Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I had a dream

The holding pattern of my current life is, surely, the calm before the storm of child custody. One of these days I'll somehow be summoned to court, once my child's father saves up enough cash to pay his lawyer's retainer. (I say "somehow" because I don't know how it happens. Will the police show up at my door, or worse, at my workplace? I doubt that it will be as casual as a letter appearing in my mailbox.)

Those of you who have been following my blog (thank you, thank you) know that my house has been for sale since last summer in an attempt to follow my dream of moving back to the downtown neighborhood where things are more happening and active and pedestrian.

Those who know me in person don't think I should continue the pursuit of my dream at this time. And although I have been doing my best to set aside some time for meditation each day, I seem to lack my own clarity on the issue.

There's certainly one factor which saddens me, to the point where I don't usually allow myself to think about it. It's the financial factor. It's going to cost me a small fortune to hire a lawyer, and that unfortunate fact has rocked my dream boat. The downtown neighborhood, being very trendy, is more expensive. My ability to afford it is definitely questionable.

I know that a reasonable home buyer would take into account that emergencies must be planned for. And I have. The problem is, my savings could easily be depleted by a combination of attorney's fees, the child's future orthodontics, and the costly maintenance of older houses.

On the other hand, I have always said that I don't want to let money rule my life. There is some chance that I would be OK financially after moving. But moving would be risky, maybe even careless.

Right now, the thought of giving it up depresses me. Somehow, the dream was keeping me alive, not in the technical sense but in the inspired sense. When I think of giving it up, I realize how dismal my life is otherwise. I am very alone, with my main social contacts being the people I interact with briefly at work, and the child, of course, whose main interests are bicycles, video games and Mythbusters. I work, I clean the house, and I deal with the child, and barely manage at that. No wonder I took on this "moving" project. I suppose I hoped I'd be moving out of this life and into a new one.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Happy House

After school today I heard the child mutter something under his breath about a happy house. I asked what he was talking about, and he explained that in a few hours, our house would be very happy, filled with excited little boys experiencing their first sleepover.

Our house has not been very happy lately, I suppose. It's been staged for real estate showings. No house enjoys that. Houses are not meant to be museums. Houses crave people, the more the merrier, and the laughter those people might bring.

Our house has been a showpiece for 6 months now, and the house has started to complain. It burns out its light bulbs with lightening speed, as if to punish the uptight homeowner. It has started showing never before seen wrinkles- the marble in front of the fireplace features an unsightly crack, just like the slate in the entry and the kitchen linoleum (referred to euphemistically as "vintage"). I can't help noticing smudges and fingerprints on the living room walls which I was sure I had cleaned to perfection. Even the marble window sills around those Anderson windows are showing signs of discoloration, aging and shifting.

Each time I hear the furnace kick on I say a silent prayer, because I know it's on its last legs. I didn't have it serviced this fall because I keep thinking I'll be out of here soon- why bother? Its humming sound is louder than it used to be- in fact, it's working itself up to a disconcerting roar.

Even the electrical system has started to act up. I can no longer fire up the Dyson HEPA vac without tripping the circuit breaker. Now I accept that if I want to vacuum, I have to turn off every light in the house first, shut down the computer and unplug the refrigerator.

The tree in front of the house sees to it that my roof looks unsightly at all times. An hour after the gutter cleaners left last month, that tree dropped 6 enormous warbled branches onto my roof, where they remain as testimony to my neglect.

But tonight the house is happy, as it literally shakes with the rhythm of the delirious boys. It resonates to their manic shouting, acting as a conspiring megaphone. The boys rush through the house, searching not for its flaws but for its magic. They marvel at its secret door hiding the card table cabinet. They climb up through the coat closet leading up to the attic with no floor, awestruck. They shriek for joy in the usually ignored basement as they sort through all the stored treasures. The house thrives tonight, doing what it was put on this earth to do.

I bet it would let me vacuum tonight, with the lights on.

Monday, January 01, 2007

a shaky start

This new year is beginning whether I'm ready or not. In light of what happened on December 26, I'm not so sure that I am.

Bruce, my child's father, took the child out for a few hours that day. When he brought the child back, he stated that he wanted him overnight next Saturday. I said, "Ask C. He's sitting right there."

C said no, very meekly- it was the first time he'd had the courage to stand up to his controlling father.

Bruce: "WHY?"

C: "I don't want to."

Then the tantrum began- Bruce's, not the child's. He ransacked my house, grabbing everything he'd given the child, all the while yelling about what an horrible person and mother I am, how he doesn't even like the child, how he's never going to see the child again, and other such ranting.

He took the flat-screen TV he had given C this Christmas, and tore its speakers off the walls. He wheeled C's bike out of my garage. He took C's favorite possession, his laptop, while yelling for C to give him his iPod and clothing. He tore the shirt off the child's back, and when C re-appeared a few minutes later wearing a different shirt, he took that one as well. Because I had been running through the house trying to hide C's favorite things from Bruce, this took quite a long time. I was trying to calm Bruce down and get him to stop, but it was futile.

Midway through the tirade, I ordered Bruce off my property and threatened to call the police. I can't even imagine why I didn't follow through. It was as if I was paralyzed with shock and fear.

Shortly before he left, Bruce actually demanded that I "put the child in the truck." At least I had enough sense to refuse! What mother would send her child off with a raging madman?

Finally, Bruce threw C's new TV out of his truck into the street and drove over it, in front of the sobbing child who was naked from the waist up on a chilly winter day.

Our lives changed that day. It would be absolutely irresponsible of me to have it any other way. I did call the police after Bruce fled, and filed a report. The next day I contacted a highly regarded domestic attorney. On Wednesday I'm taking C out of school to see a child psychologist.

Until now, I had allowed Bruce to see the child whenever he wanted to even though we had never been married and had no legal arrangement. He paid no child support. That deal could have worked if Bruce had been capable of behaving with integrity.

Acting upon the advice of my lawyer, I informed Bruce (in a public place) that he could either get counseling for himself to learn how to be a loving and caring father, or he could go downtown and file for custody. He scoffed at the counseling, which I totally expected, and he said he'd be contacting an attorney. "It'll be a while, (he'll need time to save up the money for the lawyer's retainer) but I'm gonna do it."

So now I wait. Someday, probably in a few weeks, or sooner if he can get somebody to loan him money, I'll be summoned to court to determine custody of my child. I did everything I could to prevent this, because court-ordered visitation would undoubtedly have meant that my reluctant child would have had to spend MORE time with Bruce than he already was, but now I have no choice. Hopefully now, the judge will see that Bruce has a maturity problem, and visitation will be non-existent or supervised.

Oddly enough, I have felt relieved since this happened- nervous, apprehensive, yet relieved. Bruce had been bullying and controlling me, and to a lesser extent the child, for years. I put up with it, and the lack of child support payments, all for the sake of avoiding a standard visitation schedule. C was usually unhappy with Bruce, especially during his rare overnight visits, and I was willing to pay a dear price to keep it out of court.

Now, for the time being, Bruce is out of our lives. The albatross is lifted. Much to my surprise, I feel like a completely different mother, one who is more responsible, involved, and effective than ever. I never realized how my spirit was being stifled before this happened.

So, Happy New Year. Here's to positive life changes and new beginnings.