Between Life

As a human being, I still feel like a child some days. I can feel like the insecure teenager I was in high school, or the curious and slightly less insecure college student, or the pretending to be an adult “grown up.” As parent, I feel different and much more educated.

I can still remember my two best friends from HS coming to visit in the hospital after I had my son. Paraphrasing one friend, she said “[dude, can you believe you like, made a person!?]” I just smiled and laughed, but my head wasn’t wrapped around the reality of the situation yet either.

One of the most terrifying moments of my life was coming home from the hospital with that little “nugget,” as my friend would call him. I managed to get him in to the bassinet/rocker thing that he practically lived out of the first two months. My husband went out for something (probably a pack of smokes), and I passed out on the couch rocking the tiny human to sleep. I remember thinking I have no fuckng clue what I’m doing here, as I drifted off. He returned about 20 minutes later, and I don’t know why I remember this, but he said the one kind thing I can remember him saying for years before and  after that. He said, “[y]ou’re a good mom,” and he was sincere. I still didn’t have much experience in keeping that defenseless little thing alive, but I felt a whole lot better. I thought, as long as I do my best for him, everything will work out.

About a week later, I broke down in a sobbing lunacy, because I thought I was never going to sleep again. My son never slept well nor through the night until he was at least a year and a half old. It was during this sleep deprived nightmare that I found out I was an alcoholic, and with the turmoil at home (5 hour fight-a-thons), I’m not sure how I survived those first couple years. Yet here we are, and I feel all the wiser for it.  As a mom, I feel like my real age. In regards to anything else in life, this is usually not the case.

I can remember my heart beating over middle school crushes like it was yesterday. Not so long ago I snuck out every night to hang out with my friends. Only a handful of years ago I was thriving in academic glory in college. I’m certain I just got married recently, but somehow I have a 3 and a half year old and am over a year into divorce. When the hell did all this happen?

Now I’m in this weird in between space. I have a not so new partner, but we are evolving and recovering anew in sobriety. I have a young child who is dealing with grown up situations. I have a stable job that I am ready at any moment to leap from to a more enticing opportunity or more fulfilling career path. I have had a home for six and a half years, filled with both horrible and wonderful memories, that I will soon have to leave. My days with this last name are numbered, and I have so much uncertainty about the future that I’d be terrified if it weren’t for the amazing program known (or not) as AA. It is the one constant in my life that will always be there, and as long as I lean on it, I know I will be ok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually Gone

My parent’s got divorced when I was eight years old, and I was glad they did. My dad was rarely home, and when he was, there was always fighting or tension so strong you could feel the weight in the air. My father had wanted a divorce for years. He told me once he stayed married 9 years longer than he should have. Ouch.

The final straw for my mother was one night of drunken chaos. They had been fighting for hours. My mother came up from the basement, where he had built his workshop, and she was crying and covered in sawdust. She didn’t say anything, but it was obvious he had pushed her down. She finally convinced him to leave the house and locked the door behind him. He must have changed his mind and came pounding on the door to be let back in. She called the cops, but they didn’t arrive until after he had charged shoulder first through the glass side panel next to the front door. I was standing on the stairs right in his path. I was frozen staring at this craziness. Thankfully breaking through glass isn’t exactly a smooth process like it’s portrayed in the movies. I didn’t know who that person charging at the window was, but I will never forget him. So, the divorce was welcomed relief for us all.

I wasn’t, however, happy when my Dad decided to move to Iowa. It felt like abandonment, and it was. He took me out a couple times before he left. We played mini golf or went bowling, but he always seems tense and distracted.  I didn’t know he was Bipolar at the time or that he was an alcoholic. My mother waited until I was older to tell me. At the time, all that I knew was she hated when he drank, and that he had left me to go start a life somewhere else.

My father did return to the Chicago suburbs briefly when I was ten-ish. Not for me, but for his good friend’s daughter. She was ten years younger than him, but that seemed to just be my father’s taste in women as my mom is nine years younger. He lived with her for about a year, not too far from where I lived with my mom.

During this time my dad got re-married, and so did his new wife’s brother; my ex-step-uncle. I had known him for a long time as my father’s friend while my parent’s were still married. He was the first person to put an electric guitar in my lap, but it was way to big and heavy for me to find any enjoyment in it. I got to video tape his wedding, and I remember very clearly sprinkling salt into my dad’s wine when he wasn’t looking so he would stop drinking it. It didn’t matter as it was an open bar, but I thought is was funny and might ease my mom’s worries, as she had been invited as well. Somehow my mother and I became my wasted father’s early ride home. I vividly remember how he opened the back door, swaying dangerously outside the car hollering “Aunt Clarice!” He then proceeded to pass out. Thankfully we were still in the parking lot, but my mother was visibly upset.

