That spring of 2004 was maddening by all standards of even moderate sanity.
Between discovering my husband’s financial deceit, which did not resume to taxes, unsuccessfully trying to convince my daughters that everything was going to be okay, my work, cleaning and putting the house on the market, and trying to still fake normality, my life was rushing ahead of me.
In spite of my friends’ considerable financial help, the market was so high, there was not much available that we could afford, if Eva was to finish at Mount Saint Joseph’s Academy and Natalie to move to the Springfield Township High School in her sophomore year.
The hunt for a new house started, and I was driving the streets of our neighborhoods, calling realtors, calling owners who sold their own homes, but nothing seemed to work in our favor. The settlement date for our house was approaching fast. Kevin had bought a small house in Ambler and I was now also considering the proximity to his new house, for the kids’ sake, assuming they would spend time with their father. As I was driving around one morning, on a side street I noticed a shabby ranch, weeds grown everywhere, covering a “For Sale” sign. I parted the weeds and wrote down the number. I called the realtor and she told me it was an estate sale. The house was in very bad shape, but that’s why the owners were willing to sell at a lower price.
The realator met me at the house. She was a petite, pretty woman whom I liked instantly. We went in, and a smell of rancid carpets hit us in the face. The windows’ frames were rotted, the bathroom and toilet black with dirt. The plumbing was bad, and later was fixed thanks to the generosity of our friends April and Chuck.
“I have never seen such a dirty bathroom,” I commented.
“The man who lived here for 40 years was alone and blind. He wasn’t speaking with his children and had no friends. beside, he was blind, he didn’t see the bathrooms.”
“How sad, how did he die?”
“He died alone, we don’t know when exactly because the postman noticed he wasn’t picking up the mail and informed the Police…”
I really didn’t want to know any more details. Under any other circumstances I’d have walked away but this time I was grateful. The roof had no holes!
The sale was “as is,” meaning I could not bargain, no matter what an inspection found wrong with the house. It was a take it or leave it deal, and I took it because it had a roof. Oh yes, and it had no holes in it!
When I tried to purchase the mandatory homeowners policy I could not find any company to offer me insurance because the wood was so rotted, the appliances so old…
We had to scrub and repaint and repair the woodwork and at last a company took the risk and offered us the homeowners insurance necessary to get the house settled.
It was a big change from our three-story Victorian home with beautiful wood work, crystal chandeliers and French door, in addition to the huge sunk in year and the four-car, two-story barn. But we needed a roof…and it had no holes!
We moved in mid-June, as Kevin was moving in Ambler, about five miles away. Eva’s school was close and Natalie’s new high school was almost across the street. The girls put on a facade of acceptance, even relief. Kevin was visiting every ten days or so at the beginning. When August arrived, we all, for the first time went to his new home. I baked his favorite, a peach pie, and took it over. He invited us in and asked my opinion on how to decorate. I was flattered and hopeful we were one of those few couples who could maintain a good relationship and not put the children in the middle. Yes, we read those books, at least I did, and shared with him, that no matter our feelings, we were not to bad-mouth one another in front of the girls. According to experts, that would have been a very bad idea with long term consequences. Also, because they were teenagers, they would have played one against the other and do what they wanted to do… whatever that was when one was a teenager with freshly divorced parents and a need for independence.
It was his birthday, August 8th when we visited, and we sat outside first, in his back yard. When we separated I gave him two weeks to get whatever he wanted from our house. To me, they were objects with little value. After the earthquake in Romania I had learned objects were just that: Objects, dispensable goods! I took to our new rotted house the left-overs, what he didn’t want. Partition was easy and uneventful.
After we ate the pie, he invited us inside. A small but delightful house, which even had a guest-room. When we entered the guest-room, the girls’ eyes sparkled. They sat on the bed and Eva said:
“This is our bedroom, right?” She was smiling. Her younger sister was silent. I was expectant.
Kevin’s answer came quicker than I thought:
“No,” He said, “This is my guest room!”
Eva’s smile disappeared. Natalie left the room without further comments and we followed her.
On the way back to our new home they told me what they expected when we divorced. They wanted what their friends with divorced parents experienced. They had a schedule, they spend time with both parents… Suddenly, the reality of our uniqueness struck all of us, but there was nothing we could have done and I let it slide:
“Did you like the peach pie?” I asked, and sugary stuff cheered any teen, and it did my daughters, at least at the surface. What was deep in their hearts… only they knew, I could only guess, but I really didn’t want to because it was too painful, it made me feel guilty and helpless… again!
That summer, in 2004, I started working two jobs. One 9 AM-5 PM for an insurance company, and another 6 PM to 10 PM in my own practice, doing massages and facials. My doctor warned me it was too much, but I had no choice, Kevin was paying no child support.
In October I flew to Austin, to complete a certification to become a yoga instructor and bring in more money. While I was in training, one evening, when I called home, Natalie said:
“We have floods here. Dad’s car was taken down the stream and is completely destroyed!”
I was stunned. How did that happened? Was he okay? Yes, he was fine, he ignored the barricades indicating floods and thought he could drive through the water… but he miscalculated and ended up losing his car, but thank God not his life.
I called him directly, and offered the car that the girls were driving. It wasn’t a fancy car, but it worked. He seemed surprised, than hurt and finally said:
“No! Thank you.” And hung up on me.
Upon my return home we rarely saw one another. I was exhausted but that Saturday morning, in October, we had to get together to close our joint accounts.
We met in front of the bank and went inside together. There were a few dollars left in the accounts so, again, not much to divide.
Outside the bank, we looked at each other and he said he’d try to take the girls out to dinner once a month. I told him that was nice, but he still needed to give me money for their daily expenses. I told him I worked two jobs and I was exhausted.
“How much money do you want!”
“It’s not for me,” I became defensive. “I calculated to cover everything for one girl I came up with $836 a month. I thought we’d split. I’d pay $836 and you $836. Fair enough?”
He looked stunned.
“$836? I don’t have that type of money!”
We parted on an angry note. When I got home, Natalie looked excited.
“Mom, mom, ” She said. “Dad just called, he is buying a new convertible car and wants us to test-drive with him next week!”
I went streight to the phone and called my lawyer:
“Do you remember, months ago, when you advised me to file for child-support with the Courts because if it’s not filed I get nothing? It only counts if it’s filed on the books? And then I said no, Kevin would pay, I was sure it wasn’t necessary? Well… you were right, we have to file!”