For the past week, whenever I’ve been in my car, I’ve listened repeatedly to David Bowie’s Greatest Hits CD, but particularly to Space Oddity, a song about an astronaut who steps out of his space ship, loses his connection to Ground Control, aka reality, and floats into who knows where.
I couldn’t figure out why I was so stuck on this song, as I’ve never been a huge Bowie fan — until yesterday.
Yesterday I gave my request for Prince’s Income and Expense Declaration, along with a proof of service form, to a friend who, per legal protocol, will mail the forms to Prince for me.
Sending this form to Prince is the equivalent of me stepping through the door of my space capsule into the vast unknown.
I could discover that he has more financial exposure than I think, which could result in child support coming my way.
I could discover that his finances are now inextricably tangled with his family’s trust and he could legally say he has no money of his own.
I could discover that he would be willing to launch another custody battle, this time dragging Franny into the muck, all to keep from giving me a penny.
Whatever the case, without child support, or a contribution to the rent that keeps the kids in a safe neighborhood within walking distance of friends, once my savings run out, I will be floating into a reality around which I can’t yet wrap my mind.
* * *
Eleven years ago, when Prince realized there was no way to save our marriage, he snapped. Literally overnight, he transformed from a spoiled rich kid with occasional flashes of nastiness into a raging maniac.
I remember shaking at the top of the stairs in our old house that day, staring at the collage of black-and-white photos Prince had taken of the kids and me.
My favorite photo was one of me looking rather radiant, if I do say so, sitting cross-legged on the lawn, a 3-month-old Franny on my lap, and a grinning, 5-year-old Luca draped over my shoulder.
I stared at the photo and felt the life I had known slipping away. Luca was already falling apart. I had embarked on what would be a solid year of barely eating or sleeping. And Franny would never remember when her family was a family.
My life was morphing into something I couldn’t imagine, and couldn’t control. And there was no turning back.
* * *
I have become accustomed to post-divorce blitzkriegs over the past eleven years. Things that knocked me to my knees — cyberbullying, threats, parental alienation, afinancially devastating custody battle — also taught me to get back up.
So I suppose I will get back up once my savings run out and I have to make a tough decision. Do I move to a studio apartment, sleep on the floor with my kids and feed them Top Ramen for dinner? Or do I send them to live with their affluent dad and end up paying him child support?
Without delving into legal details, I recently told Franny that money was tight and we might need to move into a smaller place. I asked her how she would feel about sharing a room with Luca (Prince’s suggestion, which I find wildly inappropriate).
She burst into tears: “I don’t wanna share a room with Luca! Please don’t make me!”
She went on to tell me how how much she loved being able to step out our back door and visit friends who live around the quad. She told me she didn’t want to move at all, even to a smaller apartment in the same complex.
I told her not to worry, that I’d figure it out. I didn’t tell her that figuring it out might involve sending her and her brother to live with their dad.
* * *
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today.”
Those lyrics describe just how I feel. Once I send my kids to live with their dad, my previous incarnations — first a divorced mom with primary custody, child support, and a house; then a divorced mom with primary custody of just one child, no child support, and an apartment — will give way to a new incarnation that I can’t fathom.
Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder how I ended up in this life, which feels so freakishly different from my family’s and friends.
Then I try to shift my perspective. Maybe this evolution is meant to be. The kids were with me when they were small, because I was the parent who could provide the nurturing and the attention Prince couldn’t. Maybe they need to be with Prince now, because he can provide the security I can’t. They won’t have to keep moving; they won’t have to share a bedroom, eat Mac n Cheese every night, or be too embarrassed to bring friends over.
When I think about this possibility, the prospect still feels surreal, but it doesn’t sting as much. It just seems practical.
I think it would be okay for Luca, who is sixteen, used to living most of the time with his dad, and has one foot out the door anyway. But I think it would be much less okay for Franny, who is not yet twelve and still needs her mother.
Regardless, sending the kids to live with their dad will change their life narratives and who knows what meaning they will make of that change.
* * *
I’ve been dating a fair amount and for whatever reason, I’ve been out with a few men who don’t have children. Each one of them weathered hellacious divorces, or the death of a parent, when they were young. Two of them legally emanicipated themselves at age 14, and the other two blew their way out of their family homes, got jobs and places to live, and did or didn’t complete high school.
Each of these men has gone on to have interesting, fulfilling lives. Which has taught me two things.
One: children from divorced homes survive, and can even thrive, possibly because of the upheaval they endured. And, two: not everyone in the world has children. And they’re still fulfilled.
Also, there are worse things than sending your kids to live with their other parent. Girls get shot in the head because they want educations. Parents watch their children blown to bits by bombs, or waste away from diarrhea due to inadequate healthcare.
The queasy, stepping-out-of-my-space-capsule part right now is not knowing what my life, or my kids’ lives, will look like in a year. The only thing I can do is control what I can, let go of what I can’t, and have faith that I’ll survive the next blitzkrieg relatively in tact.