Friday, April 03, 2009

The tough post

So my folks and son left about two weeks ago to go help my sister get her house ready to sell. They're back now, but those 10 days they were gone were bliss. Except for the fact that I promptly got sick. I mean sick. I haven't been that sick in years. I haven't had a fever for a week now, but I'm still coughing up a lung every 15 minutes, and I have no energy.

Ranger and Daughter took good care of me, though. For a few days, it was like we were a family. Very happy to just be together. Daughter was ecstatic. Son was not there, and that was a good thing....but I'll explain why later.

I was still sick when I got a message that they had decided to move my office again. I'm in the IT suite now, which a little closer to appropriate. It's a weird-shaped triangular space, but my crap will fill it nicely.

Still I have a lot of ground to cover still, so here goes. I'm stalling. This is the post I've been avoiding because it's a rough ride. Make sure your seat belts are securely fastened.

It started the day I got back to work, after my glorious Spring Break with my daughter. I got a call from Ranger.

"Can we have lunch today?" he asked. His voice sounded strained. Something was wrong.

"Sure," I said. "What's wrong?"

A pause. My heart sank. He didn't say "Nothing's wrong!" so my gut reaction was right. The pause meant it was something bad.

His voice got small. "I'd rather talk to you in person about it."

Okay, see, you can't do that to me. I start to panic. I obsess. What can it be? Another woman? He's leaving me? He's moving away? He's been jobless for awhile, doing things here and there to stay afloat. He applies and applies, but there's not much to be anyone who watches the news knows.

So, I say so. "You can't do that. Please tell me what's wrong."

He paused again. I heard him sigh. "Okay. I got a call from a Federal Marshall. They want to prosecute me."

I got a chill up my spine. My mouth went dry. This shit just doesn't happen in my life. I don't hear these words. "What for?" I asked.

Another sigh. "Theft of public funds. From the mail place."

Do you all remember that fiasco? They had $10,000 in inventory and transactions missing, but they're also the world's worst at managing their books. So, upon hearing this, I'm instantly furious.

"You've gotta be kidding!" I said. "You said they messed up their own end-of-day balances all the time. What evidence can they possibly think they have to do this?....." I was in full furious tilt, but Ranger stopped me.

"Sweetie," he said softly. "They have video evidence. I did it. They got me."

I think I stopped breathing. My heart stopped beating. "What?" I finally said, in disbelief.

His words were coming in a torrent. "They'd cut my hours back so bad, when they'd promised more. I thought I'd borrow some and put it back when I got more money coming in. But they did an audit before I could. It's not near the amount they're saying. Not even close to that."

I sat silent. I didn't know what to say. I was trying to breathe again, much less think and speak intelligently.

"It was stupid," he continued. "I knew it was. I thought if I did that, then I would be able to stay near you. And now I've ruined my life."

Okay, there's a discrepancy I haven't ever pointed out. He's referring to his job search, which has had to expand past this area. But that didn't happen until after he left the mail center. He was looking for another job at that time, but it hadn't expanded to that.

"Is it a felony?" I finally said. I really don't have any experience with this kind of thing. I'm at a complete loss.

"Yeah," he said. "I won't ever be able to be a park ranger again. I let myself compromise my principles, and I've really ruined my life."

Okay, so I didn't realize he still wanted to be a park ranger. But that's a discussion for another time. It's a moot point at the moment.

We met for lunch. He's seriously depressed, and understandably so. I'd had some time to think, in the meantime.

First things first, though. He was to appear in court on the following Friday, in Denver. He'd been assigned a public defender. He'd already looked into bus fare versus gas costs and they washed out. The bus schedule didn't work out, though. Buy a ticket, get there at 2 AM, and just hope there's a seat for you. Often, there isn't. Not a good option when you have a court date.

My folks and Son were leaving for my sister's on the same day Ranger had to go to Denver. I wished I could go with him, but I have a daughter to take care of. I told Ranger he couldn't let his depression over this take over. He had to keep moving and keep thinking. I can't do it for him, and I won't. He knows how I had to "babysit" Old BF, and that it's a bad place for me to be.

"I'll try," he said.

"No," I said. "You'll have to DO it. I really try not to tell you what to do, but I'm going to now. If you're going to have my support in this, this is what you'll have to do."

He blinked at me. He'd never seen me in full Bossy mode before. But I was at the end of my rope. I'm not coddling this. I can't. I have to admit, I was angry. I have my hands full enough with trouble with Son and what his moods do to our household. I don't need to be dragging Ranger along, too.

