divorce, Ex

A long, strange trip…

This morning started like any other morning, nowadays. I woke up at about 4:00am. I thought maybe Arran needed to go out, but apparently it was just my internal alarm clock. About a half hour later, I got up to let the dogs pee and feed them. I prefer to feed them a little later, but they were obviously ready to eat. Then I went back to bed to read up on current events.

A couple of hours later, I came across a column in The Atlantic written by Lori Gottlieb, a therapist who has also written several books. I read one of her books years ago. It was called Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self, and it was a surprisingly entertaining account of her experiences with anorexia nervosa. Which isn’t to say that I think Gottlieb’s book is the best one on the subject. I do remember writing a review for Epinions.com and not giving it a glowing review, even though I thought the writing was kind of oddly quirky and sometimes even funny.

Anyway, Gottlieb, who grew up in California, is now a columnist for The Atlantic and works as a psychotherapist in New York City. This morning, there was a link to a column she posted on January 28, 2019. The post was entitled “Dear Therapist: I’m Dating a Divorced Man With Kids, and It’s Harder Than I Thought”. This was written in the days before the fucking COVID-19 pandemic happened. As such, it seems oddly normal.

The letter writer explains that she’s 33 years old and her boyfriend is 48. He is divorced, while she’s never been married. He has three kids from his failed marriage. Letter writer has none. Right off the bat, I connected. I am almost eight years younger than Bill is, and of course, he was divorced and had two kids with his ex wife. He also has an ex stepson that he’d always treated (and paid for) as his own son, although it later became clear that ex stepson didn’t see Bill the way Bill saw him. Maybe his sentiments have changed with age, but he hasn’t spoken to Bill since 2009, when he got busted red-handed trying to pull a fast one over Bill’s money.

The letter writer explains that she is fed up with her boyfriend’s ex wife, who is very needy, dramatic, and apparently a leech. Letter writer is having trouble coming to terms with having the ex in her life. She texts the boyfriend for all manner of things including discipline of the kids. Letter writer feels intruded upon and although she loves her man very much, the ex looms in the shadows. And every time the phone goes off, the letter writer feels violated.

I know how she feels. For most of my marriage to Bill, I have had a deep resentment and outright hatred for his ex wife. I’m not going to sugar coat it, because that’s truly how I’ve felt, and it hasn’t been without reason. However, unlike the ex in the letter writer’s situation, Bill’s ex was infinitely more toxic and hateful. She made it impossible for Bill to have any relationship whatsoever with his children as she bled him dry financially. She told baldfaced lies to the children about how Bill and I met and told his parents lies about his behavior toward her. For years, she had Bill’s stepmother believing that he was a wife beater. My husband’s stepmother actually asked me if Bill abused me like he did Ex. I actually laughed out loud at that notion because it was so ridiculous.

The first few years of our marriage were truly “broke” years, as Bill sent half his salary to his ex wife, who treated him like shit. I blame my husband’s ex wife for the fact that I never had children. I don’t think I’m wrong to blame her, either. Bill had a vasectomy because she demanded that he get one. Then she divorced Bill and had two more children with her third husband. Meanwhile, we were too broke to be able to afford reproductive assistance at the time when it would have been the most likely to be successful. Bill did, at least, have the vasectomy reversed by the Army. That felt like taking back a bad decision that Bill was bullied into making. I wish we could have had a baby together… but as I’ve said recently, maybe it’s a blessing that we didn’t.

As we’ve gotten older, our financial situation has markedly improved, but I had to let go of the idea of being a mother. Meanwhile, Bill’s daughters disowned him and refused to speak to him at all for about fifteen years. I can’t tell you how many times Bill cried over being shut out of his daughters’ lives. It was extremely painful and totally unnecessary. What can I say? She’s more interested in maintaining control and hurting people than doing the right thing for her children.

As time went on, the resentment simmered… until early 2017, when Bill and his younger daughter started to reconnect. I was beginning to think I would always have rage toward my husband’s ex wife and daughters. I didn’t trust younger daughter when she started talking to Bill. I didn’t want her in our lives, because I was under the impression that she was like her mother. For the first fourteen years of our marriage, they were always in the shadows, looming over everything. I was tired of the drama and the intrusions, especially on holidays. Ex had made it clear that she only wanted Bill’s money and to blame him for the way her life was. The children wouldn’t speak to him or even acknowledge him as their father. I wanted them to cut ties once and for all and just leave us alone.

It turned out that younger daughter isn’t like Ex at all. In fact, it turns out that she’s really Bill’s daughter in terms of her looks and her behavior. A year ago, Bill was in Utah visiting her for the first time since Christmas 2004. A year ago, I wrote a scathing blog post about the revelations that came out after that visit. I was seething with anger about what had happened… but this time, it wasn’t just for Bill. It was for his daughters, too… and everyone else who suffered because of Ex’s lies and manipulations.

