She talked shit about my man; that's what opened my eyes. That's how I came to see the things that were in front of me, but camouflaged so well. "If you want to have a baby, I think you should hurry up and do it while you can," she whispered to me conspiratorially, two summers ago, as we lounged on the deck of her second home, "but don't expect him to help you at all. He's useless." This slander she said because he'd waited for she and I to come in from the water before starting dinner - her complaint was that the children hadn't yet eaten and our meal was not waiting. We'd been in the water for hours, and had given him no timetable regarding when we'd be ready to eat. The children had been fed fruit salad. This was no excuse for the lack of a hot meal ready when she pulled her ass into the kitchen at 10 p.m., ready to be fed.
I've not been very Christian about this incident. I've held onto it, and I've let it linger inside me, reminding me of the depth of her distorted reality.
Have I ever mentioned that when Jimi and I started dating, I methodically interviewed our mutual acquaintances, searching for someone who had some negative something to say about this man who made my heartstrings sing? I found not a one; not a single person had bad words to share in relation to this newly anointed man o' mine. Not one.
And now this? This "he's useless" and "you will never be able to rely on him to help you" from a woman he'd rescued when she blacked out at the bar one night? The woman he drove home, put to bed, and made breakfast for the next morning? (No, they weren't dating - she was shit-faced at the bar, and he was looking out for her, making sure she didn't drive herself home or end up being raped by some drunken asshole who thought she was easy prey.) Yeah, I'm holding a grudge.
Sometimes it takes very small selfish things to make your views change, though; to help you see the entire picture. Her comments that night made me view her, and her world, in an entirely new way, with new lenses - and I was shocked and horrified by what I saw.
She couldn't say "I heard you had a miscarriage last fall, are you okay?"
She said, "I heard something, and I don't mean to bring up bad memories or anything, but I heard, oh, how did it go? Someone was down at the lakehouse a while back...no, wait. How did it go?"
"Are you asking about my miscarriage?" Here. I'll say the hard words for you.
"Yes. Well, I heard last fall that you were going to have a baby, and recently someone was down at the lakehouse and I asked if you'd had a boy or girl, and they told me you'd lost the baby. You know, I've lost two babies, so if you ever needed someone to talk to..."
I started telling my story, God love me. I did. I started to pour my heart out, the way some stories must be told, with your full truth, emotionally raw as it may be.
She interrupted me to explain to her 5 year old, the one I used to rock to sleep, that he couldn't eat his kindergarten snacks now. "Do you want to go to school on Monday and not have any good snacks like the poor kids?"
My heart hardened.
Because we've not spoken in two years and the last time we did, that child fell asleep in my arms. He doesn't know me now. Because I'm telling her how I lost my child, and she interrupts me to talk down to her hers, the one I loved like my own. Because suddenly I know why she sent me that message and friend request; suddenly, the recent break-up, the "my kids are all going to be in school, what will I do?", the "my 40th birthday is coming" - these things explain it all, especially when paired up with this piece of gossip that was obviously too much to resist.
She needed the companionship, and the gory details.
I should've told her about...no, I'm not mad at you. I won't give you that visual.
VV, here's how I've handled this:
I accepted the friend request.
I friended up with the two kids who're old enough to have Facebook accounts - because I love them and I miss them, and if I can watch, even from the periphery, that's enough.
I exchanged brief, cordial facebook messages with her.
And then I called her. And I remembered why we're not friends.
"The agreement was you'd go upstairs with your kindergarten snack so I could talk on the phone and drink my beer. No. You're not supposed to be down here bothering me," she says to her almost-kindergartner.
"Sorry about that; I'm going outside to smoke a bowl in peace," she laughs to me.
Two years. "I've been through hell and back, and I've changed a lot."
Not really. Not at all.
We're not friends because she's a bad mom. I've never told her that, and I probably never will. My choices were to remove myself from the situation completely, or call child protective services. I chose the pussy way out. The situation is complicated, and even if I did the right thing, nothing would change and no one would come out better on the other side.
But I don't have to watch up close, do I? I can't. Her children have enough of everything - except loving kindness and good examples. For a time, I thought I could be both, but it hurt too much.
The oldest remembers me; he doesn't live with her anymore, and we'll get together eventually and play a round of disc golf and talk about everything except her. The middle child had conversations with me back then, but doesn't remember me now. I was sad about that, until I realized that I couldn't come up with any particular story to jog his memory about who I was...who I am. The baby, the one for whom I was the only babysitter until he was 3 years old...he starts school on Monday and, obviously, doesn't know I exist. When I saw pictures on Facebook from his 5th birthday party my heart skipped a beat.
I love those boys so much.
So now I'm going to go click the Unfriend button.
I just can't be whatever it is she needs from me.