Friday, June 25, 2010

This Is Awkward

I am not suicidal.
I'm not even depressed.
I'm saturated with love, and  moonlight and cricket-song are seeping into my window.
But I've been pacing and thinking before  burrowing into my bed with my purring laptop.
Suppose tomorrow or the next day I get distracted while crossing a street and clumsily stumble in front of a bus or just clumsily stumble on my black granite stairs or get bit by a spider or slip in the shower.
I want to be cremated.
No Catholic Mass. Don't bury the ashes.
Ashes in Paris. Ashes in the Aegean. Ashes in the Mississippi.
Have a party. Drink gin.
I still have my old will where Mr. Ex gets everything. Probably that's not enforceable now. I hope.
I'll work on changing that but meanwhile let this post serve as official word that he should have nothing.
And he can't come to the party.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Collateral Damage #2

My daughters have a baby brother courtesy of Mr.Ex & the Little Missus. From all reports he is quite adorable and bears a certain resemblance to his sisters.

I will never know him.

I am the child of a blended family--blended before blending was popular or tolerated or accepted or the norm. My mother was my father's 3rd wife. Marriage #1 produced no children (he said.) Marriage #2 was to a woman who was married previously. She had a daughter from that previous marriage and together my father and wife # 2 had a son (the siring of the son is a matter of some debate--but nevermind because this is the simple version of the story.) The daughter of the previous marriage became pregnant at age 16 and was married (or not--this is the simple version of the story, remember) But the marriage (or the not-marriage) fell apart, and my father and wife #2 took over the raising of the baby who was legally adopted by my father and wife #2. But wife #2 died, and my father and my mother fell in love, and eloped, and kept their marriage secret, and after some months eventually came out of the closet about being married. The adopted girl was then raised by them, and I was born, and the adopted girl thereby became my adopted half-sister. When my brothers were born, she was their adopted half-sister too.

We all spoke. Some of us lived together, and those that didn't got together with us frequently to barbecue, play badminton, shuffle board, horse shoes and canasta.  I didn't know then that all of that was some kind of miracle.

The moon is 98% of full and I am overflowing--
my inbox drenched with this:

Mr.Ex is thus far not willing to cooperate in dividing the joint assets.  I spoke to his attorney  both today and last week, and he complained of not being able to get a response from Mr. Ex, whom he continues to describe as a mess.  I’ll keep pushing him.

And the moon  keeps pulling.

Collateral Damage

 I think it's safe to say that Mr. Ex and I will never have a congenial post-divorce relationship. Whatever goodwill might have been scraped up off the pavement has been washed away by the resentment that's built up over these past three years of his refusal to divide our joint assets. That's a loss--but not a surprising one as divorces go, I guess.
I have mourned the loss of our family profoundly and continue to do so.  No more "the four of us" at holiday dinners, vacations, the celebrations of  the milestones in our lives. We'll never again see a play together or take a walk. This is the aspect of divorce I find most devastating. It even surpasses being dumped for a younger woman. I've lost my family. You expect that in a divorce, right?
But it's the collateral damage that's making my heart ache this week. I didn't expect the grief over the loss of my mother-in-law--and I haven't lost her exactly since we still write letters to one another. But Sunday there's a family brunch  to celebrate her 90th birthday, and I'm not going.
Mr. Ex is going.
I have friendly relationships with all of my ex in-laws. They have demonstrated nothing but kindness and support toward me, but all of us know that it's not possible for Mr. Ex and me to be in the same room. It wouldn't be a birthday celebration anymore.
When I met Mr. Ex, I fell hard. My eighteen-year-old brain/body was certain it was fate. He was my soul mate, I was sure of it, and I remember explaining this theory of mine to his mother. She wasn't particularly impressed. Maybe because she wasn't sure she wanted me to be part of her son's life then. She might have even disliked me when Mr. Ex first brought me home. I was a wild girl tearing up the path her son had been on to become a Catholic priest. We pushed her 1970s Catholic midwestern envelope and insisted on sharing the same bed at her house although we weren't  married. It was kind of a mess. But she made us sandwiches for the road when we left.
My mother-in-law is prim and proper and unapproachable compared to my own wildly extroverted smoking, drinking, swearing, lipstick-wearing mother. I was a little afraid of her in the first couple of years of my relationship with Mr. Ex. Afraid of being judged, I guess. But over the years, we scratched out our common ground. We are both gardeners and have toured one another's yards and gardens with appreciation. We are both writers, simple cooks who love wholesome food, and lovers of thrift (though she puts me to shame in this category because rural Nebraska thrift is not glamor-sated L.A. thrift by any stretch of the imagination.)
I've never ever been to a 90th birthday celebration. I so wish I could be at hers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Might Be Turning into a Hermit

