I caught up with my friend B recently. We had a couple of years' of life stories to catch up on, so I'm pretty hoarse. Kate and I are sitting on the couch watching Jaws on TCM. Rather, I am watching it. Kate is snooooozing limply.
B updates me about her ex, the father of her eldest son. For years we have called the ex "the Doofus," because, well, he is one. He's not very smart, he's easily manipulated and in an effort to screw over his wife during their divorce proceedings, he chose willingly to screw over his son, a high-energy and impulsive little boy with ADD and dyslexia who loved both his parents and who was devatated by their split.
It was a bad marriage; they were better apart. It would have been easier on the kid if they had argued less, if they could have found common ground; but the ways of children are inscrutable. They love us in spite of our faults, and some continue to love their unlovable parents long after they should have stopped.
Let me say that although the Doofus has behaved abominably, I know the Doofus loves his son. I've been listening to these stories for 12 years and I've never yet heard otherwise. He hasn't understood him, he hasn't paid attention, he hasn't listened to people who do know his son, but still in his own limited way the Doofus loves his son and his son, comforted and supported by a loving mother and stepfather, has come to know that while all parents do their best for their children, some parents' best is better than others, and that it is his father's failure, not his own.
In the course of their separation and eventual divorce, both my friend and the Doofus met other people and took their lives in different directions. The Doofus (need I mention that he works in GOP direct mail services?) married younger and had another son pretty much immediately (yes, we added up the numbers and they didn't equal 9). He and his new family lived to the full extent of their income and beyond, often leaving his elder son out of the loop entirely - forgotten playdates and weekends at Dad's, petty cruelties of that nature. My friend and her fiance made different financial choices for themselves -- they wanted to retire their debts and save for college, and for other children. So they chose a less expensive house and less expensive cars. They showed up when they said they would; they set boundaries and examples and generally stepped up as parents.
The custody battle continued, costly in terms of money, time and emotional anguish. Doofus wanted custody of his eldest but he didn't share my friend's views on ADD/ADHD and Ritalin..his son wasn't "imperfect" in that way, he was just high-spirited; and the fact that Doofus' own family would dose the eldest son behind his back when Doofus and eldest came to visit went unacknowledged by Doofus because, of course, he is a doofus.
You will have gathered by now that I hold Doofus in a certain amount of contempt. But do evil unto others and evil will be done unto you. Doofus and Wife #2 actively hid his assets from my friend as I've said, so when she and her husband ended up with full custody, they ended up with the majority of the kid's expenses as well -- which they were glad to pay, just to get it all over with. My friend and her fiance get married and had two more kids wthin 3 years. Doofus and wife #2 had a second kid.
Then Wife #2 leaves Doofus, confessing as she goes out the door, as it were, that the second kid isn't his. Actually, she doesn't leave him, since Doofus put the 6,000 s.f. house in Woodbridge, VA in her name; she requests that Doofus leave, so her lover can move in; and Doofus goes. Then he finds she's maxxed out his credit cards and defaulted on some other loans, which now endangers his direct mail business, which is also partly in her name and was pledged as collateral. Now Doofus can't get an apartment and has to sleep on the couch in his office. (When Karma kicks you in the ass, it really kicks.) My friend reports that he finally got an apartment, all 600 s.f. of one, in an unlovely section of Alexandria, all that he could afford.
I would be more sympathetic to Doofus -- who hasn't been crossed in both love and luck? -- but for his treatment of his eldest; Doofus is really too dumb to be out alone. How do we know he hid assets from my friend? He called her to gripe about his abandonment. Did he confess, or offer an apology for his behavior? No. It "happened to come out" during the conversation (as he put it to her later) and my friend "oh, poor baby"'d until she could get him off the phone and call her lawyer. The lawyer petitioned the court to seize the assets, which it did; and Doofus called my friend to complain. She'd "betrayed his trust," I kid you not, that's an exact quote.
So, poor Doofus: from 6,000 s.f. to 600 (but better than the office couch). Moral: don't screw over your kid, and never tell your angry ex-wife that you've hidden money from her unless you're about to give her all of it.