The writer of the letter in Lori Gottlieb’s column doesn’t have it nearly as bad as Bill and I did. Although in her case, the ex is certainly a nuisance, it’s clear that the ex lets the children see and speak to their father. She may be needy and intrusive, but it doesn’t sound like she’s purely evil. I’m sure that column will get a lot of rude comments from the masses who have no empathy for women who date men with kids. People always expect women to have endless compassion, patience, and love for the children in a relationship, even if it’s impossible, undeserved, or even undesired.

Lori Gottlieb gave the letter writer sensible advice, letting them know that when you date a man with children, the ex is often part of the package. In most cases, so are the children. I remember being fully prepared to accept Bill’s children, although not being a child of divorce myself, I couldn’t necessarily relate to their trauma. But I had an open mind and an open heart, and I was prepared to do what I could… at least in the early years. When they were at their most alienated, I will admit I closed myself off. I was really fed up with the bullshit and it was the only way I could stand it.

I’m glad Bill didn’t close off his heart. A year ago today, he saw his daughter in person and they shared a long hug and spent two solid days talking. It was a very good visit, overall. Bill met his son in law and grandchildren. But, as it always is whenever Ex is involved in anything, there was a lot of time spent debriefing and clearing the air. I’ve visited Bill’s late dad’s house three times. All three times, we basically sat around and talked about Ex and her crazy shit. Bill’s dad never got a chance to really get to know me before he died last year. So much time and energy was spent trying to deal with the crazy shit she threw at us. The same went for Bill’s two short days with his daughter, with whom he faithfully Skypes and emails now. Older daughter remains estranged, to her detriment.

This morning, I changed the privacy settings on those two posts I wrote about last year’s visit. The first one is very raw and profane, because I was extremely angry about how Ex had gotten away with torturing her family for so many years. The second one is less intense, but I had it protected anyway. A year has passed and the pain is much less intense now… with a year, comes perspective. Bill and I know we can survive, and our love has stood some pretty horrible stuff. I’ve come to respect Bill’s younger daughter. I can’t say I love her yet, because we’ve still only met in person once. But I’m willing to try, because I know Bill adores his daughters. Nothing would please him more than to have both of them in his life.

I used to have a flaming hot rage toward Ex. I truly hated her with a passion. I was obsessed with my hatred for her and my outrage at how she got away with blatant abuse that other people tolerated. I know that hating her was harmful to me, but I just couldn’t help it. She was just a despicable, horrible, abusive woman. And people would blame me for her shit. I couldn’t even talk about it without risking comments from the uninformed, trying to blame it on me. Listen… I am plenty willing to accept responsibility when I screw up. But I honestly had nothing to do with my husband’s divorce from his ex wife, and I never had the chance to screw with his ex wife or their kids. All I did was encourage Bill to be strong and assertive. Abusive liars don’t like that, of course. It makes them angry.

This sums it up.

I can say now that these days, I pretty much don’t care about Ex and rarely think about her anymore. I mostly see her as pathetic now. I hate what she did, and I was extremely angry to hear about the things she did… the lies she told… and the way she treated her children like possessions to be jealously guarded or cast out, as the mood suited her. Ex isn’t a threat to me personally anymore, though, so I don’t really give a shit what happens to her, as long as she stays the fuck away from us.

I pretty much feel the same way about toxic ex landlady, too. As long as she and her flying monkeys don’t mess with me, they are safe from ever having to see or talk to me again. It’s taken me a long time to move past these traumas, but at least I know it’s possible. For a long time, I wondered if I’d ever be able to calm down and stop feeling so agitated about the way we were treated.

I guess what I’ve learned from dealing with that type of person is that you can’t let them get away with their shit. Or, best case scenario, you have to leave them in the dust and go no contact. Sometimes it’s sad or difficult to do that– if the person is a relative or an old friend. Sometimes it’s impossible to go no contact, such as when you have to co-parent and your children haven’t been completely estranged. Other times, it’s nothing but a relief, even if you spend years waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.

It’s always regrettable when a relationship goes sour. In some ways, maybe it’s a blessing that Bill didn’t have to deal with his Ex much when the kids were growing up, other than a few very dramatic incidents and sending her so much money every month. But now the girls are women, well over the age of 21 and living their own lives. We don’t have to deal with Ex ever again. Bill and I finally have our peace… for the most part, anyway. I could do without these marathon TDYs.

