Safety Nets

2/3/20 Monday

Once parked, I got out of the truck and walked up to the foredeck. I knew others were watching me, warm and safe and tucked away in their cars. It was freezing last night, and still freezing this morning, but the sun was out and with no wind I could almost imagine feeling warm. I pulled out my phone and caught random photos of whatever caught my eye: the boat, something I think is called a hawsehole, and the shadow of the safety net. I wonder how strong the net is. Twin diesel engines cranked out 6000 horsepower beneath my feet but it was hard to tell we were even under way, there was just a faint low drone of humming and the slightest of vibrations. We glided along – effortless.

after-the-rain.org / Ferry to Mukilteo

Peace, sun, water, cold. I breathed it all in until I was ready to tuck my own self away, warm and safe, back in the vehicle. Time to change gears, back to work mode. Today the truck was pulling double duty as a mobile office, equipped with a laptop, phone, notebook, construction drawings, and coffee. I was ready to transition from island time to mainland time, to join the rest of the worker bees in the greater Seattle area. I had to go to the other side for a site walk.

52 miles and two and a half hours later I arrived at one of our cell towers. It’s on city property, in the back parking lot of a fire station. The city planner had requested a meeting to run through one of our upcoming projects. She was concerned about damage to the property, obstructing fire crew access to the adjacent building, and the use of a crane we were going to need for our work. She was skeptical about the project in general.

I called in a rep from our engineering firm, a rep from the company that actually owns the tower, the manager from the construction company that would be doing the actual work, along with his foreman. Together we walked through each of the city planner’s concerns, coming up with solutions on site to address some issues we knew of in advance and some we didn’t. It was a successful meeting, and I enjoyed talking shop with everyone and working with the city planner. Although she was strict I know she was just looking out for the best interest of the fire department property. She thanked me personally for pulling everyone together for the site walk, which took me a bit by surprise and made me feel good – it had been my responsibility to make today happen.

after-the-rain.org / Hawsehole

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I wanted to write a post last night but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not sure I could have gotten through it anyway. I had to write a long email instead, and about half way through noticed my hand was shaking.

Friday night we had a big wind storm, with wind gusts over 60 miles per hour. The power went out around dinnertime. It was my weekend with Day. We found a restaurant with a generator to supply back-up power, so we ate out. He had chicken strips and I had fish and chips. He had a kid’s menu and a cup of crayons. He turned the menu over and we took turns drawing pictures of sheep, castles, battle weapons, and a chicken surfing on a wave. He had the best attitude during the whole dinner/storm/power outage and I told him so. We were looking forward to Saturday so we could go up to the arcade in Oak Harbor, but it wasn’t to be so easy.

I woke up to texts, missed calls and voicemails from Sara. The wind had damaged the roof on the family home, blown some shingle panels right off. It was pouring down rain and she didn’t know what to do. I asked her to start an insurance claim, and grab some tarps and sandbags. Day and I loaded up and headed over. We set a plan into action: I had him cut lengths of cord, Sara filled up the sand bags, and I tied everything together and hoisted it all up a ladder to the roof. Sara came up and helped me as I walked the tarp up the steep part of the roof to put it and the bags into position. It took a long time and we both got completely soaked. It was not safe up there, with the rain it was impossible to stand up without sliding all the way down. Sara had to stand firm to keep me from falling off the edge of the roof. We worked it out though, got everything in position and came down off the roof. It felt great having the 3 of us together working out a problem. It was important to leave on a good note, so I tried to round up Day and go, but I just couldn’t get away fast enough.

Sara asked if we could talk and I said sure. She said the GAL (guardian ad litem – court ordered person who does an investigation and makes a recommendation as to the best solution for a child of parents going through a divorce) was very one sided, and that the report was inaccurate. I watched as Sara’s face turned. Her eyes flashed and her face started to twitch. Without me saying a word she started accusing me again of some very serious things, which she said she had proof of and knew people who would back her up. I asked what proof and which people but she said she was keeping that information a secret to protect them. I had heard this kind of stuff before and just wanted to leave but she wasn’t done. At some point I spoke up. I pointed out that I wasn’t interested in bringing up negative things about her to the GAL. I just don’t see her that way, and don’t remember our marriage as the horrible event she makes it out to be. I think in general she is a good person with a lot to offer the world, and I want to hang on to the good memories, forgive the bad and move on with our lives. Day and I left. We made the most of our time together but I was rattled. I hadn’t seen Sara this way in a long time.