As far as his second wife goes, it was her 5th marriage, #2 for my Dad, and they seemed happy. At least they didn’t fight. Though, she never seemed at ease around me. I felt like an unwelcome invader at her house despite loving it there. They cooked and drank a lot, listened to good music, and I got to watch movies and play video games.

Then he convinced her to move back out to Iowa with him. My father is a very charismatic person at times, and could probably convince someone they didn’t really need both of their arms. They moved out to Perry, IA. Of course I was sad, and I don’t think they lasted 6 months out there.

He dropped of the face of the planet for months in a deep depression, until he found his girlfriend in Fort Dodge that summer. He would never get married again (false) he said, but brought me along to her house when he would visit. She had a daughter my age. We became instant best friends. We’d go see Titanic, too many times, or rent Romeo & Juliet so we could fawn of Leonardo DeCaprio. We went to the “mall” in Fort Dodge, ran around in lightening laden thunder storms, bought candy and Mountain Dew that we ate/drank until we got sick, and got quite the kick out of pretending to smoke our chocolate cigarettes in the bar in Perry when they would come down to visit.

It was a fun time; highly unsupervised. Our parents were always out somewhere and always came back in way too good of a mood. I didn’t know why nor did I care. I was having too much fun.

One particularly hot summer day up in Fort Dodge, I was playing the role of water girl; bringing my dad glasses of ice water as he dug up a giant pine tree out back. I was bored to tears, because my friend was spending time with her dad. I remember handing my Dad yet another glass of ice water and mustering up the courage to ask him if he still believed in God. I was in private school at the time, and the state of his soul concerned me. He thought about it briefly and simply replied “Yes.” That was enough to quell my worries of his afterlife. We went back to Perry later that day. Shortly after, I went home to Illinois to start public school for the first time. I’d never see my Fort Dodge best friend again.

I had another friend before that. She looked like my sister, blond hair, blue eyes and skinny as a stick. I would only get to see her on summers when her mom would ship her off to live with her dad, our neighbor. Her dad was a narcissistic, German, Kiss fan to the extreme who was ALWAYS sipping on a beer. He tanned and smoked too much and was a chronic bachelor. There wasn’t much supervision going on over there either. I only visited a handful of times. She would usually come to my house. But the one time I had been over there, her dad felt the need to let me know that some day I would like the taste of beer because I was 100% German like they were. I thought that was a ridiculous thought. I had tried a sip on my dad’s non-alcoholic beer and hated it. “I’ll never like beer,” I defiantly declared. He just rolled his eyes and said “[y]ou’ll see.” I shrugged him off. I wasn’t even going to have alcohol at my wedding (false). It was my wedding after all, and us Seventh-Day Adventists didn’t drink.

One of the last times I saw her was after the divorce and after we had moved to a more affordable condo. She showed up beyond freaked out, because her dad was drunk and fighting with his girlfriend. I think she got shipped back to live with her mom in Washington state. I never saw her again either.

Everyone, it seemed, left eventually, and my earliest memories of alcohol affecting me and people around me were primarily negative. I lost my best friend in high school for a while, because she had started drinking. I was appalled. Then life happened, and I found myself in her basement sipping on my first drinks. We are still friends today, but we rarely see each other.

So what’s the point of all this? I don’t know. It’s just funny the things I remember at different times and realize how they impacted me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Married or Else…

I always thought that the ultimate goal in life was to get married. I was never the kind of person that wanted to be rich or famous. Yes, I wanted to travel and learn about different cultures and languages, but I thought there was always time for that. What if I miss my chance to get married!? Eternal love and happily ever after was out there if any Disney story I ever saw was real. How horrible it would be to wind up alone and miserable! All my friends and family kept getting married, and I felt enormous pressure to find The One and get it done. So I did.

First comes the ring, then the announcement, and then a date is picked; among a million other decisions now lining up to be made. Getting married was such a whirlwind of chaos and joy that I hardly knew what was really going on in my relationship. Denial is a powerful thing in my mind, and I assumed the constant fighting and misery was normal. Planning a wedding is stressful after all, especially when you are mostly doing it by yourself. It was to be expected, I thought.

