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Losing Dylan, part 4

As we left the counselor’s office Bird looked upset. I suggested we go talk in her truck. When we got there, Bird started crying. Dylan’s substance abuse counselor had mentioned that she was going to drug test Dylan. Through her tears, Bird said, “I feel so guilty because he is going to get in trouble for something I’m giving him. I’m like his drug dealer!” I assured Bird that although we had made mistakes, we could change what we did moving forward. She agreed to tell Dylan that evening that she would no longer provide him with marijuana.

The next morning I called her to ask how it had gone. She was vague, and finally said she couldn’t do it because it was late, and she knew it would cause a scene, perhaps leading to a sleepless night. I was disappointed but I attempted to be encouraging. I suggested that she could take him to 12-step meetings, as I had done so and he had enjoyed them. No, she said. Even if I stop giving it to him he will still get it from his friends. There is no way he is going to stop smoking weed. This is what teenagers do. This is what I did when I was a teenager.

We agreed on a few other things that also did not happen. The next time I saw Dylan he was angry and combative. There were dark circles under his eyes. He told me I needed to apologize for all the horrible things I had done to him. When I attempted to question him about those things he would take small pieces of huge incidents that had occurred during the two years prior. Out of context it did appear that I was a mentally unstable person unfit to parent. At one point he said, I talked with my counselor and she agrees that my problem isn’t weed, it’s you. 

I was honestly hurt and confused by all the anger he was throwing at me. He was painting me as a neglectful parent who never did anything for him. Just last summer I remembered feeling so good about where our relationship was at. But that was before school started, and his drug use escalated. But even right before he started staying with Bird, when he became so defiant, I still felt like we had a bond and that he saw me as his caring mother. I had never before seen this much hatred directed at me and it hit me to the core. I began to wonder if maybe he was right. He told me he wanted to live with Bird on a permanent basis. I told him he could do that if he wished.

Things were not getting better with Dylan. In fact they seemed to be getting worse. Dylan hated me and had convinced his counselor that I was the source of his problems. Bird was doing whatever she wished with Dylan regardless of my input. Dylan told me he was taking a break from psychedelics because he had taken “a lot” recently. I learned that the “structure” Dylan was referring to meant that he was still being given access to his favorite drug hangout every day after school.

I called the substance abuse counselor and she agreed to meet with Bird and I.

We arrived at the session and the first thing the counselor asked us was, “How did you two meet?” It seems like a good opening question. I don’t know if she knew that she was stepping on a land mine.

I looked at Bird, paused for a moment, and then told the story like I have for the last several decades. I should have let Bird tell it, but like I said, its automatic.

I was 19. She was 26. We both had girlfriends and we were all alcoholics. She and I would sneak kisses and gropes when our girlfriends weren’t around. Then we both got sober individually, met up again and had a year-long very tumultuous relationship.

Bird interjects, “And then we broke up….

Oh we broke up? I said with a head cock. She’d gotten me. It was decades ago that it happened but suddenly it seemed like a freshly opened wound.

Is that how you’re going to tell it? I turned to the counselor. She left me for my best friend, they got married and stayed that way for 15 years.

Bird scrunched her face in a scowl, “Well our relationship (meaning hers and mine) was really bad,” she said shaking her head.

At the time Bird and I had been living together in a house one block away from my best friend, Mel. I was working swing shift as a nurse. Mel was also a nurse and she was married to a cop named Berta.  Bird was unemployed as usual, and started spending her free evenings with Mel. I’m not the jealous type. Every time I’ve been cheated on I’ve been shocked because I missed all the signs. One night Mel called me at work. She tells me that she and Bird were having a dinner at a fancy restaurant in town and that Bird had gotten food poisoning and that I needed to go home to tend to her. That night definitely struck me as odd. But of course there were all the denials and We are just friends!

After that I think they knew the gig was about up and Bird said she wanted to talk with me. I made us coffee, we sat down and she announced that she was leaving me. Mel was leaving Berta, Bird and Mel were in love and they were going to get their own place. I’ll never forget that day. I said nothing because by now on some level I knew what was happening. But to hear her say it wounded me and I was hurt and angry. I threw my coffee cup against the wall and it smashed. She left. A few moments after she left I got a call from the person who had been Bird and I’s couples counselor. She told me that Mel and Bird wanted her to call “to make sure I was OK“. A few days later I came home to a house that had been emptied of Bird’s belongings.

