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Karma.. it's not your average every day punctuation mark

“Karma is a Female Dog”

“Lesson’s learned.  Bridges burned.  (Chapter 6)”

The very, VERY next day, Sunday, he has dinner at his old childhood home with his bizarre mother and step-dad/new & improved dad back in Elko.

The very, VERY next day after that, Monday morning, I’m just settling into work to begin my long shift (not easy supporting three households on a single income).  I log into Facebook and see an email… from my son… saying he doesn’t mean to start any beef with me… but why did I lie to him about the reason his mom and I divorced?

I see he’s online and open a chat window to ask him what the hell he’s talking about.  He replies that he went to their house for dinner and began talking about me.  I can envision in my mind the conversation they had :  ”So, Doug/Dad says you guys divorced because of this… he also says this happened… and this happened… and what about this?”  Of course no two versions of any given situation will be repeated the same way twice.  A lot of time and hugely varying circumstances have come and past through the years.  Let’s not forget to mention this is none of his concern in the first place.  It’s so far into the past; it shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion.

Regardless, I’m a liar and he isn’t afraid to call me out (well, as brave as you can be over a chat session from 250 miles away).  No matter what I say, he’s got a snarky string of scathing sarcasm to reply with.  He concludes with: Oh, and remember how I said that Mike doesn’t hate you anymore?  Yeah, I lied about that.  He’ll hate you until the day you die. “Neat”, I say and sign out of chat to leave work for the next two days, grappling with how I should feel now that everything I believed to be true has flipped on its ear.

I’m non-plussed beyond belief.  Suddenly it dawns on me.  This has zero to do with Karma or anything I could’ve done to ward off being betrayed to such a degree.  I paid my stupid debt to the Gods long ago; three times over!  The bad Karma should be shifting sides if anything.  Sarah feels the same.  We discuss in great length how it’s time to cut ties if this is how we’re going to be treated.  Meanwhile, he goes through the week updating his status constantly about how much more fun Elko has been.  It was obvious the intentions were never to come back to our house… we were simply a temporary resting point while he secretly put together an escape route.  He’d tell us anything we’d need to hear just to make it last until there was a ride back to Elko.  Even if it meant telling us how much we were loved.  Mike had obviously been telling him to keep it cool so we wouldn’t kick him out before he had a chance to make it back to Nevada.

Take that bridge and douse it in napalm!

Three months of downright deceit is more than anyone should have to put up with, regardless of blood relation.  For roughly fifteen years I’d been trying to make things right.  None of this mattered to anyone on his side of the world.  It didn’t even matter to the son who I reunited with and took in as a full-fledged member of our already bulging family.

I put together a delicate email worded with diplomatic civility that congratulated him on being able to find peace with his family and reunite with old friends.  Judging by his Facebook posts, he was having a wonderful time.  I offered the easy-out of, “Hey there. Looks like things have going better than expected in Elko for you. Good to see you’re happier. Glad you’re back around friends and people who care about you.  With that said, we feel it’s best that we continue our relationship on an occasional weekend visit basis from here on out. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding someone to stay with down there. 🙂
Have a good weekend (sounds like you’re already planning that) and hopefully we can get on Skype soon. I’m also hoping to make a trip to Elko within the next month or two. Perhaps we can get some lunch or something when I’m in town.”

Sarah & I

There will not be Skype. I will give you a forwarding address so you can send me my check, is the reply.  Moments later he updates his status again to say, “Well I was just informed I’m no longer welcome in Boise, Idaho.  🙂  That’s okay, I wasn’t planning on coming back anyway.”

I shouldn’t have expected anything more than that.  I send back the response:  “I’ll let you know if/when it shows, for sure.  Also, never said you weren’t welcome here, so no need for the victimization. You’re welcome anytime, actually. And your snarky comment about not planning on coming back anyway… yes, we sorta assumed that, too. That’s partially why I didn’t think it’d be a big deal for you.  Easy out, n all.

We did everything we could to help you and show that we care. We would’ve been glad to do more. Someday hopefully you’ll see that. However, it’s a huge slap in the face for you to go back to Elko and have zero loyalty towards us and essentially bite the hand that fed you. It isn’t really a feeling that one wants to seek out much further. Doesn’t mean we don’t love you, or that we can’t visit again, just means living together probably isn’t the best thing for us right now.

