Monday, April 29
“Hi Brenda,” JB emailed. “Hope you are doing OK. I know what's going on with Tom is very upsetting.
“I am just going to tell you what I am hearing and observing. Making no judgments about anyone's actions or veracity.
“Tom does seem depressed. It doesn't feel like an act, but you may see it differently. I asked him if it was about the divorce. He insisted no. I also apologized to him for the break up of the family.
“He insisted his sadness is because of how you talk to him. He says it is too negative and critical. I've told him repeatedly that things get better when he starts getting his stuff done consistently. Even after owning up to his lies he's sticking with this point.
“I am just telling you what he is telling me. This morning it was tough to get him moving and almost impossible to get him to eat anything.
“I think I will call the school social worker today and give her a heads up.
“FYI, math is back up to a B. Still waiting to see what happens when he gets credit for whatever he has turned in late for Spanish. Social studies is tough because he failed the biggest test. There is one on ancient Rome coming up. If he aces that his grade will improve.
“As far as quitting the band goes, I told him if that is what he wants, fine. I did insist that he do it the right way, and not just drop them like a hot rock. I suggested, assuming he gets privileges back in 2 weeks, that he offer to do Libertyville Days with Gamma Ray, then he can quit. They may say no thanks, but at least he will have made the offer. He should also thank Terry for all he has done for him since second grade. I hope you agree with this approach. It's about moving on in the right way, without burning bridges.
“Please email me his schedule details. I also would like to have Tom call you tonight just to say hi.”
“This is about the divorce,” I wrote back. “The boys believed you to be an honest trustworthy pillar. Knowing you're not who you portrayed yourself to be has messed them up. On the surface, they try to look like they're fine but they are not. They have been betrayed. Their trust is shot.
“I yelled at Tom about his awful grades. He told me later that he called and texted you to get back at me. The shocking way he lied, said I punched him three times, knocked him down, was hiding in the closet. While he was texting you he was at the driving range, an international food fair, playing miniature golf, batting in batting cages. This is deeply disturbing.
“When I told Tom he was going to your house for two weeks, he was taken aback and did not look happy. I felt bad but started thinking maybe it would be good for the two of you. Then I thought about your obsession with porn and dating websites, how you're not there when you physically are, and changed my mind.
“I don't want this to be a punishment for Tom. If he wants to stay with you and something good is coming out of it, great. I hope that's the case. But if he wants to come home he can.
“Tom and I’ve been working with a school social worker. It’s a he, not a she. Tom had a few appointments with him that didn't go anywhere. Tom didn't talk much and kept insisting he was fine. I have asked several people to help me find a good child therapist.”
Tanya and I met for breakfast.
“Tom’s manipulative behavior is textbook,” she said. “I’ve seen it in my divorced friends’ daughters and my own daughter when my husband died. You did the right thing calling Tom’s bluff. You can’t let him get away with that. But it will probably happen again.”
“JB sent me an email this morning telling me Tom seems really depressed. He could barely get him to eat anything this morning. I’m feeling really bad I sent Tom to stay with him for two weeks.”
“You need to let him know you still love him and that he can come home any time he wants.”
“I’m going to pull him out of school and take him to lunch.”
Tom walked into student services at lunchtime and looked at me warily. I gave him a bear hug. He bear hugged me back and I felt the tension leave his body. We bought chili at the Picnic Basket and ate it in the park.
“I hate what happened,” I said. “I know I can be harsh and hurt your feelings. I’m very sorry about that. You, however, can’t lie and throw me under the bus. A lot of things are bothering you right now. A lot of things are bothering me. In a lot of ways, we’re in the same place. I’m stressed. I blew up at you. I get scared for you. I want you to be able to do whatever you want in life. You’re so smart and talented. I don’t want doors shut because of bad grades. When you develop bad work habits, they follow you around. And I don’t want staying at Dad’s to feel like a punishment. He’d like you to stay with him at least a week, but I want you to know you can come home whenever you want. Okay?”
“I’ll come home after a week,” Tom said. “I’ve been talking to my friend Andrew about starting our new band. We know a drummer.”
“Great. You know how much I love you, right?”
“Yes,” Tom said with a smile.
“What track events did you decide to do?”
“I’m going to do the long jump.”
“You can jump really far?”
“Cool. I can’t wait.”
Tom seemed in good spirits by the time I dropped him at school. Later, I taught yoga and drove to the barn.
“How was your day?” Golf Guy texted as I parked
“It was pretty good. How was yours?”
“Pretty busy, just got done coaching my younger son’s baseball game.”
“That could be fun, or not. Going to ride my crazy horse, which can be fun, or not.”
“Coaching 10 year olds is fun and frustrating. Where is your stable?”
“Off Milwaukee and Casey. You ride?”
“No. But I have a couple girlfriends who have horses. Sounds crazy, but horses have always scared me a little. I fell off one when I was little.”
I laughed at his text. He was letting me know up front who he was. Guess I’m the cliche divorcee flirting with the golf pro.
“My horse almost killed me last year,” I texted. “You wouldn’t want to get on him. But I kinda like the adrenalin.”
“Have you had him a long time?”
“Almost five years. I cut cows on him.”
“I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea what that means.”
“I take him to a cattle ranch in Marengo and move cattle around.”
“I see. Sounds amazing.”
“It’s a blast.”