Years ago, when I was 21, I met a young man named James. I was at work at the time, working my way through college as a part time dishwasher. His mother was the bartender and he came in one evening while I worked. Soon we were dating and were engaged a few months later. By the time we’d known each other for a year, we were living together and planning a wedding.
I was pregnant with Kait on our first anniversary and pregnant with Colin on our third. We broke up on our 6th anniversary, had a brief reconciliation, then separated for good in January 2001.
Those bare bones facts don’t share the struggles and the emotional pain I went through in our marriage. They don’t show James keeping all his student loan money in his separate account instead of placing it into his joint account because it was easier… leaving me stuck in the position of begging for milk money. They don’t show our frequent arguments over college when it was apparent to me he wasn’t working on school work. Arguments where he insisted he was working hard at school and I was simply over reacting. An argument he kept using until his report card was handed out. He assured me he didn’t get the lowest grades in the class, just the second lowest, as if that made things all right. I was pregnant with Kait then and needed him to work hard and actually try.
I struggled for six years, raising two babies (Kait and Colin are 22 months apart) and keeping the house together. Meanwhile James kept sliding downhill. I’d give him a bill to pay (pre internet banking). He’d walk out the door, ostensibly heading over to the bank less than a block away, then he’d come home saying he’d paid the bill. Which meant everything was fine until the next month when, whoops, our phone bill was double and James had spent all of last month’s “extra money” on computer parts. I made sure that I, for the most part, paid the bills but, with two small children, it wasn’t always feasible.
I didn’t want to break up our marriage but it’s something that takes two people in order to work and I was the only one doing the work. By the time we separated for good (we’ve since divorced) he was doing nothing around the house. The kids barely noticed his absence. The closest either of them got to wondering where he went was when Kait asked where the big pillow in the living room went. What big pillow? Oh right, James used to fall asleep on the floor instead of going to bed or sleeping on the couch. Then the kids would use him as a pillow. I reminded her that pillow was her Dad. She said, “Oh okay” and went back to playing.
He did everything in his power to ensure no child support reached us. He wouldn’t say where he lived. He got friends to buy him a phone under their names so he couldn’t be searched for. His jobs were often under the table and, if not, he only stayed for a few months so that FRO (Family Responsibility Office) couldn’t track him down. They were always a job behind him. All of that over $50.
He showed up when he wanted, sometimes twice a month but more often two or three times a year. Every single visit was fraught with drama. He left the kids alone in the Walmart McDonalds while he went outside to talk on his cellphone, leaving them unsure what to do. He ran them across a local highway at rush hour because he didn’t want to walk half a block to the crosswalk. To this day Colin absolutely will not jaywalk. It doesn’t matter if there’s no cars on the road in either direction, he has to find a cross walk or he has an anxiety attack. They were that close to getting hit.
As the kids got older, his behaviour worsened. He’d share things that would be TMI even for adults, like the time his girlfriend overdosed on sleeping medication. Instead of checking up on her or calling an ambulance, he left her in their bedroom and went out to buy two cups of coffee as an alibi. She lived but it was through no help of his. He called Children’s Aid (Child Protective Services) and told them that 13 year old Kait was beating me up (she wasn’t). He spent a year trying to convince her that he wanted her to live with him then dumped her at the end of the year, calling her “that one” and asking me to back him on banning her from his visits. There was a lot more but this post is threatening to be a novel already. It’s hard to compress 25 years.
He gave up pretty easily on Colin, which wasn’t a surprise because he’s favoured Kait since Colin was born. Which means Kait got the brunt of his erratic behaviour. Once he called her late at night to say he’d bought a bike from someone then it got stolen so he didn’t feel he needed to pay them. They were coming to get their money no matter what so if he didn’t call her by morning, chances are he was dead. Then he turned off his phone and went to bed. Kait called me in a panic and I told her to call the police. The police did a wellness check and, sure enough, he was just sleeping. She was a teenager when he pulled this.
Colin and I have had him blocked on Facebook and phone since the fiasco in June. Kait did initially but then we found out their paternal grandmother was dying of cancer and unblocked him so updates could be passed more easily. She died in mid January.
The kids and I had a great Christmas but there was one thing we didn’t know and that was Kait’s pregnancy. She got a positive test on Boxing Day and waited until the end of the first trimester before telling anyone in the family. I went to her 12 week ultrasound and got to see the little heart beating and to her 13 week obstetrician’s appointment. Sadly we couldn’t hear the heart beat with the doppler but she was still pretty early.
I don’t know if it was the loss of his Mom or finding out about the new baby but James pretty much lost his mind. He’s been texting Kait a bunch of crap and he went one step further.
There’s a troll website called Kiwi Farms (don’t search them, they’re nasty) where people do nothing but find blogs, mostly trans and trans positive ones, and pick the posts apart badly. I posted about them back in December 2016 when they first found my blog. I know they’re still around because they show up in my statistics once or twice a week but otherwise I ignore them. Kait sent me some screen shots from their site recently that left me shaking my head. They are still convinced that I’m forcing Colin to be trans and shoving him into my clothes, like he doesn’t have clothes of his own. He borrowed a shirt from me for Christmas because he spilt something on his good shirt and suddenly they think he’s wearing all my clothes all the time. Not to mention, I’m 5ft3in and Colin’s 6ft3in. My clothes, other than one loose tank top, don’t fit him.
Colin is as stubborn as a mule and as movable as a boulder. I’m not manipulating him, no one is. He’s not saying he’s a man, he’s made it quite clear he’s female. But, thanks to autism’s black and white thinking, he feels that if he’s going to stay the way he is without hormones, he has to use he/him pronouns and go back to Colin. Which is no big deal for us. I remember 99.9% of the time now to call him Colin and he’s gone back to Colin at the doctor’s office. Maybe he’ll change his mind down the road and maybe he won’t but he’s loved either way and he knows that.
Their Dad has found the site and has started posting there, under the name Xofkathleen, as if being my ex is the only way he defines himself. Weird. His posts are pretty much a word salad mixed with almost incomprehensible spelling mistakes.
His texts to Kait are just as badly written and even nastier. Kait’s comments are teal.
The simple truth is our lives are getting better. I’m doing a lot better on my medication and branching out into new programs. Colin’s happily working towards his high school graduation. Kait and her boyfriend Josh are looking for a new apartment in April, after they’ve saved up some money. Both of them are working full time. Josh is the assistant manager of a furniture store. His store’s doing a seasonal close in November and then he’s eligible for free training in a trade from EI so he might end up with an even better job come 2019. Blackie’s perked up and happily eating her food. 2018 is an amazing year for us and I’m sure it’ll keep getting better.