“Dada, why do we have to leave our house?”
Our condo is half-packed up and we’re officially in transition. I’d like to tell you we bought a new place. Hell, I’d settle for renting a place. But this move is a preemptive strike before we’re made to leave. That’s what happens when you buy a home at the absolute height of the market, said market completely collapses and you find yourself $100,000 upside-down. With an adjustable rate mortgage. Facing rising condo fees and unanticipated special assessments. Saddled with job loss and vastly reduced incomes. Not to mention the fact that MJ is temporarily out of work. Did I mention we’re being sued by our lovely condo association for good measure?
Despite the fact that we surrendered the house during bankruptcy, the bank doesn’t want it so they won’t foreclose. Which means the condo fees we can’t afford to pay just keep piling up. Which racks up late charges. Which racks up lawyer fees. But you can’t get blood from a stone, and I’m rockin’ it hardcore these days. They say investing in real estate is a sure thing. Well now I have a home on Cape Cod that I literally can’t even give back to the bank. How times change.
So now we become a burden to my parents, as I boomerang my pathetic ass back to my childhood home. This time with my family in tow. Don’t get me wrong, we’re beyond lucky to have family who don’t think twice about helping us and taking us in. But I feel like a failure for letting it come to this.
“Dada, I miss my kitties. Why can’t they live with us?”
Look, I hate cats. Hate them. But because my wife loves them, I’ve lived with two Maine coons for seven years. Even though we now have a grudging respect for one another, I have long looked forward to life without allergies and the general snottiness of the feline persuasion. And now I’m on the doorstep of such of life because my mom is extremely allergic to cats and we can’t take them with us.
But along comes a little boy who loves the cats. With no brother or sister to play with, he often turns his attention to his furry siblings. What I thought was merely cute play turned out to be a fairly deep bond. But asking my mom to forsake breathing in her own home is absolutely out of the question. I know she feels horrible, but there’s nothing anyone can do. The cats are going to live with my mother-in-law so they won’t be far. Only an hour away. But to a 3-year-old that trip might as well be to Antarctica.
“Dada, why do I have to go to a new school? I love my friends and I miss them.”
I’ve never had something incredibly sharp and jagged jammed straight into my heart. But I don’t have to be stabbed after that comment, because the look on his face and the sadness in his voice was more painful than any blade.
Will has flourished at his preschool over the last 12 months. He found stability, strength, independence and confidence there. And Will, a boy who once couldn’t play nicely around any other kids, now has a plethora of friends. Every single day he comes home and recites the litany of friends he played with, the games they enjoyed and how much fun he had. He’s comfortable there, he’s thriving there. And now I’m ripping him away from all that.
I’m left to wonder how one is judged as a man. Because if we’re talking provider, I’m failing miserably. I bought a house we could afford at the time, but now we can’t. And as a result, we’re literally losing the roof over our heads. Sure I work a lot and went out and found a job that pays more, but in the end it was a wash because MJ is out of work now through no fault of her own. She’s been fantastic at taking care of the house and I’m so proud of her for starting down a path that will take her back to school. But a real man provides at all costs and keeps things afloat. I really believe that. And by those standards, I’m way south of where I need to be.
But maybe a real man is someone who takes care of his family. Unfortunately, I’m failing there too.
I get up at 5:45 a.m. and leave for work at 6:30. It takes me anywhere from 2-3 hours to get to work. I work from 9 to 5. It’s at least another two hours to get home. It’s after 7 p.m. by the time I pull in to my parking space. That’s after dinner and exactly one hour before Will goes to bed. As any parent can tell you, that last hour before bed is not exactly a time for bonding. It’s filled with “brush your teeth” and “take a bath” and “make sure you go pee.” Yet I try to cram all my hugs, all my kisses and all my bonding into 60 minutes. The last 60 minutes of my son’s day, during which he is understandably tired, cranky and wants little to do with anyone. Nevermind a dad trying to relentlessly cuddle with him.
After he goes to bed I usually have to tend to the blog or one of my other writing projects I do on a part-time basis, so MJ goes to bed while I toil away on the computer. So much for being a good husband.
“Dada, can I have a brother or a sister?”
We both want to have another child so badly, but we don’t even have a home of our own. But more than that, MJ has to be off her current medication if we want to get pregnant. That means we literally have to choose between another baby and her mental well-being. Another child makes us complete but coming off the meds might send my wife over the edge. Meanwhile the meds keep my wife away from the edge, but the idea of not having another baby might send the wheels completely flying off the wagon.
In the end I can’t sacrifice my wife’s health. The thought of not having a second child makes me physically ache inside, but the thought of losing MJ makes me want to dig a hole and never come out. Either way you cut it, it’s not a choice I’m very fond of at the moment.
And somewhere in the middle of this tempest of misery and heartache I’m stuck in traffic either on my way to or from work. I can’t move. All I see are brake lights. I’m hemmed in while my son grows up without his beloved pets, without his friends and with a father he sees for an hour a day. I’m pretty sure some divorced dads get more time than that. The roof over his head isn’t even one I’ve provided. If I’m not providing enough financially and I’m not providing enough emotionally and I can’t give him the things he wants and needs…well, then what exactly am I doing?
“Dada, I miss you. Can you please work from home today and cuddle me?”
Sorry bud, I can’t. But I miss you too kid. I miss your mom too. I’m missing it all. And both you and mom deserve better.