Tomorrow is Jeremy’s birthday, which makes me introspective at the best of times. It’s a day to marvel at how much he’s grown.
Then I went onto Facebook and discovered a new Raising my Rainbow post titled This Is How A Father Should Love. I read it and cried. I am so happy for both CJ and Chase that they have such an incredible father, I just wish I could say the same for Jeremy and Emma. My introspection suddenly had a new focus.
There’s a lot I could say about my marriage but I won’t go into that much detail. The first couple of years (that honeymoon stage) were pretty good and by the time my ex started showing his true colours of emotional abuse, manipulation, and chronic lying, we had two young children. I couldn’t raise the kids thinking this was normal behaviour so I left him.
Emma is his darling daughter, his precious girl and Jeremy seems to be his afterthought. We separated permanently when Jeremy was three years old and it was soon apparent that my ex treated them differently. Often they weren’t even out of the yard before he was threatening to send Jeremy home for “misbehaving”. I’ve seen him yell at Jeremy because he’d ran out the door yelling “Daddy! I missed you!” He didn’t consider that bad behaviour if Emma did the same.
Jeremy’s birthday is two months ahead of Emma’s. I’ve lost track of the number of times their Dad has stopped by in August with Emma’s birthday present then paused and said, “Oh wait. Didn’t Jeremy have a birthday in June?” He figured Jeremy would never notice. Jeremy, the kid who starts planning his birthday six months in advance.
Then there was the time I got a phone call from Children’s Aid over a tickle-fight incident their Dad witnessed (while they were four hours away on a family visit); one where Jeremy’s mouth accidentally grazed Emma’s chest while they were tumbling on the ground. Jeremy immediately apologized but that wasn’t good enough. His Dad told him that he was a bad boy who was going to get sent to jail forever and he’d never see his family again. He then called Children’s Aid on Jeremy, claiming he was a sexual deviant who needed intensive therapy. Jeremy doesn’t know about that part and I’m hoping he’s forgotten the things his Dad said. Jeremy was CJ’s age at the time. I think that’s what made me cry the most when I read the post. He’d only turned seven the month before.
Their Dad also took me to court to try for custody of Emma. He didn’t file for Jeremy. He also didn’t win his case. The following year was when he made that big scene over Emma’s clothes (the one I mentioned in the modesty post). I think that’s what shocked Emma the most, that her father who always acted like she was perfect had suddenly reacted like this. Sadly, if he’d treated Jeremy the same way, it would have been just another visit.
We moved two years ago and, at the time their Dad lived a five minute drive away. Jeremy was so excited; he figured this was his chance to finally get close to his father. I watched as two visits fizzled then Jeremy called his father and arranged a visit. They were to meet at the convenience store half a block away from where his Dad lived. Jeremy was going to bike over all by himself. This was a day I was scheduled to work. I called Jeremy twice while I was on the floor then got asked if I wanted to go four hours early. My paycheque didn’t want me to leave but I said yes. I called while I was on the bus and Jeremy told me he’d been waiting for his Dad for almost an hour, just sitting on a street corner by himself.
“Have you talked to your Dad today?”
“No. He’s not answering his phone.”
Ex has a cell phone that might as well be another appendage. My heart twisted.
“Oh Jeremy, just bike home,” I sighed. “I’m on the bus and I’ll be there soon.”
Jeremy never called his Dad again. I don’t think my ex has even noticed.
Jeremy saw his Dad for an hour about a week ago, his first visit since sometime last fall. I told Jeremy when he’d need to catch the last bus that drives by our home then called to remind him to go to the bus stop. I got a call from Jeremy twenty minutes later.
“Mom. I missed the last bus and I don’t know what to do. Dad said there’s another bus and kind of pointed but I don’t know which bus or where to go and he’s gone now.”
Yes, his father brought his autistic son (who reads at a grade three level) to a busy street corner in a rough neighbourhood, gestured vaguely west, said “go that way”, then left him there. I have never been so happy for Google Maps before in my life. I had Jeremy slowly read out the nearest road signs then keyed them in to find out where he was. Then, since Jeremy has a very poor sense of direction, I had him read out the next intersection to make sure he was going the right direction. He made it home just fine. I figure I earned another double handful of grey hairs.
Of course there are the positives. Jeremy and I went out for dinner with my coworkers almost two weeks ago. I got off work early so we hung out in my parents’ backyard for the afternoon. We were almost late for the dinner I’d organized because I didn’t want to leave; Jeremy and my Dad were laughing and chatting up a storm. And I got a phone call from my friend P a couple of days ago. We talked for two minutes.
“Michelle? Is Jeremy there?”
I handed the phone over to Jeremy then finished my dinner and went to my room. They talked for a half hour. Then P got on the phone with me to say goodbye. P’s the one who taught Jeremy how to put his face under the water and to jump into the deep end of the pool. P’s also the one who sat down with Jeremy for a couple of hours to explain circuits (while his husband M and I watched a movie and played cards).
The good news is, Jeremy has men in his life who think he’s a great kid and fun to be around. The bad news is I don’t think his Dad will ever be one of them.