“I was too in jail," shouted my ex to my 12-year-old son.
“No you weren’t!” he shouted back.
It is 9:00 PM on a Friday night. I hear them fighting from my bedroom. I am already tucked away in my pajamas, in my bed, me and my new wife. We are watching a recorded episode of Dateline when we are startled by my ex’s voice coming from our living room. We shush each other to be quiet so we can hear my ex persist in persuading my 12-year-old that she was indeed in jail.
I get out of bed, followed by my wife, both in our pajamas, to find out what is going on downstairs.
My ex rarely comes in my house. Most of the time she pulls up, parks her red van in front of our door and visits with the kids as they come out and sit in the passenger seat completing financial transactions or having a snack. There are those times when she stops by only for a few minutes but typically it's because her van has no gas and she cant afford to idle.
I occasionally ask the kids what she is doing out there in that van. They often tell me what she is not doing.
“She can't go to the mall because she has no money for gas.” says my son.
“She can't go food shopping because she has no money for food" says my other son
Most of what I see of my ex is from the waist up to the driver side window of her van. Thus when I see her in my living room wearing her clown like shoes with two different colored socks and a jacket that was mine back in the 1980s, the site of her is something of a shock to me. Her hair is hanging in her face and looks like it has not seen to brush for some time. Her bust is so large that when she sits down on our living room chair it's hard to tell where her breasts begin on her knees end.
I sit down in the chair opposite her, my new wife on the couch across from both of us and listened as the fight unravels before me. She seems unaware of mine or my wife's presence until she turns to me and says "Well he should know the truth shouldn’t he?"
This was the very thing we might've fought about if we were still together, whether our 12-year-old should know the truth and what kind of truth should we tell them. I still remember the horrified look on my son's face when his three-year-old sister told him, "You came out of mamas vagina and so did I.”
"Tell her it's not true mommy, tell her it's not true, I didn’t come out of mamas vagina" said her triplet brother aghast at the possibility.
Yes indeed it was true, however looking at my son's face I concluded that it was a truth that could be saved for a later date. And while it was so that I wasn't prepared in any way to discuss the birthing process with my three year old triplets, my ex had already decided that the children should know the truth, that they didn't come from the stork, they didn't come from mommy's tummy, but right through mamas very large vagina.
My daughter persisted with the knowledge that she indeed had been told right from, forgive me, the vagina's mouth, but by siding with my two triplet sons and the seemingly improbable chances that anybody could emerge from anyone else's vagina, I won that small victory at least for a short time.
Now my son is 12 almost 13 years old. He knows where he came from. He knows where everyone came from and now once again he still doesn't want to know the truth. I can hardly blame him. It's one thing to know mommy isn't perfect, it's another to know that she spent the night in the pokey.
I try to redirect the conversation. It's to no avail until I concede that my ex, his mother went to jail. It hardly matters to me. I've all but given up trying to spare the children the truth about their other parent.
"Mamas been stealing, I know she's been stealing." says my son angrily more to me than to her.
"I have not been stealing" she insists unconvincingly
"What about those CDs and the thing you bought for Oliver without a wrapper."
"I put those back" she whines indignantly and then adds, "you weren't even there."
We've known each other for almost 25 years and I still never cease to be surprised at how difficult it is for my ex to admit that she is wrong. She's long since given up defending her position of innocence. Now she's trying to prove the details of her guilt as if to say to my son, you really don't know anything about me, I’m a criminal.
My son moves on to money owed him by my ex. She turns to me and asks
"What does he want from me. I told him I'll pay him back"
The only money my children have is money they get from me for allowance or from my family for a gift and the thought of them giving the money to her makes me feel like a payday loan.
I first heard of the debt back in December and it's already February. Each of the kids went with my ex to their grandmothers for Hanukkah. They arrived home in a terrible mood. They started arguing in the kitchen.
"What are you fighting about” I asked them
My older son explains that they had all been given post-dated checks for varying amounts as a Hanukkah gift from my ex. Why the different amounts I asked; the different amounts could be accounted for by the degree of debt she had accrued with each of the children. Additionally, mama wanted to give everybody a gift but she only had two checks which resulted in one son getting a note scribbled on a card that said if you want $100 let me know.
I called her house hoping that she could explain what seemed unexplainable by the children. I called hoping it was all just a big mistake, a misunderstanding or an oversight easily corrected. I dialed her phone number five or six times but each time I got the same message; the Magic Jack customer is unavailable please try your call again later.
As the kids frustration level grew so did mine as I tried several different phone numbers. None of them worked. Finally our phone rang. My ex's voice boomed through the receiver,
"Are you calling here?"
"Yes it's me, yes I'm calling you, what's the story with these checks?" I demanded
"What's the problem I gave them all checks and they can cash them on January 3"
"Why didn't Oliver get a check?" I asked
"Oh I ran out of checks so I wrote him a note."
In addition to the checks the kids each received an orange debit card. I was told that there was 37.00 on it. Why 37.00,because the bank had a promotion if you open a savings account for your child with five dollars they will give you 32.00 towards the account.
The kids tried numerous attempts at activating the card online but to no avail. They needed passwords and usernames and security answers to questions they didn't know. As I tried to get the information for the kids, the Magic Jack customer became increasingly frustrated as if it was our fault that the cards didn’t work. She promised to follow through and get us the appropriate information but it wasn't until a week later that she called at 7:30 PM one night and told us we had to activate the cards by eight o'clock or we would forfeit the money. One of my sons, tried as a last ditch effort to guess the username and password and my other son wasn't home and didn't hear of his misfortune until days later. My oldest son never considered the card to be of any value thus was no poorer for the whole event.
As January 3 arrived, my sons asked if I would cash the checks but wanting to avoid bounced check fees, I aired on the side of caution and called the Magic Jack customer to see if there were funds available to make the transaction. It was a wise move on my part because as it turned out, like so many times before,she didn’t have the cash, the check she had been waiting for never came, the money was there but she couldn't access it, somebody owed her the money but hadn’t paid. She told me to wait until February 1. I then was given the indignity of telling this news to the children. A truth I would rather have spared them.
"Why does she always do this?" asked my son. Indeed it was a new low for her.
On other holidays she had been over indulgent and often didn’t consider the consequences of her actions. Just a year before she had managed through some promotion, to get two of the three triplets IPods, I was left with the bitter backlash from the kid who got left out. Feeling an overwhelming need to balance the scales of justice, I purchased an IPod for my son only to discover 24 hours after I gave it to him, that he purchased over 400.00 in apps. I had only myself to blame and yet I couldn’t help feeling that my ex had gotten the best of me. Later my daughter revealed that my ex had to sign up for a year’s subscription to audible.com to get the two Ipods, but never followed thru on the subscription end of the deal.
February 1st came and she told the kids not to cash the checks until the 15th. It was then that I told her; the bleeding has to end. Tell the kids that you made a mistake, had the best intentions, didn’t have the money, wouldn’t have the money, and give them all a small gift instead. She liked the idea. I told her to take the kids out for pizza and between bites of broccoli pizza, give then the gifts and put things to rest.
Instead, she chose that moment, in my living room, in the middle of her fight with my son, to declare she had no intention of paying on those postdated checks.
As the kids pressed her for clarification, she quickly slid back to her empty promises of making good on their Hanukah presents and quick restitution on her mounting debt to them.
“So we’re getting our money? asked one son.
“So we’re not getting our money?” asked his brother.
She said yes to both of them so much for telling the truth.