Running on Empty

You might have noticed my absence recently. I haven’t written anything in over a month. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is time, but the biggest one is an abysmal lack of inspiration. Otherwise known as writer’s block. Life appears to be slugging along at a snail’s pace until you realize tomorrow is August and, where the hell did summer go?

Todd and I, both, have been exceptionally busy – all things considered (ahem, pandemic) – and I will write about all of that next time. Maybe. Until recently, I didn’t feel like I really had anything meaningful to write. The life we’re existing in is surreal in so many ways.

Like everyone else, we go to work. We pay bills. We check in on family. We do our errands with masks on, and then without. We let the dogs out. We let them back in. We go to sleep. We wake up. Wash, rinse, repeat.

What’s not like everyone else, is – specifically – what’s missing. I live in a five-bedroom house. Only one of them is occupied. The room across the hall is vacant. Its blue walls once held posters of Eminem and Bob Marley and a collage of rappers, and the faint spicey smell of boy. There are still clothes in the closet (including a hamper of dirty clothes – oh yes) and in the dresser drawers. I left everything intact for as long as my heart held out hope he’d return, and then – in a moment of catharsis – I went in and gently took down the posters and cleaned the room. Only a couple of weeks ago I removed the hats that hung on the wall behind the door and stacked them neatly on the closet shelf and removed all the hooks to be reused in my renovated closet.

The shell of my son’s room is now a guest room, with new sheets and bedding, though no one sleeps there. What’s left of his belongings remain, because in my heart I hope one day he will reenter that room and realize it was always his. I want him to know he can never be erased. I had moments of anger in the past where I wanted to pack it all up and deliver it to his father’s driveway, but the moment was fleeting and only rooted in the hurt I felt at his choice to avoid all contact with me. Since he won’t talk to me and since his justification for not wishing me a happy Mother’s Day or Birthday is, “there are two sides to every story,” I have nowhere to go with my words and emotions. Apparently I am at fault for the way things are and no one – NO ONE – is interested in responsibility or reconciliation, including the one who started it all.

The room next door is also empty and yet, after four months, the scent of its former occupant still lingers. I cleaned it a couple of months ago in preparation for the home appraiser, which meant folding clothes piled up and putting them away, clearing and dusting surfaces, and making up the bed. The room looks so pretty but it, too, is a shell of its former occupant. She left here several months ago for the weekend with her father, not anticipating that she’d have the opportunity to simply stay there and not return (thus the condition of the room and its contents). If I haven’t already mentioned it, she chose to stay and has never come back. That wasn’tonly her choice, by the way.

I chose to let her go. I decided, after months of fighting it, to let her go live her “best life” according to what she thinks is best for her. I will always be a mother, but I am also human. After months of ill-treatment and alienation, I chose to eliminate that behavior from my life. I’m not chasing two people who clearly don’t want anything to do with me right now. I think, ultimately, I saved them both from irreparably annihilating our relationships. I will not be mistreated, ever again.

While both now insist they were miserable here, the evidence I – and everyone else who bore witness – have is quite different. My son once told me he was so grateful to have moved here, for a chance to start over and make new friends and have new experiences. He played football. He had terrific friends who loved and valued him. They filled my house with their voices and their energy – they’d barrel through my front door with a “hi mom” before they landed in the basement for rowdy games of pool and darts. When his truck broke down a few miles from home, the lot of them got it running again and followed him home to make sure he made it and then made sure it was fixed right.

He had his friends over all the time. He drove the pickup truck as his own every day and had use of the coveted 2001 Mustang convertible. The Mustang that Todd – who taught him how to maintain it – had fully committed to giving him upon graduation from college.  The car was my son’s. While I balked, Todd encouraged him to take it to his high school graduation and then out with the gang afterward. All I could think of – the worrywart I am – was him having an accident in that beloved car. Todd wasn’t worried at all. But Todd is now the bad guy.

Veruca – who has gone far beyond any expectation I had of her living up to her moniker – also claims she was unhappy “for years” and “finally had the balls” to tell me. This, coming from the girl who had the same best friend since the day after we moved here (SEVEN years), was surrounded by a half dozen other friends, had sleepovers and parties and outings with them, and was active and valued in softball for over three years. She, like her brother, was a grade-A student.

She is still a minor and legally I have the right to spend time with her. But I won’t, until she expresses a desire to. I won’t make her. If you had seen the way she treated me right up to the end, you would never judge me for this decision. She knows how I feel about her. I wrote a very long letter, included with her birthday card, expressing my feelings and hope for better times together. Ball is in her court. Also, hopefully she actually saw it. Unfortunately, I have no trust in that.

