Tonight will be our last night in Slovenia. We didn’t do much yesterday, because it was rainy. We did manage a short drive, and I got a few photos of the countryside, but then we determined that we didn’t feel like hiking where it’s all cold and soggy. So we came back to our rental house and ended up watching YouTube and a few episodes of the latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale, which Bill hadn’t yet seen. Naturally, the episodes haunted my dreams, even though we also spent the day drinking Slovenian wines.
We also did a lot of talking. Our 19th anniversary is coming up, and the years have gone by very fast. But I am also amazed by all that we’ve been through. Everybody has challenges, and I don’t feel like, overall, ours have been that horrifying. I mean, sure, we went through a few years of being broke. Bill’s job could be stressful at times. I had to cope with the fact that I was never going to be a successful careerist in my own right, nor would I ever be a mom. We have also moved many times, and to date, have never owned a home together. Bill left the LDS church, which was kind of traumatic in some ways, though not as traumatic as it would have been if he’d been a very devout member. He also went to war, which was difficult for us on many levels, although it’s something that most military families of the last couple of decades have had to deal with, often repeatedly.
But, we’ve had our share of successes, too. We get to travel a lot, to some really beautiful places. We have built a pretty good financial bedrock. I paid off my student loans, and Bill repaid the severance he got when he left active duty in 1995 and later came back. He gets a full retirement now, plus a paycheck. Bill re-established a connection with one of his children… That has been a genuinely rewarding experience. It’s also a reminder of something that is truly shameful and horrifying. Bill never thought he’d ever be completely estranged from his children.
I used to write a lot about Bill’s ex wife, mainly because what she put him through was just so strange and awful that I couldn’t fathom it. I had to write about it to make sense of it. I left a lot of my thoughts public. Sometimes doing that invited criticism from the uninformed… people who wrongly assumed that Bill’s former wife is a “normal” person. The fact is, she’s not. She puts up a good facade, though. If you don’t know her and haven’t been the subject of her “campaigns”, you could come away with the idea that she’s basically a regular person. It’s not until you see beneath the surface that you realize that she’s not playing with a full deck. And that has been a strain on us… or, at least it was a strain earlier in our marriage.
Bill and I have both decided that we’re probably not ever going to break up. We say that now, after 19 years of marriage, and we mean it. We’re very compatible, and we’ve seen each other through some tough times. Neither of us wants to look for new partners. I, for one, never want to plan another wedding in my lifetime.
Ex mostly doesn’t come up anymore. When she does come up, it’s as kind of a joke. But sometimes, we do still have serious conversations about her, because Bill talks to his younger daughter, and Ex is Bill’s daughter’s mom. Ex treats her children as badly as she eventually does everyone. Bill and I have the luxury of not being blood relatives of Ex. Ex’s kids don’t have that luxury.
A few days ago, I noticed that Ex had tweeted Mark Hamill, of Star Wars fame. I have never seen Star Wars in its entirety. I know that makes me odd, given when I grew up. It’s not that I don’t like science fiction, either. I loved Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. I just never got into Star Wars. Ex, on the other hand, is apparently a super fan. And she apparently tweets Mark Hamill a lot.
I noticed that she responded to one of Hamill’s tweets about not wanting to contribute to fundraisers, because he never knows if they are legitimate and he’s been “burned”. Ex tweeted that he was absolutely “right” not to contribute to crowd funding pleas. Then she asked how she might be able to raise money to buy a service dog for her son, whom she claims has severe autism. And just to be clear, I’m sure he does have autism, but I’ve never met him and don’t know what challenges he faces, so I don’t feel comfortable writing anything about him as “fact”. I only know what I’ve heard and read, and seen in Ex’s public photos.
I have heard a lot of stories over the years and have corroborated a lot of them with proof. For example, I know that Ex’s current husband had animal abuse charges levied against him in the state of Arizona. I had heard about what happened to the elderly poodle Ex and Bill had inherited from Ex’s adoptive father. The story went that #3 got very angry one day and kicked the dog so hard that she lost an eye. Years later, I looked up the charges, which were publicly posted on Arizona’s court site. Sure enough, #3 had animal abuse charges, no doubt stemming from the incident with the dog, which happened before they were married. #3 now has a job working with people who are vulnerable. I don’t know if he’s gotten his anger under control, but I sure wouldn’t want him taking care of me or anyone else I care about or love. And I wouldn’t want him in the same house with a pet, let alone a highly trained service dog.
