As I stood in my daughter’s father’s country house listening to him make small talk with my beau Lawrence, I was speechless. Where is the man prone to angry outbursts and hurling insults?
On March 6, 2005, a nervous wreck, I fled an abusive relationship with a sick 11-month in tow. The next decade, fueled by Jose’s rage and my daughter’s rare medical condition that kept me stuck in a revolving door of tests and doctor appointments, was hell.
At a time it was critical that parents pull together we became even more oppositional. On the rare occasions we did interact, it was only to accuse or blame. As such, neither dared ever step foot in other’s home and we conducted our visitation schedule like a hostage handoff, exchanging our daughter on street corners and in building lobbies. Now, because of the helter skelter holiday schedule, I found myself picking up Savannah at Jose’s Connecticut country home – the home, no less, that he tried to hide from me and the courts for financial purposes.
As I listened to Jose and Lawrence talk about the challenges of maintaining old houses, I was flabbergasted. How can he discuss the dangers of frozen pipes when he once alleged child abuse? Does he not remember he refused to attend a parent/teacher conference if I was on hand or the horrible things he said to Savannah about me?
The scene I witnessed in Connecticut was so normal. Lawrence was pleasant and matter-of-fact. Jose went so far to offer us coffee. Even 10-year-old Savannah, a witness to our many battles, was spooked. “This is awkward,” she whispered from the sidelines.
There was a brief moment when Jose was giving Lawrence a house tour that I was alone with the girlfriend. All these years I’ve only seen her in person three times. We spoke a few more, but only for a nanosecond. Her English is limited and I know that the relationship between Jose and her 19-year-old is ugly. I saw a fatherless kid and a single mom struggling to rise above her circumstances and felt sad. Maybe I saw myself in them.
It’s wishful thinking to assume the holiday meet and greet is the beginning of a Bruce and Demi style co-parenting arrangement. Experience tells me better.