I knew I wouldn't spending yesterday with the man who loves me. I knew it at 6 a.m. or so when we awoke in my bed. I knew it while I was making toast for us and when we kissed good-bye at my front door and he handed me my newspaper the way he always does. We don't spend every day and every night together and it's better that way, really it is. We have our separate lives. And I like the way being separate feeds the togetherness.
So knowing what I knew, I thought I should do something with my day--like have old friends over for dinner. Cook some meat on my barbeque. Mix up a pitcher of margaritas and make some delicious side dishes. Change the CDs in my CD player to something that would say "Party" or "The Day Before the First Day of Summer." I thought about it for hours until it was too late to pick up the phone.
So when evening came I thought I might go for a walk and have a glass of wine at a table on the sidewalk of my favorite bistro. Just so I could say a sentence or two to another human being. But I didn't.
The only in-person conversation I had all day was with my dogs and cats.
I didn't turn on the TV or the radio. Or listen to the same 5 CDs I've had in my CD player for months.
I lay on the couch and read.
The only voices were in my head.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This Is What I Have Written Today--So Far

Here is how the salient portion of the form I took to Mr. Ex yesterday looked. The spacing or lack thereof is an accurate representation.

I wish to accept sole responsibility for the above-mentioned account and all balances. If the approved the account will be in my name only.

Cardmember Signature:__________________________Date:______________
I am a liable party on the above account and agree that the account may become the sole responsibility of the above party. If approved, my name wil be removed from the account. (All current liable parties must sign.)

Joint Cardmember Signature:_____________________Date:______________

Joint Cardmember Signature:_____________________Date:______________

Here is the letter I wrote today.


June 17, 2010

Chase Cardmember Services
Post office Box 15298
Wilmington, Delaware 19850-5298

Dear Chase,

I am writing to you regarding the United Mileage Plus credit card account (XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX) that I “share” with my ex-husband Mr. Ex.  Mr. Ex left me in July of 2007 and is now remarried. Although I have not used the United Mileage Pus Visa credit card since I began receiving alimony in October of 2008, it has recently come to my attention that my name is still on the account. I wish to have my name removed from the account immediately.

I have acquired what seems to be the proper form for removing my name from the account, and my ex-husband and I have done our best to fill it out.  We found the form unintelligible and were not certain where to sign. After speaking to customer service agent Rebecca Rundle who received further advice from supervisor Ryan Willis, I am following their instructions and sending you the form with this letter of explanation. It would be a huge emotional hardship for me to meet with my husband again to sign a new form, and I ask that you accept the form in its current state while honoring the intent of this letter.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at either of these numbers:

Once again, in an attempt to clarify the very muddled form, my intent is to have my name removed from the above-mentioned credit card account immediately and for Mr. Ex to accept sole responsibility for it and its current balance.  I trust that you will send me a letter confirming the new status.

I am enclosing my final decree of divorce and a suggested revision to your form that other credit card customers may find useful. Feel free to employ my suggestions.

Thank you very much.




Part I:  To be completed by the person accepting sole responsibility for the account

Account #: _________________________________________________


Residential Street Address: (cannot be a post office box)_________________________________________


Mailing Address: _____________________________________________________________________________________

Date of Birth: (month, day, year)  _________________________                           

Social Security #: ___________________________________________                         

Mother’s Maiden Name: ___________________________________

Gross Annual Household Income: _________________________

Monthly Rent:  _________________________    Or Monthly Mortgage:  ________________________________ 

Employer:  ______________________________________________Business Phone:__________________________

I agree to accept sole responsibility for the above account and all balances. 

Signature: ____________________________________________________________Date:  ________________________ 

Part II: To be completed by the person being removed from the account

I agree that my name will be removed from the above account and that I no longer bear any responsibility for the account or its balances.