So, I talked about getting ahold of his lawyer. I told him what he needed to ask and what needed to be done. A, B, C. He might have done something wrong, but he shouldn't be held to task for things he didn't do. Go through the video evidence. Make them prove the amount, and take responsibility for that.

He nodded. Okay. Sounds good. You're right.

Then, we talked about getting him there. I didn't know it, but he'd already sold some of his things, to get the money he needed to go. He'd handled that. I was relieved. I needed to see that. I needed to see action on his part, and not just moping on his ass.

Then, we talked about his joblessness. The time had passed for sending applications and waiting to be called. "I need you to be aggressive about this," I said. "I can't do it for you. And even if I could, I wouldn't."

"I know," he said. "It's hard for me to be that aggressive, though."

I shook my head. "That doesn't matter. You have to be. You don't have a choice. I've watched you be passive so far and I've let it go, but no more. You either swim now or sink."

He heard me. He agreed. He would go talk to a friend of mine with a computer business. My friend does in-home "how to" help, but he gets more calls for things he doesn't do. These are things Ranger can do. It's not his favorite, but the referrals will be instant income. He agreed and made the call, and set up a meeting.

But the buzz in the back of my head kept going. He's a felon now. What will the future be like? For now, we need to get him through handling this. He showed me the rest of the week that he was stepping up to the plate with this situation, and not making me handle it. He's aware of my burdens, aware of having added to my stress, and feels bad about it. So, he's handling it.

And I think he knows the only thing keeping me with him right now is that I love him so very much, and that he loves me in a way no one ever has. But if he pushes me more, I'll break.

So, I make it through the rest of the week. Mostly, I'm having to deal with Son. He's moody and difficult. He's gotten behind in his schoolwork, and I'm pushing him to get it taken care of. He's been playing video games instead of doing his work. Lovely.

"Let me handle it," he says, angry. He's already tried telling me it's none of my business, but that doesn't fly. As you can imagine.

"I can't just turn it over to you," I say. "You have to show me you can handle it before I can back off. I let you handle it so far, and you have missing assignments. If you want me to treat you as a mature and responsible person, then you have to act like one."

The day before they are to leave for my sister's (and the day before Ranger goes to Denver), I have to take Son to a chiropractor appointment. He hasn't been in a long time, and he's stiffened up. Not good when he's about to go help move things.

He's being belligerent about going. He's belligerent about everything, though, so I just press on. I'm so tired of dealing with how attached he is to being angry. I tell him to quit being difficult because he's about to push me too far.

Son has several "weapons" in his emotional arsenal. Why he wants to piss me off, I don't know. Maybe it justifies his own anger in some way. I'm not sure. But his iPod is one such weapon. I have told him, "When you plug into your iPod when we're together, it offends me. It's rude to me. Stop it." And if he does it anyway, I know he's trying to offend me. We've talked about this ad nauseum.

After the appointment, we needed to go to the grocery store. ironically, it was a stop to get things Son needed for the trip. Ranger was coming over to help my dad load the trailer with stuff to take, so he met us at the store to get some things of his own.

Before we got to the door, Son had the iPod plugged into his head, blaring. He walked way ahead of me, ignoring me calling to him. Ranger's face tensed, but he didn't say anything. He makes a big effort to not get between me and my kids. They have a dad. They don't need another.

I got the things we needed and went to the checkout. Son made an appearance and actually helped put things in bags. Ranger was at another checkout. He'd catch up to us.

As we walked to the door, Son said something. With background noise, though, I have trouble hearing people if they aren't looking at me. He wasn't.

"What?" I said.

He kept his head turned and said whatever it was again.

"What?" I repeated. "I can't hear you."

"Yes, you can," he turned on me. Angry, nasty, venomous. "Nevermind."

At nearly 6'3", he knows he can be physically intimidating. He tried to bow-up over me and make me back down. I don't respond well to that. I'd had it. My temper broke. I chewed his ass out as we went out the door. "I'm here, doing you a favor, and all you can do is act like a complete butt?" I deliberately didn't say "ass." I thought about it, glanced at the old woman following behind him, and decided "butt" was better. Ranger was coming up behind the woman, and saw the trouble brewing.

We got in our respective cars and headed to my house. Ranger was ahead.

Son was still pushing me. He cranked up the iPod louder, practically in my face with it.

"You can either turn it off or I'll throw it out the window," I said.

"Oh you'd like that, wouldn't you?" he sneered at me.