Back at the time when it happened, Bird had said those very same words. “Our relationship was really bad anyway. It was uncanny. I could hear her saying it decades ago the same way she was saying it in the counseling session. The very same fucking words. It was like Deja Vu.

Oh, so that’s your justification?” I asked. I was really pissed by then.

“No, it wasn’t justification!” she says, her voice rising.

Next the butch appearing lesbian counselor says to the butch appearing Bird, “So you’ve been in and out of the picture with raising Dylan?” She said it in a non-threatening manner but I could feel Bird recoil and see her stiffen in her chair.

Then Bird turned to me and said, Would you like to explain to her why that is, Jess? her voice oozing with sarcasm. She had a look on her face like she had just Kinged me or something.

I was seriously flabbergasted. Bird never fails to surprise me with her interpretation of events.

Oh, wow! That’s where you are going with this? I was incredulous. She was going to start the “you kept me from my son story.” The one that isn’t true. The same one my son had begun telling.

I looked at the counselor and I said, Well, you’ve hit the mother lode here. This therapy isn’t for us, so I don’t really think we should go there.”

Counselor looks at me and says, “Well I think this is kind of about you two.” She gave us a few stories about how Dylan is a product of how we have raised him, etc.

And that’s when the shit really began to hit the fan.

I brought up how Bird had sued me in an attempt to gain custody of Dylan in order to return him to the drug using friends I had successfully moved him away from. Bird was communicating with Dylan on the fancy phone she bought him. She told him via text that she disagreed with my decision and that what I was really doing was to try to eliminate her from his life. Bird came to where we were for a visit. She came and took him two days in a row to spend time with him, which I freely allowed. A few days later I was served the papers. Looking further into Dylan’s phone and the text messages I discovered that Dylan and Bird had been planning this together for quite some time. To top it off Bird was posting things on Instagram indicating that her son was being cut off from her by her evil ex-partner.

The next thing I recall in the session was Bird saying, “Yeah, you took Dylan to Cali, and how did that work out for you!?”

Bird and I argued about what did and what did not happen in Cali. At one point I stood up because I was so angry and because the wound of that time period reopened. I didn’t yell, but I was very animated in expressing myself, perhaps lending credence to Bird’s characterization of me as being the “crazy one”.

The counselor pressed on, she turned to me, and said, “What about you, Jess? All I hear out of you is, “I’m ill, I’m sick.” She put her hands up in the air when she said it to give it a little dramatic flair.

When I mentioned that I had been disabled by an autoimmune disorder in 2013, she said, “Mm, hmm” and what I read from her was. “You don’t look disabled.” I bet I didn’t look disabled at all that day. I had put on therapist clothing, done my hair, put on my eyebrows and came prepared for battle. I stood for at least half of the session, until she politely told me to sit down. I clean up well. And if I was going to go down, I was going to look good while I was doing it. It is perhaps both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness that when the pressure is on I rise to it, even if the cost is the health of my body.

At one point when I was talking animatedly, Bird turned to the counselor, leaned in, pointed to me with her long bony index finger and said, “You see, this is why I can’t talk to her.” I recall the counselor saying, “Jess, I think what you just said to Bird was condescending. And then she turned to Bird and said, …“And I can see that you are already beginning to shut down”. Poor little big Bird.

The counselor mentioned her own relationship with her partner, and how they had always stuck together in their parenting styles. She also said that her kid had ADHD like Dylan and that they had addressed it with diet, “even though giving him a medication would have been the easy way out”. At one point she said, “It’s just like the straight parents, it’s not any different because we are lesbians”. She told us we needed to work together and that I needed to support Bird in being strong.

I looked the counselor directly in the eye and put my hands together resting my elbows on my knees.

I’ve been trying to make her strong for decades, and it hasn’t worked yet, I said in a flat tone. Later I felt bad for saying it, but it was absolutely factual.

 

 

 

 

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Losing Dylan, part 3

At first I thought that Bird and I were going to be able to work together. I asked her to attend a session with Dylan’s substance abuse counselor and myself. Bird has always been wary of therapy. The last time we were in therapy together she walked out in the middle of it and never returned.

When I arrived Bird was sitting in the lobby. She looked weary and scared and I took some pleasure in that. She barely acknowledged me.

