Continued from My Story – Part 7 (Chaos Relived)
For the past 8 (close to 9) months, present life has interfered with my ability to accomplish my goal of finishing My Story. Rather than attempting to process past problems, “present-day” struggles have consumed my thoughts and energy. These may or may not be an “echo” of past issues, but they’ve certainly triggered a lot of the same emotions and difficulties remaining present. I’m feeling compelled now to finish what I started here and hopefully move past this “need” to tell my story.
I left off with the relationship break-up between PI and me after our move to Lebanon, TN, and my subsequent move to Nashville, TN, when KR took me in….
At the end of 2006, I received a letter from the Department of Safety telling me that my driver’s license had been suspended due to failure to pay child support. I rarely drove anyway because I found driving in Nashville to be very stressful; and my car was on its last leg, overheating any time I got stuck in traffic. I ended up selling the car for $40 (yes, I said forty dollars) just to get rid of it and chose to ride the bus instead. (I could, seriously, write an entire post on nothing but my experiences riding the bus in Nashville!) Still, I was stressed a great deal by this letter revoking my driving privileges. In January 2007, I received another letter in the mail, this time from the Social Security Administration. Finally, after 3 very long, stressful years of barely surviving while trying to get on Social Security Disability, I was approved. It was just enough to cover my student loan payments and child support; but at least, it was something. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could finally breathe.
For quite a while, I had completely lost contact with my ex-husband, CF, and our son. This happened several times over the years from the time I left. On a few occasions, cards, letters, and gifts were returned to me through the mail when they couldn’t reach my son at the given address (I held onto all of these things as proof of my devotion until I lost everything in my storage unit in 2005). Eventually, I gave up on communication through the postal service because I had no idea where my son was. The last time I had been allowed to even speak to him on the phone was in the summer of 2006. Often times, I had no financial means to make long-distance phone calls, which were pretty expensive back then with or without an “unlimited” calling feature. Other times, the number I was given by my ex-husband was “out of service,” probably for the same reason. By February 2007, the stress of not knowing was killing me.
By this point, I had accepted the fact that everyone saw me as an unfit parent. That realization is a humbling experience. The shame I felt (still feel to this day) led me to believe that my son was better off without me being directly involved in his life. However, I had the right, according to the divorce decree, to supervised visitation and updates on my son’s well-being and school progress. Enforcing these provisions of the divorce decree proved to be financially impossible and caused both me and my son an incredible amount of emotional anguish.
I began calling the last number I had for them. At first, I got the all too familiar operator on the other end telling me, “Your call cannot be completed as dialed.” Later, trying the same number again, it went directly to voice mail. I tried sending CF emails to the last known email address I had for him. As always, these went unanswered. It was at this time that I had also asked my mom for information about my son’s whereabouts. At first, Mom kept telling me to let it go and give up. My mind reeled at the notion of a mother telling her daughter to “give up” on anything related to her child. This didn’t sit well with me at all and strained our relationship further. Finally, she told me that my sister had CF’s current address. After a particularly disturbing and bitter email conversation between the two of us, my sister sent me the address.
At the same time that I was trying to get information from my family, the thought occurred to me to search the internet for CF. I tracked down his new wife on MySpace. I contacted her first, before finally finding CF elsewhere online shortly thereafter. It was at this point that CF finally answered one of my emails with an incredibly hateful, derogatory response. His wife and I had exchanged phone numbers; and I called numerous times to try to speak to my son, unsuccessfully. Finally, she called me back one day and told me that my son did not want to speak to me. I was crushed, but I didn’t blame him for this at all. She told me that he might email me at a later date. She also said that CF was very angry with her (and me) for the emails we had exchanged. I realized at that moment that CF was controlling her in the same way as he had me. At that point, for her safety and the safety of my son, I decided to break off contact — again.
