I've never been overly impressed with the FX's ability to be efficient, but I'm guessing I may have to rethink that one. He really managed to outdo himself on Easter, by any standard you care to apply. In the period of about two minutes flat he managed to convince all three of his children that his girlfriend was more important to him than they were. And judging by their reactions to this, I think he's facing a real uphill battle to regain ground.
This episode is important on so many levels - the children obviously foremost - but for me it was the trigger that led to the end. In spite of my promise to myself to shut up and lay low, I just couldn't, and believe me when I tell you that I paid the price. My children, however, took the brunt. At first I would have said one child in particular, but a week later I'm not at all sure about that. The devastation was fairly equally distributed.
That was the day that the boys were going to celebrate the FX's birthday, the day they had been looking forward to. The younger ones had been with him since Friday night, Sasquatch had been in and out at home, with plans to meet up with them all on Sunday morning. Saturday at soccer Gumby had said something to me about their plans for the next day, plans which included an IMAX film about half an hour away. As soon as I heard this, I knew the girlfriend would be going, since this theater is right in her neck of the woods. Sasquatch is the only one who has never met her, partly by his own design. At home later, just Sasquatch and I, I asked him who all was going to the movies on Sunday.
"Just dad and me and the boys," he replied.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Positive, " he said. "Why?"
"Just curious, " I answered. "Surely dad would let you know ahead of time if his girlfriend was going with you."
"Of course he would," Sasquatch replied. "Dad would never trick me like that."
And there we left it.
I had just finished my Easter potluck lunch at work when I got a phone call from a sobbing Sasquatch. The kid was beside himself, talking in hiccupy spurts, breaking into fresh tears every couple of words. We all know he drives me to the brink of insanity at times with his attitude, but not this time. His pain was palpable. And this was the story he told.
He had spent the night at a friend's house (one of my best friend's sons), and had gotten a call that the FX would pick him up there and then head out to the movie. What he wasn't expecting was to be picked up in the girlfriend's car, with his dad driving, and the girlfriend riding shotgun. They stopped at a store to buy some snacks for the movie, and the younger boys went in with the girlfriend. Sasquatch took that opportunity to tell his father that he wasn't going with them and that he wanted to be taken home immediately. The FX asked why, claimed that he had told Sasquatch ahead of time that the gf would be coming along. His exact words, according to Sasquatch were "I told you it was just going to be us." Sasquatch said they had a very different definition of "us" , and then told the FX flat out that he didn't appreciate the way this had all come about. I'm imagining he was fighting back tears even then, but I don't know this for a fact.
Okay. So some wires were crossed. Neither one of them can communicate for beans on a good day. Maybe he did tell him. Maybe he didn't. This was still (sort of) salvagable, if handled properly. All it would take was a lot of finesse and some changing of plans.
It didn't happen. The FX told Sasquatch that he was really sorry, that he was sure he had told him - and then he drove him home and headed off to the movies with the younger boys and the girlfriend. Sasquatch was devastated. It took me fifteen minutes on the phone to calm him down. Then I called my friend Laurie to enlist her help. We have a ritual on Easter, families we always get together with. This year, for the first time ever, I was working and the boys were scheduled to be with their dad. A quick phone call later, it was arranged that Laurie's family would pick Sasquatch up on their way to the festivities and he would spend his Easter the way he always did -surrounded by fabulous extended family.
I did a slow burn for the rest of the day, and when I got home minutes after the FX and the gf had dropped off the younger boys, I went up to my room to cool off. I had a brief word with Sasquatch to assess his mood, which was quiet but okay, and then I sat on my bed and tried to breathe. Minutes later Surfer Dude and Gumby came up to chat about their day and their weekend.
"Sasquatch is still pretty upset," Gumby said.
"I know he is, " I answered.
"Did you hear what happened?" Surfer Dude asked.
"I did," I replied. "How are you two with it?"
Two blank faces looked at me. Two shrugs. No answer. I'd never before noticed how the two of them have become this kind of united front lately. Two boys. One persona.
"Listen, " I said. "You know you can always talk to me if you're upset. You can always talk to Sasquatch. He's always there. So is dad. You can always talk to dad, too."
Then they both looked at me and laughed.
"Right," they said. "Sure we can talk to dad. Just like this."
And then, so help me god, they launched into the most dead on imitation of the FX you can imagine, caught him squarely in the act of attempting to listen and take part in a conversation, but not quite succeeding. In about thirty seconds, they nailed him. It was eerie. When they were done, they looked at each other and chuckled. It was clearly not the first time they had performed their two man show for each other. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was a really tough call. In the end, I went with neither.
"So what's your point?" I asked. "You don't feel like you can talk to dad?"
"Oh, come on mom," they said. "We just smile and do what we're told."
"Why would you do that?" I answered, outraged. "Why in the world don't you tell dad what you really think? What you really feel?"
"We just don't," they answered. "It's easier that way."
"So are you saying you just nod and smile like puppets?" I continued.
"Pretty much," they said. "Goodnight."
And off they went to bed.
The next morning Gumby woke up clutching his stomach and crying. Said he felt terrible and asked if he could stay home from school. I checked him out carefully. He really did look kind of crappy, so I told him to lay down and take it easy.
A while later I dropped Surfer Dude off at school. As he got out of the car he turned to me and said in a very off-hand way,
"Have you noticed that every Monday after we're at dad's house Gumby is sick?"
And as I watched him walk into the school all I could think was...
Oh, my god. He's right.