Monday, August 30, 2010

Show Me the Money

It's hard to believe, but more that three years after Mr.Ex dumped me for the gal with the shoes, it seems that he and I have succeeded in dividing 2 of our joint assets. He signed. I signed. A document came back from the court with the marvelous phrase, "IT IS SO ORDERED." There's a date stamp and a judge's signature stamp.
Now show me the money.
And dare I say, it's time to get on with dividing the rest of it?  NOW.
It's interesting to ponder how differently I might have felt about Mr. Ex if our division of joint assets had been handled without the foot-dragging and the dispensing of 50 grand in attorney's fees. I might have felt...oh..I some year I could sing Auld Lang Syne while spilling some champagne on his pants and then let by-gones be by-gones. As it stands right now, I don't think I'm going to give Mr. Ex the lovely present I bought for him the day I got the email from my attorney notifying me that Mr. Ex was feeling somewhat cooperative.

The man who loves me and I have already dipped into it.

And we liked it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shoes and Sex

I've been dreaming of footwear.
I don't usually dream. Or I don't remember my dreams.
I complained about my pitiful dream life to my brother's girlfriend last week. "I'll send you a dream," she said.  The next morning I awoke still feeling the soft brown suede of a pair of boots I'd worn in the dream. It was almost all I remembered. There had been a party. Supposedly with friends, but in real life, I didn't know these dream people. They vaporized when I opened my eyes. The boots though. Over -the-thigh supple tawny suede with variegated brown and white fur at the top. What my daughters and I might have once called "hooker boots."
This morning it was shoes. Black. Brown. Pumps. Sandals. Round-toed flats with ankle straps.  I'd gone to my new book club meeting with two bags of them. I was in a hurry and couldn't decide what to wear. Late--because I had my mother in tow. I abandoned her  unceremoniously at the door of the bathroom and went into an alcove where one of my fellow readers--a demure Asian woman--sat in a chair with a book. The room was nearly dark, and there was a bed jutting from one of the corners. After a brief hello from a tallish thin man who looked a bit like Errol Flynn, he and I began pulling off our clothes (was he wearing a cravat?) and dove under the covers. Enthusiastic sex ensued. Never mind my mother wandering alone somewhere in a house she was unfamiliar with. Never mind the reading woman in the chair. We could hear the hum of voices getting louder. Drinks being poured. "I thought I saw Denise come in," someone said from the next room.
When Mr. Flynn and I were finally sated, I was a bit embarrassed and began to throw on my clothes. The shoes--oh my god, the shoes. Which ones should I wear? Wait--there were no matched pairs.

I woke up feeling anxious and guilty. I'd just had sex with someone that wasn't The Man Who Loves Me. Wait! Hadn't he said he'd go to book club with me? Was he in the next room while....then I came to my senses. It was just a dream. And those shoes--I didn't own any of them in real life.  Which leads me to ponder shoes. The Little Missus is into shoes in a big way. A closet full of Christian Louboutins, I've been told.  Is that why I'm dreaming about shoes?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August is Sandcastle Month

That's what the bulletin board at my aunt's nursing home says. There's a lopsided construction paper cutout that looks like it's been faded by the sun--but the sun has no way to  make an appearance in the windowless room where the"old folks" eat their meals and visit with the people who come to see them. The other section of the bulletin board reports the day and the date as well as the season--"Summer!" and the weather--"Hot!" For some reason the section captioned, "The Next Holiday" is left blank. Maybe thinking ahead to the turn of the calendar page is too much when you're living in a place like this.
We took my mom to visit her twin Millie.  We sat on the patio with them while they smoked.  My mom stopped making the sounds that have recently become part of her repertoire.

"What's with the moaning?" I'd asked my brother the first night of my visit.
"It's not really moaning," he said. "It sounds to me like she's contemplating." I had to agree. Our mother is not moaning in pain. But if she's not actively engaged in a conversation when she sits sipping her coffee or her martini or just sits doing nothing, she vocalizes in a way that seems to be a non-verbal comment on something she's thinking about. Usually these "comments" don't sound all that positive.
My mother talks in her sleep, too.
"What do you dream about when you talk in your sleep?" I asked her the first day of our visit.
"I'm always talking to Millie," she said. "She's trying to help me. I'm in trouble, and she says, 'Hang on. Don't let go of the rope. Grab on to the branch. Don't jump.' "
I wonder if the waking "contemplations" are between her and Millie too. And that when they were together, that's why my mother could stop.