April 11, 2007, was my final court appearance over the child support. A couple of years prior, I had obtained an attorney who took my case pro bono. She never even showed up to this court date! However, because I showed proof that I had finally gotten Social Security Disability and sent in a large payment towards the arrears, the case was finally suspended due to “the obligations of the non-custodial parent being met.” CF finally showed up for the first time in the almost 6 years that I was being dragged through the court system. The district attorney told CF to go to the Social Security office to fill out the necessary paperwork so that my son would receive a portion of my Social Security check because the SSA told me that they had been unsuccessful in attempts to contact him through mail and phone calls. I honestly thought he had taken care of this; yet later in the year around the end of August 2007, I received another certified letter from the district attorney’s office stating that my driver’s license may be revoked again. I went by the Social Security office to see if CF did as the district attorney instructed him to and whether or not my son was getting a check every month. They told me he had not. This was also when I found out that I had to send the child support check out of the $475 SSD check that I received each month because I did not qualify for SSI. I never missed a payment again.
Eventually my son and I finally began exchanging emails; but I was cautious due to concerns that my ex-husband might be messing with my head since I couldn’t be sure who exactly was sending them. This may sound a little paranoid to most people; but given what I had been through with my ex-husband over the years, my caution was warranted. Honestly, I think the earliest emails in 2007 may have been my ex-husband; but by 2009, I was fairly certain that I was actually speaking to my son. In July 2009 I was able to see and speak to my son face-to-face for the first time in years. It was awkward at first; but I think we were both surprised by how much we had in common — from his love of art to his enjoyment of gaming. Even some of his mannerisms reminded me of me.
In February 2010 after CF and his wife divorced, she contacted me again through Facebook, confirming that she had gone through a lot of the same control, anger, and violence issues with CF that I had experienced. He even threatened to have her arrested because she took my son to church one day after they separated. My son was 15 or 16 years old at the time! She and I exchanged several emails, “comparing notes,” so to speak. My quest of writing down my entire life story in the way that I am sharing here on my blog began as a result of these correspondences. After I shared my side of the story with her, she wrote in an email to me:
“The story that I, and I believe [your son] has always heard, is very different from that story. We were told that you left the bar with them and then claimed rape. [CF] got flown back home because of it and then you changed your story. He went home to find out that [your son] had been home alone the entire time. I hate to tell you this but [your son] believes that he remembers being home alone all night. I never thought he could truly remember something like that at a young age, but he is determined that he does remember it. That is part of his anger towards you. I have no doubt that [CF] made up enough detail that over the years [your son] believes these are his genuine memories.”
Let me reiterate here: The vile things those men did to me and made me do to them was NOT consensual. I felt I had no choice but to comply. It was rape.
And secondly, my son was at home, safe, with a sitter that night — the entire night. Needless to say, this conversation with CF’s newest ex-wife intensified my concerns about my son and the amount of control my ex-husband had over him. I emailed my son after this conversation and spoke to him briefly about what CF’s ex-wife told me; but at the time, I didn’t want to overload him with too much information or any of the specifics because he was only 16 years old.
In the years since that time, my son graduated from high school with honors, joined the Navy, and most recently, married. He is now an adult, and we’re able to speak much more freely with one another than we could throughout his childhood. This past summer, my son and I were able to finally have that much-needed long conversation about everything that happened when I left him with his father. I felt that this was a discussion that we needed to have face-to-face. It was a difficult conversation, to say the least, but a necessary one for him to understand my life and the distance I kept for so many years. From my post, Tech Free = Less Stress, where I briefly discussed this conversation:
That was the first time I have spent that type of quality time with my child in many, many years. We had the opportunity to have a long, in-depth discussion about my past and the break-up with his dad, something we never had the chance to discuss prior to his visit. It was discouraging to hear the things CF told my son about me (mostly false), but not surprising. I’m happy that I can speak so openly around my son and his wife. That visit meant the world to me, and provided a small amount of closure that I’ve never felt.
It’s that closure that I so desperately needed. His (and his wife’s) compassion and acceptance were an added bonus, a seed of hope. I am so, so proud of my son and the man he turned out to be. He’s an intelligent, creative, kindhearted man with a bright future ahead of him. My son truly holds my heart and my soul. In a previous post, I said:
In moments of complete despair, thoughts of [my son] kept me alive. One day, I must thank my child for saving my life on so many occasions. Something, I’m certain, he’s completely unaware of.
I’m thankful that we were finally able to have that heart-to-heart conversation because more than anything in the world, all I’ve ever wanted, was to be a part of his life and to show him the love that he deserves. I love my son dearly and look forward to a future with him in my life.