How’s it going? I asked. What I really meant was How is Dylan doing? Dylan was staying with her full-time by then. She had always asserted that she was the better parent and now she was getting her chance to prove it.

Busy... she says trailing off, shaking her head. Bird will never answer a direct question. She will respond with something vague, or ask why the question was asked.

Doing what? I asked.

Taking care of a 15-year-old, my mother, and trying to find a place to live….

I said nothing. Bird is always beleaguered with some issue or another. She’s been living in a trailer she pulls behind her truck for at least six years. If you ask her why she will tell you she did it for Dylan. She wanted to be close to him and was forced to move to California to do so.

In spite of Bird’s obvious limitations, she holds a certain power over me. I know she wouldn’t have it if I didn’t give it to her. When we first got together I was 19 and she was 26. Because of abuse I encountered when I was young, I’ve always been afraid of anger that comes from an intimate partner. When they get angry I go into overdrive trying to prevent the rage and violence that will surely follow. It happens automatically and I’ve never been able to control my response. It’s as if it was programmed into me. Don’t let Daddy get mad. When Daddy gets mad, bad things happen. 

My first relationship was with a boy in high school who had a drinking problem that led to domestic violence. Later, my first relationship was with a woman who was also abusive. I’ve always been attracted to darkness. I was attracted to Bird the first time I met her. It was like two magnets locking into place.

Bird’s father had made a huge impact on her. He did not accept his gay daughter or her masculine tendencies, which presented at a very early age. Bird’s father was the chief of police of the town she grew up in. Once Bird told me about an incident in which her dad had held his gun to her mother’s head during an argument.

In the early years of our relationship I would never have considered Bird to be abusive. I came from relationships where that had taken place and she was different. She had a drinking problem, yes, and when she drank she would sleep with other women or disappear for days at a time. Once she threw all of my belongings out of her house into the front yard. That was the extent of it.

Years later we were living together again. It was about a year before Dylan was conceived. Bird was working over the road as a truck driver, which meant she was gone for extended periods. This worked well for our relationship because it also was a bond formed out of desperation and fear of abandonment. When she returned we would have heated reconnection sex. A few days later she would leave again.

As a result of her absence, I became more independent. We heated our house with a wood stove and I was used to making the fires, and doing any other things that were required around the house. When Bird returned we would get in arguments because Bird felt that she should be in charge of things like starting up the stove. Tensions grew, and one night erupted.

We were in the guest room at our house for some reason. Perhaps the argument started in another room. It was late and I can’t remember what the argument was about. At one point Bird was very angry. She got close to my face and yelled, “Is this what you want? Do you want me to hit you?” Then she drove off in her truck.

I never spoke of the incident until now. I thought it was probably my fault. After all, I was unreasonable. It was my pattern to become involved with people who were abusive. Maybe I did want her to hit me. I wasn’t sure. Maybe I provoked her, I cannot recall.

But years later, after the relationship ended, she admitted that she used anger to control me. It was a rare admission for Bird, who normally keeps her real self hidden away. She isn’t comfortable with emotion and I channeled and expressed hers as part of our relationship. The relationship carried many unspoken contracts. I would make Bird feel like a man and protect her male ego. She needed me to need her and I did. I needed her to take care of me and she did.

So as we prepared to enter the butch-appearing lesbian counselors office, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wanted to be able to be non-reactive. But I’ve learned now that to attempt to be non-reactive to Bird is the same as trying to prevent the knee-jerk reaction that happens when I sense anger. Maybe it’s because I gave control of myself over to Bird at such a young age. Maybe because of her height she can appear daunting. Maybe because she abandoned me in favor of Dylan after he was born. Maybe because she has been overly critical of my mothering in an attempt to gain favor with Dylan.

Whatever the reason, interacting with Bird leads to me feeling reactive. Even now, when we are alone, I am subdued and submissive in her presence. Even if she is in my home. I trip over myself trying not to upset her, knowing that if I assert myself I will be suppressed. I choose my words so carefully because I know if I tell her not to do something, she will make it her mission to do just that. If I criticize her choices she shares it with Dylan to prove how mean I am to her. It seems as if I should be able to stand up to Bird. But as soon as she gives me that one look of disapproval, all of my reasoning melts into the ground.

She is my Dad, she is mad and bad things are going to happen. 