In fact, had he been my boyfriend/fiancé and kicked my dog, I would not have married him. I would have been afraid of what he was capable of doing to our future children. The fact that Ex already had three children by two men, both of whom she denied visitation rights to and actively alienated the children against, would have already been a red flag to a prospective husband. It sounds to me like Ex also had reasons to be concerned about #3. He’s capable of violence.
I don’t know why Ex’s son might need a service dog. It’s possible a service dog might be good for him. However, it’s my guess that the dog would really only be a source of prestige and attention for Ex. And the first time the dog crapped and she had to clean it up, or the dog needed vet care and it cost her hundreds or thousands of dollars, her enthusiasm for the dog would wane. She would also have to commit to working with the dog and having it properly trained. And given the fact that my husband’s 30 year old daughter still lives with Ex, does all the cleaning and probably the cooking, and takes care of her little brother, I have a feeling that a service dog would eventually be one more thing for Bill’s older daughter to do.
I think about a terrible news story I recently read about a disabled, homeless veteran in North Carolina who had a service dog. He was confronted by the police for “panhandling” and eventually got arrested. His dog, Sunshine, who had been given to him to help him with his PTSD, tried to defend her master. She was Tasered and got away, where she was eventually struck and killed by a car. The homeless vet, who had done tours in Kuwait and Iraq with the Kentucky National Guard, did have some serious issues with mental illness and addiction. He had been in trouble with the law before. But he also had mental health concerns that were not being adequately or compassionately treated by competent people. While I would never say that a person should abuse drugs or alcohol, I also know that some people abuse them as a way to cope.
Ex’s son is now a teenager and, in a few short years, he’ll be an adult. I don’t know what the plans are for him when he’s a grown man. I have heard that it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to live on his own. Maybe, with the right guidance from professionals, he might benefit from having a service dog. But given what I’ve heard and seen from Ex herself on her very public social media pages, I have my doubts that the lad is going to get what he needs. I hope older daughter will eventually move out and have her own life, too. I think it’s possible Ex’s son could put a service dog at risk. He could be like that man in North Carolina someday.
Ex was tweeting Mark Hamill, asking for advice on how to get a service dog. On the surface, it looked like a honest and even honorable request. But if you know anything about her, you know that a service dog would probably be in hell in her household. It would be just one more tool for her to use in her social engineering strategies against other people. I suspect, as well, that as soon as the dog did something that Ex or #3 didn’t like, or inconvenienced them in some way, the lustrous prestige of having a special dog would vanish.
We’ve enjoyed our vacation so much that I put the horror of the idea of Ex having a service dog out of my head. But then I happened to notice her Halloween posts. Ex decided to take her son trick or treating. I know that in Ex’s house, animated movies and children’s books are very popular. She likes Disney, for instance. During the one and only time Bill’s daughters were allowed to visit us, the girls watched Snoopy Come Home, which is a favorite from my own childhood. Actually, if I’m honest, I was pretty traumatized by that movie when I was about 6 or 7 years old. But, since I am a dog lover, I bought the film on videocassette.
When we first got married, Bill told me that Ex acted a lot like Lucy Van Pelt. She had a habit of figuratively pulling the football away just as he was about to kick it at her encouragement.
Well… for Halloween, Ex went with a Peanuts theme for her son. She came up with a costume that was inspired by Charlie Brown, a boy who always seemed to be the butt of everyone’s jokes, even if he’s the “star” of the Peanuts cartoons– next to Snoopy, that is. And poor Charlie Brown historically had tough Halloweens. People always gave him rocks instead of candy. They knew, even under the holey ghost costume, it was Charlie Brown, the “loser”, and they gave him rocks.
Ex dressed her son up like Charlie Brown on Halloween. He carried a sign that said something along the lines of, “All I got was a rock.” Ex wrote that people didn’t seem to get the joke. That’s probably a good thing, when you consider that she was parading her apparently severely autistic son around– a boy who is supposedly “non-verbal” and may never live on his own– as Charlie Brown, the butt of everyone’s jokes who can’t make a simple ghost costume and always gets rocks from his neighbors.