The day comes, everything is finally out of your hands and you just have to roll with it. Every detail has been hand picked; the music, the venue, the guests, the officiate, the words, the time and place. And then, you’re married. Everyone cheers, pictures are taken, people say nice words, and then everyone parties. Everyone there is there for you. All of you family, from near and far, and your friends give up their time and attention to make this your day. You can even drink as much as you want, provided you have time to take a sip in between visiting with everyone. It is indeed quite a wonderful experience.

I loved seeing my family from up north, and my Father even made the trip back to a town he swore he’d never step foot in again. He gave me a poem, titled “Are You Sure.” It referenced the first night we spent in the tree house he built just for me out in Iowa. It was windy that night, and the wood kept creaking. I kept asking my Dad, “Are you sure it won’t fall?” I ignored the implied “Are you sure?” to getting married. Everyone knows the divorce rates, and everyone saying “I Do” is certain they will beat it. My father credits wanting to walk me down the isle for getting him off major painkillers for his back pain and back in to his life again. So… I guess it wasn’t all a waste.

Court: Money for Justice?

Today is yet another court date. There is always a 50/50 chance whether or not opposing counsel will show up, or the judge. My attorney is always there, which is good, but it also means I get charge regardless if anything gets done or not. Every phone call, e-mail, court appearance, proposal drafted, motion created/submitted, all of it I gets charged. I absolutely think that my lawyer should be paid for her hard work. But some the charges seem like I’m being taken advantage of. What can I do though? I absolutely need her services.

So we do this slow, painful, stress inducing dance called divorce proceedings. I have broken down in to tears countless times in frustration and feeling powerless. The judge has made it clear that since there was no direct abuse by my husband to our son, he should keep his parental rights despite never exercising them. Never mind that he fought with me in front of our son as I constantly begged him not to; hours on end, almost daily. Never mind the knife he brought in the room with us. Never mind throwing my phone against the wall. Never mind trapping me in his car, or the bathroom, or the bedroom so I couldn’t move freely and was forced to engage him. Never mind threatening to kill himself in front of our son and I so we could “watch,” and then deny it to anyone else.

I have hours of phone calls with this asshole recorded so people would believe me. None of it is usable in court. His ex-girlfriend even reached out to me on Facebook, completely unsolicited, to apologize and detail how she had no idea how manipulative and dangerous he was. Again, it is not directly connected to my son. So, according to the judge, none of this matters.

I wish he would have been physically abusive instead of committing so much emotional torture. At least if he hit me, everyone could see with their own eyes what a piece of shit he is. Oh well I guess. It is what it is, and all I can do anymore is try to take the best care of myself and my son as I can.

In the Beginning

Once upon a delusion, I desperately chased the “American” dream: The nuclear household with the husband working, the mother home with the kids, in some dystopian illusion from 1950. I thought that my life would be perfect only after I got a husband, got the home, and had the kids. With complete dedication to that dream and in complete denial of anything that could tarnish it; I got pretty far.

My high school was a societal bubble of very different economic, athletic and academic classes. Rich, athletic, and/or rich academic types dominated the school. Low income misfits, stoners, and goths were very few and far between. I didn’t really fit in to any group, but most glaringly not with the rich, athletic, or academic types. In high school, I never did anything impressive. I spent my time day dreaming of the perfect relationship, listening to music to drown everything else out, self-destructing in defiance and rage, or looking for someone to solve all my problems. There was so much angst and pessimism running rampant inside my head; not like in college.

College was a strange new world of seemingly limitless possibility. I found my passion for research and writing, and I was published for the first time. Finally, after relying on myself to pay for college, I graduated Manga Cum Loude with other academic honors. My future seemed bright, but it felt uncertain and terrifying.

I moved out from my childhood home, got engaged after an annoyingly long three year relationship, planned a decent wedding on a tiny budget, got married to the high school “sweet” heart I never knew I had, worked two jobs, managed to buy a small condo in a nice neighborhood, and bought the shiny new car. None of it got me to that happy dystopia I was chasing. In fact, I was completely miserable.

The relationship with my husband began to strain even before getting married. I ignored every warning sign. We fought a lot, and I hated it. After a few years of marriage, I was ready to leave. I was over the idea of having kids to fix everything, but I realize it too late. I wound up pregnant two weeks after making a firm plan to leave. I had even restarted taking my birth control. So, I stayed. Why? Because of a sworn upon promise, “the relationship [would] change. He [would] change.” He did not.

I should have left long ago. I was too busy enjoying being pregnant and learning how to care for a tiny human being. In a daze from lack of sleep, I was too drained to notice the miserable dynamics of our relationship were recurring with new gusto. We had a beautiful son. I could tune out the rest… for a while.