So today it arrived. Sure, I saw it coming, but that doesn’t make it an easier to process, any easier to swallow, any easier to shrug my shoulders and proclaim “it is what it is” (apparently my catchphrase in the eyes of my father, who has heard me drone on and on about the situation for the past 5- or is it 10?- years). Priority mail.
I notice the return address, remembering the location of the courthouse, recognizing the case number, not really memorized but a provocative prong in my memory, following years of periodically logging in, confirming I wasn’t in arrears, often discovering I was due a kickback, having overpaid via automatic withdrawals removed from my paycheck- like clockwork- over the past 5 years. Yes, priority mail has been delivered and it’s time, once again, for this highlyhdedicatedidvorceddad to answer the call.
Truth be told, I’ve been nervously anticipating its arrival, dreading all official looking envelopes that arrived in the mail for the past few weeks. You see, things soured with the ex recently (let’s call her “the one who shall not be named”, with hopes that J.K.Rowling won’t come after me with a copyright lawsuit- I got enough legal troubles on my plate, thank you!). After years of fighting to hold together a rocky marriage, and then another half-decade of trying to steer a tumultuous divorce away from a seemingly always imminent impending storm, the past few weeks (or is it months?) have been spent avoiding chaos in the midst of the maelstrom, questioning the proverbial wisdom that there is calm in the eye of the storm.
And it all started with a fight over three dollars- yup, three dollars (or probably $2.75 to be exact)- that fateful Saturday morning the kids were running 5 minutes late, when “the one who shall not be named” came to pick them up at my place, ready to take my daughter to her weekly ballet class. She told me she wanted my EZ-Pass to compensate her for the extra cost of taking a toll road to ballet class- the very same toll that I had paid each week when taking my daughter to ballet class, almost exclusively for the previous two years. In a moment of frustration, a rare instance of letting my emotions get the best of me, a rare miscalculation of the direction I should steer our relationship in, fueled by the erratic winds of my own mind, I said no. Pay for it yourself. You get enough money from me. Into the storm, I steered.
Maybe if I could call that Saturday morning our regular pick-up, we would have been sailing on smoother waters. But, in reality, there was nothing regular about her coming to my place, four miles away from hers, to get the kids. For four long years, every pick-up, every drop off, every single event occurred in her hood, on her turf, on her terms. Mom was at the center- that’s the way it had to be, the way I had to make it work, the deal that was dealt that I had to play. And, since my kids were and always will be my priority, I made it work, always running to her place, wearing out a path between my kids’ two homes, often crossing the non-toll bridge that connected us as many as four times in a single day. Tennis lessons in her neighborhood? No problem. Pick up at daycare around the corner from her? Of course. Getting my kids at schools that were a hardship for her but even more inconvenient for me? Alright. And don’t forget about just plain old pick-up and drop-off at mom’s, waiting in the car, at times alone, often with the kids, wondering where she was and when she would return.
Then, this past fall, I really fucked up: I drove after drinking, again, and lost my license. I am no angel. Man, I got issues. This, I know, is not some quick little disclosure that I can just throw out there and brush off, immediately going on with my narrative. But it happened. And I take full responsibility for it, all of it: the self-destructive behavior, the lifetime of wrestling with depression, the struggle with addiction, the failed, sporadic attempts to get help, the conscious decisions to isolate myself, trying to make it work, trying to carry myself through dark places that I inhabited, always- always- staying strong for my kids: providing for them, giving my time, offering my care, sharing my love, sheltering them from the storms that increasingly became my inner reality, basking in the sunshine their presences provided whenever they were near. Have no fear, dear reader, there are more stories to be told about my own flaws that will overflow in future blogs. But that doesn’t deny me the title of highlydedicateddivorceddad that I have bestowed upon myself, does it? So, for now, I return to my priority mail.
Yes, the request came in the mail today: time to head back to the court to answer the demand for more child support from the mother of my children, my ex-wife, the one who shall not be named, the feminist who has the gall to proclaim herself as a single mother in public forums, describing her encounters trying to receive government assistance. Priority mail has come to the home of my two amazing children, and I will answer the call. I don’t run from my responsibilities and I don’t hide my mistakes- but it’s time for this highlydedicateddivorceddad to tell his side of the story. And I got a feeling that the whirlpool may have just begun. But you know what? Maybe it’ll bring me a step closer to the calm in the eye of the storm.