The Ex Factor
miles to go: 38.67 [YTD: 1,963.33]
My ex-husband and I get along
reasonably well, most of the time.
We share a mutual interest in
the health and well-being of three lovely, complex, nearly-grown human
beings. We speak by phone at least once or twice a week, usually to
discuss family matters or Tot issues, and we generally manage to be
courteous and cordial when we talk. (We almost never call each other
"Asswipe" or "Bitch" or "Flaccid, Mullet-Headed Waste of Molecules"
anymore.) Later this month I'm going to be spending Christmas
Day at his house in TicTac -- opening presents, assembling expensive
electronic gizmos, eating barbecued turkey -- along with all three of
our children AND my current husband. Inviting David to
dinner was my ex's idea, believe it or not. Not exactly your
traditional Waltons Family Christmas, maybe, but it should provide
some amazing photo opps. All things considered, I'd say that 96.3% of
the time I like my ex-husband just fine.
It's the other
3.7% of the time that I want to back over him with a '72 Plymouth
I called him early last night,
hoping to catch him before Daughter #1 showed up at his house for her
cake and presents. I had suddenly decided it might be nice if somebody
dragged Son #Only's video camera out from under the bed and pointed it
in Jaymi's direction for a minute or two, so I could later
enjoy a little bit of her 21st birthday celebration, via the magic of
But when I called my ex last night and suggested videotaping her
birthday party -- especially when I stressed the fact that she would be
there at his house ANY
MINUTE, so he should probably go look for the
camera RIGHT NOW
and make sure it was fully juiced and loaded and ready
to run BEFORE SHE GOT
THERE -- that's how you have to talk to him,
using lots of RANDOM
CAPITALIZATION for EMPHASIS
-- he acted as though
he had no idea what I was talking about.
"She's coming over now?"
he mumbled, sounding sleepy and confused. It took me a minute to
understand ... but then it hit me.
He didn't realize that
it was her birthday.
about this!" I shrieked. "I called you last week and we TALKED
about this!" Just last Friday we were discussing the fact that our
firstborn was about to turn 21, and how this probably makes us a couple
of official Old Geezers, and how we were each planning to celebrate the
occasion. ("I'm going to buy her a case of Mickeys," he joked. Or at
least I hope he was joking, especially since I'm going the
flowers-and-sea-monkeys route, myself.) How could he have forgotten so
soon?? Did a critical chunk of his frontal lobe -- the chunk that
short-term memory, perhaps -- simply fall out of his skull, through his
left nostril, and get mangled in the weed wacker over the weekend?
"You didn't tell me her
birthday was on Monday," he protested morosely.
And you know what? He's right.
I didn't tell him that her birthday was going to be
on Monday. When we were discussing birthday plans and gift ideas on the
phone last week, I never specifically came out and said By
the way -- don't forget that her birthday is on Monday, OK? MONDAY.
didn't think I had to. After twenty-one years of celebrating his
daughter's birthday on December 9th, forcryingoutloud, I sort of
assumed he would have the date committed to memory by now.
That's what I get for
'assuming' anything where testosterone and birthdays are concerned,
Jaymi, of course, was
devastated when she realized that her father had forgotten her
birthday. Apparently there was some feeble attempt to scramble around
and pull together a makeshift celebration before she got there -- my ex
handed her a fifty dollar bill and said 'Happy Birthday' (and then he
asked her to write him a check to cover her cell phone bill for the
month) -- but I think that the lack of cake or presents or Pin The Tail
On The Donkey, when she walked through the door, were probably a dead
giveaway. She called me afterwards from the car, as she and Joel were
heading out to dinner.
"Dad forgot my birthday!" she
sad and surprised and righteously aggrieved. "He always remembers Kacie
and Kyle's birthdays, but he forgot mine!"
What Jaymi is neglecting to
take into account here, of course, is the fact that she
is usually the one who does the reminding, these days ... especially
now that all of the females in the family have moved out and the place
has become a House of Stoopid Bachelors.
"Nobody takes care of the
Social SecraTerris in the family," I told her sadly. One of the suckier
truths of life, in my opinion, but something you just learn to accept
after a certain age. The person who handles all of the birthdays and
anniversaries and special occasions for the family can pretty much
count on having her own birthday blown off at least once or twice in
"Trust me," I said. "You won't
mind it so much when you're in your forties." And then I pointed out
the fabulous milking opportunities the situation presents. If nothing
else, she can guilt her father into just about anything, for at least
the next twenty-one years.
"Maybe he'll finally buy you
that pony," I joked.
This didn't cheer her up at
all, of course -- I'm good, but I'm not that good
-- but I think she went on to have a semi-decent birthday anyway, in
spite of the tragic screw-up. I certainly held up *my* part of the
bargain. Her sea monkeys arrived right on time ... along with the
roses, the teddy bear, the cookies, the jewelry, the jingle bell socks,
the Mervyn's gift card, the money, the ketchup packets and the leather
Day-Timer I sent her. (And yes I am
overcompensating. Shut up.)
I called her one final time
just before bed, and she sounded like she'd recovered slightly from the
disappointment. (Although her first legal martini at dinner probably
had as much to do with her swift emotional recovery as anything else.)
"Don't yell at him, OK?" she
said to me gently. "He feels bad enough already."
I reassured her that I wasn't
planning to 'yell' at her dad, next time I get him on the phone. I'm
not mad at him. Exasperated, yes ... vaguely disgusted by his
of focus, yes ... disappointed that he accidentally screwed up
special occasion, definitely. If I'm mad at anybody here, I'm mad at
should have called him again on Sunday night and reminded him, just to
make sure. I was married to the man for sixteen years. I should know
better. But none of this is his fault, really: it's me. It's that old
vicious cycle of expectation and disappointment again, and me wanting
always to make things perfect for my children, even when I know they
can't always be. But I'm not mad at my ex. In fact, this whole thing
has finally helped me figure out what to get him for Christmas this
year. Originally I was planning to get him a couple of DVDs or a
flannel shirt or a couple of refills for his Weed Wacker or something,
but now I think I've got an even better idea.
I'm going to give the man a
goddamned calendar. And then I'm going to show him
how to USE it.