Sometimes I am still shocked when it comes to his actions and I’m not sure why.
The girls and I decided to go to the pick-up location (local coffee shop) early for cinnamon rolls and coffee. We were scheduled to meet “X” at 9am. On our way out the door (8am), my phone rang. It was a strange area code (925) so I ignored it.
8:05am- another call from a 415 area code. I answered the call.
X (in a tired, raspy voice): “Someone stole my phone last night and I just woke up”. I was 8am and he was four hours north of us– in San Francisco.
Me: “Don’t bother coming– we are going on with our day”.
A slew of emails transpired back and forth over the next few hours– he arrived for pick-up 6.5 hours after his scheduled pick-up time. He looked disheveled and smelled of alcohol.
Since his mother had been informed of his initial call and failure to show up for his visit, he was obligated to email her back (and cc me) explaining why he was late for a visit. To his mother, he can do no wrong. She is a living, breathing Pollyanna– in denial…unable to admit that her child has issues and wanting nothing more than a happy, cozy explanation for anything that resembles a problem.
He painted the prettiest of pictures– a dinner party the evening before…complete with cute doilies and tea cups where everyone was passing their phones around to share pictures of their children. His phone mistakenly ended up in a friend’s purse and he was home in bed, safe and sound by 11pm. This was his story and he was sticking to it.
The dinner parties that I’ve attended don’t end up with me hungover, unable to pick up my children, loosing my phone and looking like I’ve been wearing the same clothing for three days.
Our Parenting Agreement (June 2010) stated that “X” could have increased visitation (from three overnights per month to six overnights per month) after he completed the following:
- 4 months of weekly parenting classes.
- Individual counseling to address personal issues specifically related to anger management, stress and communication with the mother.
- No alcohol usage around the children until completion of the above items.
He was to file proof of completion by October 31, 2010.
If someone told me that I could double my time with my daughters by fulfilling those simple requirements, I would have signed up the moment I left the courtroom. Easy peasy, right? Wrong.
His child support was based on the increased visitation (six overnights per month) and therefore, he didn’t need nor did he want increased visitation. Not only did he not do anything required of him by the court (these items have never been completed), he failed to show up to many of his limited visits.
One example: Thanksgiving 2010 was supposed to be his holiday visitation. I received a text on November 22, 2010 stating that he wasn’t going to be taking the girls after all. There was a slew of reasons and lies– the end result: we packed the girls in the car and we spent Thanksgiving Day at Disneyland and then the weekend with my sister in Orange County.
The moral of this story? When all else fails…head to the Happiest Place on Earth!
The harassment was constant. He had a tactic to deal with it in court: he lied.
He deflected my accusations by saying that I harassed him. I would sit and read my “supposed” text messages and emails which he submitted to the courts– which were doctored and altered. I would sit in disbelief and his tactics worked– the judge must have felt as though he were supervising two fighting toddlers. Both tattling on each other. He reacted the same way most people would– he didn’t want to hear anything from either of us on the subject.
He muddied the waters.
The problem was that I was really receiving these harassing texts, emails and phone calls. There were nights I would lay in bed and cry as I watched the text message light beep…one after another. Berating me. Beating me down. Cringing with every beep from the phone. Sometimes they came one after another…beep…beep…beep.
These are just a few example of what I dealt with every month–
- August 25, 2009 You should have never been lifted from white trash status. Your looks are the only thing that ever got you anywhere. You are easy and out to get laid.
- August 25, 2009 They say that nothing I have done or said constitutes a threat. All I care about is making you answer to your conscience. You seem hell-bent on destroying me.
- October 10, 2009 You are a pathetic human being. Worthless. Uneducated.
- Sept 10, 2010 Karma will take care of you. The beauty of my Karma is I have had mine delivered. I have lost everything. Wish you well Tina.
- November 29, 2010 You lack so much…and its because of your upbringing and lack of cultivation. Lacking culture or a groomed skill. Just looks. So sad.
- August 11, 2011 Have a good life Tina. I’d hate to be you. How do you sleep at night?
Sometimes the messages followed a simple request or an update on the girls– other times they would come completely out of the blue. Sometimes they came in the middle of the night and sometimes they came while I was in a work meeting. Sometimes I would shrug them off and other times I would break down.
The attacks were constant– for over two years.
July 20, 2010 -I received an email from him asking to be included in our daughter’s first day of kindergarten. I agreed that we would meet him in the parking lot.
August 25, 2010- We met my best friend for breakfast at a local coffee shop and proceeded to school. He didn’t show up. He didn’t call.
I felt like I was reliving my childhood through my daughter. My father raised me and my mother was the one who always failed at her obligations. She would call and make arrangements to pick me up for the weekend and then months would pass before we heard from her again.
It made me sad then. It makes me even more sad now. All I want to do is protect them from pain and disappointments.