Search your feelings, Luke, and put yourself in our shoes for a bit. You know us well enough to know we are good people and will typically do anything for anyone.
Anyhoo. Crossing my fingers your check arrives quickly. I’ll let ya know ASAP.”

This is the point when his true intentions and colors explode from under the masks he wore during the three month stay with us.  He takes a small snippet of my second email (“However, it’s a huge slap in the face for you to go back to Elko and have zero loyalty towards us and essentially bite the hand that fed you. It isn’t really a feeling that one wants to seek out much further.”), tags me, and posts it as a Facebook status as if that’s somehow going to make us look worse than he’s making himself look.

Sarah climbs aboard her own Facebook account, sees him online, and asks what the hell is deal is.  Damn, dude, harbor all of the feelings in the world that you want for me, but Sarah has done nothing but try to be a good friend.  It doesn’t matter, though.  He laughs at her and says, Yeah, thanks, but you don’t know me at all.  Doug will never be even half the father as Mike. On and on the incredible amount of hateful words spewed out of the chat window… and then he deleted her before she could reply.

I logged into my own account, saw that he was still adding ridiculously insulting comments to the original thread, and deleting him as well.  A minute later and a text from him comes through to the phone, Well, I’m glad that’s over and done with.  So, are you going to send me that money when you get it?

I replied with, “Maybe.  Maybe not.  *shrug*.  So, the people who you’ve done nothing but bad mouth during your stay in Idaho are suddenly awesome again?  Nothing I’ve done for you made a dick of difference?”

Nope.  You’ll never be the father Mike is.  Now, this is your last chance… Will you honestly send me that money?

I didn’t reply.

Let’s see… room & board for two months, microphone, clothes, toiletries, unlimited access to the fridge, concerts, plane ride to Boise on a moment’s notice?  Yeah, I’d say that comes pretty close to the $2,500 he probably won’t be seeing from the military anyway.  But, if it does come, I’ll certainly hold it ransom until there’s some restitution paid back.  And, who knows, maybe I’ll light it on fire before stuffing it into the garbage disposal.

Throughout the weeks since then, he has managed to completely insult my mother (no easy feat), brothers, cousins, and friends via ignorant and unjustifiably indignant emails basically stating that he couldn’t care less about our family.  And, that’s just fine.  Our last name may just be “a name” to others, but it’s a badge of pride for us.  I’ve received texts about how sad he is that Ashley has moved on, Merry Christmas, where’s my check?, and ‘how is life’, but not one iota of regret for what he did.  Also, the excuse of “he’s just being a teenager” is ridiculous.  This transcends any level of derangement I’ve seen in a 6 year old, let alone a 19 year old.   Nope… the responsibility for these results falls squarely in the laps of the parental figures who raised the child; not the man who wasn’t even part of the equation.

Typically I shy away from confrontation.  Not this time.  Busting my ass to defeat the tangled and subjective rules of Karma have proven to me that Karma simply doesn’t exist beyond throwing rocks in the water and watching the ripple reach the far shores.  Once the ripple hits the sand, it’s absorbed and forgotten (unless it’s a tsunami).  Make each day better than the last, learn from your poor choices, and be good to the people who reach out to you because it’s the right thing to do… not because you’ll end up rewarded in the end…  otherwise you’ll always be sorely disappointed.

But, Karma, you filthy bitch, you better make right on this atrocity.


“Karma is a Female Dog”

“Jesus, a nun, and the devil walk into a bar in Elko. (Chapter 5)”

And along came Ashley…

Our advice that dating is a horrible idea when: you’re still living with your parents rent-free, you have no car, you have no job, you have no money, went completely ignored.  He was going to do whatever he wanted to and we simply had to understand.  Now we were expected to allow another nineteen year old in the house for football parties, dinner, games… whatever.  Okay, fine.  We’re sociable people and the small sacrifice to our household code of conduct was worth seeing my son actually smile and fall in love.

Halloween was coming up quick; one of our favorite holidays.  A week prior to the event, Sarah & I told my son that we were invited to a costume party at a friend’s house (ample notice for him to find something else to go do with his girlfriend).  Our little kids were gone for the weekend, so it was time for an adult night.

