This past Sunday I picked my daughter up from summer camp then drove us to Northern Virginia to have a family kayaking trip with my son, daughter and myself on Monday. H2, my daughter’s father, requested that she come visit with her on Sunday afternoon as his weekend plans had changed and he had some time. Since he offered to do her camp laundry (a first for him in five years of overnight camp history) at his new home, I agreed. I admit I was curious to see his new digs for many reasons including having a visual of where our child would be staying with him on visits to his home as well as seeing what sort of place he could afford since he claimed six months ago that he could not afford a house because of the “huge” support payment he makes to me each month (this is laughable and of course, in only a few months time proved to be utterly untrue – but I knew that).
I make no judgement on the house or its location except that I would be uncomfortable living there but not so uncomfortable that I feel it is unsafe for our daughter to spend time there. When we were married we lived in a nicer house in worse neighborhood.
What was wonderful about the visit (other than the laundry part) was what I learned about myself and the status of my feelings towards him.
Here are the things I learned while I was touring the house:
- Seeing all the art, books and other items that I spent 12 + years lovingly arranging, packing, moving, cleaning and maintaining had no emotional effect on me. They were merely familiar items that meant nothing to me. Things associated with a seemingly distant past life. Seeing these things again was like seeing a former acquaintance, perhaps a college class mate – it was nice to be reminded of them but I wasn’t frantically trying to stay connected. That was a nice surprise and a sign to me that I had grown a lot since H2 took those items out of our last communal dwelling.
- He has purchased several guns and keeps them in his home in a large safe. Despite the safe, this was quite disturbing. I enjoy target shooting and understand the rush of the false sense of power holding a firearm instills, but I have emphatically refused to own a gun partly because I am a pacifist and partly because I felt that H2 was of a temperament that a gun in the home would be foolishly dangerous. This is a man who once put his hands around my neck and started to strangle me in a rage. This is a man who kicked a hole in a door. This is a man who reacts to everything with anger. What’s more, these guns are not shot guns or rifles for hunting or target shooting, these are semi-automatic weapons – guns made for the sole purpose of killing people en masse. He lives in the city where he cannot shoot them for pleasure anywhere so I am puzzled as to why he has them. This makes me fearful because I feel he is unpredictable and dangerous. When I asked him about them, he just blew me off. I am unsure what to do about the situation if anything but I know I can patiently wait for the correct answer to come to me rather than try to force a solution.
- There were no pictures of his girlfriend. No comment just an observation.
- There were lots of pictures of our daughter. I am glad he recognizes how wonderful and special she is.
- Spending time with him ( a few hours while the laundry was running) made me wonder how I lived with him for all those years. Even without all the history I thought, “This person is so wrong for me. Our values are so completely different.” If I met him now I would not consider him for five seconds as a potential partner.
All in all, the main lesson I learned is that I have grown and I can be grateful that the journey started while attempting to handle the challenges of our marriage. I may not like him but I love him because he is a breathing human being and the father of my daughter. I may wish to avoid contact with him but I can be compassionate about the emotional pain that causes him to be so angry. I may disagree with his lifestyle choices but I can accept that he is on his own path (and grateful that I am on my own path without him) and refrain from judging as long as our daughter is safe.
And …. after all, he did do our daughter’s filthy laundry from camp- progress.