June was an absolute shocker of a month.
First up, and mostly, I rang the Child Support Agency a week after I should have received maintenance from George.
"Hmmm," said the woman on the other end of the phone. "He's not paid - he's defaulted on his agreement."
Nothing new there, I thought.
"So what happens now?" I asked.
"Well, we have to follow process. I'll send a letter to him saying he's defaulted, and then I'll send a letter to his employer to garnish his wages" (a weird term which actually means taking the child support directly from his pay BEFORE he gets any of it, as opposed to putting parsley or something pretty on it) "then we have to wait for them to do their paperwork on their end and then...."
"So I have to wait? Without payment?"
"Yes," said the voice. "And, uh, the process is slow. In terms of budgeting, I wouldn't hold your breath for receiving anything before August."
I finished the call with the - it must be said - very helpful and considerate woman, and contemplated physical assault.
I screamed, scaring the dog, and stalked through the house.
Fury. No other word for it. Furious at the man who would so obviously not support his children. Furious at yet another example of his spinelessness. Fury at being so powerless, so financially dependent, so determined to do the right thing for, with and by my sons.
I was so taunt with fury and vengeance I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I had known George's work address, I would have gone there and beaten the ever-living snot out of him. And there would have been much snot to be beaten out. I would have been arrested for grievous bodily harm. My arms ached with the overwhelming urge to destroy him, to cause just a tithe of the pain he's inflicted on the boys, and on me.
The next day, the violent tendencies still raised their fists, but I was slogging through the realities of working out how I was literally going to feed my children. How I would pay rent, and bills. In terms of not knowing where the jerk works, in this instance ignorance definitely was a blessing.
I also decided, finally, that I would tell the boyos what was actually going on, and to whom the crap belonged. I wouldn't cover with generalities, or by not attributing blame. The boys are old enough to know the realities of budgeting, of actions and consequences, and I wasn't going to take responsibility for this disaster-in-the-making. Just as this blog will one day be read by the boyos when they are old enough to know the details, George not paying maintenance was something they should know, which was a decision also recommended and supported by a friend who'd been messaging me in the middle of her very busy day - thanks T!
Then I realised when it was time to collect the boys from school that I hadn’t prepared a thing for dinner, so now I had to go into a BUILDING with other HUMANS and be all RESPONSIBLE for the most important creatures in my world UNLIKE A CERTAIN #$)(^t*)E$%)#@$(^%. Good times. Went into Woolworths with Hatro, who helped by deciding we needed garlic bread for dinner, and icecream to follow. And a choc-mint milk to have while we waited for Wong. (That I went along with this nutritional void indicates my distress and carb-loading reaction/medication).
So, to what happened when I told the boys about the latest failure on George's part. First, for Hatro's response, some background. Hatro still delights in throwing pertinent movie quotes into conversation, and we both love watching movies together. We've been going through some of my old movies (in this case specifically, the Lethal Weapon quad).
This part in particular (it's stereotypical, yes, but it’s Lethal Weapon so whatever).
So then while we waited for Wong, I broached the topic with Hatro.
Me: So, you know money’s been tight. It’s because George [I couldn’t bring myself to say “Your Dad” because, well, you know] hasn’t paid what he was meant to.
Hatro: What, George from your old work?
Me: No, your Dad.
Hatro: Oh, the Plick.
Which was stated quite calmly and matter of fact. He checked me quickly for a reaction but I didn’t have one. At least, not externally.
Me: Yep. The plick.
So then I explained in general terms how I thought the next couple of weeks would go in terms of my workload and finances: really busy with work and uni, painfully tight with money.
Him: Well, as long as you pay tithing, it’ll all work out.
Then he shrugged casually and said “Sure, I’ll make dinner and do stuff while you’re working. And I really need to find a job.”
I think my heart stopped beating - there was a definite moment of absolute silence in my chest. I sucked a breath in, restarted my pulse, and told him by all means he should get a job, but with the focus being for his mission, not for anything else. “Yeah I know” he said, but I could see the gears turning. Twerp.
I let him think about it for a bit. Normally this is really difficult for me to do, but I had my own thoughts galloping around. At the realisation that the first George Hatro thought of was my supervisor when I was a Forklift Diva. That he was so confident and assured that tithing was the solution, and came instantly to his mind. That he accepted the new proof of stupidity, and also felt comfortable enough to share exactly - and cuttingly clear - what he thought of George.
Eventually... Me: Any thoughts about any of it?
Him: Yeah, for him. SWIVEL. That pretty much sums it up.
He grinned, not even looking at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
Me: Yep, it sure does.
Fast forward about an hour, when I’m driving Wong to his swim squad. Which I’m about to hand in the cancellation notice for, even though he loves it and needs it long term. I explain to Wong that George hasn’t paid, probably won’t until August, and generally what it will mean for us three.
Him: Ugh, he’s such an IDIOT!
Him: WHY would he do that?
Me: Because he’s an idiot.
He rubs my arm and says: But an even bigger idiot for leaving you.
Me: A bigger idiot for leaving all of us.
Him: I love you Mum.
My heart is hating me by this stage, all this emotion and thumping adrenalin and affection. Stupid heart.
After a minute of silence (aka an hour in Wong-time):
Him: I won’t bug you about book club or canteen or stash* or anything, okay Mum?
This, from my book loving, connoisseur and treat-dreaming son. Too many damn feels that day. Seriously.
Of course, the day wasn’t over.
So he comes in, says hi to the boys and they go off to their rooms so we can talk. I tell him about Asshat, the decisions I need to make, the impact on different areas. He gets it, all of it, even the stuff I don’t mention, like if I go part-time with uni it’ll push my graduating further back, and how the boys aren’t seeing any consequence on Pustule, just on us. It was a good talk, and he told me repeatedly to come to him as bishop for help with bills etc. (He knows how stubborn I am, and he’s seen me ugly cry repeatedly. Poor guy!)
So then I got the boys back in, and he gave me a blessing. The blessing was so, so good. Like cold mountain water drenching white hot metal. I was repeatedly counselled to ask for help, for support. To consider all the choices, and know the consequences of them, and to make a decision that’s right for me and my boys. That there is no rush now or in the coming years, things will happen and work out. (I cried harder at this point – the thought of my degree taking longer…Ugh.) To spend time with my wonderful boys, to balance work and uni and my calling. That I would have clarity and peace about the decision I would take to the Lord.
A couple of hours later after the blessing I still felt floppy, the boneless calm like when you float on water for a while, like on a tyre or raft. My brain tried to whizz up a gear or two, but I had finally run out of stress hormones and vinegar for the day. My hands and thighs were killing me, and my jaw – I’m guessing the stress manifested in more ways than I initially realised.
In the end, and after years of covering, I stepped away from the grenade and said to the boys "George did this, these are going to be the consequences." Which also gave the boyos the opportunity to say what they thought of him, his actions, and which gave me insight to just how little regard they have for him, and how enormously proud I am of the the choices they have made about who they are, who they want to become, and what they focus their energies on.
Turns out that I may not get any maintenance until September or October. Also turns out that my job has been busy enough to cover the essentials, and there have been blessings of generosity, unexpected windfalls and bargains to ease the way. It would be so easy to point and say "Look at this crappy thing that has happened!" but that is nothing compared to recognising the goodness and beauty that has come as a result of it.
There are more wonderful events to share, but that is another couple of posts. I leave this post knowing that the follies and freaking brilliant things have been recorded somewhere else than my stubborn, grateful heart.
*Stash: Our term for personal stockpile of treats, which are not shared.