Sunday my boy and I read, ate ham and toast, and played finger football at the kitchen counter. Later we played racquetball and went swimming. As 4pm drew near we gathered his things and headed back to Sara’s for the drop off. I wanted to ask for extra time so he and I could watch the superbowl together, but there’s no way she and I can work something like that out now. I brought his stuff in the house, said bye and turned to leave. She noticed I had a fitbit on, and I knew what was coming. A friend of mine gave me and Day two older fitbits. I synched them up, so we can see how many steps the other person has taken. We try to see who can get to 10,000 steps first. Sara thinks I synched them up for a different reason. She followed me outside and it was on. I tried to leave and she blocked my way. She started reading poetry from her phone. I said I didn’t have to listen to this and she wasn’t allowed to block me from getting in my truck to leave. She was furious and out of control, yelling the worst of accusations. Some are very serious, some are strange and I don’t recognize where they’re coming from. I had heard most of them before, so now they’ve lost their impact and shock effect. In my head I drowned out her voice, stood back and just watched. Her face was contorting wildly and I recognized it from one of the nightmares I had when she was in the hospital. My overall feeling was just sadness.

After a few minutes of me not engaging she started to calm down, throwing out a strange one I hadn’t heard before: she said I had called her sister “militant” 18 years ago. I was curious and said I didn’t remember saying that and I don’t have anything against her sister. She asked me to name her sister, I did. She asked me to name her half sisters, I did. She asked me to list where each of her sisters lived. I think I know but didn’t want to get it wrong, and told her so. She was calming down. I said I thought her sisters and mom were good people. She raised her voice and said I couldn’t keep her from seeing her family. I said I wouldn’t. She was still mad but I could see this episode was over. I got in the truck and left. I felt like calling the police to do a welfare check, but that would scare Day. I also knew if the police saw her in that condition they would call for medical, and it would be possible they would take her to the ER, and I know what they have the power to recommend. Instead I visited both next door neighbors, told them no details but made sure they still had my phone number, and to call me anytime if they felt like it. I was worried about Day and didn’t know what else to do. I don’t want her to do anything to him. I don’t want her to do anything to herself, and I don’t want her to be taken away again. I don’t want to keep fighting this battle. I call my best friend and tell him everything, trying to fight back the tears. He helps me keep it together.

after-the-rain.org / Safety net

Fences

12/13/19 Friday

The other day I saw this momma and her fawn outside my bedroom window. I thought it was interesting because they were on the opposite sides of a fence. It’s only a couple of feet tall, but I wonder if that bothers her. It’s easy to see to see she’s keeping a close eye on her baby.

after-the-rain.org / Doe and fawn

When you’re separated from someone you love, is it easier to deal with if you’re close or far away? I like being close. Even though I’m only allowed to see my son every other weekend plus Wednesdays, it’s better to know he’s nearby, close enough where I could actually run to his side in about 40 minutes. I’ve seen him before in the car as Sara and I pass each other on the highway, I’ve seen him in the grocery store. I guess those are some of the awkward moments parents have to deal with when we split up.

Because Sara and I don’t agree on a parenting plan, a guardian ad litem has been appointed by the court to figure out what’s in our son’s best interest. It’s a long and thorough process, involving multiple interviews with each other, family, friends, acquaintances, school teachers and staff. It’s weird because Sara is fighting me and this process every step of the way, yet my opinion is that she is a good mom and should have equal time with our son also. It’s taken 3 months for this investigation to run its course, and the report will include a recommendation that will have a big impact on our lives for years to come. In general I’ve been a nervous wreck but do my best to answer all the questions as best and truthfully as I can.

We’re starting to get some preliminary feedback which is encouraging to me. Unfortunately it’s triggered a new round of accusations by Sara, which are severe, desperate, and upsetting. Some of them are not true, some are a strange twisted way of remembering things. To me it’s more of a lashing out, sad mainly because I have good memories of our married life, and think of myself as a devoted husband and father, who gave everything I had to give for my family.

