October 31, 2018

to be fair

... for all my bitching about how dysfunctional my family at large proves to be, mother and sisters and a crazy aunt and general posterity, my immediate family situation is nothing short of phenomenal.  Life and good people gave me a gift on that front.

I'll start here:  P.J. and I didn't mean to fall in love.  We met and it ... just happened.  It happened hard.  I remember driving home after that first get-together, a breakfast that turned into a lunch, feeling dizzy and knowing that my life was about to break and get messy and turn upside-down.  It was punch-drunk meets foreboding, chaperoned by ecstasy.

My husband at the time was - and is - a good man.  I had figured out early in our marriage that I wasn't exactly straight, and we made it almost ten good years anyway.  When I knew, he knew.  Real friendship goes a long way.  We likely would have continued this arrangement, had I not had my head turned by wide-eyed realization of what I was meant to have and feel and be, the intensity and depth that accompany entering into a relationship aligned with one's orientation.  So many people think it's about sex.  They simply cannot understand, lacking personal experience, that it's far more about heart and mind.  When I hugged P.J. for the first time, I felt the wind of the Universe blow through me.  It startled me.

The divorce was inevitable, and here is the clencher:  My ex-husband willingly let me go, so that I would experience that happiness and he would find his own.  I know the stories of women who leave to be with a same-sex partner, the vindictive husbands, the court battles for custody of children, the lives utterly ripped apart by truth.

The Kid was three years old.  We knew we had to carefully hold his hand through this to avoid collateral damage.  We read, we asked, we listened.  When my ex moved into an apartment and left me our tiny, tidy first house, we made a pact:  The Kid would see both of us almost every day.  We went to court with the separation agreement that explicitly stated custody would be joint and defined no further than that, something the courts abhor because it usually ends in a royal mess.  We insisted that it be honored.  And we kept the pact, and to this day, we still do, though it's radically different now with a teenager and The Kid's preferences dominate.  These days, the door simply remains open, transportation is provided.

P.J. and I exchanged rings and became committed partners, married in all eyes but those of the law.

My ex met someone months later.  Once they'd been dating for a bit and we realized it was getting serious, she and I met for hot cocoa and four hours of conversation at a Panera.  She's groovy.  I started from that moment to intentionally say positive things to The Kid about her.  One of the worst aspects of separation and divorce is putting a child through having to choose loyalties.  I wanted him to know he was allowed to like her, bond with her, and not feel he had to hide it.  My ex did the same when talking about P.J.  The Kid got a step-sister out of the deal when they married a year later, which was awesome because the kids each got to learn that neither was the center of all things.  They had to share, resolve conflict, deal with a sibling.

I met my ex's mother-in-law.  We hit it off beautifully, which might be because I fixed her computer.  I wasn't exactly a threat; that might have helped, too.

(Actually, I've fixed all of their computers at some point.  But that's like breathing for me.)

My ex's mother and I still talk occasionally on Facebook.  She asks after P.J. and sends her love.

The two family homes are seven minutes apart.  The Kid has seen both his father and me almost every day.  We drive him over and back in the evenings.  I could not begin to count the miles and gas involved, but they're nothing because we have done things right by him.  When there are school events, we're all there, all of us, together.  The Kid's step-sister spent a lot of time, when she was younger, wondering if I was her aunt.  "It's complicated," we told her.

The boundaries are good, in no way blurred or bleeding over.  My ex is like my brother now.  I still give him a difficult time whenever possible; we joke around; we parent like a motherfucker when it's needed.  The Kid can't put one over on any of the four of us because we communicate so well.

I know how lucky I am.  I know how lucky The Kid is.  I know how lucky we all are.  I don't lose sight of that.

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