My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

More Scenes From a Divorce

Thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you? Or, maybe you just don’t care. I don’t blame you. Is anyone actually reading this?

Anyway. The year: 1982. The place: The Arena (now demolished to provide the city’s youngsters with a soccer field). The time: so early in the fucking morning the sun has barely begun to show itself on the horizon. The reason: FREE REAGAN CHEESE.

Yes. When Reagan died last year and the media waxed rhapsodic, I thought, who the hell are they talking about? Wasn’t this the guy that hated poor people? No, that’s not really accurate. He just didn’t really think we existed or, if he did, it was our own fault for being poor. Never mind that “us” meant mostly children and their abandoned mothers. Mothers who hadn’t really planned on being left with few skills to ply a real trade at a time when women still weren’t really supposed to be working “for real,” as Dusty would say. Yeah, that’s more like it. I WANTED my dad to leave so that my mom, who hadn’t worked in 16 years (apart from a couple of part-time/weekend jobs here and there) because she had been working the unpaid job of Mother and Wife, had to up and support a family of three which apparently wasn’t easy because she was lazy and wanted to bilk the government for all it was worth. Mm, hmm. So, this same Reagan decided that what we all needed, apart from a hand-up (as opposed to a hand-out), was free cheese. And not just any cheese, totally fake Velveeta-like cheese. A block the size of a loaf of bread. And if you’re wondering, yes, it did freeze well. Because, shit, we loved us some cheese, but you can only eat so much of it in one sitting.

So, when we were notified of this cheese, we arranged to stand in the world’s longest line of all time. Outside. At about 6:30am. With a cityfull of people just like us: lazy, good for nothing, poor people. Now, my mom had to work and I was supposed to show up at school (I was a sophomore in high school at the time) for class eventually but in those days, food trumped education. We took turns. My mom went first and then I took her place when she had to leave for work because she was hourly then and regardless of whatever the minimum wage was then, it wasn’t worth missing an hour or two just to get a block of cheese. Kind of defeats the whole “free” thing. So, I missed a class or two and eventually got the cheese. Thanks Ronnie! Oh, and thanks for taking away all those Pell Grants I could’ve used for college! I just now, in 2004, finished paying off $36,000 in college loans so I could get an education. Especially since my dad cashed in my savings bonds and life insurance early – which were supposed to go towards my tuition – so that I got a whole $250 from him in 1986. Good damn times.

But I digress – I think. What was I talking about? Oh, the divorce. And cheese.

Another memory of the divorce years involve the Group Therapy I was forced into. I think I went twice before I finally got it through my mom’s head that I was NOT a group kind of person. As I mentioned before, my Myers-Briggs is INTJ. We’re not, generally, big on groups. If I have to see a counselor, I prefer the one-on-one conversation. The group thing was weird. I was eleven, surrounded by four or five incredibly jaded seven year olds. Their parents had been divorced for YEARS and one boy in particular talked about the custody arrangement his parents had worked out where he spent half the month with his mother and the other half with his father and how he was getting used to the constant disruption. Me? I was freshly wounded, my parents weren’t even officially divorced yet, there had been zero custody issues (would it have killed my dad to even pretend to want me?), and I most certainly was not about to discuss my innermost thoughts and confusion with a bunch of elementary school kids. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Eventually, I got to visit my mom’s therapist, a chain-smoking, very cool woman with a cockatoo in her office. She reminded me of Lauren Bacall; same voice. She spoke to me in plain English and treated me like a human being rather than a child (there IS a difference), and since she was also my mother’s therapist, could totally understand my guilty feelings for being mad at my mother for doing all the things Mr. Rogers says you shouldn’t do to your children during a divorce: sharing too much personal information, telling your child about your hatred for their other parent, using you as a messenger and go-between, making you constantly ask your dad for money because you need clothes. She would also talk to my mom about these things – like, to not do them anymore.

Well, maybe Mr. Rogers didn’t touch on that last one about clothes but I think, in my self-analysis, that’s where my disinterest in shopping and clothes may have its root. Since I knew my dad’s answer to all my mom-pleas about money and needs would be answered with “We’ll see,” I gave up asking for things and figuring out that whatever it was my mom thought I needed I just didn’t really need that bad. I really didn’t need any new clothes. I would be fine with what I had if it meant no more arguing. My mom never gave up and, when I would return from a visit with my dad (we saw him on Tuesdays and every other weekend), and she’d ask, “Did you ask your father for a pair of pants?” she’d start screaming when I uttered, “No.” There was no way of winning because even if I’d said, “Yes,” and I’d tell her what he said in reply, she’d begin raving about how he didn’t care about us.

Are you surprised I’m not completely psychotic? I am.

Let’s just say I thought long and hard about marriage and children and I promise that if there ever came a day when I found myself unmarried, and not a widow, I will never say anything bad about my children’s father in front of them. Ever.

And Dusty and Red? They’re great, thanks! Red can sit up and play now and likes to clap her hands. She’s quieter in the evenings now that she can do things. She’s still up every few hours at night but I’m sure by the time she’s three that will be a thing of the past (please say it will). And Dusty’s excited about Valentine’s Day. Last year, she continued to make valentines well into fall, just for the hell of it. Any excuse to get out the glue!


4:07 p.m. ::
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