I’ve been formulating a post all day in my mind. A post about creativity and goal setting. A post about moving on with life, planning for moving forward.
But, he called the kids tonight for his regular Sunday evening chat. He had news to share, and he asked to speak to me at the end.
The kids were obviously distraught. J has been going overtime on being sweet lately, but he was instantly angry and attacked E and D. He didn’t even finish talking to his dad. He just started fighting with them, accusing them of doing things they hadn’t done.
R had excitedly told them he’s quit his job, and he’s moving back to town. Next week.
E ran downstairs to tell me.
Panic had immediately set in.
Now, I can’t concentrate to remember what brilliant postulations I’d imagined regarding goal setting and list making. I can only try very hard to pretend in front of the children that everything is going to be okay. We serve a Holy God, a God of Justice, and He will protect us.
But, the panic has set in nonetheless.
I’m forced back to those dreams my two friends had several months ago. Two friends, who’ve never met each other, both dreamed that he was after me again. I was living in a new house (well, now, there’s some good news!), but he was determined and was doggedly hunting me down.
When I spoke to him this evening, I forced myself to remain cool and calm, grey rocking him as much as possible and trying to sound all business.
He said he wouldn’t be visiting the children next weekend after all since he’d be moving down here Monday evening. I simply asked him if he’d like to reschedule the visit.
I asked if that will allow him to keep the kids longer on Saturdays. And, he charged into an assurance that he wasn’t coming down here to rock my world, to bother me or the kids, to upset our lives.
I interjected, “I only asked because I schedule jobs for during the time that you have the children. It just helps me to know what kind of time frame you’re looking at so I can plan accordingly.”
I knew though that he was telegraphing. He was letting me know that he does indeed plan to rock my world. He does plan to bother us and upset our lives. Why else would he begin such a rant without my implying that concern?
And, the panic set in.
How far will he take it? How long has he been planning this? Was this part of the grand plan all along? Does he feel safe to move back now that he got every material thing and escaped alimony and high child support? Or, is it a haunting coincidence that he quit his job to move near me the VERY SAME week an abuser shot and killed his ex-wife only FORTY MINUTES away from where my ex now lives?
He left us over two years ago. Two years, three months, and ten days to be exact. I remember sitting in my support group at that time and agonizing over the stories and pain and tears of the women who’d been “out” for a year or more. I even blamed them a bit. I felt that surely they were hanging on for some strange addictive reason. Why didn’t they just move on?
Now I understand. Because abusers don’t just move on. And, they forbid their victims to do so.
I tried to keep the conversation amiable. He asked if it caused any problems for me that he wasn’t going to take the children this next weekend. I told him that it actually works out better because of the way my jobs are lined up for Saturday. It will save me on some running around.
He then stated that he’d be happy to take the kids any time he isn’t working. He’ll watch them while I work. Even if I just need him to take them for a couple of hours.
He snaked around and around. He said that he needed to live near his elderly mother. He said he can’t afford to come down all the time. His boss won’t work with him and give him the time off to visit his children. His car is having problems and won’t make the monthly trips. He doesn’t know how long his mom will hold on. He misses the kids and wants to see them more. He doesn’t plan on making the kids visit any more frequently than they see him now.
The whole time this conversation was taking place my 7 year old son was begging me to please tell his dad, because he’s afraid to, that he doesn’t want him to move near us. He doesn’t want to visit his dad at all now.
“Please, Mama, please, you tell him for me.”
I finally asked R to hold on. I told J that he needed to tell his dad himself. I can’t get in the middle like that.
He took a deep breath as I handed him the phone, and he held it for a few moments that seemed to lapse into an eternity. He thrust the phone to his own ear and quickly stated what he had to say.
R didn’t hear it. He asked him to repeat it.
He did. This time louder, harder, clearer.
“I don’t want you to live near us! Don’t come down here! Please! Don’t come live here!”
“I’m not going to live with you. I’m just going to live down there with Grandma. That way I can see you more often.”
“No! You say, ‘Grandma.’ Your mom lives close to us. I don’t want you to live close to us. Don’t do this!”
R’s voice strained. He sounded like he was getting mad over J’s words.
J had garnered the strength to persist though, and he repeated himself over and over again.
R finally told him that he didn’t have to see him anymore than he does now. It’s up to J. He won’t force him.
I think, for the children, it’s just the idea of knowing he’s nearby. It certainly is for me. It’s knowing we could run into him at any given time or place. He could break in at any time. He could be lurking somewhere in the shadows. We’ll just never know. We’ll always be looking over our shoulders now.
Just a couple of weeks ago he’d told the children he had a new manager, and she assured him she was willing to work with him on his visitation weekends.
Suddenly, everything has changed.
But, nothing has changed. His story is the same one I’ve been hearing for nearly twenty years. They worked him too hard. They wouldn’t give him time off. They were unfair to him. Things are just so hard for him.
I think about just last week when I could hear him ask the children, “Where’s your mom? What’s she doing? Is she busy?”
A few weeks ago he insisted upon talking with me to discuss the holidays, so he could arrange the vacation time. Vacation time he obviously never planned on taking because he quit his job within days of that conversation. Then, he drilled the kids about me last week. Tonight, he wanted to talk to me again to let me know about his plans.
Why? Why does he want to talk to me? Why does he want to know what I’m doing? Why does he feel compelled to share his plans with me?
The only answers I can come up with induce panic.
Before brushing his teeth, my seven year old laid his head on my lap and, out of the blue, said, “I’m just afraid. I’m afraid he’s going to come around.”
I brushed his blond hair with my hand and assured him, “Nothing’s going to change. It’ll be okay.”
But, I don’t think I was very convincing. We both know differently.
And, the panic has set in and rooted itself deep within our souls.