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My Daughter & My Ex-Husband (Lori & Mr. K)

July 13, 2015

“What’s dad’s e-mail address?” my daughter texted me.

“xxx@blaa.com, as far as I know.” I replied.

“I just send him a long, honest e-mail.”

“Ooooooooh….shhhiiiitttt,” I replied.

Both of my children have had difficult relationships with their father since the divorce. Well, before the divorce too.

(Its time to give him a nickname. I’m tired of calling him “my ex.” I’ll call him, Mr. K, for reasons that make sense to only me.)

So, when Mr. K told Lori that he wanted to come visit her for Thanksgiving, she panicked. She didn’t want to see him. She was still angry with him for how he handled the divorce but mostly for how he treated Shawn, her little brother.

And she didn’t want his judgement. Lori is a short, pudgy woman, a result of her genetics. Mr. K, who had put on a bit of weight himself in the later years of our marriage, dropped down to high-school-skinny after the divorce. “He’s going to give me his cure and tell me how I should be living,” she said. “I just can’t handle his preaching.”

So she lied to him and told him his visit would be too soon after her family’s move to Portland.

“Let me know when you get settled in,” he offered. “I’d like to meet my grandson.”

But I’m going to see her this Christmas and Lori knew that Mr. K would find out that I had visited her after she told him not to. So, she decided it was time to be honest with him.

Lori and Mr. K have common interests like comic books and action movies. So, when they talk on the phone, they stick to superficial subjects, never discussing anything real. Lori had never really told him how she really felt about his actions and attitude.

Except once.

About a year ago,  Shawn was having panic attacks, causing him to black out, and both Lori and I were distressed. We worried that he might black out while driving and hurt himself or someone else. Lori was especially empathetic because she had suffered from panic attacks as well and knew how frightening and debilitating they were. I wanted Shawn to see a therapist but I couldn’t afford it. I knew there was no way I could ask Mr. K. When it came to money, Mr. K was convinced that Shawn and I had always just used him, “like an ATM,” is how he phrased it. I had no persuasive power over him but I thought Lori might.

Despite the fact that Lori is Mr. K’s adopted daughter and Shawn is his natural son, he always had a clear preference for Lori. Maybe it’s a fathers and sons thing? I don’t know. He always had a blind spot when it came to his two children. Lori, despite her many mistakes and our considerable financial support of her, could do no wrong. But Shawn could never be enough for his father. In the end neither could I. I found it especially insulting that he had taken to lumping us together, like it was Shawn and I against him. Like I was one of his children. We weren’t two parents raising a son together. It was Shawn and I in one corner, “nothing but a burden to him,” and Mr. K, always righteous, never at fault, tiresomely giving all he had to support his family in the opposing corner.

So, my fears for Shawn’s safety overcame my dread of contacting Mr. K and I asked Lori to approach him about helping Shawn.

That phone call between Lori and Mr. K is one she has not forgotten. She called him and told him Shawn needed help. He insisted that there was nothing he could do. That he couldn’t trust us with money, so he wouldn’t help pay for a therapy visit. Lori told me that most of the conversation was about money and responsibility and respect (Mr. K loves the word, respect.) She became very angry with him and cursed at him. “I don’t give a fuck what you think. Your son needs your help,” she had yelled at him. And he hung up on her. It was months before they spoke again and their conversation returned to superficial chit chat.

When I learned of his reaction, I felt guilty. I had asked her to call him, knowing better. Knowing his reaction was unlikely to be compassionate and guaranteed to be full of blame and criticism. I texted Mr. K and said, “Don’t worry about helping Shawn. I’ll take care of it.” When he asked what that meant, I didn’t respond.

So, I made Shawn an appointment and just put it on an already overtaxed credit card.

Lori had not brought this up with Mr. K in the year or more since it happened. But in her e-mail to him, she told him how angry she had been. She criticized his parenting style. She told him she was carrying around anger over the divorce. She was angry at how he treated Shawn. She let lose four years of tension in one long e-mail. She didn’t talk to me at all before she sent it. If she had I might have convinced her not to.

When she did tell me, I gave her my prediction of his response.

“He’s either going to ignore it and pretend he didn’t read it and that nothing is wrong or he’s going to come out swinging. He will justify his righteousness and play the victim. He will attack.”

When she did get a response, she was very upset. She sent me what Mr. K wrote to her. It was the saddest thing I think I have ever read. I can’t believe how much I underestimated the strength of his victim mentality.

It’s been four years since I left him. To me, he was at his worst those last few weeks. In the four years since those days I’ve had enough experience with relationships with other people…….friends, family, lovers……to realize just how awful he really was in those days and weeks.

I thought, I hoped, I assumed that four years of separation from me, four years out of our marriage would have changed him, softened him, given him perspective.

Judging from the words he sent to Lori, he is worse than he ever was when I was with him.

………….to be continued in “The E-mail.”

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