A few hours before it was time to go, my son started in on us with his infamous “dance around like a fool while I’m trying to ask for a favor, or tell you my latest nutjob idea, either of which will certainly make you cringe and/or roll your eyes.”  So, is it cool if Ashley comes over while you’re at the party?  We’d just watch movies or something…

“Not only NO, but HELL NO.”  Sarah casually explained.

Why, don’t you trust me?  We’re not going to do anything bad.

“Right.  Have you forgotten that I was nineteen a mere six years ago… and your dad not too far behind that?  No way, dude.  We aren’t stupid.”  He finally settled with our request after a few minutes of begging and left with Ashley before the sun went down.  Sarah and I then headed to separate bathrooms to begin donning our costumes.

Her: A slutty-nun outfit. Complete with such funny nunny favorites as torn fishnet stockings, ripped dress, hooker boots, blue eye shadow, and stripper eye lashes.

Me: Jesus.  Complete with holy crucifix hanging around my own neck to celebrate my death, monk’s robe, sandals, 70’s afro-wig, and a glue-on full beard.

Afterwards, the wench and I were hungry and had some time to kill before the party.  We drove to Del Taco for two handfuls of high-class .39 cent soft tacos.  Then we grabbed a 12-pack and headed back home to fill our bellies with alcohol absorbing food.

Lo & behold, we came around the corner that leads to our house, to find Ashley’s car parked out front.  Well, praise Me, and 5 Hail Mary’s to Sarah… lookie what we have here; a breach in contract and utter blatant disregard for respect by the teenagers!  I’ll be dipped in shit and rolled in corn flakes!  These children are going to promptly discover a major lesson we call, “Don’t fuck with The Sarah!”  But wait!  There’s more?!  Oh yes!  The grand prize, Bob!  As we’re pulling into the driveway, they realize they’re completely busted.  Ashley suddenly darts out from my son’s room… clothes in her arms… into the bathroom.

“Oh kids…!  Come out, come out wherever you are!”  After clothing herself, Ashley emerged from the bathroom.  Her tattered hair hung down with her head as she stared at the floor in shame.  My son, on the other hand, hid in is room.  After Sarah eventually convinced him that it’s futile to hide from a tsunami, he came out to explain the truth of why she was in his room, shirtless, and suddenly ran to the bathroom.  She wasn’t feeling good and had to throw up. We didn’t need to know what was lodged in her throat, just as we didn’t appreciate the innuendo of us being complete idiots.  He continued with this story briefly, but Sarah had enough.

“Dude, if you’re looking for your own personal Love Shack, try this:  Get a job, get a car, and get your own place to screw around.  NOT under our roof when we’re trusting you to wear you’re big boy pants and mind the rules!”

It was a beautiful ass-chewing and she nailed the message I’d be giving, if not for currently stuffing my face with cheap tacos while trying to keep the lettuce from sticking to my faux-beard.   The boy returned to his room during one of Sarah’s pauses for breath, leaving Ashley to face the music alone.  We assured her she was still welcome back again, but this type of trust violation won’t be forgiven easily.  She apologized, left, and we finished our meal, slammed a beer, and drove to the party.  The boy stayed in his room, door shut, for the following 35 hours.  No, we didn’t ground him.  He was just hiding.  At the end of his sabbatical I received an apology via email to Facebook.  The end of the note was a direct request to not bring up this embarrassing moment again.

Eventually we all shook hands (a gesture I’ll no longer trust as deal-making again) and pressed forward.

About three months into this venture, he was finally showing faint signs of a mature adult rationalizing his situation logically.  It felt as though our perseverance was paying off and perhaps I’d be earning serious Karma Extra Credit for the earthquakes we’d endured up to this point.   He had formulated a plan to dump his girlfriend, trust that we actually had some sound advice to offer, drop the ego, the sarcasm, the sensitive feelins’, the poor choices, and get an income.  It was a proud moment, indeed.  He had a serious heart-to-heart about how foolish he’d been up to that point.  Fighting off the waves of skepticism (as his extravagant ‘ideas’ were daily, crazy dance included, and never followed through with), we congratulated him for finally starting to ‘get it’.