Signature: __________________________________________________________Date:_________________________

Name: (printed legibly) __________________________________________________________________________

Social Security #: _________________________________________

Phone Number: ___________________________________________

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In Which I Go Downtown To Get Mr. Ex to Sign a Form from the Credit Card Co.

I didn't really want to go. So I took consolation where I could find it. The breeze on the platform while I stood waiting for the train. The smell of aftershave from the man standing next to me.
But all the signs are spelling out "Danger." The eastbound side of the tracks is cordoned off with yellow caution tape and there's a handwritten explanation that both eastbound and westbound trains will leave from the same platform. People are confused. A lone man stands on the closed platform looking bewildered at the crowd of us across from him.
"Dude, you know that side is closed," someone shouts. He jumps down into the gravel that lines the tracks and dashes across.  Two women duck under the caution tape just as the guy hoists himself onto our side, and now they are wondering why they're alone on the empty platform.
"Closed," another commuter yells across to them, motioning for them to walk around to our side. They step to the edge instead and peer down at the tracks. The train although still out of sight has sounded its whistle. The crossing arms are coming down.
"Don't cross now," I say aloud to no one.
I'm not nervous about going downtown to see Mr. Ex.  Not overtly worried, but my brain is humming with what if this, what if that.  I'm wearing cheap shoes, and it occurs to me that he may look at my feet and laugh. It's not that I feel pressure in my chest, but I am aware of my heart and lungs. "Lungs are the seat of grief," a friend told me last week, and I wonder about this for a moment. The train pulls to a stop in front of me and I get on and take a seat. Just before the doors slide closed, the two women slip safely inside.
When I get to Mr. Ex's building, I find that I need collecting, so I duck into the chic little bistro that shares a patio with his high rise. The bar looks like a welcome mat, but I head to the ladies room instead and wash my hands and pat my face with the damp paper towel.  Freshly composed, I enter the lobby and take a seat on the couch directly across from the silvery sign that announces that reception for Mr. Ex's law firm is on the 10th floor. His name gleaming. What used to be my name.
On the train I studied the form from the credit card company, and now I look at it again and put a check mark wherever there is information that he must fill in. His current income. The amount of his mortgage. I pencil the check mark a little darker next to the line where he must sign.  His signature is the most important part. The part that enforces that he will be solely liable for the account that  I have not used since October of 2008. My attorney has told me not to worry that my name is still on three different credit card accounts that Mr. Ex continues to use. The credit card companies have told me I should worry.
So a few weeks ago, I emailed Mr. Ex explaining I would like my name removed from these accounts. I sent him a certified return receipt letter asking him to fill out the form that credit card company #1 would be sending him. Then last week I followed up with another email and a text message. Nothing. So today I went downtown with a copy of the form that the credit card company sent to me.
I didn't have an exact plan when I got on the train. Something, something. Signature. Would I go up to his office? Call him on his private line?
As I settle into the gray velour of the sofa, I decide to call the main firm number and ask for his secretary. Mr. Ex has had the same secretary for eons. "If I die," I used to say to him, "marry P. Really. I want you to." Over the years, I've picked out presents for P.--Cashmere. Jewelry. A creamy white Italian leather handbag. When she answers the phone and I identify myself, it's as if we haven't been out of touch at all. She's just had four days off, she tells me, and she spent the time taking care of her grandson. She managed to cook a chicken and a roast while entertaining him. He sat nicely in his highchair while she peeled carrots. I tell her what I want and she puts me on hold--then gets back on the line and says she'll be right down to get the form.
When P. appears in the lobby, she's bearing a 5x7 professionally done photograph of her grandson. It's safely sealed in a ziplock bag. I find myself wishing I'd made several copies of my precious form and put them into individual plastic sleeves. I take the photograph from her and admire the boy, then hand over the form. She'll be back, she says.
When she returns, the form is completely filled out--even the parts I could have done myself. "Wow," I say. "Thanks." The bright blue ink in my ex-husband's hand bedazzles me. The elevator doors have already closed when I realize Mr. Ex has signed on the wrong line. I call P. again and explain. She puts me on hold and then returns to the phone with an explanation. "He thought you wanted control of the credit card," she says.
"No," I say. "It's a card I no longer use. He uses it. I want my name off of it." I flip my phone closed and wait. A few minutes later P. returns with a photocopy of the form signed in the right place. Mr. Ex's signature remains on the wrong line, too, but I tuck the form into my purse anyway.
At Union Station where I must change trains, I go into the bar and have a gin and tonic and study the form again. On the signature line where I penciled the check mark it says, I am a liable party on the above account and agree that the account may become the sole responsibility of the above party. Gibberish, I think. The next line (no new paragraph) says If approved,  my name will be removed from the account. Below are two more signature lines with the parenthetical instruction, (All current liable parties must sign.)
When I get home, I call the credit card company and ask what the current balance is. $15,140.50, they tell me. Then I tell them their form is crap and that they ought to hire me to rewrite it. I tell them I want my name off the account and that I'm worried I'll end up being liable for Mr. Ex's charges and that even if he's signed in the wrong place, I'm not going to go back to him with a new form to sign.
Just send us the form with a letter of explanation, they say.
Train wreck, I'm thinking.