I guess if I could advise the woman who wrote to Lori Gottlieb, I would tell her that eventually, children grow up and have their own lives. It may seem like the years are stretching ahead, but in our case, they flew by. I can remember thinking how, back in 2004, we would have so many years of dealing with Ex. Before we knew it, those difficult early years were gone. If you love your partner and are determined to hang in there, this situation can pass. It did in our case. In fact, it’s turned around in a very unexpected way. Ex used to infuriate me. I still find her infuriating, but I rarely think about her and mostly pity her on some level. She’s mentally ill and tragic. And she is not a threat.

On another note, I’ve been watching the whole Harry and Meghan drama. I didn’t see their interview with Oprah Winfrey, because I’m not in the USA. But I have read about it… I’m not sure where, exactly, the truth lies. I have a feeling there’s stuff from all sides contributing to the sad situation of today. I do think it’s too bad that Harry and Meghan felt they needed to leave Britain with Archie. All of this stuff is embarrassing and dysfunctional, but in a way, it sort of humanizes the British Royal Family. They have their family dramas, idiosyncrasies, and dysfunction too. It looks like Harry is very alienated right now, and whether or not it’s his fault, I feel for him. Bill’s situation with his daughters has given me more empathy toward children of divorce. It’s much worse when your life is as public as Harry’s has always been.

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book reviews, divorce, psychology

Repost: A review of Divorce Poison

Here’s another useful book for people going through a divorce and having to co-parent with a difficult person. I originally reviewed this book for Epinions.com in 2006. It appears here as it did on Epinions, in 2006.

I have never been unfortunate enough to have suffered through a divorce, either as a child or an adult. My husband, Bill, on the other hand, is a survivor of two divorces, his own and his parents’. He was also a stepson to two men, both of whom eventually split from his mother. My husband has LOTS of experience with divorce and yet he was taken completely by surprise by his ex wife’s vindictiveness when it came to their children. In the six years since his divorce, my husband has felt helpless, watching as his kids suddenly refused to have anything to do with him. The one exception is his 18 year old former stepson, who recently reconnected with my husband just before he moved out of his mother’s house. Last week, my husband even got letters from his kids asking him to allow their stepfather to adopt them. In the midst of all this drama, I decided to read Dr. Richard A. Warshak’s 2001 book Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex, a book that was suggested to me on a message board I frequent. Frankly, I am very surprised that I’m the first one to write an Epinions review of this highly acclaimed book.

Dr. Warshak is a clinical, research, and consulting psychologist. He works out of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and is reportedly an internationally respected authority on divorce. Divorce Poison is aimed at non custodial parents who suddenly find themselves pariahs when it comes to their children. As I posted in an essay last week, my husband’s children are all victims of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). PAS is a term coined by Dr. Richard A. Gardner of Columbia University’s Department of Child Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons. It refers to regular attempts by a custodial parent to destroy the non custodial parent’s relationships with their children. Custodial parents who engage in parental alienation use a number of very effective tactics to make it impossible for their child to enjoy a normal relationship with their non custodial parent. This is most definitely what has happened to Bill and his children. After reading Warshak’s book, I am thoroughly convinced.

There are some legal and mental health professionals who don’t believe that PAS exists. They don’t believe that children can be brainwashed by their parents. Instead, they believe that non custodial parents use the PAS label as a ploy to be hurtful to the custodial parent. This explanation bothers me because it assumes that the custodial parent, usually the mother, is always the better, more equipped parent. For the record, I do believe that PAS is real because I have seen tangible evidence of it from my husband’s children and their mother, especially after reading Divorce Poison. The hair on my arms literally stood on end as I read Washak’s excerpts of letters PAS victims had written to their non custodial parents. They read almost exactly like the letters my husband got last week from his daughters! The letters all said, in essence, that the kids no longer had any use for the non custodial parent and no longer had any memories of their lives with them. It was as if my husband’s daughters had plagiarized Divorce Poison.

In Divorce Poison, Warshak gives his readers advice on what to do when an ex spouse starts badmouthing them to their children. He gives his readers insight on how to spot early warning signs of PAS and how to combat it. Many non custodial parents are confused and hurt when their children are suddenly rude and hateful toward them for no apparent reason. Sometimes these parents counterreject their kids. Warshak warns against giving into the temptation to get angry with the children. Chances are, they didn’t come up with their negative attitudes by themselves. Warshak puts his ideas of how to combat PAS in boxes labeled “Take Action”. The ideas are easy to find and read for quick and easy reference.

Warshak writes that many mental health professionals will tell clients who are dealing with PAS that they should never say anything bad about the custodial parent. Warshak believes that this is bad advice. It’s not that he wants non custodial parents to badmouth the custodial parents. Rather, he thinks it’s better to encourage the children to use their own developing senses of logic and reason to form their own opinions.