However, life is a sea of variables.  It sinks, swells, bobs on the tide, gets sucked up by the current, and you never know for sure which shore it’ll wash up on.  One day (and 300 different ‘ideas’ later) I check Facebook to discover both Sarah & I were removed from his account and replaced with none other than his mother and step-dad.  Feelings slightly hurt, I comment on his post by saying, “Gee, isn’t that sweet.”  The reply is amazing: Yeah, isn’t it?  I already told you I didn’t feel comfortable calling you, Dad.  I’m putting my foot down now. It was a completely unwarranted disregard for anything but himself… and then smeared in my face with an insult.  I was blown away.

Two days went by before he finally asked Sarah why I wasn’t speaking to him.  “You hurt his feelings bad.  Don’t you get that?  Suddenly the guy who has been trying to be a father again is no longer your father… just Doug?  He has done nothing to deserve that.”  I came home from work that day to the typical awkwardness of the house.  He tried to offer a hug packaged together with cheesy grin and silly dance, but I wasn’t having it.  I was running out of cheeks to turn and exhausted with the same ol’ shtick.  However, I’m never really one to hold a grudge (until now) especially with family.  I sloppily threw an arm around his shoulder and smiled wearily.  It’s only Facebook, yes.  Petty?  Perhaps.  Is it worth making a huge fuss over?  Not really, considering history has proven even the slightest of constructive feedback never ends well with him.  Before the acceptance of his formal apology was even absorbed into my head, he drops the bomb of bombs on me:  I’ve decided to move back to Elko.

He explains, without much dancing & prancing, that his latest ‘idea’ involves being picked up by his grandmother in a couple weeks to live with them in Nevada.  He wants to ‘mend broken bridges’ with family who, up until recently, had disowned him (or so he says).  Up until this week, he had been referring to his mom by her first name, or “That woman who gave birth to me” and his step-dad was, “The asshole who threatened to kill me last time we spoke, two years ago.”  I’d made a point of never engaging in his trash-talking gossip when it came to his family.  I’ve got enough foresight to know that someday they will be in his life again.  No good ever came from harmful words.

We attempt, in vain, to convince him this is not a good idea.  Elko is the type of town that sucks you in and doesn’t release its grasp easily.  I know.  I lived there seven years and married three times in Elko County.  Perhaps I’m being a jaded fish, but hell sure burns the skin off your fingertips.  Yes, you may or may not patch things up with your family, son, but that doesn’t guarantee it’ll all be sunshine and rainbows going forward.  It could completely backfire… and then where will you be?  Stuck, that’s where.  Stuck in a little town with the same people you were trying to get away from.  His mind was set, though.  He knew it all and wasn’t about to budge.  It’s your life, man.  Good luck with that choice.

A few days and different ideas later, the plan had changed again for the umpteenth time.  He claims that he realized we were right about Elko.  It’d be better to just go down there for a couple of weeks, say hi to everyone, and then come back here with everyone in both states on good terms.  This way he could still celebrate Christmas with us. He’d come back here and continue with the ORIGINAL plan of going to school, getting a job, a license, a love shack to call his own.  Heck, we were already prepared to donate a bunch of furniture to the cause.  Whatever it’d take to make good on our promise to help him out, we’d do it.  We warned him, however, that the influence of Elko will be strong.  Predictably, an intervention will ensue in order to convince him that Boise is not the best place to be.  We stated over and over:  If you’re honestly not planning on coming back here anyway, then just tell us now so we know.  He assured us that the plan would NOT change this time and things would be different when he returned to our house.  He’d even reassured that his step-dad, who would never hesitate to spit in my face, was finally coming to terms with me being back in my kid’s life.

On the morning of his departure we asked that he doesn’t go back to Elko and into a two-face, trash talking, asshole.  Remember what we’ve done for him, keep your siblings who love you  dearly in mind,  and try to relay to your family that I’m not anything like the loser they’ve pigeonholed me as through these long years.  He shakes on it, hugs on it, and gives his word.  He packs his room into one backpack, borrows a microphone for us to use the webcam while he’s gone, and asks that we keep an eye out for the ‘final check’ from the Army expected to arrive any day.  Sure, no problem.  Hopefully we’ll see you soon, dude.  Grandma arrives, hugs are exchanged, and he leaves with a, “Love you guys!”

We quickly learn none of his words or actions amount to a chewed up stick of gum.

…to be continued…