Friday, June 11, 2010

How Big Is It?

As the saga of the Division of Joint Assets continues, I have received the largest attorney bill yet. A full three and one-half pages of single-spaced itemized charges. 
Here is what I might have done with this money:
Bought 6 plane tickets for my son and his family and me to vacation in Iowa this summer with my family. If ticket prices remain stable, we could take this trip for the next five summers.
Purchased 2, 568 bottles of Dawn (the 10.1 ounce size) to help clean up the wildlife damaged in the Gulf oil spill.
Left an envelope of cash on the doorstep of a friend who really needs it.
Offered to buy my mom anything she wants. There'd probably be a lot left over in this venture.
Put a dent in the medical bills of someone who deserves a break.
Fly business class to wherever.
Have my stretch marks lasered off.

"Of course you're entitled to half of everything I earn," he said. "We'll have joint custody of these girls here." (meaning the dogs) "A divorce in California takes 6 months to a year." The sun was shining on our patio. The roses were blooming. It was July 29, 2007.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Rather Strange and Interesting Thing-- and Another

I took a picture of this house in Monemvasia on my trip to Greece last year. This year I spent a wonderful night there. I didn't know last year that the house was owned by an acquaintance of my friend T. Then I knew only that I liked the look of it--the door and the rock wall and the way the steps turned and the geraniums. I was actually sitting at the dining room table in the house when I looked at the photos from last year's trip and realized that the sole house I had photographed on that trip was the one I was now inside of.
This morning as the man who loves me drove me home to my place, I talked to him about the anxiety attack I had in Greece this year. I told him how terrified I was of falling off the narrow mountain roads that had few guardrails, no center lines & blind curves. "I need a healer," I said. "I don't want to take drugs."
Tonight a healer held my hand in a the bar of a Mexican restaurant. She happened to be in town visiting the friend I have drinks with on Tuesdays. We laced our arms through margarita glasses and coffee cups and reached across the table and  she held my hand  for a long time. She took some negative energy away, she said. We had been talking about my divorce and the on-going grief.
I can't quite explain why, but the marriage, the divorce--it seems to me the anxiety is woven through all that. They're not really separate.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I suffer from anxiety.  I like my feet on the ground.  Flying requires gin.
During my trip to Greece riding on mountain roads without guardrails generated one moderate anxiety attack--that thanks to the understanding of friends was averted just minutes after it began. T. taught me how to wrap my thumb and index fingers. Fellow writers put their hands on my shoulders when the road got dicey. T. offered to let me out of the van when turning around on a narrow road was required.
I am terrified of falling. Out of the sky. Off the edge.
When I flew with Mr. Ex, he would take a Tylenol p.m. & and fall asleep before the plane took off. No touching. No talking.
Once I had a bad anxiety attack on a plane with M. She talked me through it. "You can do this," she said. And then she just talked while I cried and sweated. There was no gin because the flight attendants had to be belted in during a storm.
I'm in the air right now. It's kind of turbulent. The pilot told us he's trying to find the "soft spot" through the weather.
That's what I crave. The soft spot. Human hands. Kind words.

Photo content courtesy of L. Y.'s notebook with info provided by T.