Tuesday, October 20, 2009

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.

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