Ironically, many parents who engage in PAS claim that they are allowing their kids to make up their own minds about non custodial parents. My husband’s ex wife wrote that she only has her daughters’ happiness and well being in mind as she discourages them from reconnecting with my husband. She emphasizes it’s all their decision to reject him and she’s respecting their wishes for their sake. Never mind the fact that my husband gets letters written by his girls that don’t look or read like they were written by adolescents. Forget the fact that my husband once had a very loving and close relationship with his daughters and now they apparently hate him. I wish very much that my husband had read Dr. Warshak’s book right after his divorce. Maybe it could have spared the whole family some significant pain.

Warshak writes very well. He uses an empathetic but no nonsense tone throughout Divorce Poison. At times, I found this book very hard to read, not because of the way it was written, but because Warshak’s descriptions of divorce poison and how it’s affected my husband and his family were deadly accurate. It’s uncanny how my husband’s ex wife has employed the very same tactics that Warshak describes in order to get my husband’s daughters to reject their father. I also appreciate the fact that Warshak never assumes that parents who engage in PAS are all mothers. Indeed, Warshak presents a number of examples in which the PAS targeted non custodial parent was the mother. While it’s true that mothers are often awarded custody when couples with children get divorced, fathers can be just as guilty of engaging in PAS. Warshak also doesn’t paint the PAS targeted parent as completely innocent. Many non custodial parents unwittingly make avoidable mistakes that lead to their alienation.

Warshak is a strong advocate of PAS targeted parents seeking legal action against the custodial parents. He believes that the best antidote against PAS is that the children need to spend more time with the targeted parent, even if it means the targeted parent has to go to court. I was glad to see, however, that Warshak understands that a change in custody is not always feasible for logistical or financial reasons. My husband and I often used to talk about seeking custody of his kids. Now that his two younger children are adolescents, we don’t believe that seeking custody would be worthwhile. We have a number of good reasons for feeling the way we do. I’m happy to report that Warshak doesn’t condemn PAS targeted parents who choose not to go to court. In fact, although Warshak doesn’t want his readers to give up on their kids, he does realize that sometimes it’s better to let go. At the end of Divorce Poison, Warshak includes a chapter on how to let go of the children and reasons why a PAS targeted parent might consider letting go.

At this point, I don’t know what’s going to happen with my husband and his kids. He’s going to write them letters letting them know that he will not consent to letting them be adopted by their stepfather. He’s going to tell them that regardless of how they feel about him, he still loves them very much and always will. I hope with all my heart that the girls actually read the letters, but if they don’t, no one can say that my husband never tried. In our case, I’m not sure if Divorce Poison will help my husband get closer to his daughters. I will say that as his wife and the legal stepmother to his children, reading Divorce Poison definitely made me feel like we weren’t alone in our problem. If you see yourself in this review, or if you are a parent who is contemplating a divorce, I urge you to take a look at Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex.

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book reviews, divorce, psychology

Repost: Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking The Ties That Bind

Here’s a great book suggestion for anyone dealing with parental alienation syndrome. I read and reviewed this book ten years ago, before Bill’s younger daughter reconnected (the other remains estranged). Because I like to be helpful, I am reposting the review as it was when I originally wrote it for Epinions.com in 2011.

Those who regularly read my Epinions reviews may know that my husband has two extremely alienated daughters who haven’t spoken to him since 2004.  I have only met my husband’s kids once, back in 2003.  We had a nice enough visit, but afterwards, their mother decided that I was too much of a bad influence on them.  She ramped up her efforts to get my husband’s kids to reject him.  Today in 2011, he has no contact with the two kids (now adults) with whom he used to enjoy a very warm, loving relationship.  My husband’s daughters are textbook examples of kids who are affected by Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).

PAS is a term that was originally coined by Dr. Richard Gardner, a child psychiatrist.  Dr. Gardner noted that sometimes in highly contentious divorce situations, one parent may misuse socialization techniques to turn their child against the other parent to the point at which the relationship is completely destroyed.

PAS is a very controversial topic.  Since alienating parents usually tend to be women, a lot of feminist organizations deny that PAS is real.  A lot of legal and mental health professionals also argue about whether or not it’s real.  I am myself educated as a public health social worker and, having spent almost nine years living through PAS with my husband, I have no doubt that parental alienation syndrome is very real and very scary.  It absolutely deserves to be taken seriously, especially by the family court system.

