1

Number of minutes before Monday’s joint counseling appointment that K. called to inform me that he wasn’t coming: 19

Exact formulation of similar (above) on Sunday night: “I recognize that the law is on your side and that it would probably be easier for him. But it’s not about him; it’s about me.”

Well. That’s just the problem, isn’t it.

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