Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fairness Day

I was sitting on benches along the wall, as the Sequel, her sister, and her lawyer sat in the chairs in the middle of the room. I met eyes with the sister and smiled. The sister looked away quickly.

I thought that it was odd that folks I once had holiday meals with would now be “the opposing party”. From in-laws to outlaws.

“You know, it’s odd that people I once had holiday dinners with…”

My lawyer cut me off, as she did quite often.

“You’re not getting philosophical are you?”

“Yeah, I guess I am.”

“Court isn’t the place for being philosophical.”

I wondered if courts had no room for philosophy, and by implication no room for emotion, then was there really room for fairness or justice or honesty.

The U.S. has plenty of Christmas Christians, who pray and give and consider others on the 25th of December, while hording and hating the other 364 days of the year (Yes, there’s hate on Easter. Let Kid A swipe an Easter egg that clearly belonged to Kid B, and watch Kid B’s parents not only get upset, but begin thinking about a brand new crucifixion.)

Do courts have a Philosophy Day? Or a Fairness Week? And if so, is there any way I could have my court appearance scheduled during those holidays?

Maybe there’s a waiting list that could be provided.

I guess the perk was that this was a local appearance. I drove eight minutes downtown instead of driving the usual eight hours back and forth across state lines. I thought maybe I’d be getting good news close to home, or at least a local ass-kicking.

Hope springs eternal for those outside of family court. It takes some time for dads in family court to break the habit.

I once told my friends on Facebook that all 133 of them were the family court equivalent of Chicago Cubs fans. Loyal. Colorful. Doomed to lose every season, usually in ways both tragic and painful. Longtime Cubs fans have the mental and physical scars. Bartman’s 2004 leaning from the stands catch of an in-play ball cost the Cubs a trip to the World Series and likely cost many households broken tv sets, broken toes from kicking furniture, and damaged knuckles and plaster from punching walls.

The halls of injustice should come with padded walls, especially in the men’s room. Disenfranchised dads should have something soft to punch and beat on. Once child support and legal fees are added, re-added, and squared, medical bills for daddy’s broken hand would really be an unaffordable, and therefore irresponsible, expense.

When Separate Is More Than Equal

I miss my boys. I like watching them laugh and giggle. I like it when my older son hugs me and calls me daddy. There were times when my own dad was gone a lot, either for community service or research. I thought I would be the dad who was always available. Instead, I became the dad who lives in different cities.

I didn’t mean for my children to become like timeshares, children that I send in payments for year round but only see during set calendar weeks. But I haven’t been able to sustain my marriages, my employment, or my educational endeavors. I don’t know which of the previous failings gets to be called cause and which others effect. I just know my kids love me and my babies’ mommas loathe me.

And sometimes I loathe myself.

I think that if I did better then my boys would have better. I used to define better as daddy and mommy living together. My cousin Marc and my first wife taught me better. Before Marc was a wise beyond his years barrister, he was a wise beyond his years high school student. Marc suggested that when dad and mom fight all the time, a child defines better as just about anything that gets the fighting to stop. When love sneaks off and hate storms in, then distance is the only armistice that stops the verbal shock and awe. Better for a kid to enjoy his parents separately then to enjoy neither of them while those parents are together.

My cousin Marc has always been a smart and pragmatic brother.

What my ex-wife lacks in smarts and pragmatism she has always made up for with persistence and perniciousness. At times, she’s kept me from my oldest son, defied court orders, denied scheduled visitation, all because she was “doing what was best for our son”. More pit bull than parent, she seems bred for odor and meanness, biting necks and marking her turf by shitting and pissing on everything. Through two bouts of divorce court, the feral first wife taught me the difference between reconciliation and jailhouse recidivism, confirming what Marc Esquire had tried to pull my coat to back in high school. Sometimes separate is better.

When my oldest son talks with me on the phone, he often asks when will he get to see daddy. Sometimes I get to count down the time with him in days or weeks. Sometimes I have to use months instead.

I like to watch my sons at night, while they sleep. I feel parental when I shake my oldest son’s foot until he wakes up and starts his day—my youngest son has his own routine in which he instead wakes me, at 1 am and again at 8 am. I know these almost-rituals feel profound and moving because I love my boys, and that is why my chest feels tight. I wonder if these moments have added meaning and make my eyes water because they are all too infrequent.

And when I start to recite in my head how evil mothers can be, how bias and sort-sighted family court judges can be, and how disappointing weekend fatherhood can be, I try to remind myself that my boys are able to dream deeply with closed eyes and calm faces because no one is waking them up with high-pitched profanity and ultimatums .

My sons’ days of alternating parents might not be idyllic, but hopefully their dreams are.