St. Patrick’s Day: What a Difference a Year Makes

St. Patrick’s Day means so many different things to different people: green beer, a buzz, too many drunk people, new friends, an excuse to go out, parades, heritage, fun, too much fun, trouble, shamrocks and green, whisky and corned beef – the list goes on and on.

I’m named for this saint, and so is my son. St. Patrick’s Day is special to us. It’s also special because my grandmother came here from Ireland all by herself when she was 16, and she lived to 94. Now when I think of her, I smile. I’ve finally absorbed the words on her mass card:

Grieve not,
nor speak of me with tears,
but laugh and talk of me
as if I were beside you…
I loved you so —
’twas Heaven here with you.  (by Isla Paschal Richardson)

I love these words because my grandmother loved us all so, and it was heaven here with my her.

But now, just when I’ve got that down, and I feel peace when I think of my grandmother, St. Patrick’s Day has become the anniversary of my aunt’s death. She died in hospice one year ago today. Her death was not peaceful or fair or welcomed in any way. My aunt was angry. Pissed. Fucking furious and bitter that she, a non-smoker and all-around good person, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.

At the very end, she grew tired of us, distant and distracted. She had the most tolerance for me, her troubled niece who was in the middle of a child custody evaluation to protect her children. But even I couldn’t comfort her or distract her at the very end. She was moving to another place, one in which we didn’t matter anymore. I knew it and it broke my heart.

While she was dying, my blog glossed over her pain – her mental anguish over having to accept a death too soon. In real life, I glossed over it too. It was too big, too much for me. It still is.

On Facebook today, a friend posted that yesterday was the day to go out and meet the love of your life. She has many Facebook friends – married couples – who met on St. Patrick’s Day, and she gleefully pointed them out. I thought about this for a while, at work yesterday, before i had to run to pick up my children from school.

Maybe next year is my year.

Instead, I rushed through the aisles of Whole Foods last night while my daughter was at ballet class, and suddenly everything grew blurry because I was crying. I miss my aunt. I miss having an aunt. I am sad my children don’t have her. I am tired of my family getting smaller and smaller as the years go on.

Next year will be my year. By next year, maybe I’ll absorb my aunt’s unfair death, and the day will be filled with green beer and adventures. I remind myself that we all move at our own pace. Just one year ago, I was still trying to get a divorce; I was in the middle of a child custody evaluation conducted by a very strange man; my ex was threatening to sue me and my attorneys for an imaginary key logger; I was still in my old marital home; and I didn’t yet have a job.

I wonder where I’ll be in my life next year?

Divorcing a NPD, Part 4

When you have divorced a NPD, you might just get an email that includes gems like this:

2. “Daughter” BEDROOM This weekend “daughter” told me that she has been having problems sleeping at “name of my street” because her room gets no heat. I’m sure you are aware of this and taking steps to correct it other than waiting for Spring. I just want you to know that she is upset.

Of course, there is heat in our happy new home. My daughter is not having any trouble sleeping. My daughter has her own room, a bright sunny place. It is filled with books and art and color – and playdates and friends. She is choosing a new rug and curtains this weekend.

I think of the sacrifices made by myself and my family to buy this lovely new house, in this lovely neighborhood. I think of how happy my children are here. I think of how hard I worked to stage and sell our old house and move while being a single mom and working full-time.

While their dad did nothing but send me emails like this.

Divorcing a NPD, part 2

When you divorce a NPD, and the support is several weeks late as usual, and you write a pointed email to ask when it will arrive . . .

you very well may get a garbled and rambling email in return, informing you that you should be thankful for all the money he is providing for you, and that in addition to this court-ordered money, he is paying for food and clothes and medicine when the children are visiting him during his court-appointed time, in his home.

The email might even go on to say the he pays for sporting equipment for the sport that you don’t want your child to play, expensive Nike basketball shoes that your child doesn’t need, and a camp that is an hour away and again involves the sport mentioned above. Of course you will think “But I didn’t ask for these thing. I don’t even agree with them. I disapprove of them.”

And then you will start to wonder why he is so proud of paying for those basketball sneakers when he hasn’t paid his court-ordered portion of healthcare expenses for his children . . . ever.

And then, as a kicker, you will see the last line of his email, chiding you for putting your son in snow boots that are growing too small.

And then, if you are like me, you hit the ceiling, thinking of how beautifully dressed your children are every day. It is thanks to you, even though you go to work now, full-time at an office, unlike your ex who has mysterious clients and elusive and wildly fluctuating sources of income. You think of how your sweet children always show up with their homework and signed permission slips and book reports and class projects and sports equipment and new ballet shoes and and multiplication drills and new books and haircuts and ballet buns and proper vaccinations and white shiny teeth thanks to the dentist appointments you take them to. And the teacher conferences and the extra trips to the school with forgotten lunch boxes and the countless hours clocked with other moms anguishing over and redshirting and little girls with summer birthdays and big boy bullies and mean girls and organic food and everyday math and building resilience and self esteem. And the things you’ve taught your children like folding a sheet and making a bed and how to do laundry and hold a fork and say please and thank you and use the microwave and tie their shoelaces and brush their hair and floss their teeth. And the playdates and parties and endless carpooling and the hugs and family meetings and values and lessons learned and pep talks after a lost soccer game and all the talks about love and values and self-esteem and doing right and how we don’t practice perfect in this house because anyone who tries their best is doing good enough.