The weird thing was, as my aunt and my mother sat together on the patio, it was my aunt who began making the sounds.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Land of the Old

This is  where  I live. The Land of the Old. No matter where I am, this foreign place I couldn't quite imagine a few years ago is where I now reside.
My mother will be 86 next month. Last summer she was dying. This summer she's alive, but frail. Shrinking a bit each time I see her like my 16-year-old cats.  Like them, she eats tiny meals and then naps. Walks slowly, not quite steady on her feet. She lists a bit to one side due to osteoporosis--kind of like my dog Layla who has nerve degeneration and is losing control of her body a vertebrae at a time. My mother is hard of hearing like my dog Lola, and it takes certain moves to communicate with her.  Face her. Ennunciate. Take your time.
My mother and I are on our own this weekend. She lives with my brother and his girlfriend who've gone off for some well-earned time to themselves. Coffee. Breakfast. Lunch. Drinks and an appetizer. Dinner. In between these daily milestones my mother naps while I read or lie on the couch and think.
A few years back when my mother and her twin still lived on their own in my cousin's basement apartment, Mr. Ex and I used to visit. He hid out in our upstairs guestroom watching the Country Music Channel. He avoided my aunt and my mother. Yeah, they smoked. Yeah, they were different from his family with their martinis and their opinions about everything. Yeah, they were in-laws, and he didn't have to love them.
And now here I am, free to come and go--west coast to east and back whenever I please.  My mother is not a burden, but it would have been a burden to carry Mr. Ex through these visits. 
What lucky sweetness that I am allowed to live in this ephemeral place without the weight of Mr. Ex to keep me from relishing it.

photo: blogs.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bad News/Good News

There were many bitter things about my divorce.
I especially resented that Mr. Ex didn't fess up and tell me that I could have gone to grad school on the moon. His secret romance was in full bloom by the time I came to my geeze-the-nest-is-nigh-unto-empty senses and began applyingto MFA programs. Depite the fact I had teachers who wanted me to shoot for a full on residential program at UC Irvine, I couldn't see how that would fit into my married life. Low res seemed like the wifely thing to do. I applied to 3 programs and got into all of them, but I once again went with the wifely option and chose a program in Mr. Ex's home state of Nebraska.  A new-ish rather unproven program.
When I left for my first residency the day after Christmas I was still living without furniture in my new place. I had a wall unit made from moving boxes and two blue nylon camp chairs in my living room. I was sick by the time the plane landed. My throat felt like it had a dirty sock lodged in it, and I couldn't breathe through my nose. I downed two Lemon Drops in the bar and bought dried mangoe slices coated with chili pepper  during my layover in Vegas and added an upset stomach to my aliments. I thought the tonic part of the gin and tonics might soothe my stomach on the plane ride to Omaha.
I did not want to be in Nebraska.
I couldn't talk because my throat was sore. I couldn't think  or read because my brokeness had traveled north from my heart and rented a room in my  brain. I couldn't write.
But things got better. Friends. Amazing mentors. A realization that my metaphors still live in the midwest.
And now this: the program I chose solely because of Mr. Ex comes in at #11 in a new set of rankings.
And I graduated from there, quite happily. So, gee, Mr. Ex, thanks!

I do think it would be damn decent of Mr. Ex to reimburse me for my tuition though. I worked two jobs to put him through UCLA law school.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sometimes Writing Freaks Me Out

I'm alone in my room at the Squaw Valley Lodge. Since 3:00 this afternoon, I've been combing through my memoir manuscript--taking out, putting in, doing what writers do.
It's been a while since I've gone all the way through this manuscript. It was confined to the armoire in my study for the two years I was in grad school working on a novel for my MFA in fiction.
Sometimes I forget the things I've written, and when I go back to them, I'm surprised. Undone even.