May 18, 2010 – My youngest daughter had been rushed by ambulance to the local hospital after having a seizure. She saw a child neurologist and her pediatrician prior to her upcoming weekend visit with her father. I was terrified to turn her over to him as the instructions from ER, pediatrician and neurologist were very clear– (and provided to him in writing): she was NEVER to be left unattended. Not for a single moment. They even recommended that we sleep with her at night until further testing was completed.
May 21-23 was his weekend visitation. I was ecstatic to pick up the girls on Sunday night. I arrived at the local coffee shop where we meet and they climbed into my car.
“Mom…Daddy did something really bad this weekend” were the first words that I heard when my 5-year-old daughter got into my car after a weekend visitation. I cringed. ‘What did he do?” I asked her. “He left (daughter) in the car alone for a very long time“, she answered.
I notified our court case worker and our daughter’s neurologist– both reported him to Child Welfare Services.
I was hopeful– hopeful that someone was investigating and would protect my daughters.
Admittedly, he took our daughters to the local athletic club where Tour de California was being aired on television. He parked in the shade–with the windows cracked and he left our daughter alone in the car. Reports on the time frame vary from witnesses– estimated between 30-45 minutes. One written statement from an employee at the club stated that he checked on her “about every 10 minutes”. It was beyond painful to imagine my baby sleeping alone in a car—less than a week after being released from the hospital. It heightened my fears about his priorities and the safety of my children.
As if that wasn’t bad enough– he admitted that he then drove to a sports bar and left her in the car again. Alone in the car while he ordered dinner and watched sports- when the food came…he went out to get her. It makes me physically ill to think about it 1.5 years later. In the interview with the case worker, my five year old daughter referenced another time when he left them alone in the house and went to a coffee shop.
The very agency that was designed to protect my daughters failed them miserably. The following is what the social worker wrote in her report:
Outcome of the investigation: He was provided literature regarding leaving children unattended in automobiles.
Assessment: No safety threats were identified at this time. Based on the current available information, the children are not likely to be in immediate danger of serious harm. “He” demonstrated poor judgment when leaving his child unattended in the car. “He” expressed sincere remorse and has made a commitment to never do this again.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I still can’t.
March 30, 2010 He was always lurking. He would call and talk to the girls mentioning that he was in the Bay Area. Then, we would pass him going down the street. It is a terrifying way to live– constantly on my toes and looking over my shoulder.
I was moving from my tiny apartment to my new condo. I walked down the apartment stairs and into my carport to unlock my double stroller– I tried to fit it into the trunk of my car but it wouldn’t fit. I rolled it back into the carport and drove to the new condo. I was gone for one hour.
Upon my return, I went into the carport and the stroller was gone. I knew immediately that it was him. I knew he had been there.
I called the police and filed a report. They called him- he admitted to taking the stroller. I was gone one hour.
The police told me what they told me every time: We can’t help you. There isn’t a permanent court order. You are still married- it’s a domestic issue.
They can call it a domestic “issue”…I call it lurking…stalking…and living in fear.
March 15, 2010- We had been in our apartment for six months by now. I picked up my daughters from their Sunday School class in February. The class had been told to draw a picture of their home– the place where they are happy and safe. Makena proudly showed me her picture and it was truly adorable. She then went on to tell me that everyone drew their home but that she actually drew her NEXT house. She drew a house with a yard and flowers instead of the upstairs, tiny little place where we lived. My heart felt sad.
I went online that weekend and started looking for a place I could afford. It was discouraging. My credit was ruined from bankruptcy and it wasn’t looking good for me. A few days later, I stumbled on an ad for a two bedroom condo with a garage and a fenced in yard. I took a chance and called. The person who I spoke to explained that it was his father’s place and that his father was very insistent on good credit and references. I went to work putting together a rental resume– references galore and I took a chance meeting with him despite the previous warning about credit.
I met an angel that day: Mr. Feliciano. He was a sweet, older man whose wife was dying of cancer. He showed me the condo and I told him that I was extremely interested. He put a set of keys in my hand along with a garage door opener. He then took his hand over mine and shut my fingers. “Wait…there is a misunderstanding“, I explained to him. “I haven’t filled out paperwork or anything yet“, I said. This angel looked at me and said, “I don’t need a bunch of paperwork floating around. I know a good person when I see one“. I was in shock. I had a home. He then told me to get ahold of him in a couple of weeks to pay the rent but that I was welcome to start moving things in that day. He even offered to help me move.
I mailed him my first rent check along with a deposit of $1,200 as the ad stated. He called me and told me that he was ripping up the deposit check– “that it must be difficult to be a single mom”. Makena got her “next house” with a yard and flowers– and I met an amazing person who I will never forget.
I can’t wait for the day that I am able to do that for someone else.