Always Something There To Remind Me
The receptionist at the dental office looked at me over her glasses. When she spoke, her voice wavered slightly somewhere between exasperation and incredulity.
"What do you mean, you don't know his address?" Her brightly painted fingernails hovered above the keyboard of the computer where she'd been entering all the facts and figures that would become my son's patient chart.
I felt stupid, and petty, and also kind of incredulous myself. Why the hell would I know my ex-husband's address? It's not like my kids spend any time there. I don't send him cards or flowers. It's kind of like asking a person if they know the address of a long ago lover. Someone with whom they shared a lot of history, but nothing current.
I gave her my own look. The one that, in my head, says I dare you to say something about how lame I am for not knowing this man's address but in reality probably says something like aughhh you're right I'm the worst parent/ex-wife of all time! Condemn me please! Judge me! And please, pretty please, tell me to get over it already!
She kept her eyes on me and told me that she needed it. "We can't take him on as a new patient unless we have all of this information."
I wanted to tell her that this wasn't the worst part of my awkward and dysfunctional co-parenting situation. I wanted to tell her about the time we ended up in a courtroom in order to ensure that he would be the one who'd provide health insurance for the kids. I wanted to tell her how it befuddled me, his strong and unrelenting insistence to have the kids on his health insurance until a friend explained things to me, things like "tax breaks" and "write offs" and "people who love money so much they'll do just about anything to save it".
Instead what I did was pull out my phone and in a sheepish, shamed voice said, "I'll Google it." And Google it I did, standing there in front of the receptionist with the tanned skin and the shellacked nails. I Googled that motherfucker and tried to act like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Hey Jenny! What are you doing?
Aw, hey there friend. I'm just Googling my ex-husband!
And there, in between pictures of him from his company's website, in between a sickening blurb that said "Big Daddy and his wife Secretary live in Adultery Valley with their four children" (uh, note to the webmaster...time to update that bio)...there was his address. I read it out loud to the receptionist and when she was done entering it she sighed and said, "I suppose you don't know his date of birth, either."
At this point I was hulking out just a bit and said back to her, "Is that a question or a statement? Because I do know his birthday." I rattled that one out to her with only the slightest pause (because he and my former BFF were a day apart and I always confused them...) and then she handed me the standard clipboard with instructions to fill out the front and back and turn it in when I was done.
These are the kinds of situations you find yourself mired in when you're divorced. If you had a sane, amicable one, the kind where both parties truly parted on good terms, I suppose it makes sense that you'd know each other's addresses and social security numbers and maybe, just maybe, even stats about the new spouses.
A few days prior to the above-referenced appointment, I'd called to see if my son's insurance was accepted there.
It's not bad enough that every time I look at the kid's insurance cards I have to see the name of the woman my husband dumped me for. It's lost the shock value after all this time but part of me still winces. Her name also appears on the child support payments, which again brings up some pangs but also some wtf as well. But to add insult to winces, when I call and arrange appointments for any of the kids there's almost always the barrage of questions about her. The insurance is provided through her employer, therefore it's her information they need.
No, sorry. I don't know her date of birth. (if I'm in a joking mood I'll add, "all I know is that it's like twelve years after mine, hahahahahahahaweep")
Nope. I also don't know the name of her employer or that address or anything else other than the fact that my ex insisted on providing their insurance and now I have to do this song and dance a few times a year.
I don't know much about her other than the fact that when I see or hear her name, all I can picture is her, bent over a desk and my then-husband standing behind her. Sorry. A friend of mine told me a story once, about someone opening an office door and stumbling upon that very scene and I have never been able to erase it. It's half-hysterical, half-tragic and for some reason it's the thumbnail my brain keeps on the file marked "Them".
There was an article somewhere, not too long ago, about divorce and the length of time it takes to recover from one. As usual, there were comments on it from people who were adamant about "getting over it" and admonishing those who expressed sadness or anger or anything other than a giant Xanax smile about being divorced. Lots of "let it go" and "you should really move on". And yes, I agree with them. Somewhat. I believe it's possible to get over a divorce, even a bitter, hurtful one bearing the scent of betrayal and lies and deep wounds. You can get over it. You pick up the pieces, wipe off the blood and shit and take inventory of what you have left and you wake up every day and get the frick over it.
But just like that sweet 80's jam by Naked Eyes taught us, there's always something there to remind me. Some days it's easier to let those reminders bounce off, roll off our backs and slither down into the gutter where they belong. Some days, it's not so easy.
Please be kind to those you know who have gone through this crap. Know that when they do let it get under their skin, it bothers them and it's definitely not them wallowing in it.
And if you're the one, like me, who sometimes lets these little reminders become big fat thorns in your side, please be gentle with yourself. Our reactions to these triggers depends on so much and just one little bump in the road can make it all that much harder to bear: maybe you've had a harrowing morning with the kids, maybe you're PMSing, maybe you were road-raged on the way to the appointment. Maybe you're just plain exhausted. No matter. The thorn will work itself out, and you'll be wince-free again. Until the next reminder comes along. But that next thorn will be just a fraction smaller and duller, and you will find yourself plucking it out with greater ease with each passing year.
Hang in there, my friends. You are not alone in this.
This post dedicated to Kristin J. and all the others who have sent emails thanking me for letting them know they aren't alone. You totally aren't, Kristin. xoxo
Posted by the_happy_hausfrau at 9:58 AM