As long as they have the support of their father, I don’t think either of them will ever have a come-to-Jesus moment. He is, after all, the one who filed the court documents, filled with accusations about me and about Todd. This is a 48-year-old man who never once came to me with these so-called concerns – considering the fact that we were actively communicating and amicable at the time. He just filed for emergency custody of our daughter because I wanted her to come home to start school and she didn’t want to leave daddy’s house. The allegations in this filing are laughable, if you know us at all. Unsurprising, if you know him.

I wrote in this post It’s Over – Our Children in the Middle several years ago after the first custody battle. In it I said, Your child feels like an extension of you AND the other parent – [they identify] with BOTH of you…. love both of you, they have the right to love both of you, and they have the right to see each of you as wonderful, competent, awesome human beings.  This helps THEM thrive, become healthy successful adults who can go on to have healthy successful relationships that hopefully don’t fail like yours did.  It doesn’t matter what YOU think of your ex.  It doesn’t matter what happened in your marriage.  Your children have the right to have you keep your opinions to yourself…. They don’t need to hear it.  They don’t want to hear it.  All my children ever wanted, was “for everyone to just get along.” 

The lesson, the takeaway, is that coparenting is about WORKING TOGETHER for the best interests of the child. Coparenting means when there’s an issue with a child – you discuss it TOGETHER and determine how to handle it, TOGETHER. We were warned by the evaluating psychologist in 2012 not to take everything a child says at face value. Today, I will borrow the phrase used prolifically at work – “practice with a questioning attitude.” Unfortunately, this 48-year-old man only practices with a questioning attitude when it benefits him to do so. Otherwise, the words are good enough for him.

In 2010 (and several times in the preceding years) he threatened me, when the word divorce entered our conversation, that if I left him he would take the children from me and I would never see them. Like a dog with a long-buried but never forgotten bone, he kept his promise. I don’t expect him to like me. I never expected him to seize an opportunity to do me harm that ultimately harms his own children.

I can tell you, as sure as I live and breathe in this beautiful life he failed to give me, that he knows the kids haven’t spoken to me in months. He knows I haven’t called the kids or attempted to see them. He KNOWS.

He was so determined to correct the terrible life his kids were living here, to “support” his kids, and yet he is content to sit by and watch his kids have absolutely no relationship with the mother who loved and raised them for 16 and 20 years? I would bet my life, if asked, he would tell anyone that Tara has nothing to do with them… she doesn’t call V or anything… what can “I” do? I can’t “make” the kids call her if they don’t want to….it’s sad how she wants nothing to do with them.

What kind of father – what kind of man – doesn’t actively encourage his children to have a relationship with their mother? He has done NOTHING. He has what he wants. They both live with him. But it’s not enough. He is content that they have zero contact or relationship with me. He knows we haven’t spoken. He emails me about everything else, but never once has he addressed the elephant in the room. Not once. And he KNOWS. What does that say about him as a father? As a man?

I can only speak for myself. If this were me and it was him they weren’t speaking to – in spite of everything he has done to me – I would STILL be actively working to get my kids to have that relationship. Why? Because I’m a responsible parent and I know this relationship is important. That it’s not about ME.

Also, sometimes kids are wrong. Sorry, no trophy. Sometimes parents are called upon to teach their kids to admit when they’re wrong, show them to own their responsibility, and encourage them to fix it. That’s called being a parent.

Imagine a world where a 48-year-old man who is admits he is flawed and has made multiple mistakes but loves his children more than life itself decides one day to be make a decision that will have everyone say, what a great father! ….for reaching out to the ex-wife he hates more than the man who loved her better to help their son and daughter rebuild a relationship with her.

To be continued.

3 thoughts on “Running on Empty

  1. Tara I feel your pain. I have been through it. Although my circumstances were different I have no contact with my kids because that is what she wanted. I had no choice. Be strong my friend. You did the right thing
    Bruce

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  2. A mother’s love never wanes – it is a constant, a “you can rest in this as fact”. The deep hurt your children feel stabs deeply into the core of who you are, who I am. There IS nothing that can fix it, make it better, hug the pain away, it just is. This symbiotic emotion, the empathy, lives not only in my thoughts but is felt in my heart or my soul – that place that we can never see, only feel. And so, we push on ‘knowing’ – wishing it away & it remains. My deep connection to you on an ethereal plane is without question- I am and always will be there for you & wanting to kiss away the tears – the skinned knees of the past were only practice for the injuries of the heart more deeply felt. A mother’s love never wanes – it is a constant.

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