My finger hesitated over the send button on my email, but no matter how much I hated to hit it, it had to be done. It was the Tuesday after Easter and all of my kids were still dragging. Gumby had spent most of Monday lying lethargically on the couch and Surfer Dude and Sasquatch were still uncharacteristically quiet. I didn't want to get into this with the FX, didn't want to have a conversation with him in any way, shape or form, but my conscience was screaming. My kids were hurting. The reason was clear. I had to confront the cause. This was the email I sent -
Per his request, I'm making an appointment for Gumby to see a therapist. I'm obviously going through your insurance, so you may see paperwork on that. Yesterday was the third Monday in a row that he woke up too "sick" to go to school after his weekend with you and we have to get to the bottom of this. I'll let you know when the appointments are when I know. Unfortunately, it's not just Gumby. I'm extremely hesitant to get into any of the rest of this with you, but for the greater good of our children I'm (very reluctantly) giving it one more shot. I had honestly hoped - after our heart to heart in the driveway - that you understood what I was saying, but it's obvious that you either don't, don't want to, or are somehow living within the delusion that you are. Whatever the reason, it's not working. For any of your children. If you have any desire to discuss this, you know where I am. If you feel you're doing fine with the way things are going, then by all means carry on. I've heard you tell me too many times that I'm influencing the kids and projecting my emotions onto them, but I need to be very explicit with you here. If you truly believe that this is all my doing, you are carrying your trademark denial to new heights. And all of you will lose. I won't do this again, FX. You're on your own from here on out.
My phone rang twenty minutes later. Guess who?
I don't know what it is with me and the FX and phone calls, but we seem to be far more comfortable saying what's really on our minds when we're not face to face. Much like the conversation we had last summer that finally broached some kind of understanding between us, this was a long conversation. 153 minutes, if you want to believe the timer on my cell phone. Unlike the conversation last summer, this discussion lobbed cherry bombs at our oh so tenuous bonds, and, at least from my point of view, effectively destroyed any chance of the divorce relationship I had hoped to be part of. It started out civil and with both of us attempting to be accommodating. It ended up as a gloves off brawl where things were said that can never be taken back, never be forgiven. It was 153 minutes toward the end, and by the time the ride was over I was shaking and exhausted. On paper our relationship ended October 17, 2008 when our divorce was final. In actuality it ended two days after Easter 2009 when the emotional dams burst, and the ensuing flood washed away every trace of respect and empathy we had.
I addressed the issue of Easter and the girlfriend first and, as I had expected, got nowhere. I told him all about what had happened when the boys got home, leaving out the impersonation routine because I thought that would be flat out cruel to pass on. I pointed out to him that the boys see him every other weekend and would like to be able to spend some time just with him. I said, yet again, that he ought to be able to manage his love life in the twelve days out of fourteen that he doesn't have the kids. I told him - honestly - that the kids seemed to like his girlfriend, and had nothing but nice things to say about her. (I have no problem with her. My problem is entirely with him.) But that doesn't erase the fact that they want to spend time with their dad being themselves, not paraded around as some kind of accessory to make dad look better with the chicks. If he wants a poodle, he can go buy one. That's not what my kid go over there on weekends for. Well. That's not what my kids want to go over there on weekends for.
The girlfriend has grown kids and, judging from the food she cooks and schleps over to the FX's house for him and the boys, has quite the maternal streak. I asked him if he had ever considered changing his plans on Easter when everything went to hell in a handbasket. What about, I asked, if when you and Sasquatch realized you had your wires completely crossed, you asked your girlfriend if you could just change plans and have a boy's day instead. She could have headed home and the four of them could have hung out and celebrated dad's birthday. If she is one zillionth as fabulous as he continues to tell me she is, something tells me she would have understood. The idea had never occurred to him, which doesn't really surprise me. He's a big picture guy, you see, and the details often escape him, particularly when they impact other people more than they impact him.
We shifted out of that and onto the next thing I wanted to bring up.
"Are you still reading my blog?" I asked.
"No," he answered immediately. "I'm not."
Someone less used to the way he communicates would have let that go, but I've been down this particular road before. You have to ask very specific questions, allowing as little wiggle room as possible, to get a straight answer.
"When is the last time you read it?" I asked.
"About three weeks ago," he said. "I stopped reading when you called me a narcissist for getting involved with (the gf) so quickly."
I was about to open my mouth to bring up a) that he'd have to get a little more specific than that and b) the fact that he had promised me that he would stop reading last Spring when he continued.
"Ironic, actually," he said, "that you would call me narcissistic on your blog. Seriously. How narcissistic can you get?"
I took a deep breath and peeled off my gloves. This was about to get ugly.