I have been neglecting you dear readers but I have some news and reflections and such for you today, Dear Ones. Like the solar system, my life seems to run on an elliptical trajectory. When bodies orbiting the sun are closest to it, they move more rapidly. On the outer pass, slow, baby, slow. I’m at perigee now.
I am with the children and Kindest Man and his family on beautiful Chincoteague Island, one of my favorite places on the planet. In the early morning we drove to Assateague Island National Seashore before sunrise to confirm the existence of God. It looked like this:
We have house sitters so if you happen to be a would-be robber, don’t bother.
I started this post last night on the Fourth of July. It was after a stunning sunset and after everyone was mostly settled. I sat on the dock and there were fireworks in the distance. I could hear them over the water and then I looked and could see them blossoming far away. I was reminded of Midwestern Independence Days long ago, the dysfunctional family cookouts and the fireworks displays in all the little towns on the long drives home. It’s good to be whole again.
Headlines, Dear Readers, I promised headlines:
MTSWW— He is a great guy. Yup, I love him. I do. Also I don’t want to do what one much-loved blogger and certain friends have encouraged me to do. I don’t want to eff him. (‘Eff’, in the verb form. Hat tip, Mama.) (Also, MTSWW appreciates Twain but he disses Shakespeare. There are a lot of layers of incompatibility and some of them involve roasting pigs whole.)
(Yeah, I love him and NOT in the I really want to have sex with him sort of way. I mentioned that, right?)
Also he bet $1 on the content of any comments, so win me some money, Dear Readers!
ZEEP— He did something really—cover your virgin ears—shitty. He stole something. I am prohibited from telling you much more. I can say that the clerk who called me “a good mother” for marching Zeep back into the store was a saint. I can say that Zeep is a better person for the experience.
“I am ashamed of what you did,” I said, crying.
He hated that.
“I want you to be proud of me,” he said quietly.
Part of the reason we are here is —well, it’s a long personal story and it involves NASA and Zeep. He gives plenty of food for a mother’s pride not just for a mother’s worry.
Ex and The Outlaws—There was an unfortunate exchange of emails with Ex’s sister in the aftermath of Ex’s visit. It all started when she sent a friendly and wholly condescending thank you which I could not have—and probably should have—ignored. She praised me for making such a nice visit for Zeep and expressed her appreciation that Ex and I could be civil to one another for the kids’ sake.
(A dragonfly just alighted on the screen of my laptop which was lovely.)
I responded with a lengthy email explaining that I have nearly always been civil toward Ex, even while he was throwing tantrums in front of the house. I didn’t stop there either.
What goaded me was this idea—oh let’s call it what it is: prejudice—that some people have. They think that in any high-conflict situation, there are two parties and it takes two to tango. Both parties must be responsible for the conflict, probably equally. I got a note recently from a reader/friend asking what I was willing to do “to take the bitterness out….” Let me just be clear for everyone once and for all: I CANNOT TAKE THE BITTERNESS OUT.
A tango is a beautiful dance with two partners dancing together. It is harmonious. What we have here is one partner consciously stomping on the other’s toes. If I could “take the bitterness out” I would have done so years ago. I have not been perfect, but God knows I’ve wearied myself trying. When I was upset with Zeep recently he told me that Ex and his sister had told him that “pissing people off is a family trait” that he “unfortunately inherited.”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “You have choices.”
“I know,” he said, “I’m not going to be like that.”
In my email response to Ex’s sister, I appreciated Ex’s new efforts at civility, even though he still takes no responsibility for the discord. I also expressed my frustration:
Regardless, your implication is either that I have had to let go of past grudges—say for [Ex's] abuse—or learned to ‘grin and bear it’—say for [Ex's] abject refusal to support the children despite losing in court three times, and the ongoing stress to the children of his on-again-off-again interaction including two years since his last physical visit. I do of course whatever I can for the children, including posing in that photo with [Zeep] and [Ex], but please appreciate that no amount of politeness and false grins does a thing to compensate for past and ongoing harm. This is a question of paternal responsibility, not bad manners, and [Ex] has deliberately all but failed. He has and is still committing serious wrongs that cannot be ignored in the name of comity. (Thanks to Kindest Man for the verbiage.)
I went on to appreciate that Ex didn’t drink during the visit even if he said his newfound sobriety was really for his “new sweetheart.” I expressed my hope that it ‘sticks’ and that he is finally getting the treatment and support he needs. I thanked Ex’s sister for her support of the children and for arranging and funding the visit. It was a polite note but it was not well received.
She wrote that I had dashed her hopes of continued civility. Did I mentioned that I have been almost unfailingly civil since the end of the initial litigation? (The notable exception being the day Ex injured Little Man and that was a brief tirade after which I gritted my teeth and regained composure and was perfectly dignified.)
I replied that she was rude which was true but shouldn’t have been said. Anyway, they got some nice photo ops out of their visit.
The Storm—Like much of the rest of the country, we had a storm in the DC area last week. It wasn’t a little storm. It was a derecho—a straight wind storm or land hurricane and it was scary. It downed trees and knocked out power around the region. When we left there was still an enormous tree blocking one of the main roads. Men from the neighborhood had worked all day with saws to try to remove the tree to no avail. They finally gave up and resolved to wait for the county to come with their big equipment. It may still be there.
It reminded me of another other derecho I experienced. I was eight months pregnant with Zeep. Ex and I were living on a rambling and rundown farmstead just inside the city limits of our small Midwestern college town. Ex was in law school and he had taken his bicycle to class. Storm sirens sounded even though it was a perfectly clear, if stiflingly hot, afternoon. I was puzzled and walked out the front door to look at the sky and I saw the darkness coming fast. I snatched up three-year-old Sissy and ran for the cellar steps. The dog and cat had already wisely retreated. The wind slammed into the house before we made the landing. I heard glass break as I ducked through the door into the cold damp cellar. The power went out and I sat on a stored cooler holding my daughter tight in my lap in the darkness as the house rumbled, water seeped in through the walls, and the dog whined from somewhere deeper in the cellar. I sang to my daughter for a full fifteen minutes and then, as suddenly as the storm had hit, it was eerily silent. We emerged to find the carpet and furniture drenched—I hadn’t had time to close the windows. The heavy patio furniture was gone and windows were broken. I began to clean up as I worried over my then-husband’s safety. Twenty minutes later, Ex was at the door, covered in mud. He had bicycled home through the fallen trees, debris, and downed power lines. He hugged me as though it was for the last time. Symbolically, it was. Zeep’s birth was a few weeks later and it heralded Ex’s betrayals and long decline.
Last Saturday the boys and I walked to a nearby pizza place. Much of the neighborhood remained without power. The heavy rains had eroded the ground beneath the bricks around a storm drain. On the darkened streets I stepped on a loose brick and I fell into a hole. It was entirely unlike Alice’s adventures. It was a lucky fall, nothing was broken but I scraped up my legs pretty bad, lost my shoe—which Kindest Man later retrieved—and sat bleeding on the sidewalk for awhile. We delayed our departure by a day to give me an extra day to recover and it has been tough to keep the wounds clean while at the shore but I am healing.
I am healing, body, mind, and spirit. Life is good and you know, Readers, there was a time when I didn’t think it would ever be good again. I hope it is good for you, too. If it isn’t and you are doubting, as some of you surely are, that it will ever be good again—I hope with all my heart that it will be and it will be soon.