Although I’ve pretty much given up hope that my husband’s daughters will ever have a normal relationship with their father, I do still feel the need to read about PAS and related subjects such as narcissistic personality disorder.  That drive to research led me to read Amy J. L. Baker’s excellent book, Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking The Ties That Bind (2007).  This book is very well-researched, well-written, and I guarantee that anyone who has experienced the PAS phenomenon will recognize the uncanny steps a determined alienator will take to destroy a child’s relationship with the targeted parent.

Who is Amy Baker and how did she research this book?

Dr. Amy J. L. Baker is director of research at the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child protection of the New York Foundling.  In researching Breaking the Ties That Bind, Dr. Baker interviewed 40 adults who believed that when they were children, they were alienated against one of their parents.  She also interviewed people who were targeted parents of parental alienators.  Chapter by chapter, she uses her subject’s stories to lay out what PAS is and outline the tactics used by parental alienators to sever family ties. 

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I read about the experiences of these adult children of parental alienation syndrome.  Many of the alienating parents were women, though some of them were men.  And in some cases, the alienation tactics even had some validity because there were some targeted parents who really weren’t very good people.  In other cases, the children eventually realized that they were manipulated to hate their other parent and their relationship with the alienating parent was damaged.  Sometimes they were able to reconnect with the lost parent and build a positive relationship; sometimes they found out that the “dead” relationship was better off left alone.  I liked the fact that Dr. Baker explained how adult children of PAS eventually figure out what happened.  In some cases, adult children of PAS figure it out when they themselves become targeted parents, either by marrying someone who alienates the kids or by realizing their alienator parents have turned into alienator grandparents by trying to turn their grandkids against their parents.  Sadly, sometimes PAS victims never learn the whole truth, but Dr. Baker seems to think they usually do eventually “get it”, even if it takes decades.

According to Dr. Baker, the vast majority of parents who alienate their children from their other parents are people who have personality disorders, most notably narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).  Based on our situation, I am inclined to agree with Dr. Baker, although I also recognize that there are varying degrees of PAS and sometimes the PAS is even somewhat unintentional.  

In any case, the children are the ultimate losers in situations where one parent alienates children from the other parent.  Dr. Baker notes that children never forget that they have that other parent “out there” and every time the alienating parent punishes them for mentioning or missing the other parent, they are punishing them for their identity.  These kids are ordered to deny half of their DNA in order to keep their custodial parent happy.  That forced denial has to hurt on many different levels.  Indeed, through her research, Dr. Baker found out just how the realization that they have been lied to and manipulated can be so hurtful to children, who have often lost many years with their other parent.  In some cases, the other parent has died, making reconciliation impossible. 

Overall 

If you, or someone you love, have been affected by PAS, I highly recommend reading this book.  It’s probably one of the very best books I have ever read about parental alienation syndrome.  In so many ways, I found Baker’s book very insightful and helpful.  I found myself feeling a lot more empathy for my husband’s kids, despite the horrible way they have treated him and the rest of his family over the years. 

This is also an excellent book for mental health and legal professionals; indeed, I think it ought to be required reading for custody evaluators, especially those who doubt PAS exists. 

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divorce, Ex, family, obits

Another ray of light…

I love this arrangement…

This morning, Bill got the news that his father, Ray, passed away. It happened at about 1:30am, our time. Ray was not alone when he died. His wife was holding his hand and there was a Catholic priest with him. We were not surprised that he died. Last night, Bill was told that his father’s kidneys were failing and he was on a ventilator. So we knew this news would be coming to us soon… and Bill even said that it was probably going to happen within hours.

I didn’t know Ray very well. I visited his house a few times, but unfortunately, our relationship was rather stunted. Many of the reasons we never knew each other that well have to do with the fact that Bill and I have always lived far away from him. But there are also other reasons we were so distant. A lot of it has to do with family drama.

Bill grew up mostly without his dad around because his parents divorced when he was very young, and his mom moved him away from the Memphis, Tennessee area, where Bill’s dad had lived almost his whole life. Bill’s parents were from extreme northeastern Arkansas in an area so rural that Bill was born in Missouri, because there weren’t any hospitals in the Arkansas town where his parents lived. A couple of years later, they moved to Memphis, where Bill’s dad found work and settled down permanently.

When Bill was married to his ex wife, she developed a relationship with Bill’s dad and stepmother. She basically claimed them as her parents, probably because they were more the type of people she would have preferred to be her parents than the people who raised her were. And she used Bill’s daughters and her son from her first marriage as a way to leverage that relationship. Ray adored his grandchildren, so Ex would use that love to get what she wanted. Ex even used Ray’s home as the setting for multiple hurtful dramas toward Bill. It was in Ray’s house that she demanded a divorce and then banished herself to the guest room for hours.