And then you will remind yourself to stop, because otherwise you will go crazy. If your son’s boots will soon be too small, it is okay. You will remind yourself that your ex is not well. And that his goal is to gaslight you and undermine you and start a long fight. But you will not rise to the occasion. You will write a short email correcting the facts only to make sure the truth is documented because you will never forget the words of your attorney: “Madness, even though this divorce is technically over, this guy is going to bring you back to court again and again because he’s so crazy.”

And so you write the note and then you call a friend or have a glass of wine or laugh with your kids or go for a walk or run. Or you blog and vent and hope you’re not the crazy one, as your NPD ex wants you to believe.

And because you didn’t engage with him and continue the fight he wanted, you’ll have the energy to step back into the light again, moving forward into a bigger and happier world, full of possibilities.

Divorce, PTSD, and an Early Mother’s Day Gift

My son shut down my laptop when I walked into the room tonight. He is ten.

I froze, panic sweeping over me as I thought of everything his father had hidden on his computer. I got the old familiar jolt of adrenaline, stronger than electricity, that raced everywhere from my core and made my fingers tingle. My chest got tight – and hurt. As always, I think: shit, finally, a heart attack – I’m too young to have a heart attack – and HE will get my children.

On that last thought, I sit up and breathe and suck it up.

This was my son, not my ex-husband. I would not ruin this special evening with him and his sister. They returned from their father’s house at 5 in good spirits, pounding on the door and throwing themselves into my arms. We grabbed a basketball and walked down to the playground in our new neighborhood and hit the courts.

It was fun. No fighting over the ball, no cheating accusations. For the first time, I really saw my son exceed my physically at basketball. It felt good – and bittersweet. Afterwards, we walked back together up the big hill to our new home.

But after they went to sleep, I opened the computer, finally.

BEST GIFTS FOR WOMEN.

I nearly died. What in the world? I remembered the strange charges on ex’s credit card, and on my credit card – he was even once stupid enough to order bizarre sex items (trust me) using his father-in-law’s credit card, which he stole from my wallet, probably in some drunken stupor. Or worse, someone else stole the card from his wallet.

It haunts me.

But I look again. Another page is open on my laptop.

It is Amazon.com, one of about ten sites my children are allowed to visit on Safari.

BEST MOTHERS GIFT. It’s filled with things called gold rose foil flowers and superpower mom mugs.

I get teary as the adrenaline leaves my body and I realize that I have left my ex behind more than six month ago. He is no longer allowed to affect me this way.

I breathe. The world is a good place, generally. People are good, generally.

My children are good, period.

We are going to make it.

I Said It

“WHEN YOU LIVE IN MY HOUSE, YOU WILL FOLLOW MY RULES!”

I was mad. And it flew out of my mouth, and it felt so good.

Of course it did . . . it was so familiar. How many times did I hear these words when I told my parents they were the worst, meanest, most unfair parents in the world?

I don’t even feel bad about it. Listen kid, I don’t care if all your friends are watching the second half of an Ohio State football game that starts at 8:30 on a school night.

You need to follow my rules. We go to bed on time on school nights. (Okay, we don’t, really, but we try. Or I try, at least!) You don’t need to respect me all the time and be perfect. But when you don’t follow my rules, and you don’t show any respect for me, you need to go to your room. (And I probably need to go to the laundry room to stamp around and shove lots of laundry into the dryer.)

But you need to follow the rules of this house.

Co-parenting with an NPD: Things You’ll Never Hear

  1. I’ll pick up the children for their normal weekly visitation at the court-designated time and place. And drop them off at the court-designated time and place.
  2. Your holiday plans sound fine. I will pick up the children and drop them off at the court-designated time and place.
  3. Those sports teams sound good. I agree.
  4. Those camps sound good. I agree.
  5. Your babysitter sounds great. I agree.
  6. I will pay half of the children’s tuition.
  7. I have sent back all of the children’s clothing that you purchased.
  8. I have purchased sports equipment so our children won’t have to lug it from house to school to house.
  9. Great, thank you for setting up a shared calendar. I will use it!
  10. I deposited my children’s support check in the bank account on time.
  11. I will contribute to my children’s college accounts.
  12. Thank you.
  13. I’m sorry.
  14. That sounds reasonable.
  15. Yes.

I know I’m missing some! Does anyone have anything to add?