I went to court yesterday. I am not sure if the whole sordid story has ever been spelled out here or not, but the short of it is that I am still legally married to Ex-Husband, which is why Private Ryan and I are not presently married.
It is because of this that I am still here, wasting time in Knoxville until Private Ryan and I can be together again. In the meantime, I am left to fight for my freedom from Ex-Husband, and it is looking like he is also going to make me fight for the right to raise the child he walked out on.
I left him in December of 2004 after spending most of the day trying to hunt him down. I had left him once before, in the spring of 2004 not long after Teenybop was born, and had thrown him out of the house once in the summer of 2004. It seems that drug addicts and I just do not get along. The one thing he couldn't seem to live without was the one thing I knew I couldn't live with.
Like I said, the day I really knew it was over I had spent most of the day searching for him. He was supposed to be at work, but they said he had left early. Within an hour, he was supposed to be at his second job (which he refused to quit no matter how much I begged), but they told me he was late. My husband was off the grid and I NEEDED to find him. Why?
There had been a fire at his father's house. Everyone got out safely, but still, there had been a fire that was moderately damaging, and the family wanted me to inform my husband. Only I couldn't find him. He was off the grid. As I got more and more angry, I was also more and more thankful that my cousin and her infant son had come to visit ... at least I was not alone. We loaded up the babies and headed to my husband's second job to wait for him to show up.
It didn't take long, but it took long enough for me to become ABSOLUTELY FURIOUS. When he showed up, I left my Teenybop in my car with my cousin, and headed quickly over to his car, my blood boiling. He had seen me and was rushing to roll up his car windows. He was too late, I could smell the pot before I even passed the tail-lights.
"What's that smell?"
He tried to convince me that he didn't have a clue what it was, but finally confessed where he'd been. As if I didn't know. I told him what had happened with his father, asked him how he'd have felt if he'd been getting high while his father burned to death and no one could reach him because he wasn't honest enough to be where he said he'd be. I told him not to bother coming home that night, that he was no longer welcome, and that I would let him know when I had moved and he would be able to get his things or choose to keep the apartment we had lived in.
I was heartbroken. I had tried over and over to love him in spite of his addictions. I had tried over and over to love him out of his addictions. Finally, it came to the point where I just had to accept that my husband, the man I had married "forever" ... loved his addictions, more than he loved me. More than he loved the child we had created together.
I cried. I raged. I did what most people do when they are broken. But I treated him kindly. Because I was the money-handler and he had no clue what to do with bills or checkbooks, I made up a budget for him, loosely incorporating pocket money for him and support money for our daughter while still making sure his bills would be paid and his stomach would be full. I offered to host him in my house twice a week for dinner so that he could visit our daughter, though I also informed him that I would not allow him to leave with her because I didn't trust him to bring her back (there had been threats of this nature, and also a family history of parents "stealing" children from each other).
He rejected all of it. Child support was finally court ordered in late 2005 after failed mediation during which he offered to sign over his parental rights in exchange for not paying child support. He was informed that without a "replacement" father, he would still be financially obligated, so he changed his tune and kept his rights, though he never really chose to use them.
The last time my daughter saw her father was in early 2006. She was just over two years old, sitting on his lap in my living room. She played quietly with a toy while he chattered at me about the latest news in his family, and I remember thinking that if he'd been so willing to talk to me before, we might have worked things out. I was offended that he came under the pretense of visiting the baby but spent the entire time speaking to me and not her. Finally I'd had enough.
"I don't care anymore," I said. "Those people never liked me because when you were with me, you and I went our own way instead of you supporting them like you always had. We had a child together and lived in a separate town. We were a family apart from them, and they lost your paycheck when we got together. I don't care. I left you ... I don't have to care anymore. And I won't pretend to. I have moved on. So if you aren't here for your daughter, get out."
He looked at me for a minute, silent while anger and disbelief settled in his eyes. I saw his face register hurt and the realization that I was really over it. Then silently, he lifted our little toddler out of his lap and placed her on the floor. He handed her the toy she had been playing with, got up, and walked out.
And I cried. I couldn't believe it! How could any man walk away from a child as beautiful and smart and perfect as ours!?! How could he look at her sitting there on the living room floor, and then look into the face of a woman he had promised to love ... and then leave?
But I moved on. By that point I had met Private Ryan and we lived there together with Teenybop, a happy family (but he was working that day). I was thrilled with my new man, and happy to have moved on. Happy to have been shown that a woman with "baggage" is not as undesirable as I had thought. Happy that he was handsome and protective and in love. And not addicted to anything ... so far.
I had hired an attorney to handle the divorce, and it should have been finished. My attorney and I went together to what should have been the final hearing for a default divorce judgment because my husband did not answer any summons and showed no interest by that point in me or my daughter. We were ordered to wait an additional six weeks to allow my husband time to meet certain obligations (that still have not been met, 4 years later). After that period, my attorney was to file papers to be signed by the judge, and I would be a free woman.
My attorney disappeared. My money was wasted, my time was wasted, my excitement was dashed to the ground.
Finally this year in the spring, just before Private Ryan left, we finally had the money to hire another attorney. One who promised to help me. One who discounted his fees out of sympathy for my cause and my case. A sweet little old man in suspenders who knows the law and is perhaps a tad too ethical.
We went to court yesterday. My husband is contesting my petition. He doesn't mind the divorce part, but he doesn't like it that the suggested visitation was a nice round 60 days per year, as determined by my schedule and the schedule of my child.
I have since been forced to interact with him a little, and to create an actual planned schedule that will slowly re-introduce him to the child he abandoned. Now I will have to explain to her long before she is ready that her daddy is not her father. And I will have to submit her to a pretense of visitations with a man who is only using her to get to me.
There is still a possible way out ... but right now everything rests on waiting to see which of several options he will choose, so that my attorney and I will know which path to take. We need prayer.
Lots of prayer.
Lots and lots of prayer.