The XX Factor

On This Mother’s Day, I Am a Mother No More

Bad stuff needs to stop happening to me on major holidays.

It was at least a decade before Christmas stopped being the commemoration of “The Day I Was Raped by a Fellow Soldier and the Military Punished Me ” and went back to being just good old Christmas. I almost never think about it anymore. But I suspect that I will take more than a decade to stop experiencing Mother’s Day as one of heartbreak, mourning, and bitterness because it’s now “The Day I Lost My Kids.”

They’ll be with my ex-husband even though I have sole legal and physical custody. Insert bitter bark-laugh here. Those meaningless sheets of paper matter about as much as the restraining orders found on women murdered by the former lovers determined to make them mind; absolutely nothing, to a certain kind of ex. Family court orders just provide the ammo for a war of attrition that a certain kind of ex has all the time in the world to wage because defeating you, making you mind , has their complete, all-day-and-all-night-long, obsessive-compulsive attention. They have all the time in the world, they make all the time in the world, to keep you on the defensive and in court forever . Or until you give up.

Court. Disneyland for sociopaths. The only place you can’t refuse to see them. The only place where they can torture you and watch you suffer with their own eyes. In real time.

Support court. Appeals court.  Bankruptcy court.  Civil court.  “Anonymous” calls to Child Protective Services and my welfare case worker. Hidden cam videos you had no idea existed entered into evidence. Spy Store ink pen recordings of the kids’ doctor and school appointments he never bothered to attend when he had you to do all the schlepping. But how else, besides court of course, to make you a captive audience? How else to let the hapless, horrified pediatricians and teachers know all the ways in which you have refused to mind? In front of the kids. Hundreds of pages of “jail house lawyer” filings, petitions, and motions. Replete with boldfaced all-caps, multiply-underlined. Six-foot long, color-coded excel spreadsheets detailing all the ways in which you have failed to mind.

Maddening you.  Hunting you. Convincing you you’re under constant surveillance.

Keeping you too depressed, defeated, and distracted to find a job or properly mother your helpless kids. To brush your teeth or change into PJs before bed. To stand up to the awful woman whose two-room basement I’m renting. But I only have to eat her dirt till the end of the month. Then I’m homeless.

Technically, they’re just with him on a “visit,” but I know him, now that it’s too late, and I know our judge. His campaign to keep me isolated, penniless, frantic, and struggling alone with two kids has succeeded with flying colors. Oh, there’ll be more courtroom farce, but it’s a done deal. I’ll be lucky to see them once a month when his triumphant dust settles. When I have minded. A neat trick that, though, with no money to travel.

So, I’ve lost my kids and all I want to do now is go home to Mommy.

She’s 84 and watching the last 12 years of my life-our courtship, marriage, and divorce-has nearly killed her. It’s also got her perched on the brink of homelessness with me; her Social Security checks only stretch so far trying to keep both households afloat. Somehow, by the end of the month, I’ve got to offload my few remaining Goodwill-supplied belongings and make it 2,000 miles to Las Vegas. Because that’s all I want now.  My Mommy.  Now that I no longer am one.

Well. What I’d really like is to be a psych inpatient somewhere because I might just be a tad depressed. How I fantasize about spending a month doing nothing but talking, sleeping, reading, and exercising (for the first time in years). Greedily “taking responsibility” for the fact that this is all my fault. (It must be. I should have minded.) Perhaps seeing a doctor, also for the first time in years. I’m pretty sure they take your cell away (it’ll be cut off soon anyway) so: NO BILL COLLECTORS! No homework times two. No cowardly skulking on the stairs, making sure my paper plates and frozen dinners don’t rattle, waiting for my landlady to leave the kitchen. No watching my kids explain to the neighbor kids why we sleep on the floor instead of beds. Sounds like heaven. But I have a final duty to perform. No lovely hospital for me.

I did my duty as a mother. I fought the good fight through seven years of the litigants’ life and now I’ve ‘given’ my kids to their father so they can have some peace and stability. He’ll never rest until I do-they’re all that’s left to take from me-and I love them too much to make them keep watching him hunt me. (Yes, at 7 and 10, and despite my ridiculous lies, they’ve figured out that Daddy “doesn’t like [me] very much.”) I’ll rebuild my life somehow and accept his visitation crumbs. But, with real regret, I’ll be settling for outpatient treatment. I think it will be quite some time before my mother will let me out of her sight. Also, I have to make some money to keep her from losing her apartment and any more of her health. But, really? The truth is, lovely as a hospital sounds, I don’t want to be more than a few feet away from her either. The psych ward will have to wait because I plan to spend the next few months-between court appearances, that is; he’s not nearly done with me yet-bathing in my mother’s love and making up for what I’ve put her through. And, of course, girding myself for “Mother’s Day” 2012.