Friday, May 30, 2008

More Shi**y Divorce Stuff

On the morning of Memorial Day, after the Falls Church 3K Fun Run, I paused at the local USMC Memorial Plaque on the town hall grounds to reflect upon all the sacrifices of the former Marines in my family (my father and uncle in WW2, and my brother in Beirut). Then I went home to get ready to attend dollar day at the minor league baseball stadium in Woodbridge. Plus I wanted to see what the boxes on my porch were that I had noticed when I ran by my house during the 3K race. I thought that maybe a pizza deliveryman had left four or five pizza pies there on Sunday night by mistake. Do you believe that during the race I considered whether I'd eat them?

I received a real surprise. Placed on my front porch, on Memorial Day, were four falling-apart, taped-at-the-corners boxes of old board games from the sixties, with partial contents inside. All related to warfare, three being American Heritage games representing the War of 1812 (Broadside), the Civil War (Battle Cry) and WW I (Dogfight). The fourth was based upon the sixties TV series Combat. On top of the stack was the Landmark Book Medal of Honor Winners. The Landmark Books were a series of illustrated history books written for children, mostly boys, in the fifties and sixties on obscure topics like The Winter at Valley Forge and Wild Bill Hickok Tames the West. I devoured them as a boy, and I have a full collection of them now.

There was no note. Just a stack of decrepit boxes placed upon my porch, secretly and anonymously, in a fashion (set near the front edge) that made it clear the delivery person had likely not set foot upon my porch.

The Landmark book was not mine. Three of the games were unfamiliar. They had all been acquired, apparently, by my former family when we were together. We used to go yardsaling and flea marketing a lot when we were on vacation in Maine during the late nineties. One box had a yardsale price sticker on it.

Then a half-decade of nuclear divorce litigation began, and in my opinion, my children became victims of PAS or parental alienation syndrome. This is where the custodial parent actively turns the malleable minor children against the other parent. The children view it as a form of support for the parent they spend most of their time with, and hence are most dependent upon. The domestic law courts are the great enablers of this very real tragedy. Research indicates that PAS has a devastating effect upon children for all of their lives. Some regard it as a form of child abuse. Others deny that it even exists.

My children haven't spoken with me, or anyone on my side of the family, for years even though I provide for full college tuition for them and they have residence a mere two miles away at their Mother's house. What do you think, is PAS real?

The fourth game, Dogfight, had been my family's when I was a boy. On the inside of the box, in my handwriting, was a log of a series of games I had played with my brother forty summers ago. Since he was eight and I was sixteen at the time, the score was 35 games to zero, mine. But I almost lost the last game. I still remember that he had several planes left to my one, so I had to take the 50-50 chance of flying through his AA batteries to destroy his fleet on the ground. Then I quit while I was ahead. Do you think I scarred him? My bad!

Obviously the boxes left on my porch came from my children's Mother's house in Arlington. From whom? Them? One of them? Her?

What did it mean? When half of you out there go through your divorces, you'll see how paranoid it makes you. Because it's an incredibly vicious free-for-all. It has no rules that anyone abides by, and the divorce lawyers rip and tear at the estate until it's an empty husk, whereupon they finally settle the damn thing. Feel free to email me if you would you like to know how I really feel.

The last thing my children or their agent ever left on my porch was a Motion for an Injunction. It was taped to my door, announcing that "they" had filed a "fiduciary" lawsuit against me during my divorce. Talk about piling on! I found it after work on a Friday. I had a grand weekend, and a really fun subsequent three years while it was being litigated and appealed.

The court later threw "their" petition out, finding after a full evidentiary hearing that it was a harassment suit, an unconscionable attempt by their Mother to interfere with my relationship with my minor children. It was appealed, of course. The appellate court found it was an unjustified appeal and socked her full court costs. But the matter was kept alive for years and that, my friends, is how PAS is done.

So I had concerns. My children haven't communicated a Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthday, Fathers Day or Easter greeting to me in years. They haven't acknowledged a Christmas, birthday or graduation gift from me or anyone on my side of the family in years. They haven't responded to any offers to attend their graduations or take them to lunch or dinner. They have stonily ignored offers to take them to see David Beckham, any sporting event, or their cousin (on my side) who is a professional bull rider (he competed in an event in Virginia). What was the purpose of placing this pile of boxes silently upon my porch? My thoughts on this ranged far afield, from they're moving to they're dissing me by sending me war games on Memorial Day to they're thinking about me. Why no note or voice mail?

I asked two friends, a man and a woman, what they thought. The man said it wasn't nice; since there was no note I couldn't tell who it was from or what it signified. The woman merely said it was odd.

That's what the boxes on my porch were. More shi**y divorce stuff.


Petraruns said...

Peter - my heart breaks for you. I have various private thoughts on the matter which I won't share with everyone but I feel for you very strongly. For what it's worth, I believe your strategy, of always keeping the door open, is the best possible. In a horrible situation, that is. Go for a run my friend. Hug, Petra

Anne said...

I'm so sorry to hear this, but you are right that this is all too common when a couple splits. At this point you can only hope that after your children "grow up" (they're already technically adults, aren't they?) and move away from your ex-wife, they will come to see you differently. In the meantime, you have my sympathies. It's very difficult to constantly put yourself through that much rejection.

jeanne said...

what anne said. i think (not that I know) that they like to make you wonder. You won't know what it's about unless you ask--and even then they might not tell you.

That's a long time for people to stay that angry. Not good for their health.


LittleT38 said...

Parental alienation is child abuse. To learn how you can help stop parental alienation across the United States, please visit

Susan said...

All I can say is "I'm sorry." So sorry.

akshaye said...

Peter - I feel so bad for you. Thats some awful stuff to go through. Take care my friend.

Sunshine said...

Yes!! .. what everybody said!

Whatever the spiteful motives, maybe there is some small blessing in those very old keepsakes being left on your porch instead of in her garbage can? I don't know.
Doesn't lessen the cruelty, though.

For sure, you have many deeply empathetic friends, including us.

peter said...

Saving treasures for me is certainly one possible motive, Sunshine. There hasn't been a crossroad I have reached that has had a clear path. Thank you all for your much-appreciated kind words of support. The true sadness is that these minor children were deliberately caused to suffer by adults, whether they ever know it or not.

Sunshine said...

Peter, what you say is totally true. Heartbreak for the children.

I'm wondering now.. is it possible that the offering on your porch was left by a son.. making a gesture to reach out.. Maybe not.. but maybe...

ShirleyPerly said...

Odd. Really odd. I don't know what to make of it but hope it may have been somewhat of a kindness gesture as Sunshine mentioned.

And, yes, I do think PAS can be a form of child abuse if taken to extremes. Some degrees of it probably exists in all divorces involving children, however. I hope that someday things will change for you.

Jade Lady said...

Every time you write about your kids,I am saddened. No note with teh stuff, but I've got to believe it would have been WAY EASIER for someone to have trashed it, rather than delivering it to your door.

Someone was thinking of you, even though they didn't have the guts or knew what to say to leave behind in a note. Maybe one day you will find out who.

I can't imagine how hard this must be on you. Be strong my friend, run strong!

Chrissy said...

Is PAS real? Yes it is very real. I was a child who survived parental alienation. I'm now 33 years old and finally at the age of 30 have a relationship with my mother. I'm sorry you have to go through this pain and anguish. The world of the unknown to a parent with their child is like a death but there is hope my friend! I returned. If you need me or have any questions