I found the third lost child, a little boy in sneakers, when C. was about two.  I had taken her to the mall for a new pair of shoes.  She was in her stroller, and we were wheeling toward Haagen-Dazs when he came running toward us.  It was a weekday, and we’d gotten there just as the stores were opening.  The mall was practically deserted.  Only a couple of other people were around, and they watched as the little boy ran right to me.
              “Uh-oh,” I said to my daughter, “This little boy needs to find his mommy.”  I bent down to him, and he practically leapt into my arms.  He fit nicely on my hip as I curled one arm around his back, using my free hand to maneuver my daughter and her stroller.  We turned immediately into a small specialty store that sold popcorn.  I asked the young woman behind the counter to call security.  She was about to pick up the phone when a mall security officer just happened to walk by and asked me to bring the child and follow him.  The little boy was still perched on my hip, his legs dangling while his miniature versions of expensive adult athletic shoes kicked against my thigh.
Just as the four of us started to walk away from the popcorn store, I heard a woman begin to wail.  I recognized the Spanish word, "Dios," as her voice rocketed into an alarmed crescendo.  A moment later a beautiful woman in her late twenties or early thirties emerged from an upscale boutique,  a diaper bag and an expensive purse clutched in her arms.  A much older man was at her side, and they both appeared terror-stricken until their darting eyes landed on the boy in my arms.  They reached out to him, simultaneously wailing and kissing first him and then each other, all the while managing to thank the security guard and me.  The man reached out to shake my hand and said in accented English, “Thank you, Missus! My little son is just now nine months old, but he is very fast for me.”
I pondered the man’s words and thought of my own dad who had been an older father.  My parents owned a grocery store then, and they took me to work with them.  My mother tied bells to my shoelaces so she could hear me as I walked through the aisles.  I wondered for a minute if I should tie bells to my daughter’s new shoes. 
The adrenaline generated by finding the little lost boy had made me hungry.  Instead of having ice cream, I decided C. and I would have an early lunch.  She liked the fruit tarts at a little café at the other end of the mall.  We could get some soup first, and then have the tart for dessert.  I was still sipping my coffee when I saw the little boy in the sneakers run past the café doorway.  I leapt up from the table to intercept him, but saw that his father was just a few paces behind him.

Hey Mr. Ex, the Older Father appears to be one of the recurring images in my life.  Good luck to you.  Really.

Meanwhile,  here in Writer's Conference Land it's all blue skies, rainbows, and party lights.

If I'm dreaming, please don't wake me up.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Divorce and Leprosy

I need a colony. Other divorced people. People who are failing at divorce. People whose ex-spouses won't communicate with them.  No returned calls. No answered emails.  Letters unacknowledged. Won't divide the joint assets.  People who've been expunged from the consciousness of the person they once loved.

Our friends are sick of our oozing unfinished business. Acquaintances avert their eyes on the street and in the supermarket. The rotting stench of leftover grief and anger and eroding self-esteem might as well be stumps of fingers or leftover nubbins of noses and lips. Not fit for polite society.

Our attorneys are sick of us too.  Or sick of our cases anyway. They've tried. They've taken our money. They want a colony too.

Could the colony be in Hawaii? Please?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In this email is a letter to you

Crickets are chirping on my patio. Candles blaze in my living room while my dogs dream, stretched out on the rug at my feet. My wine glass beckons.
I just sent Mr. Ex the letter I have been working on for two weeks.

             Mr. Ex,

             I am writing to thank you for agreeing to divide some of our joint assets.  I hope we continue to make progress toward a final settlement. 

             I wrote these beginning lines to you, as I was en route to Nebraska where I attended the graduation of some friends at UNO.  I also visited your family.  That  visit brings me to the reason I am continuing this rather difficult project of writing to you.  We have important family milestones approaching, Ex.  M. will graduate in May of 2011, and C. and N. (the latest intelligence reveals) may have their wedding in the fall of 2012.  My hope you is that you and I will both attend these events and be able to look each other in the eye and share in our daughters’ joys.  I do not want either of them to fear any drama between you and me.  I think wrapping up our division of joint assets and signing off on our final agreement would, for me, be a big step in that direction.  
             I want you to know that at this point, just over three years from the day you told me our marriage was over, I am ready for some version of peace.  The heartbreak is behind me now.  It’s tough to be rejected, to be “un-chosen,” but I really want to get on with my life, concentrate on my writing, and be at my mom’s side whenever she needs me.  You have a wife, a son, and perhaps more children (and grandchildren) in your future.  You are, and always will be, C. and M.’s dad.  The four of us are no longer a family, and while I do continue to mourn that fact, I realize there is no point dwelling on it.  I want to go forward, not remain stuck in our current limbo with our unresolved financial matters digging a hole of resentment deeper and deeper.
            And so the last verse is the same as the first.  Let’s wrap things up, Ex.  We’ve verbally agreed on what the division of assets should be.  There’s been a draft of an agreement on the table for years.  If you have comments on that agreement, my attorney and I need to hear from you.  I’ve spent more than $40,000.00 in attorney’s fees.  Continuing to drag out our financial settlement is most definitley an impediment to future peace. 
            As a final thought, I ask you to ponder the last lines of a Robert Frost poem that I’ve heard you quote many times:

                      The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
                  But I have promises to keep,
                  And miles to go before I sleep,
                  And miles to go before I sleep.

         Let us tend to the work required of us.  Though we are no longer promised to each other, let’s keep the implied promise inherent in our relationship to  two people we both love.