I thought for a moment. "Yes. Yes, I would," I answered. "So just give me a reason. You use that stupid thing as a weapon. You deliberately offend me with it, even when I'm doing you a favor. That's really stupid. Why would you want to piss off the person who makes the life you have possible?"

Then, I made mistake #1. I said, "Idiot."

Now, I have never, ever called my children names. I don't know why this came out of my mouth this time, but it did. Was I overstressed? Maybe.

He got in my face and said, "Dumb fuck."

Then, I made mistake #2. I'm driving and he's in my face, calling me a dumb fuck. So, I slapped at his head. I remember thinking, if I knock his hat off, he'll have to bend to get it and will get out of my face.


That's when the first punch hit me, in the face.

I think I hit back while I was trying to pull the car over. I was afraid his hitting me would put us in oncoming traffic.

I remember seeing my glasses on the floor. I remember turning towards him so I could put up both hands. His hat was off, so I grabbed his hair and pulled back with all my might. He stopped hitting me, but his fist was raised. We were nose to nose, and I said the only thing that came to mind.

"If you don't put your fist down, I'll pummel the shit out of you." I didn't mean it. I could never do that to one of my children. But I had to get him to back down and stop hitting me. He looked into my eyes for a moment. I saw the shadow of doubt cross his face as he glanced and saw how close I'd gotten. He wasn't sure I couldn't hurt him. He put his fist down.

However, as I spoke, I noticed something else. Blood splattering his cheek as the words came from my mouth. I glanced in the mirror and saw my teeth and lips bloodied and swelling.

So, we turned to a battle of words. Ranger texted and said, "Did I lose you?" They were wondering why we weren't home yet. I wiped the blood from my face as much as I could. I didn't show Son how shocked I was at the amount of blood on my hands.

Ranger was helping my dad in the driveway when we got there. I kept my face down as I went past them. Son went in and started yelling at my mom about what had happened. I wasn't sure if he was lying deliberately or if he didn't really remember what happened. He was saying he was defending himself. He has stuck to this story, to this day.

However, it was a little hard to believe it when he's unscathed and I walk in, with blood on my face and hands. My mouth was swelling badly. It would turn purple the next day. My ear was swelling. That whole region would turn dark purple and swell so much my ear stuck out like Baby New Year's. Bruises would appear on my chest and arm.

It's a good thing I got sick the next week because going to work like that would be very difficult.

Ranger texted when Dad wasn't looking to see why Son wasn't coming out to help. I replied, "Shhh around my dad. Son hit me. We're having a problem."

I got a wet washcloth and stepped out on the back porch. Son eventually came out and said, "I didn't mean to hurt you." He apologized. I asked if he realized that if he'd done that to anyone else, he'd be in jail. He said yes. We talked.

After Son went in, Ranger came outside. He was worried beyond belief. He wiped some blood I'd missed. He looked inside my mouth. "Looks like hamburger in there," he said. He held me and I cried, and cried. It didn't help the swelling at all. He was angry and protective, but he stayed out of it, knowing his intervention wouldn't help. It might actually make it worse. He was torn, though, with his feelings of needing to protect me from my own son.

I dodged everyone the rest of the night. Later, I comforted Daughter. She slept in my room, afraid to be across the hall from her brother. I had to be on a conference call the next morning, so I got to the office early, kept my door closed, and used a lot of makeup. It hurt so much to talk. I kept ice on my mouth, to keep the swelling down long enough to get through the call.

Greg called early, though. I didn't answer. The more I talked, the more it swelled. I texted back and told him what happened, and why I didn't answer. He asked if I'd called the cops. I said no. He made me promise to do so if it happened again. I don't know if I can. The conversation made me feel like a stereotypical abuse victim, making excuses for why I couldn't call the police.

My folks and Son left while I was at work. I'm still at a loss. My mom told me he repeated to her that he was defending himself. She said, "Really? Show me your bruises." That made him stop.

Now, three weeks later, we have superficial conversations. I don't know what to do about it. I'm so weary of tiptoing around his moods. I won't do it anymore. If he wants to act nasty, he can do it alone. My mother says things like, "We need to ask his opinion or he'll be mad..." or "If you do such-and-such with Daughter, you have to do it with Son...." No, I don't. His need to be angry isn't going to rule the household. His need to be nasty to me isn't going to earn privleges. I'm not coddling this.

