Wednesday, April 18, 2018

My Brown Eyed Boy

     Not too long ago, I read a post that started with these words:  

     "While time does offer some relief and a new sense of normal, there are still countless emotions and sensations to muddle through.  There is no roadmap or guidebook that works in all cases or scenarios and while the stories of others can offer guidance, they cannot tell you how your journey is going to unfold.

     All too often, I forget that Ryan was only 10 when his Mom was born into eternity and he still has moments when he is processing all that has happened in his young life.  He has made tremendous progress on his road to healing, but still there are some potholes in that road that manifest themselves in the form of a "blown out tire".
    My boy is the perfect combination of his Mom and I.  Every time I look at him, I see those big brown eyes and am reminded just how much he looks like Theresa.  I love to tell him that he's fortunate he got his looks from his Mom and not from me!  He also got his complex emotional makeup from his Mom.

     One of the hardest things you encounter, especially with children, is memories are found all over town.  Every time we went to church, it was the church his Mom was buried in.  Every time we went to a restaurant, it was a restaurant his Mom went to.  Every time we walked into our house, it was the house his Mom died in.  We moved from that house to another one, in another part of the Tucson area.  While that helped to eliminate some of the memories, there was no getting away from the ones all over t

     Over the past year so many things that seemed like roadblocks and foolish detours, have shown themselves to be essential in the journey of mending while blending.  In no particular order, our family has had to figure out how to get through all of these things:

  • Dealing with Ryan in a new school, a new district and middle school - Middle school is trying for anyone..but how much more trying for a child with autism, dealing with the loss of a parent and dealing with a school staff who really aren't trained to handle that child. 
  • Dealing with Jennie's girl's father -  Here was a guy who first said that he was ok with Jennie taking the girls to Tucson.  His exact words were, I'm not going to fight about a couple of miles.  Despite repeated assurances that he was going to have this document drafted, he changed his mind putting up another hurdle for us.
  • Counseling - To help Ryan along his journey, we visited several counselors for him to work out his feelings and emotions.  None of the ones we used were able to crack through the exterior.
  • Single dad - No matter how much you care, no matter how hard you try, a Dad just can't be a Mom.  Of course, that is true in reverse as well.
  • Outside influences - There were many things people said, things people did that caused hurdles for us.  One of the strangest series of questions came along the line of:  Have the children met?  Is the father of the girls still in the picture?  Do the children get along?  
  • The moving of Jennie to Tucson - While this one seemed to be a giant cluster, it turned out to be a great move.  When we realized that the girl's father had been stringing us along, I called my boss the next day to see what my odds of moving to PX HQC were.  He told me he would check and within 24 hours, I had the approvals I needed from FBI management to make that happen.  I put my papers in for the move and it was approved, with a report date of December 17th.
  • Jennie knew of a school called Gateway academy that specializes in kids on the autism spectrum.  We visited the school and knew it would be a great fit.  The only issues was the tuition of $25K per year.  Again, the hurdle was overcome when Ryan qualified for an ESA scholarship that pays the entire amount.
  • We found a great house in Cave Creek with a floor plan that was ideal for our unique family situation.  We have a guest casita for Mom, two jack n jill bedrooms for the girls, one bedroom with bathroom on the other side of the house for Ryan and a master bedroom away from all the craziness. 
  • We found a counselor that Ryan has opened up too, and one that is making a difference.

   As I said above, things that seemed like roadblocks have turned out to be blessings:

   After Ryan was established at Gateway, things came up that he had been holding in for nearly 2 years.  Despite numerous counselors and long talks about how he was doing, it took a school administrator knowing how to deal with an autistic child to get it out.  One morning he got up for breakfast and his mom was sitting at the table.  He said hi to her and she responded back, "Who are you?"  He thought she was joking and said, "It's me, Ryan, your son."  She shook her head, got up from the table and went back to her bedroom.  He kept that to himself, finally telling me that he lost his mom well before she died.  I knew the time frame and the cause of that.  There was a period of time where she was talking to much of the Oxycontin and it caused several issues of forgetfulness and confusion.  We were able to get that out in the open, get that cleared up and able to move his past that.  All of this happened because of a move to a purpose built school that did not exist in Tucson.

  More importantly, the smile has returned to his face again.  While we still have much work to do in the journey forward, it helps tremendously that he again sees the joy in life.  Thank you to all who have encouraged us along the way; thank you to all who have put up roadblocks along the way, encouraging us to smash them; thank you to Jennie for loving us and stepping in to the breach with me.  My boy is in good hands.  He has three moms watching out for him, (The Holy Theotokos, Theresa and Jennie).  The proof is in the pictures....

Christ is Risen!
Indeed He is Risen!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Perils of The Paths We Walk

     When you are blending two families together, both Chapter 2's, there are really only two paths that the parties have walked...death or divorce.  It would be rare to be in your mid to late 40's having never been married and looking to start down that road.  Given those two paths, the large majority involve divorce.

     Over the past few years, I have said many times that I believe it is easier dealing with the death of a spouse that it is dealing with the death of a marriage.  The past year has really reinforced that belief in me as I've watched Jennie navigate a world of co-parenting with a self-centered, narcissist.