I came to the therapy session determined not to let the stick of dynamite I carry inside me to get lit. I did ask the universe for help in maintaining my cool, and in not feeling threatened by Bird. I knew if I was triggered by her and started yelling the battle would be lost. She would sit there smug and satisfied.

The lesbian therapist appeared and ushered us into her office.

She started telling us about Dylan’s substance abuse which we were both well aware of. Bird’s gifts to Dylan after their visits now included several grams of marijuana and a pack of American Spirit Cigarettes. I knew I couldn’t stop Bird so I didn’t even try. So yes, I was complicit. The counselor stressed the importance of intervening now, before Dylan graduated to IV drug use.

Then she sat back in her chair, legs spread wide, and said, “So, Dylan tells me you two hate each other“.

My explaining self jumped in, suggesting that we had differences in the past but we had worked through them. I’ve always been the designated speaker in the relationship. Especially in situations like this, I should talk less and force Bird to reveal herself. But again, it seemed automatic.

The counselor started talking about how happy Dylan was to be living with Bird in her trailer and that he had the structure now that he so desperately needed. She told us how Dylan had come to his session so thrilled that Bird had made him a sandwich to take to school. I’ve always hated making lunches. This one goes to Bird, she’s quite good at it. She used to make them for me.

For awhile after that it was like a Butch-on-Butch conversation. Bird was enjoying the praise. Bird practically pounded her chest while she declared that she was capable of setting strong boundaries with Dylan. The counselor told us that Dylan staying with Bird was the best situation for him and that it should continue.

The counselor asked Bird, “Have you seen how he treats her?” nodding her head in my direction. Bird said nothing. The counselor went on, telling me that living with Dylan was the same as being in an abusive relationship.

I felt somewhat validated by her words. For the first time, I felt seen.

 

Losing Dylan, part 2

screen shot 2019-01-21 at 10.07.47 amIn order to tell this story properly, I’m going to have to give my Ex a name. I’m going to call her Bird. One because she would hate it and two because she is very tall and moves like an ostrich.

Bird and I were together when Dylan was born and has been present in his life since then. Bird has a female body but identifies herself privately as male. Bird comes across as meek and socially awkward. When necessary, she collapses into a pool of tears and plays helpless. Her greatest asset, other than her height, is that she is incredibly skilled in the art of deception. She lies as easily as she breathes.

Dylan began seeing the substance abuse counselor weekly but was no longer participating in school. He would go, but refused to do work. He was leaving early every day. One night I allowed him to spend some time with friends with a curfew of 10:00. He called me around 9:30 and told me he wanted to stay the night with some college kid he met who I didn’t know. When I said no he said he was going to do it anyway. It was the first time he had been that defiant with me. I slept uneasily. For the first time in 15 years, I didn’t know where my son was or who he was with. I had no way of knowing if he was safe.

The next morning he came home and acted as if nothing had happened. I didn’t know what to do. How was I going to parent Dylan if he refused to comply? He was insistent that he should be able to “live his life” which meant not following any rules and coming and going as he pleased.

Desperate, I asked Bird for help. She agreed to take him for a while. I had reservations. When problems arose with Dylan she would always assert that I was at fault. When Dylan was verbally abusive towards me Bird implied I deserved it. Since the very beginning Bird has been quick to criticize and slow to offer support. Two years prior Bird had attempted to wrench Dylan from me by filing for legal custody.

Bird insisted her intervention was just that of a concerned parent who wanted to provide for her son. With the exception of three months in 2015 Bird has never provided child support to me. I’ve allowed Bird to live rent free with me multiple times. This would only work as long as I didn’t see any one. Bird could date freely but I could not. Once when I did begin seeing someone she started parking her camper in the driveway, and refused to come in the house. She would have huge emotional meltdowns and leave long verbally abusive messages on my voicemail. I’ve loaned Bird money that she has never paid back. A lot of the things I did because I wanted Dylan to be happy. I knew that when Bird was emotionally unstable it would trickle down to Dylan.

Bird did not prevail in her attempt to rescue Dylan from me. For at least a year after that she and I were estranged. Dylan was angry with Bird because I told him that she had been promising him things she couldn’t deliver. He told me he didn’t want to talk to her anymore. After about 4 months he said he wanted to call her. I allowed it because it didn’t seem right to me that he would cut her out of his life. They reconnected and eventually I allowed Bird to take Dylan for a visit. I insisted that Dylan meet her at a store nearby and that he not reveal our address. I knew that if Bird knew our address she would try to serve me with papers again. Responding to a lawsuit is a costly and frightening ordeal. If you don’t respond, the other side will most likely prevail. I had recently borrowed money from a friend so that I could pay rent. I was desperately poor, which made me vulnerable to any legal action Bird might take.

