I have sat down at the computer several times over the last few days, unable to find the words I want to write. I hate that feeling, knowing I have things to say but also knowing that I don’t have the words to write them the way they beg to be written. It keeps me from writing at all, because better to write nothing than write something small and shabby, that doesn’t do justice to the situation. Still-I can’t NOT write, so I have to, at some point, make an attempt.
Last week was very surreal. As each new thing transpired, it got to the point where I could only laugh-not because anything was especially funny, but because I really just felt like I was in some strange dream and kept waiting for the monkeys wearing tutus to show up and start performing a hand-puppet show. When things get that crazy, what choice is there but to sit back and laugh?
My ex husband showed up at the office on Thursday. The biological father of Sam, the same person we haven’t seen in almost three years, the very same person who has moved from place to place so rapidly that we have had to rely on rumors and conjecture and fleeting sightings (kind of like aliens, no?) to even have the faintest idea where he was, pulled up outside my office. Truth be known, for a moment or two, I actually had no idea who he was; mu cubicle is right next to the big window that spans the entire office, so I can see most of the time who is coming in-I watched this person walk toward the door thinking there was something vaguely familiar about him, the shape of his body or the tilt of his head, but it wasn’t until he was actually in the office that it hit me who he was. He walked into my cubicle and wanted to shake my hand, and perhaps predictably, all I could do was laugh and say,”I am not shaking your hand.” He was visibly nervous, tentative in a way I have never seen him be, and I freely admit to feeling glad that he was afraid to confront me-he should be. Easy to say,”Water under the bridge,” but when said water has been roiling and tumultuous and filled with garbage and debris that has caused damage as it hit, that cliche takes on a whole new meaning.
We went outside to talk, because I truly did not know what might happen-on either side. You see, from his viewpoint, he has had all sorts of valid reasons for staying away and for not paying child support and all that stuff, but from my viewpoint, I have witnessed daily a damaged son who is only okay due to an incredible amount of hard work on my part, and on Steve’s part, and on the part of every other adult in his life by whom he has been loved. And since we are coming from completely different places on the spectrum, I was unsure as to how the conversation would go. Well, that isn’t entirely true-I had an idea of how his part of it would go, this not having been the first time we have gone down this road. I just wasn’t entirely sure what might come out of my own mouth.
I wasn’t wrong about the things he would say. Really, I have heard variations of the same story from him more than once over the last seven (almost) years: he had some significant life-altering experience that was, of course, life-threatening, and he woke up one morning and realized everything he had walked away from. He is a changed man. He finally has his priorities straight. He needs to make amends. There were a few tears thrown in for good measure, as well as the inevitable “There is a part of me that still loves you deeply, and am so sorry for everything I put you through…” and believe me, this is all stuff I have heard. I almost could have told you verbatim what he was going to say before he said it. The part that ended up surprising me was my own reaction. In the past, when those same sentences would come up, there would be a small leap of the heart, a quickening of breath-because this time, maybe it would really happen. Maybe he really meant it, maybe he really DID have a soul change. The part about him still loving me didn’t give me hope, but it did make me gloat a little bit inside-because at first, all I wanted was for him to regret losing me (Well, that and that his house would burn up, with him inside it, but bygones, right? In my defense, THAT feeling only last the first couple of years or so). This time, all I could really do is look at him with raised eyebrows and shrug-because his words? They mean absolutely nothing to me. I have no reason to believe him, no reason at all to think that this time is any different than any of the last times. And as for the part about him still loving me, I was able to recognize that for the manipulative tool it was and not feel anything one way or another. His promises of paying his child support and also paying me back for all of his bills I had to pay? Well. Let’s just say that I will belive that when I see it.
What this all boils down to is that he wants to see Sam again. Because of course when he had this life-threatening experience it made him really realize just how much he has messed up and how much he has missed and well. There you go. I can and have handled anything he has thrown at me, the incredible hurt and pain, emotional and financial and any other “-al” you can think of-maybe I have handled it poorly at times, and maybe in many ways I am still scarred, but still. The one who can’t is Sam, nor should he have to. My first instinct was to tell him to bend over and fuck himself up the ass, because I wasn’t going to let him anywhere near that boy.
But. Yes, the ubiquitous but. I keep remembering a phrase my friend J. who is a deaconess in the Episcopal church says: that if she is going to be preaching forgiveness then she needs to start in her own home. So I let that roll around in my mind, knowing that he may or may not have changed, and my bets are on not, but that I can’t find out whether he has without actually giving to him the opportunity to do so. Therein lies the problem: because to give him the opportunity to prove himself also means I have to give him the opportunity to hurt Sam yet one more time, and everything I have done to this point has been to protect Sam.
But we talked, and I told him exactly how I feel and think about the whole situation, and we have come to this agreement: that Sam can contact him via email, and email only. After one month of contact through email, he may graduate to phone calls, and depending on how each of those phases go, we can talk about a face-to-face visit. That is as far as I am willing to go, and I also get to make the ultimate decision as to when each phase will end and the next one begin. Is this the right thing to do? I don’t know, I really don’t. I just know that my son is hurting, and has been for a very long time; I don’t think it would necessarily be fair to him to deny him this opportunity just in case his dad really has changed. I know that I thought about it and talked about it and prayed about it for two days before I even mentioned to Sam that his dad had been by to see me-because I was not entirely sure whether it would be the best thing for him.
I am still not sure, and I am afraid. When I finally talked to Sam about it, all he could do was cry-he has missed his dad terribly. I gave him the email address and he promptly went in to email him (another condition is that I read all outgoing and incoming emails, at least for the time being), and the look on his face was heartbreaking. Reading the first email, though, I realized that Sam is not unaware of how his dad is and had behaved in the past. Three things he wrote about were how he (Sam) will know if he (C) is faking, that there will be no mocking of his (Sam’s) belife in God, and last, but certainly not least, “NO BRIBING IN EMAILS.” The fact that Sam knows these things about his dad are a good indication that he is not the same little boy who hasn’t seen his dad since he was nearly 8-and that alone makes me feel like I did the right thing by allowing this. He is smart-and perhaps a little more able to understand the reality of who is dad was and is.
None of this stops me from being afraid for him, but I don’t know what else to do. Yes, there has been a tremendous amount of pain inflicted by this man; I don’t trust him, and probably never will. In fact, I don’t trust anyone. With him, though, it goes deeper than the generalized distrust I have of people; it goes clear into my heart of hearts, and I don’t imagine that will ever change. I don’t know if it will change for Sam, either. I don’t know jack, really, about any of this, other than this is what has happened and these are the steps we are going to be taking, for today. Beyond that, it remains to be seen.
There have been other things going on that are also surreal, but the writing of this has already gone on too long. Perhaps another day, perhaps not. I know I feel better for the moment, having finally written and processed, to an extent, this occurrence, and as I often say, for this moment, is it enough.