Naturally, when I came on the scene, there were a lot of ghosts of the past… I think Bill’s dad and stepmother had trouble adjusting to me. I’m not at all like Ex is, and I think they thought I was a snob. Ray was Bill’s best man at our wedding, which took place on November 16, 2002. The night before the ceremony, Bill was nervous. His mom said to him, “Bill, don’t worry. No one ever died at the altar.” The next day, Ray was trying to emulate the soldiers who were there in uniform and he locked his knees. Just as Bill and I were about to recite our vows, Ray fainted! And Bill was horrified because he thought he’d killed his father! Meanwhile, the wedding photographer was taking pictures until she caught one of me glaring at her through my veil.

I looked forward to getting to know Ray better after the wedding. Unfortunately, it never really happened. I visited them a few times, but we’d end up spending most of the time talking about Ex and the kids. There wasn’t much time for them to get to know me as a person, although I do fondly remember bonding over banana pudding with Bill’s dad and stepmother the last time Bill and I visited them together, almost eleven years ago.

The last time Bill saw his dad in person was in May 2014. I stayed home in Texas and took care of our dogs while he visited his father, mainly because I didn’t feel comfortable in Ray’s home. Ray’s wife can be wonderful, but she’s never liked me very much. I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted, so I opted to stay home. At the time, Bill was transitioning out of the Army and we needed to save the money, anyway. Bill said the visit was awkward, although he was glad he went to see his dad.

Then my father suddenly died, and we moved to Germany… and COVID-19 happened, making travel difficult. It wasn’t easy to maintain those ties. But the truth is, Bill had felt kind of disconnected from his family, anyway. His stepmother would send him texts and private messages on Facebook, shaming him and demanding that he call or visit. And Bill would call, but his father sometimes didn’t seem interested in hearing from him. So Bill simply went on with his life. I sometimes wondered what would happen when the inevitable came to pass. I still don’t know.

A couple of weeks ago, Ray went into the hospital with pneumonia that had gone septic. He was reportedly terrified and already planning his own funeral, although initially, it seemed like maybe he’d get better. At one point, doctors thought he might have COVID-19, but it turned out he didn’t. His doctors did get the pneumonia under control. A CT scan revealed scarring on his lungs caused by pulmonary fibrosis and making it difficult for him to breathe. He’d also broken his back twice because he had osteoporosis.

The initial plan was to give him a drug to make his bones stronger and do surgery. When I heard about that, I started thinking that what was happening was Ray’s preparation to leave this life. I have had enough experience to know that when a person gets to a certain age and multiple things start going wrong, it’s a sign that time is getting short. Nevertheless, he was intubated a few days ago. Last night, his kidneys started to fail and his heart rate was all over the place. Bill and I knew that it was only a matter of time. Indeed, it was just a few hours.

One of my covers… this is a very healing song.

Bill did get to talk to his dad one more time. He saw the top of his head on Skype and they had a chance to say “I love you” to each other. We both feel glad that he had that chance. I was similarly blessed on Father’s Day in 2014, when I called my parents and spoke to my dad, who was unusually lucid that day. I remember telling him that I loved him, too. He was gone less than three weeks later.

One of the really sad things about our current times is that many people are dying alone. We’re grateful that Ray was spared that experience. He had his wife and a priest with him, and many people sending love… But unfortunately, I don’t know when Bill will be able to pay his respects in person. That’s what really sucks the most about this– along with the fact that his daughters may also be denied that chance, at least until the virus is more under control. There is no way Bill can go now, though, thanks to the travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, and everything else.

Bill spoke to his younger daughter last night on Skype. She said that she’d sent a message to Bill’s still estranged older daughter about this situation. Ex apparently reads older daughter’s texts, so she found out about Ray, too. And it would not be surprising if Ex got it in her head to try to visit during this time and, perhaps, horn in on SMIL’s grief. Bill does have a sister who has a wife– hopefully she, along with SMIL’s friends, will be strong enough to protect SMIL from Ex. It may seem crass to point this out in a post about death, but unfortunately, this is the kind of thing Ex does. She’s done it repeatedly over the years. She is a big fan of “ye olde surprise visit”, then she lays guilt trips on her victims to get them to host her and be an audience to her self-absorbed dramatics. I know older daughter is upset about this and, if she hasn’t already heard about Ray’s death, she’ll probably be devastated when she does get the news.

However, this situation may also have a silver lining. I have also pointed out that this may turn out to be the thing that gets older daughter to pull her head out of her ass and speak to Bill again. I don’t know… Death has a way of helping people put things in perspective. I hope she is deep enough to realize that we don’t have as much time as she might think. Life is full of surprises. Older daughter is 29 years old and really needs to grow up and face reality. But that’s just my opinion, of course, and I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that. I don’t know her perspective at all. I could only try to guess. Personally, I think it’s tragic that Bill’s daughters have lost so much time with their family, due to divorce and petty grievances.