I had begun going to the food bank because I didn’t have enough money to feed us. Bird gave $20 to Dylan at the end of their visit and said, “Make sure that this is for food for you, not for your mother”.

Bird has always done what she wants to do with Dylan, no matter what I say or do. She allowed him to watch R-rated movies when he was 5, and took him to see the Hunger Games when he was 8. If I objected, (and I did), she would tell him that he could no longer do those things because I was controlling and overprotective. As a result, Dylan would be angry at me. He would always come home from his visits with her angry and defiant. He would also return with presents galore. It started with huge stuffed animals. Then it was video games and another fight about Black Ops. Eventually it became electronics and an $800 iPhone. I was never consulted about these purchases, and to deny them would mean attacks from both of them. They had a secret and private relationship that excluded me.

I’ve had two serious relationships since Bird and I parted ways 13 years ago. With each one, Bird made it her mission to align Dylan against them and against me. Bird’s biggest fear was that she would be replaced. In spite of sharing custody with her willingly and without reservation, she always presented herself as the hapless victim of a controlling lesbian bio-mother.

When Dylan was born Bird had the intention of adopting him, thus making her his legal parent. For two years after Dylan was born, while we were still together, she had the opportunity to do this. She never followed through. At the time I had no intention of cutting her out of Dylan’s life. It was clear to me that their relationship was important to him, and that is what guided my decisions. It frustrated me that although I gave Bird virtually free access to Dylan, she projected her fear onto him that at any moment, they might never see each other again. Their attachment was founded on this desperation. And my role was set as the person who could pull the trigger, most likely out of spite.

When Dylan was five I was preparing to move to California. I had met someone there. I was completing graduate school and preparing to start my new career. I felt that the move would be good for both myself and Dylan. I had told Bird when I began graduate school that at the end of it I would be leaving the state for better job opportunities. I had been trying to convince Bird to come with us. Bird hated California and said she didn’t want to live there. I wanted to provide a good life for myself and my son and I was his sole provider. I knew that I could make a really good living in Cali, almost double what I could have made if I stayed where we were.

At the time Bird and I were sharing custody 50/50. When she told me that she had gone to see an attorney regarding legal custody I was angry. I was willingly sharing custody with her and not asking for any support. I had no intention of keeping Dylan from her. She wanted something from me in order to facilitate her agenda with the attorney. I refused, knowing that she was trying to gain legal rights to prevent me from leaving the state.

I had no idea at the time that Bird would later use this event as evidence in her story to Dylan that I had refused to grant legal rights to her due to my controlling nature. Or that she would convince him that if only I had granted her what she was entitled to, his life would have been so different. It would have been so much better.

 

 

Friday

Despair’s aftermath

I woke up this morning to find that Despair was gone. Apparently my darkness was not enough to satisfy her.  She left my sink overflowing with dishes of half eaten food, empty Coke cans strewn about.  Apparently she left in a hurry; her laundry is still in the washer. There was a note scribbled on a paper towel on the counter saying she’d be back. She’d threatened to leave a few days ago when she found me on the computer reading kind words from strangers.  I have not yet noticed her absence enough to miss her.

I have a confession to make.

Despair didn’t show up unexpectedly. I went looking for her, gave her my address, asked her to come. I’ve been in love with her since the first time she presented herself to me, wearing a sleeveless shirt, drunk and bleary eyed, confessing that she’d just seduced her step sister. She was athletic then, burnished golden, the blonde hairs on her arms glistened in the sunlight. When I put my mouth on her exquisite lips, I knew for the first time what it felt like to be alive.

Despair knows exactly how to entice me. She knows I am Desire’s slave. I go back and forth between the two of them. I can never go too long without sleeping with Despair. She has never refused me, in spite of the many times I have abruptly left in search of Desire. Despair knows that as long as I am Desire’s slave I will never completely belong to her. But she is content in the knowledge that I will be back. I need her presence as much as she requires my absence. And Despair and Desire never come at the same time. They cannot co-exist.

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