“When I was your age, I was dating up a storm and raising hell, not hanging out with a decrepit old man,” Tyson said when he came back from his morning hike and found me standing in the sunlight that streamed through his kitchen window waiting for him.
“I happen to like this decrepit old man with talons for eyebrows,” I said.
He laughed, pressing his cold lips to my forehead. “It’s good to see you, Kiddo,” He held me away from him and looked at me with grey eyes ancient and kind. “Is everything OK with you?”
I gave him an update on dating, work, school, and the boys.
Thorr is still struggling to find himself and making poor decisions. But he is only twenty years old and I know his potential, so I am ever hopeful. As for Caesar, I am constantly reminded why a joint parenting partnership with CX could never work. My last two scheduled visits with Caesar served as a reminder that nothing had changed with CX.
The weekend of April 25th – the 27th, I was schedule to pick up Caesar on Friday evening around 7 pm. Task with communicating for CX, Caesar called me at 5:41 pm (1 hour 19 minutes before I was to pick him up) to tell me that he had youth marine on Saturday and would not be coming. My previous weekend, (11th-13th) I received a call from Caesar on Thursday night that again he had youth marine and would not be dropped off on Friday, but could see me on Saturday after youth marine - and even that turned into a mess. I emailed CX both weekends that I was not in agreement with him changing plans at the last minute without adequate notification and requested to have my scheduled time with Caesar. He did not respond to my emails.
I did alone the plans I made for us. I have become quite adept at putting my emotions in perspective. I hurt and move on. The alternative is to end up back in court embroiled in another battle with CX that will not solve anything, tear Caesar to pieces and rob him of more of his childhood innocence. Haven’t we robbed him of enough? I’m done with court battles and engaging in any conflict with CX even if it means I miss out on time with Caesar.
“Cry and be done with it,” Tyson said. “Remember that patience though it may be a passive response, is an active force. One needs only to wait for the tide to change. And the tide is rolling in, Kitten,”
We had coffee and spent half the day in silence, Tyson painting, me reading - together, yet lost in a world all our own. If we had grown old together, I imagined this is how we would spend our days. My time with him is magical. There is nothing about me that he doesn't know, love, accept – just the way I am, and I him. There is a shared respect of each other that I cannot help but bask in. Betti said, "There is always a certain peace in being what one is, in being that completely."
“What’s going on with that Cally friend of yours – the one with the husband who likes to use his fist?” Tyson tossed the question over his shoulder.
“Ally,” I said, smiling. “She’s still waiting for the husband to change. She says she knows he has it in him,” Tyson made a guttural sound and continued painting.
And I went back to my own time and place now filled with thoughts of Ally. Few days before I had sat with her – her feet rested on my lap, I looked at her tiny toes – with nails painted blood red. The cut over her left eye required stitching. Her right arm was in a sling.
She has yet to realize what I discovered few years ago, that the power to change my life was not in anyone's hands but my own. And that fear can be the most potent prison that keeps us trapped even when there are no prison bars.
“What do you think happens when you lose everything that you do not think that you can live without?” I asked.
“Many people commit suicide,” she said. “Not that I would do something crazy like that. But I’m not strong, Kit,”
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water.”
I've known Ally half her life and know that she just hasn't realized yet how fiercely capable she is. She stared at me through droopy eye-lids made heavy with painkillers and fell asleep.
I wish that I could make her understand that her story is not for him to write. She tells me to mind my business whenever I suggest leaving as an option. Is that possible? Can we stand silent by and watch the people we love suffer?
“Would you mind your business and keep silent if I had a husband who slaps me around and leaves me with broken bones? Would you pretend not to see the bruises I try to mask with make-up that you know are there?”
“Probably not. But that’s what I want you to do,” she said.
“I can’t mind my business about this,” I said.
She smiled. “I figured you’d say that. You’re stubborn, Kit. Sometimes you don’t know when to throw in the towel and negotiate,”
“Some things cannot be negotiated,” I’d said.
I watched her, remembering how I had tried to hold on to Caesar as if my life depended on it – thinking that my life depended it. I remember the terror etched into my skin with which I walked into court – alone, emotional and penniless to stand my ground against CX, his lawyer, a GAL and a judge. Out-numbered and out-gunned, I knew that I would walk out without my son and barely my name.
But I showed up anyway, armed only with my story, not because I was brave, I don’t think, but because life presented me with only two plausible options – fight or flight. If I didn't fight, I was going to remain trapped living the same miserable, fearful life in an endless battle that none of us could win.
In what I decided would be my final battle with CX - I fought to my death – literally - realizing the depth of the situation, it was more than Caesar that I fought - it was my survival. I walked away stripped of everything except my will and what little of my name I was able to salvage. I had no choice but to go back to my beginning when all I had was the piercing wail with which I came into the world.
That experience that many and which even I had seen as tragedy, introduced me to myself. In all the ruin - I saw me standing there, broken - yet brand new. It was a mind-blowing discovery.
I watched Ally sleep knowing that she was in her moment of fight or flight and she alone could make the decision to change her story. She doesn't want to leave the house, the clothes, bank accounts…
I know that none of that really matters. I think sometimes we have to burn the fucking house down and walk away - naked if necessary.
“Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything . . . whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.” – Tina Turner