I feel very protective of my daughter, at the same time. She's very scared of her brother. She shouldn't have to live that way. I want to take her away from it. I'm working on improving my financial situation so that I have that option. Son will be 18 soon, and he can choose where he wants to live. Odds are, it will be with his grandparents, where his behavior gets lots of attention and coddling.

Ranger gets angry when he hears that Son has repeated his "defending myself" story to someone. "Oh yeah, right," Ranger says. "That's why I spent the next week being careful to not hurt her bruises when I put my arms around her. Why I had to be careful not to hurt her ear when she cried on my shoulder. And why I had to kiss her carefully so I didn't touch the swollen side of her lips."

Ranger had to go to Denver that following day. It hurt him to leave me like that. His court date went well. His defender is making them prove the amount. They aren't pursuing jail time. We'll see how it pans out.

We'll see how all of it pans out.


Real Live Lesbian said...

I'm so sorry that you're having to go through all of this. Wishing you peace, Sweetie.

Anonymous said...

Oh, K! I too am so sorry about all that is going on. I wish I knew what to say or had some advice that would be of use, but I don't. Just know that I am thinking of you and hoping that all of this sorts itself out and that things take a turn for the better soon.

~ellen~ said...

I wish I had some wise words that would shed new light on things, or bring comfort.

Please make taking care of yourself a priority right now, I know during a crisis it is easy to put yourself at the end of the list, but it is extra important right now.

And know that one little person all the way across the country is thinking of you and your loved ones, and sending you vibes of strength and courage.

CheekyDani said...

I don't know how I came upon your blog but have been reading from the sidelines for a while now.

Just wanted to say how my heart went out to you on reading this post, you poor thing. I'm not surprised you ended up ill after that horrid time you had, your body probably just needed to say "STOP!" for a little while. My thoughts are with you.


Blogget Jones said...

Ladies, you make me teary-eyed. I feel the waves of love and support, and I'm oh-so thankful for you!

Right now, I just hurt. I keep pictures of my kids when they were little, all over the place. They make me cry lately. Nothing is comfortable, and restful sleep is scarce.

But I take comfort in knowing there are people out there pulling for me and my family. Thank you!!!

Sassy Blondie said...

Blogget-I just stopped in after an absence to read this...all of this. I'm mortified. I don't know you and I don't know your son, but if he's bipolar, I wouldn't be surprised. He needs medication or boot camp. Possibly both. I sincerely hope you heal, both inside and out. I also hope that your son accepts some kind of help before he reacts to the wrong person and is not the biggest person there.

Continued well wishes!

Walker said...

The son is a time bomb waiting top go off and something has to be done about it nw before he gets into trouble he won't be able to shake down the road.
Ranger, I don't know, personally his stealing the money doesn't bother me.
I think his stupidity of getting caught insults me more than anything.
He has alot going for him and he screws up like that.
I mean if you;re going to break the law make sure you are going to get away with it and only do it once.
What I would also question now is the money that disappeared from the ranger's station he was accused of taking.

If he did that to then he has a problem and he lied to you about it.
I'm sorry if my comment brings you any discomfort but its only what I see.

I hope you are feeling better by now.
I know i am a bad blogger and don;t come by much and when i do I open my trap.

Happy Easter and enjoy the moment that make you smile the most and right now it sounds like the time you spend with your daughter

Blogget Jones said...

Sassy -- Thanks so much, and you're dead-on right. Son has an appointment with a psychiatrist next week. I've wondered about the bipolar issue because some days are just one big swing to another. And his half-brother is actually in a psych ward as we speak with similar issues.

Walker -- I like it when you open your trap! Actually, you've not said anything I haven't been thinking. I haven't asked the question yet about the ranger station. We need some undistracted time to talk at length about that, and how I feel about what's happened. It's probably not going to be pretty, which is why I've waited. I need to get some answers for Son, and then I can cope with that conversation with Ranger.

Angella Lister said...

I'm so moved by your courage in sharing this. So often, we try to hide that we're struggling, which can block our ability to get the help we might need. I wish I knew what to advise about your son. I don't. I do know how teenage anger and mood swings can distort family life, but this sounds like something else is going on clinically, so I can only imagine what you're going through and the hurt and wondering what the right action is. But you're looking at it squarely, so you'll know what to do. I send wishes for healing all around.

Blogget Jones said...

Angella, thank you. You know, I debated about how honest to be in this post. It's not very pretty. But I decided that it's why I started have an outlet for the things I can't say elsewhere. And I'm so thankful for the support I get in return!

Thanks again!