28 June Manchester, Connecticut
All I wanted was a few weekends and to take him to a hockey game now and then. Instead his mother resorted to the deplorable yet sure-fire tactic of using him as a weapon against me. She has utilized him this way from the very beginning when she didn’t get what she wanted out of me.
For years I tolerated the put downs, insults, and threats. I held my tongue and other primordial impulses when she force fed him a liver dinner. I squealed with him as she practically pried his teeth open with the fork from which dangled the rancid smelling organ meat. Tears gathered at the corners of my boy’s eyes as he mashed the liver with his teeth. I yelled at her to stop, but in her smug and omnipotent style she retorted that if I didn’t like it, I could leave her house.
I was powerless. I said nothing and she shoved another morsel of liver into him as he squinted his eyes and swallowed, doing all he could to avoid any contact with his tongue. I suffered with him, but at a distance. Again, I did nothing. Changes needed to be made.
From time in memoriam, the only thing that ever concerned me was when my next flight would depart or whether I should dabble in Africa instead of swerving aimlessly through the Andes. It was time to choose between the bliss of wanderlust or rectify the outrageous and abusive decisions that led to an ever-growing dissatisfaction. I had rights and I knew it. It was time to assert them, damn the consequences - however hard they may be to accept.
What is more important, travel or a father’s relationship with his son? Can both be possible? As a thirty-eight-year-old on the cusp of adulthood, it took me a sleepless night at the dinner table of juggling the fantasies of exotic itineraries and stamps on my passport versus pit stops and value meals alongside Interstate highways with a fifth grader. At first the latter seemed intolerable. The unfathomable became more likely as the pitch ebony sky out my window melted into indigo around five o’clock. Later that day, I called a former colleague who settled somewhat amicably with his ex-wife.
“Hey Jeff, you wouldn’t happen to have the name of your lawyer and a telephone number?”
He did; they knew each other going back to college. “Yeah, here it is…” As I wrote down the numerals on the back of a pizza flyer, it occurred to me that there are worse punishments on this planet than a summer full of water parks and miniature golf courses swamped with screaming kids.
I called in sick that day and let my body devour the sleep of which it had been deprived. The time had come to lighten her liberal use of a top-heavy hammer and relieve her from years of drunken power.
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