I became divorced in 2013. While in Israel, my husband and I separated. I came to the conclusion that I didn't deserve the manipulation, the screaming and the crazy in my new life as an oleh (new immigrant), So, I left and within months found myself sitting before a court of rabbis getting my religious divorce. That was May 2012.
I cried almost inconsolably throught the whole process including the part where our ketubah was cut and then handed to me as a sign that it was really over. I don't think I cried so much for the loss of my husband but I cried for the loss of what I had hoped would be.
My ex husband was on a plane within days, leaving me and my 19 year old son with autism behind. Well, he also left tremendous debt including stiffing our landlord (I had one of his apartments and the ex had the other) and the rabbis who officiated over the religious divorce. This left me in a tremendous game of catch up and I had to borrow extensively to settle the debts he left behind. Of course, I was making minimum wage and to pay these debts back put my son and I very often in the precarious situation of having to choose whether to buy food or whether to have big, thuggy Israeli guys show up at our front door.
When they say it's a different culture they mean it.
We tried, we really did. We loved Israel. We adapted to the culture quickly and knew our way around. We went to Masada and the Dead Sea on the bus by ourselves. We were rid of the crazy and the stress and despite the debt, we were happy.
Unfortunately I developed severe health problems - seizures were the biggest problem as well as severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I was fired from my job and couldn't see my way out suddenly.
We decided to return to the U.S.
My ex brokered the return with my father who bought our tickets. The ex was supposed to pick us up in New York and I wasn't surprised when he didn't but I also was out of cash having to spend for extra bags and our dogs on the Polish flight we came home on. It was just a matter of nickel and dime but it exhausted what we had. I couldn't afford a rental car and they wouldn't accept payment without a credit card which I didn't have. It was the beginning of what became hell on Earth.
We finally got home thanks to a caring employee at Enterprise (a huge shoutout there...I appreciated his compassion.)
My ex met us at our old home, He didn't live there so there were no utilities except for electric which he had had restored. He lived with his mother and as soon as he dropped me off, he took my son and left. It was the end of March near Pittsburgh, Cold, lonely and dark.
I had my two shih tzu who were the only beings in the world happy to see me. I had a mattress in the middle of the bedroom floor,a space hearter, a thermostat that told me it was barely 50 degrees in the house. a quilt, a pillow and some weird snuggy thing with feet and a hood. That night I slept with all my clothes on and the snuggy thing over it all. There was no food, nothing to drink and the water wasn't turned on. Since we had hot water heat, that explained why there was no heat at all.
I locked myself in that bedroom and tried to stay warm. I had no car or phone and was basically trapped. My son was now gone. I felt lost and alone, a prisoner to my ex husband who had nothing to lose by doing this to me.
I stayed in that room for fifteen days. The ex occassionally would stop by with food in a box from the food bank. One day he took me to WalMart and I stocked up on crackers, hot dogs, tea, instant soup, a hot pot, a throw away phone and dog food.
My "best friend", who had taken the ex's side, bought me a microwave which I guess was a step up if I had had food. Without a refrigerator, my options were limited. This ex best friend offered a shower should I need one but she wouldn't drive to get me and I couldn't get there.
My dad finally bought me a $500 clunker and the ex magnanimously took me to get it. Riding home with my son in the car was nirvana since we had been separated for nearly 3 weeks. At my ex mother in law's home he wasn't allowed to talk about me or to me. If I called they just told me he was napping or not there.
I guess you could say my ex was being compassionate with the food and taking me to get the car.
Suddenly I had freedom but the month of being captive in the house had taken it's toll. I was afraid to leave the house. To get food, I'd leave late at night so no one would see me. I couldn't shop because I was deathly afraid of meeting anyone I knew since I also knew my ex had spread the most terrible of rumors about me to everyone he could find. I wasn't strong enough to deal with it.
I was in a deep depression, filled with anxiety and fear, and panicked that my son would never return or someone I knew would see me and want to talk to me. I became a hermit leaving only for a shower once a week.
Oddly I was able to date although I did it for a variety of reasons, One was human contact, living the life I used to have where I didn't have to explain where I lived and why I used a plastic bag for a toilet.
I met two men, The second one, there was a great connection. We went to play miniature golf and to the park, We sat at Sonic and had milkshakes and closed the place down. He didn't seem to care that I crapped in a plastic bag in the toilet or that my house was not exactly habitable. He really just cared about me.