As I mentioned before… I have never met her son. I don’t know what level of functioning he’s attained. She did publicly state that he was capable of uttering a carefully rehearsed line to anyone who asked about his costume– “I had some trouble with the scissors.” She implied that it took some time to teach him that line, which makes me wonder if there are issues with his intellect. But again, I don’t know. I do think it’s kind of strange to publicly declare so much love for a child, but then dress him up as an obvious “loser” for Halloween, laugh at the spectacle of it, and then tweet it publicly. Maybe Ex thinks of it as “harmless fun.” And, to her, it surely is– maybe it also is to strangers who don’t know anything about her or her children. For the boy, I’m not as sure… If he gets the joke and agrees with it, okay. But if he doesn’t get it, and has just been unwittingly made the butt of a joke– scoring laughs for his mother at his own expense– maybe not.
Actually, I’m reminded of a classic episode of the 80s sitcom, Gimme A Break, when the character, Joey, is unwittingly used as an object of aggression toward Nell Carter’s lead character, Nell Harper. Youngest Kanisky daughter, Samantha, is angry with Nell for giving Joey so much attention and usurping her role as the baby of the family. Samantha takes advantage of Joey’s naïveté and puts him in blackface before he performs an Al Jolson song, “Toot Toot Tootsie” at Nell’s Black church.
Blackface, of course, would obviously be much worse than the Charlie Brown costume is. In today’s culture, blackface is clearly offensive, and everyone would get how offensive it is. The Charlie Brown costume is more subtly humiliating, especially for a boy who may not realize that he’s being made the object of derision by his own mother. Now… if the boy chose the costume himself and has the capacity to understand the implication of wearing it, okay. But I doubt he does or did… I think, once again, Ex used someone else to get her jollies… to make herself feel better for what, apparently, hasn’t turned out to be the fantastic life she envisioned for herself.
Bill has often told me that his former wife lives in kind of a “fantasy world”. She expects everyone else to buy into that fantasy. If they can’t or won’t, she casts them out. And that would be fine, if there weren’t innocent and vulnerable people involved. But there are children involved, as well as well-meaning adults. Also, it must be a special kind of weird to live with someone who surrounds herself with relics from childhood– books, movies, music, etc.– as if she wants a redo of her childhood. But then she does obviously abusive and cruel things.
I noticed that she responded to someone who apparently criticized her for “fat shaming” someone. She came back with an explanation of sorts, and ended with “please be kind.” I have been married to her ex husband for nineteen years. In that time, I have witnessed her ostracizing Bill from his daughters and ex stepson, whom he raised as his own. I have seen her ostracize Bill’s mom, who is a lovely person, and threaten to cut off Bill’s more “suitable” stepmom and father from their grandchildren. Ex wouldn’t even let Bill speak to his daughters before he went to war in Iraq.
I have heard stories about her forcing her daughters to give up their beds for another family, solely so she could look better to church members. I have seen her make her children disown their fathers and change their surnames. She influenced Bill’s ex stepson to take back his original surname just to punish Bill for standing up for himself. She allowed her daughter to show up at college with just the clothes on her back. She didn’t support her daughter in her efforts to become independent, and she raised her in a religious environment that was easily weaponized to alienate Bill, who decided to resign. Then, when the church was no longer useful to Ex, she tried to take it away… I’m still no fan of Mormonism, but I will always be grateful to the good church members who helped Bill’s daughter when she needed help. And I love that the decision to become LDS blew up in Ex’s face.
I know for a fact that she physically and sexually abused Bill. There is physical evidence of it that was noted by a physician.
She tried to force me to “dance to her tune”, too. When I refused, she told the children that I was a whore who broke up her marriage. She didn’t put it in those terms, but that was the message. And it was a fucking lie. She also told her children that their father didn’t care about them and just “up and left”. Also, not true. She told his mother that he’s an “abusive pervert who hates women”. I can attest that after 19 years of marriage, that isn’t true.
Ex uses people for her own ends. It’s bad enough to do that to an adult. It’s criminal and undeniably cruel to do it to a child, or to a person who has limited cognitive abilities. And then she shares what she does publicly on Twitter and invites the world to laugh at her son… who may, or may not, get the joke.
Anyway, I know it’s none of my business. And for a long while, recently, I wasn’t paying attention to Ex. But, like I said, she comes up on occasion, because Bill is now speaking to his younger child, at long last. And sometimes, I have to prove to myself that these horrors are real… stuff I’ve heard about for over 20 years now. She continues to get away with it, too… and there’s not much I can do about it but sit here and ruminate… and wish to God that Bill had met me first.