    More than a year ago, as we both could see our future together, Jennie brought up the possibility of moving from Phoenix to Tucson.  In Arizona there is language in parenting plans that prohibits a spouse from moving more than 100 miles absent the agreement of the other parent.  At that point in time, the other parent in the situation was an every other weekend kind of parent...the proverbial Disneyland dad.  Anytime he was asked to pick up a few more days, he was always quick to point out that he did that.  Jennie had the opportunity to take her oldest to Rome and the other parent had to point out that he stepped up during that time.

     When she approached him about the possibility, he said he needed more time to think about it.  He made mention that he was going to approach her for more parenting time and that he felt like he was getting "screwed" out of that time.  We knew from her attorney that any request for more time would kill a move to Tucson.  He came back a week or so later and said that he was on-board with her moving to Tucson.  There was a laundry list of items that he demanded, but the key issue was agreed to.  He wanted to hire the attorney and get the agreement hammered out.  Weeks turned into a month and he kept dragging his feet.  When asked point blank if he was changing his mind he said no.  That turned out to be a lie as he was consulting an attorney about a 50/50 parenting agreement.

     To be clear, I think it is a great idea that he finally stepped up and took some responsibility for his kids. But, as the saying goes, once a liar, always a liar.  Instead of being a man and saying I am changing my mind, he strung her along until he was ready to drop the bomb on her.  That process was a roller-coaster of emotion for Jennie.  For 9 years, she was the primary caregiver to her children.  While married, she was a stay-at-home mother and her husband, always in pursuit of loftier career goals, was on the road travelling for most of the year.  After her divorce, she was forced to return to work and be the primary caregiver as well.  And in one quick decision, her entire world was upended.

     The dictionary definition of narcissism is:  extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.  How the past year has also revealed that.  For the other parent, money and career success appear to be the big driver in their life.  After moving past the 50/50 split and adjusting to that, money for the kids, and the control that comes with that, has been the biggest issue.  When they were married, the kids attended private school.  They continue to attend private school and will do so until they graduate.  The other parent pays 0 towards their education.  Not even $1 towards the annual registration fees for his children.

    For years the children have been unable to be involved in any after school activities.  While the other parent was paying child support, it barely covered the cost of putting a roof over his childrens' head.  That's the dirty secret of divorce.  The parent who makes the most money pays for the support of their kids, but it comes nowhere near the financial cost imposed on the family after their transgressions wrecked the kids world.  All of her income was tied up in providing the basic necessities for the kids.  Anytime the other parent was approached for money for an activity, the answer was always the same...I just don't have any free money available right now. 

     The cycle of money continued throughout the year.  As the children wanted to go to gymnastics, all the other parent could offer up was $40 per month.  When asked about helping with school supplies, the best he could offer up for 50% of the total, even though he makes 76% of the combined income and contributes nothing to their tuition/fees.  And even getting that amount out of him was like pulling teeth for Jennie.  He wanted a detailed list of what the purchased items were.

    Finally, there appeared to be a breakthrough as he graciously agreed to up his monthly contributions for activities to $100.  In addition, he was fully paying for gymnastics for one child, which got him a whole lot closer to the court approved split percentage.  However, the leopard doesn't change his spots.  After 2 months of short-paying the contribution amount, that amount came to a halt.  You see, even though the wording of previous emails was: "I'll bump what is send you monthly up to $100" You see, send monthly implies a continuing amount that can be used to cover activities, that will ebb and flow.  But to the other parent, that only applies if there is a certain cost to cover that month.

     There is a great summer camp in the midwest that one of the children wanted to attend.  The price was off the charts expensive and a long way from Arizona.  Financial aid was awarded for most of the camp expense, leaving $800 plus airfare to be covered.  Other than being very clear about only contributing $300, there was no issue with the distance from home or time away on the part of the other parent.   Great, fair enough.  We will cover the rest plus airfare for a great opportunity for growth for one of the kids.  Part of that decision was believing the $100 per month was still going to come in, which now is up in the air.  When asked about this, the passive aggressiveness came out in full force.   The line has now changed to I'm able to pay $300 for this very expensive and far away camp.  He managed to work that phrase in twice in one paragraph.  And now, he suddenly is concerned about who is going to fly to and from with the child.  Will that be the next objection he has?

    And in the same message, a summer math camp came up.  Not even 2 weeks prior, Mr. Wonderful agreed to pay his 76% towards a summer math camp.  But suddenly, he is unable to find where he agreed to that and says that is not how he recalls that topic being discussed.  Thankfully, Jennie keeps everything and was able to provide him a screen shot of that communication.  In her dealings with him, it's like dealing with El Diablo.

    It is difficult being the Chapter 2 in a situation where her Chapter 1 was/is such a dsyfunctional, controlling and narcissistic person.  It pains me to see the emotional toil that he continues to put on Jennie and will do so until the children have all reached adulthood.  I love this woman more than anything else and together we will navigate the next 11 years as we already have.

     To any men out there who find themselves in a similar position, don't be an ass hat like this guy.  Please put your kids needs  above yours.  I'm not suggesting you give them everything they ask for, but really, $100 per month is too much for activities?  That's just about covers the cost of dinner and wine out one night.

    I  leave you with this picture.  I saw it on a jeep last year while still living in Tucson.  I sent it to Jennie and we both got a good laugh out of it. Lord knows I can't fall off the floor.

Orphaned at 50

      The title of this post seems strange to write, and is probably even stranger to read.  But that is my reality right now.  I lost my fi...