This post may seem kind of dry and matter-of-fact. I wish it weren’t so. Although I did know Ray and liked him very much, I never got to know him well enough to love him as much as I could have. But I do love his son with all of my heart, so I’m going to do what I can to help him through this. I truly hope that Ex has enough class to keep her distance during this time. Unfortunately, I have a feeling she may try to make this about her.

I think if there hadn’t been so much divorce and parental alienation in the family, Bill and his dad would have been very close. Ray was a really kind man, and Bill shares that kind spirit with him. I know Bill will take today to grieve and adjust to the news.

Incidentally, like Alex Trebek, who also died yesterday, Ray was also 80 years old. If there is a Heaven, maybe they’re playing a round of Jeopardy. In any case, I wish I had known Ray better. He was a good man, and I know his son is heartbroken that his father is gone.

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divorce, Ex, psychology, true crime

Armchair quarterbacks…

When I used to post on Blogger, I would get all kinds of comments from all over the world. Sometimes, people would offer me unsolicited advice, based on what they thought they knew about me. Sometimes they would armchair quarterback when I’d post about situations we were dealing with. Often, the comments were left in a spirit of being helpful, but sometimes they were spiteful and cruel.

I think there must be a lot of people out there in the world who feel a lot better about themselves when they tell off some stranger on a blog or on social media. For most of my years on Blogger, I didn’t moderate comments before they were posted, so sometimes I would get nasty surprises from mean-spirited people who didn’t like something I’d written or disagreed with my opinions.

The first “nasty” comments I ever got were based on a post I wrote about Jessica McCord, a woman who, with the help of her police officer husband, killed her ex husband and his second wife. I had seen an episode of Snapped, a TV show on Oxygen about women who kill, and was horrified by how much Jessica McCord’s behaviors, prior to the murders, reminded me of Bill’s ex wife’s. So I wrote a post about it. That was a bad move.

News piece about Jeff McCord, a former cop who helped his wife, Jessica, murder her ex husband, Alan Bates, and Alan’s wife, Terra, after Alan won custody of his daughters.

My blog entry about Jessica McCord caught on fire several months after I posted it. I got all kinds of bile from people over that post about Jessica McCord and my comparison of our situation to hers… a lot of people wanted to blame Bill for not fighting harder to get his kids away from his ex wife. In retrospect, maybe he should have fought harder for custody… although by the time I saw that episode of Snapped, the girls were already grown women. Both of the girls stopped speaking to Bill in 2004 or so, and back then, we had no money or time for court battles. I saw and wrote about the Snapped episode in early 2012. By then, older daughter was 20 years old, and younger daughter was 18, and it had been over seven years since they had completely quit communicating with their dad.

I wrote my post about Jessica McCord because I was shocked by how much she had behaved like Ex before McCord and her husband resorted to murder. At least, to our knowledge, Ex never tried to murder Bill, although she did once tell him, when she thought he was sleeping, that she should just “slit his throat”. Surprisingly enough, Bill didn’t leave her at that point. He still had hopes he could save the marriage and be there for his kids.

Although a lot of people had negative things to say to me about my Jessica McCord entry, that post also attracted sympathy from someone who was friends with Alan and Terra Bates and understood the dynamics of dealing with an unhinged ex spouse. He was also a man, and he understood that it would have been difficult for Bill to get custody changed, and just taking the kids from her and refusing to bring them back would have landed him in jail. Ex had made it very difficult for Bill to see the kids, anyway. She lived on the other side of the country, was taking about $30,000 a year in child support, and absolutely refused to cooperate with him. We later found out from younger daughter that Ex was terrified that Bill would “steal” them from her. “Steal” was the actual word she used, even though two of the three kids for whom Bill paid child support were also HIS children (older stepson has a dad, but his dad didn’t pay support– Bill paid for him, instead– how’s that for being an irresponsible father who “copped out” of parenthood?). She clearly sees her offspring as extensions of herself instead of people unto themselves.

Upon reading all of the nasty spew in the wake of that post, I ended up writing a follow up– not so much about Jessica McCord, but more for the people who read it and left negative, shaming comments and unsolicited advice for me. One woman who commented on the first post claimed to be an “academic” and pretty much gave us both barrels. I would say that for an “academic”, she was remarkably uneducated about parental alienation syndrome. She also lectured me about not showing appropriate “deference” for her academic achievements. However, she also used a pseudonym and blocked her profile, so there was no way to know if she was who or what she claimed to be. I would say that anyone who leaves a comment like that but doesn’t allow themselves to be vetted is probably brimming full of shit.

