The bumpy road to Christmas…

I will confess that I am completely un-Christmas-y this year.  I can’t really explain why, but it’s true.  Suffice it to say that when we brought our tree home on Thursday evening we discovered that the base had a crack (that hadn’t been noticeable before we started pouring copious amounts of water,) and more time was spent sopping water up from the carpeting than wondering when we’d have time to decorate.  The tree’s trimming got done at 4:30 PM today, and we did First Day presents at six…

Yes, my friends, it is THAT kind of Christmas.  The Christmas we’re not yet ready for, and the Christmas we’re trying to grab by the ankles and get pulled up to the sky by…

Last night I almost was into it, and then something happened that threw me off.  Something on top of the ten other things that have been dragging me down.  Let me start with the first week of December and work from there.  TGG calls me one morning from work, and this is unusual because he calls at lunchtime unless something has happened that isn’t particularly good.  Well, this call is to tell me that he has had a significant amount of money (ok, significant in OUR world…I’m sure to other people it isn’t that much) put on hold in his checking account, and that the bank has informed him that it’s due to a debt of OURS.  Long story short: a state where we lived for only half the year ten years ago claims we never filed taxes for those six months and decided, all this time later, to get their money by hook or crook.  I went into our files and there is the copy of the tax return, signed by Dada and myself, with copies of the W-2s and everything else.  Further exploration demonstrated that every other tax return we filed that year went through without a problem, but it seems that that particular tax return and check either didn’t make it out of the P.O. where we dropped it off (in the midst of the near-to-midnight April 15th rush,) or never got processed.

If I told you that I spent over seven-and-a-half hours either “on hold” or trying to get someone to talk to me about this, would you believe me???  Well, I spent more than that amount of time.  And I barely got any information because, well, I am not the taxpayer.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the state revenue agency I was trying to deal with refused to give me any information because I am not my husband.  This prompted a back and forth of “hey, I’m the one who can call because of the time difference, and I’m the one who is holding the checkbook in her hand to pay this thing,” and a lot of “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we’re not authorized.”  At the height of my annoyance I informed them that I was going to pay the amount that was on hold in the checking account, and not a single penny more…and that the check we’d originally mailed to them was for a higher amount…so there!

Dealing with the bank was ever so slightly easier, but still a lot of time on the phone waiting to figure out how to undo the whole “hold” thing.  Hopefully I can finish resolving this matter on Monday.

The other issue that has proven massively frustrating is dealing with the child support enforcement agency.  TGG had saved enough money to make sure that he would be able to pay whatever the court determined he owed his son once child support was calculated.  Once they told him the amount, he sent an official check from our bank for the full amount…and then the trouble began.  Because the attorney for the other party recommended to his client that TGG’s wages be garnished instead of allowing for direct pay, TGG’s employer garnished his wages in excess of what would count for the current month’s payment, and informed TGG that since he was over 12 weeks in arrears…  As you can imagine, TGG has learned first-hand the lesson of how frustrating it is to deal with government agencies.  To make matters worse, the same girl who said she wanted nothing from him has described TGG as a “deadbeat” online and he was told she called to ask if the money was in yet.  In less than a month since the hearing, TGG has seen more insistent activity from a child support agency than I’ve seen in the fifteen years since I got a divorce and my ex-husband started paying inconsistently what he owed his children.  Today we finally got a letter that states they will be deducting the payments for each month from TGG’s paycheck, but…the employer listed is incorrect.  Go figure!  That means yet another call…

In the midst of all this, J has been happy and relaxed in spite of the fact that he sees his brother’s belongings slowly being packed away and stored in the garage in anticipation of the move.  The anxiety of where TGG is only arises in the evenings if TGG goes out.  The other night we returned from our shopping trip and J immediately asked where TGG was, and we explained he’d gone to The Nutcracker, and would be home before midnight, but that soon TGG will be sleeping in his new home.  J knows this, but he is not yet ready to accept it; we foresee some anxiety, but we’re ready to deal with whatever comes.

I am, as you can imagine, trying to handle all the ups and downs of our daily life with as much dignity as I can, and last night I whisked my husband away to a nice little restaurant to have a glass of wine and a simple dinner ahead of our weekly grocery shopping trip at the big box store.  My ankle was hurting (it later swelled up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon,) but we were both in a good mood and enjoying the evening in spite of the cold.

And then I saw her and I recognized her…

I try not to think of TGG’s baby.  It’s not that I am heartless, but I do respect his mother’s choices in regards to how she wants to raise him.  If she doesn’t want anything to do with TGG, it is understandable that any interaction between them could affect this young child, and I am not one to force the issue because I believe that a mother’s happiness and well-being -in the long run- are good for the child.  If she changes her mind later on, I will be fine with that, too.  It’s not like these kids were in love, planning a future, sharing hopes and dreams and aspirations.  We never even met her, and it was all so brief and…in keeping with the current hook-up culture?…well, it wasn’t much of anything…

I worry about the baby.  I want him to be well.  I want him to be properly taken care of, and happy, and safe.  I want him to flourish and blossom, and I want his mother to be as happy as she can be.  I really, truly do…but I try not to agonize about this because it does eat away at me if I let it.

And last night we saw her.  It took me a moment to put together this girl with the one I saw on the picture they sent with the paternity test results, but it was her.  The baby wasn’t there.  She was with her dad.  Her dad, in fact, had a rather pleasant exchange with me and I wished him a merry Christmas.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t know who I was at the time.  When I reached the register, Dada -who had been looking for something I asked for- came up to me and said nothing, but I think he’d seen her already.  He had been at the courthouse with TGG, and had a brief glance at her when she rushed into the courtroom.  I saw her over his shoulder as she stopped in front of our register and asked her father about something.  He looked at me, and he sort of smiled.  I don’t know if she had said “hey, Dad, look at those people…that is TGG’s dad…,” or if he simply was being friendly, but then and there my heart skipped a beat and my blood started swirling around my brain.

They walked away, and I said nothing.  I didn’t think she’d be open to me coming up and saying “are you so-and-so?  I’m TGG’s mother.”  I let her walk away.  Dada, who realized I’d recognized her, asked me if I was ok, and I had to say “no.”  All the way home I thought about how this girl has my grandchild with her, and how I really, really, really hope they’re happy, and well.  At her age I didn’t yet have children; I had a college education, an incipient marriage, a job, a future ahead of me.  I thought, at the time, I had someone I’d be with forever, and I had children based on the notion that I was about to form a family that would be permanent.

Nearly 27 years later, my life has taken different turns, and I have learned a lot about the inconstancy of our plans, the futility of our promises to ourselves and to others.  I’ve learned that reality is stronger than we are, and that we have to work very hard at overcoming the things that go wrong, and we still might screw things up if we miscalculate one move.  I wonder where she’ll be twenty-seven years from now, and where my grandchild will be…

We didn’t tell TGG we’d seen her.  I don’t think he needs to know that I briefly struggled with running after this girl and asking “why?  Why couldn’t you just opt for a more civilized approach?  Why am I so willing to respect what you want when I know we’ll all regret it later?”  He’s having a hard time with this, and the only things his son will ever really know about him is that he pays child support, and whatever this young lady tells him.

Yes…this Christmas is definitely bumpy, and I’m struggling with getting into the spirit.

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