Blind In One Eye

3/13/20 Friday

There’s a particular bird that comes to the feeder at my bedroom window everyday. I’m not sure what kind it is, but it doesn’t look like the other sparrows, juncos, finches, or towhees. It’s also different because it doesn’t fly away like the others when I move about in the room. It just sits there at the feeder for much of the day, pecking at food occasionally as it feels like it. A few days ago I put my face right up to the window to check it out, and finally saw why it doesn’t fly away even when I’m so close – it can’t see, it’s blind in one eye. It spends much of the day perched on the feeder where it feels comfortable, keeping a watchful eye out from one side of its head for the other birds, and ignoring any potential danger from the other side of its head where it has no eye.

after-the-rain.org / Blind bird

The other day I dropped in to see my counselor. The divorce and custody battle have been taking a toll on my weary 47 year-old bones, head, and heart. Sara was able to put together a response to my motion to modify our parenting plan, which turned out to be a blistering 11-page list of grievances and accusations against me. Interestingly she also filed a response to the guardian ad-litem report, letting the world know she didn’t think much of that either. Bitterness, scorn, and rage poured through her words. I could picture her typing them, I’ve seen her eyes and facial expressions many times before as she lets them fly like arrows, trying to cut me down. However I did something she could not have expected. Instead of being torn apart I absorbed those arrows because as everyone knows love conquers hate. Instead of fighting back I let her know that I think she is a good person and that to me anyway our marriage was a good one for the most part, then I turned and walked away. This of course was an unforgivable offense, and has ignited an incredible fury which is confusing, surprising, disturbing and sad all at the same time.

My counselor told me a story of one of her former clients, a lady in her eighties who like Sara was also diagnosed with psychosis, and also a gifted artist. The lady had let her appearance go, and had arrived at her session dressed in an old mu mu, with wild gray hair, nervously peering out at the world through giant thick-rimmed black glasses. The counselor asked her to draw a self portrait. The lady took her time, carefully looking back and forth between her reflection in the mirror and her sketchbook. After quite some time the lady revealed her work, which was a talented and striking portrait of herself, not as an elderly lady, but as a beautiful young woman in her twenties, with long flowing auburn hair, no glasses. I guess sometimes we see what we want to see as we go through life. We can’t see both the good and the bad sides of each other, blind to a fault.

On Monday the judge decided that our son should keep staying with me during the week, and with his mom on the weekends, as long as her visits are supervised. I hope we can ease into a 50/50 shared parenting plan but these days I’m not so sure what to expect. Since today is Friday my boy is not here now. I see that my house is a mess, nerf darts and army guys again cover the floor, I love it. I see my tools by the door because tomorrow I’ll head to the boat. I see a piece of paper on the counter with a woman’s phone number on it. She gave it to me weeks ago. It never moves because I don’t know if I should call her or throw it away. For now I’ll turn a blind eye to it and concentrate instead on my dinner of roasted chicken, potatoes and vegetables. I’m starving because as usual when I write I forget to eat. It’s raining again and so cold outside it’s almost snowing. The schools are closing for 6 weeks starting on Monday due to coronavirus. Life goes on and it all seems so unpredictable. I trust the weather will warm up soon, I’m hopeful things will get better. I guess we’ll see.

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