I am glad to point out that the follow up post got sympathetic comments rather than the hateful bile the first post attracted. In the follow up post, I explained in more detail what happened and reminded people that having one’s children completely disown and reject them without ever giving them a chance to explain their side is extremely hurtful. At that point, I was still very angry with Bill’s daughters. I thought they were complicit. Since they were adults in 2012, I held them responsible for their actions. I have since changed my mind about them, now that one of the girls has resumed communicating with Bill and we’ve learned more about what was going on from their end.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that people felt the need to “armchair quarterback” our situation. People react with righteous indignation when it comes to certain subjects, and they love to take what they think is the moral highground. When it comes to children, it’s easy for people to become sanctimonious about what other people should be doing, regardless of the individual circumstances they might be in at the time. For an easy example of what I mean, check out any video or picture of a child in a car seat. You can bet there will almost always be at least one comment on how the child is strapped in. It never fails, even if it’s a cute video. Nowadays, I’m seeing less about that subject as everyone is now preaching about wearing face masks. Many people take a “no excuses” attitude about some topics, even when such an attitude is not based in reality and doesn’t take into consideration other perspectives or circumstances. I guess it’s human nature.

On the other hand, it was pretty scary that some people felt that Bill should have been willing to be murdered for his daughters. What the hell good would he have been to them dead? Years later, Bill has finally reconciled with younger daughter, and he’s helped her out financially and emotionally, as she’s tried to make sense of her childhood. If Bill’s story had ended like Alan Bates’s had, his daughters would have lost BOTH parents forever.

My post about Jessica McCord was a source of a lot of angst for me, mainly because so many people left shitty, judgmental comments, mainly based on projection from their individual experiences. Also, a lot of people automatically blame men when a relationship doesn’t work out, and they assumed Bill was a “typical guy” (trust me; he isn’t). It got many thousands of views and, for years, it was one of my most popular posts of all time. It’s now been long surpassed by a post on my little visited music blog, Dungeon of the Past. For some reason, people are fascinated by a post I wrote about Mindi Carpenter, daughter of Richard Carpenter of the Carpenters. That post has generated many comments and, at this writing, has 117,790 hits.

Nowadays, I don’t get a lot of nasty comments. I moved the blog to WordPress, and comment moderation is turned on by default, making people a lot less willing to driveby with nastiness. I also have a smaller readership because a lot of the people who read the old blog were drivebys who read one or two posts and moved on. Now, I have some regular readers, but they’re mainly people who know me and know that Bill isn’t a deadbeat dad. I also don’t have as many posts about controversial topics on this blog, although I add new content pretty frequently. Today’s post, for instance, might ignite a fire.

Hope springs eternal that one day, I’ll write something as explosive as that Jessica McCord post was. In my experience, people tend to get the most upset about true crime posts. Sometimes I even hear from people directly involved in the cases I’ve written about. I can’t blame them for being upset– I suppose that even though I always try to be fair when I write, they still feel judged and/or attacked. I have to remind them that my comments come from what I’ve read or seen in the media, as well as my own deductive reasoning.

I empathize with them, too, because people did the same thing to me when I stupidly compared Jessica McCord to Ex. I couldn’t help myself, though. Jessica McCord really did eerily remind me of Ex. She pulled a lot of the same evasive tactics Ex did before Bill finally quit trying to fight with her. I’m truly grateful that she didn’t slit his throat or get her husband to help murder Bill and me, even if it pisses me off that she got away with what she did. Had it been my choice to make, I think I would have done all I could to take her to court and sue for custody. But I say that as a woman who wasn’t directly victimized and financially ruined by her, as Bill was.

I do sometimes get funny “advice” from spammers. Not long ago, someone left a comment on a post on my travel blog. It read like an actual person posted it. It started with something along the lines of, “Where’s your contact link? I have some ideas for your blog that I want to share with you.” Um… thanks for the attempt at giving me advice, but I don’t remember asking you…

I was a little astounded by that comment. It’s a fucking travel blog. Who says I want or need any help with it? I don’t write any of this for money! It’s mainly for myself and those who might find it interesting reading. If I make a little money from ads, that’s just icing on the cake! Really, I just write because it’s something to do, something I enjoy, is good for processing things, and helps me preserve memories. Not everyone appreciates what I do, though. Good thing the Internet is such a big place and people are free to go somewhere else.

Anyway, if my comments about Jessica McCord have piqued anyone’s interest, here’s a link to the episode of Snapped from which it came. I found it a truly chilling case. I am also going to repost my review of Death Trap, a book about the Jessica McCord case.

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