I think Sara’s mental illness has played a large part in our problems. I can’t totally blame it for our divorce, for that we both have contributed our fair share. It’s just made it so much more complicated, like some sort of nightmarish carnival fun house with distorted mirrors, a black maze of the mind where every path leads to a dead end. When I took the NAMI family to family course, which is an intensive educational support group for family members of loved ones with mental illness, I asked the teacher why someone with problems would attack the very one who is closest to them and tries to help them the most. The answer was that this is very common, because the afflicted one struggles so hard every day to appear normal and fine to everyone else. It’s the loved one that bears the burden of the attacks, because the loved one is the trusted one, the one who will support, stay with, protect, and accept the other regardless of the behavior. This thought always makes me cry.

It’s been a long week, and tonight the big plan is to drink red wine, eat doritos and watch Portlandia. I’m ready to turn my brain off. It’s hard though, tomorrow will be the first birthday my son has ever had without his dad around.

after-the-rain.org / Boy on swing

Taking a Walk

10/30/19 Wednesday

The days are starting to speed on by. The chill of morning extends through the day, the only noticeable warmth comes in the afternoon if the sun has been out. Each night we get frost if the sky is clear. The breeze carries the smell of the sea, of the neighbor’s farm, and now wood smoke. Leaves fall one after another covering the little back deck – gold , red, brown, yellow. The sheep in the neighbor’s field are more active, their woolly coats in full effect, marching from one end of their pasture to the other in a steady graze. Day and I fed them granny smith apples today. We are starting to recognize individual ones, some are all white, some brown, some almost black, some white with brown spots, a few lambs, and one big mac daddy ram. Day says the brown ones are the fluffiest.

after-the-rain.org / Beach rocks in Fall

The divorce proceedings ramble on, we’ve made headway on a guardian ad litem. I’ve met with her once so far for an introductory interview, and have now had a chance to state my case for why I think I should be able to see my son half the time. This is only the beginning of a long process, but it feels good to make some kind of progress. This person will have a major say in how the custody arrangement works out. It’s an important time, and I do my best to keep it together.

This interview was a couple of days ago around lunch time, and afterward I needed to return to work. Unfortunately my emotions were fried and I knew staring at a computer would was not going to work out. So instead I headed to my favorite beach to walk off the day and try to find something to fill my soul back up. Fortunately it was sunny and not windy, and being a weekday there was hardly anyone around. I clambered over kelp, driftwood, old growth logs as big around as my truck, pebbles and sand. I found two agates, a bald eagle feather and coyote tracks. A heron seemed to keep an eye on me for most of the walk. I would have stayed longer but the incoming tide was pushing me up to the bluffs and the only choice was either to leave now or stay longer and swim back. I looked out at the water, into the sun, into a shimmering carpet of sea sparkles. I love this place. On the drive home I think about my life, the divorce, our son, the sea, my dreams, and my boat.

after-the-rain.org / Blue Heron by the Salish Sea

2/23 – I get to see Sara again this evening. It will end up being our second and last visit. She’s doing well, better and better each day. The visit starts off ok, it’s good to see her. We’re in the cafeteria again. While she talks it reminds me of when we sit at home around the kitchen table, drink coffee and talk. The image is short-lived though. There is a cloud over this visit, and I come right out with it. “When you said you were unfaithful, was that true?” Her silent eyes tell me the answer I don’t want to hear. When she opens her mouth to say yes and explain it sounds like she is muffled, like I’m wearing headphones. My spine starts to tingle and suddenly I feel hot. I don’t want to hear anymore. I get up and walk out, walk out of a visit that I looked so forward to, walk out on someone I loved so much.

(That night) Nightmare – I’m hanging out with a group of men who I don’t know. I’m new to the group, I’m hoping they will accept me but I don’t know. Suddenly a guy next to me grabs my neck and starts choking me, hard. I try to fight him off but he is too strong. Everyone knows what is happening but do nothing to save me. I’m helpless, fading fast, I can’t breathe. I give in and go limp, resigned to my fate.