Friday, June 23, 2006

walk through the park

It's been a rough week, mainly due to the unreasonable behavior of my child's father. Although he neither pays child support nor has any legal custody whatsoever, it has always been my policy to treat him with respect and to allow him to see the child whenever he wants to. I am being quite sincere when I say that I have treated the man amazingly well; better than he deserved, in fact.

Instead of gratitude, he regards me with utter disdain. I have never understood that. I am unaccustomed to being the target of anyone's hatred.

Threatening to "take me to court", he bullied me into letting him have the child this weekend, Friday through Sunday, and he is demanding the same every second weekend, plus every Wednesday night, until the child turns 18. I have been advised in the past, by the city's best domestic attorneys, to do everything I can to stay out of court because any father (short of a convicted murderer) will be perceived as a hero by the court if he asks to see his child. Yes, he'd have to start paying child support, but my sole concern is limiting my child's exposure to a man whom I consider a poor influence. Until now, the two had spent only a few hours per week together. I was OK with that.

I have an appointment set up with another lawyer this coming week. Perhaps court is the only way to go at this point.

Meanwhile, the father picked up my child at 5pm today (Friday). As I said goodbye to my little boy, I asked him to call me tonight and tomorrow night before he goes to bed. His father roared, "HE'S NOT CALLING YOU, AND YOU'RE NOT CALLING HIM! YOU'RE SICK!!!" I said that any mother would expect to speak on the phone to her young child away from home, and he bellowed,"YOU'RE WRONG!!! YOU'RE FUCKING CRAZY!"

Of course, as he sped off with my little son, I very seriously questioned whether I should have allowed the visit. The child has been safe with him in the past, and that's why I gave in. Once I speak to the lawyer about recent events, I'll know how to proceed from now on. But this weekend must be endured somehow.

At the suggestion of friend TA, who assured me by telephone that both Betty and son would survive this weekend, I took a "meditation walk" in the rose garden outside of my house. In other words, I tried not to march like a bat out of hell, but rather to stroll, like a peaceful, aware wanderer.

There were many people to be avoided- that was my initial goal. I wanted to be alone- quite a challenge on a pleasantly cool evening amongst the roses.

I happened upon a wedding rehearsal. Curious, I observed the participants. The people appeared calm, reverent and supportive. Why can't people just be that way all the time, I wondered? Tears clouded my vision.

Then I thought of my own history. I've never been married. What is it about me that has deemed marriage elusive? And what is it about me that attracts people like the child's father into my life?

I left the questions at the altar and continued on toward the casting pond. I passed a family: mother, tiny son and father. The father looked at me as if I were the most important person on the face of this earth, as he smiled and nodded at me. Again, tears erupted.

It reminded me of a story I had read about a young man who was deeply depressed. He jumped off a bridge to his death. At the site from which he had jumped, a note was found which he had written. It said, "I'm on my way to commit suicide because I feel so alone. But if anyone smiles at me during my walk to the bridge, I will not jump off."

Lest I alarm my readers, I am not suicidal. But I am awed by the stark contrast between my child's father's hatred of me and this stranger's display of unearned, unconditional love.

Then, as I meandered back home, I thought of the little dog who had so graced my life. This was the same route my child and I had followed with our Chihuahua the night our dog was killed by another dog in the park. I re-experienced in my mind our dog's complete and utter jubilant exuberance. Again, tears, as I thanked our departed dog for the consolation in absentia, and the reminder of what life can be.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

life in the suburbs

Whirling Betty's city (and its suburbs) will soon boast more people residing outside of its surrounding outerbelt than inside. This is disturbing on many levels.

Most obvious is the resulting destruction of nature. Nature is obliterated by man to make way for ugly little cul-de-sacs devoid of plantlife and wildlife. (But no doubt, those houses contain the coveted 2-story great rooms from which its inhabitants can gaze out the picture windows at the neighboring trophy houses.)

Nearly as obvious is the ruination of our ozone layer, since the people inhabiting these mini-mansions must drive far away to earn money to pay for them. Often these people opt for gas-guzzling SUV's, of course, which are an undeniable part of today's American Dream. (Wars, of course, must be fought over the oil needed to run these vehicles.)

And remarkably, these luxury suburbs are devoid of sidewalks. Walking is downright discouraged, in order to make way for the almighty automobile. Rising obesity is one symptom of this phenomenon. Not getting to know the neighbors is another.

Whirling Betty and Son live within the boundaries of the outerbelt. However, we live 8 miles from downtown, in an apparent suburb, judging from the glaring lack of sidewalks. Walking or bike riding is simply not safe here, because the car rules. A nearby vacant commercial building, which we were hoping would become a restaurant, was leased out to Auto Zone. The car rules, there's no doubt about it.

Five years ago, when my child was just entering preschool, we moved here from a downtown neighborhood. There, we had sidewalks, and we used 'em. I hardly ever fired up the Honda. I even walked to work. Pedestrians were expected and respected.

Why, oh why, did I leave the place I loved? I followed the herd of People With Kids to the "family-oriented" suburb we now live in. How are we better off? We can't walk anywhere without risking life, limb and lungs. Always confined to a vehicle, we don't know our neighbors. I even have to drive my kid to his school bus stop because walking these sidewalkless streets is absolutely out of the question.

According to a local moving company, the vast majority of moves here are to locations farther from downtown (often to outside of the outerbelt). Well, my goal is to buck that trend. As soon as I find the right house, we're moving back downtown.