I received the notification of the civil divorce at the end of June. I didn't cry this time. Actually I went with my boyfriend who used his credit card to let me change my name back to my maiden name. I was terrified to be outside and filled with fear but I did it. It was a huge move.
To make a long story short, he invited me to move in and since we were either at his house or my house, it seemed to make sense. He was the most nurturing, protective, loving man I had ever known. He completely loved me and wanted the best for me. I certainly wasn't used to that.
My ex would use me to transport our son to his baseball games when he had other social activities that interfered. I got to know the moms at the Miracle League field and felt like a human being when I was there although I was still deathly afraid to be outside without my boyfriend or to go shopping alone. My boyfriend became the umpire of the games and I was just one of the moms. Normal and ordinary. Sometimes I'd look around and it wouldn't seem that it was me. It seemed like someone else and for a time, I was glad I didn't have to keep up the pretense and just let that part of me that could deal with it, deal with it.
In a stunningly great series of events, we pulled a power play that made me feel strong and less like a victim. My son had two games with two days in between. We picked him up for the first game and he never went back. He has been with us ever since. Happy, well adjusted and like me, enamoured with my boyfriend who suddenly found himself in the role of father figure to a 20 year old with autism.
I cannot tell you how well he handled it. My son says he thinks of him as his father. Hiw own dad made a few feeble attempts to contact him. He tried to see him but always would pressure him to spend the night and when my son refused a fight would start. We spent way too many weeks in therapy trying to repair the relationship. Now we have decided it's best for my son to work on moving past it. His father complained we lived too far away (an hour), that he couldn't afford the gas, that he had bowling, non-profit volunteering, whatever. His mother would call and even if she didn't mean to, when she told my son she would beat his ass the next time she saw him...he took it as a threat and is scared of her.
Now here's where it stopped being about me. After my ex brought the car back with me from my dad's house, I had nothing more to do with him except when he'd call and expect me to pick my son up for something he couldn't be bothered to do with him. This involved an hour car ride to and from. And yes, I did it gladly, just to be with my son but I wasn't exactly pleased.
I managed to get my son's SSDI check switched to our house once we had physical custody of him. I applied for food stamps and medical coverage for us. Suddenly we had food and we were able to go to the doctor's and most importantly my son could continue with his therapy and medications which his father somehow couldn't figure out how to fill.
Early this year my ex, who had had a heart transplant in 2009, stopped receiving disability which also meant our son stopped receiving HIS disability as well as his medicare that came through his father's disability claim. I called his father and told him the the Social Security Administration had instructed me to have him ask that both HIS benefits as well as those of my son continue throughout his appeal. I wasn't surprised when I found out he had requested HIS benefits be continued but not those of my son.
So...I did what any mother would do. I filed for child support.
The ex lawyered up and showed up. He gave over pay stubs and his disability statements - he makes $2600 a month and lives with his mother. My son is 21 and disabled and will be disabled for his entire life. But his lawyer contended my son was emancipated.
The conference officer asked me for documentation that my son was disabled. He asked for documentation that I was disabled - my severe depression, anxiety, seizures and panic problems had made me unemployable. It was Wednesday and he told me I had until Friday to present it.
I scrambled but I had it all by Friday and my boyfriend (now fiance) dropped it off at lunch time. I got the final letter from my son's psychiatrist at 3pm and emailed it to my caseworker who got it immediately to the conference officer.
On Saturday I received a letter, stamped at 7:54 on Friday morning that the case was closed because the child was emancipated and that no further action was necessary. Oh sure I could appeal but I knew that would involve a lawyer I couldn't afford. I felt defeated, worthless, like I had failed my son when he needed me most.
I am now terrified of losing my son again. I am angry that his father would claim his son was NOT disabled in order to get out of supporting him for the two months he wouldn't receive his disability income (there's a two month waiting period once benefits are discontinued.) I was angry that his father would weasel out of taking care of his child by fighting me with a lawyer.
My boyfriend says to let it all go and I am sure eventually I will. But I am not sure I can ever get over a father who feels the need to deny his son's disability, who gets a lawyer to fight his responsibilities and I will never ever get over the hurt he has caused this young man who only knows love and now has been taught by his father's actions and words that he isn't important to him.