Monday, February 22, 2010

On My Last Nerve

Thursday evening Buster arrived and we agreed to meet him for dinner. M picked Applebees, one of her favorites, and we went there to wait for him to show up. The restaurant was on the same road as his hotel, literally a few miles straight south, so of course it took two phone calls to help him find it. And so it went.

He complained about the terrible condition of the road and how his rental car was “a sled.” The quarter inch of snow that had fallen that evening had set his insecurities buzzing. He talked about himself throughout the meal. I recognized that M was delighted to have him there, and so I invited him back to our place for a bowl of icecream. He was scared of following us back to our place, a drive that took less than ten minutes and involved one left turn, but somehow he made it.  While the icecream was softening on the counter, she took him to see her room. I could hear her happy chatter as she pointed out each thing. They ate their icecream and he left.

The next morning, I invited him to come along to take M to school, so that I could introduce him to M’s teacher myself. Then I showed him where he would need to sign in when he came back to have lunch. He had lunch with M and then came back in the afternoon to stand with me to pick her up. I could tell that M was excited to have her dad do these things. I watched how awkward he was with any adults that were nearby. He followed us back to our place and played with M while I was in the next room reading. This consisted in her showing him her toys, and him watching a little tv with her. When he is with her, they get along fine as long as he doesn’t have to figure anything out, so it is pretty much like two kids playing together. This was the pattern of the weekend.

Every time I tried to talk to him, he shut down the conversation. Since I am not going to argue with him in front of my daughter, we didn’t have any significant communication. We went out for food, they played and watched tv, and I hung out. The weather was unusually bad, so we were stuck inside. The only clue I could get about how M was feeling about her dad was that while she wanted him there, she wanted me there, too. On Saturday at lunch, I suggested he take her to the Natural History Museum, but she insisted I go too. He lived here for years, but he disagreed with me how to get there, so I caved and drove them there, and he voiced surprise that I was able to find it so easily. He was worried about knowing what “her schedule for snacks” was, and what would happen if she needed to go to the bathroom. A couple of times, I looked at him and said “she’s old enough to tell you what she needs,” but this didn’t seem to sink in at all. The fact that she will be 6 years old next month was something he cannot grasp. At one point I made the mistake of asking what he thought about a movie he had watched with my daughter that morning, and listening to his answer reminded me of how very strange and insulated his mind really is. I remembered how his particular point of view came as such a rude surprise when I lived with him. He is so robot-like. He had kept up his careful game of pretending to be human when I first knew him, but after a while he was unable to keep up the fa├žade, and it was more and more disconcerting as his authentic self became more clear.

It was all exactly like when we lived together when she was a baby. Me taking care of everything, and him following along in his faltering, incompetent way. Whenever I would try to let him take the wheel, he would panic and stall, so to spare us all from too much discomfort, I played Ship Captain although I could have really used a break. By Saturday evening I was so exhausted I could barely stay awake. I had plans to have brunch with a friend on Sunday, and I was determined that for a few hours at least, he could amuse M himself. I had him drive us to her house, and he fussed about every detail. Would I help him with the carseat? Where should he take her for lunch? What should he do? What should he do?! I gave him clear instructions: Find a burger place that had an indoor play structure. Buy her lunch and watch her play. There are many of these in the area and we passed a few on our way to my friend’s house. He was still anxious and insecure.

I had a lovely brunch with my friend, and I called him to come pick me up. I saw him when he arrived and parked the car directly across the street from the restaurant, and I went out to his car to tell him that I needed to get something I’d left in my friend’s car and that I’d be “right back.” I walked back across the street, met my friend, and walked back to her car. When I returned to where I’d left him, his car was gone. I thought about how typical this was of him. I had literally been gone only minutes. I called him on my cell phone. “Where are you?” He had driven around the next block to where he thought my friend “would have parked” based on the location of the restaurant, even though the parking spot across the street was fine. When I finally found him, I said “I said I’d be right back.” He didn’t understand my annoyance. In his mind, he is always doing exactly what he is supposed to do. The confusion he causes is always someone else’s fault.

I got in the car, and my daughter greeted me with enthusiasm. She was happily engrossed in the GPS device he’d brought, and I gave him directions to drive to the next place, the house of an old friend. As we were approaching her house, he asked if she had moved. “Yes, five years ago,” when we were still living together. My lovely friend, who he knew before we all had children, invited us to stay for dinner. Throughout the evening, we watched as he behaved like one of the children there. He is so self absorbed, and unconcerned about his lack of social skills. Despite being prompted, he alone didn’t clear his dishes when dinner was over, even when my friend began to load the dishwasher. He helped himself to food that was not part of the dinner on the table. He didn’t get up to help, or offer assistance with anything. He kept calling her son “Bud,” despite having known this child since before he was born.

We have tonight with him, and then he leaves in the morning before we get up. I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck, but I am managing.


  1. Godness, what an ordeal. I do hope you make it through this last night before he drives you to committing a violent act. ;)

    Hang in there! You're a fantastic mother, and M is lucky to have one sane parent in her corner. ((hugs))

  2. At least M seems to be having a good time. Like Bev said, you're a good Mom to be putting up with this.

  3. "a drive that took less than ten minutes and involved one left turn, but somehow he made it." Way to go, Buster! Proud of ya!

    Man, I can't imagine how long these past few days must have seemed! It's almost can start counting down the hours. That reminds me, I owe you a picture.

  4. probably wouldn't hurt to have him put down. He's already commented on the horrible state of the roads, you could tamper with the rental car. Just a thought.

  5. I don't even know what to say...except I LOVE Elliott's idea! Have him put down :)
    Hang tough- you're almost there!

  6. Ugh, you poor thing. You are a saint for doing all of that. M will someday understand and appreciate what a wonderful mother you are. I agree with Elliott, euthanasia's fun for everyone!

  7. I love you all. Elliott's idea is wonderful, and in a world without Karma, I'd have already done it. They are upstairs right now and I am on my second glass. Her voice is lilting and sweet... she is loving having her daddy at hand. If he doesn't stop whistling I can't be sure he'll make his flight tomorrow.

  8. Yes, I do believe this makes you a candidate for sainthood.

    Good grief, how's he going to make it all the way back east without someone holding his hand?!

  9. Just wondering...does he have to fly as an unaccompanied minor?