Cat’s in the cradle
By Rose Simpson
The cheque is late again, so we have to scramble to put together the funds for the girl’s car payment and insurance. This mad rush happens every month, because her father either forgets to put the cheque in the mail, or he mails it from Singapore or New York or Winnipeg.
We pool our money, and a crisis is averted once again. But not before my daughter has a small private meltdown. As I hand her the sum to cover her bills, I see she is still teary from pondering where she was going to get the money for NSF fees. What a bastard.
For years, we have gone through this monthly ritual. It’s puzzling. You’d think she’d learn to put some money aside, in case her cheque is late. But like the good little daughter she is, she has remained ever hopeful that he will do what he promises.
Twenty years of child support are finally coming to an end with this final late cheque, and it’s a relief to us all. We are all looking forward to finally losing that disturbing connection with a man we barely know. It’s time for us to be free.
I haven’t received support money in years. When the children finished high school, we signed an agreement allowing their father to pay them directly. I wasn’t too concerned. The money was never late when he paid me, perhaps because he feared more lawyers’ letters and court dates.
I wish that I hadn’t agreed to relinquish control because now the money dribbles in, on his own personal timetable or airline schedule. That has meant a monthly financial crisis for kids who are going to school and working low paying jobs. But how would he understand what it’s like to live from paycheque to paycheque? He lives a millionaire’s dream filled with houses and hotels, horses and boats and a driveway full of cars.
Last night, after the crisis was over, we looked at each other and shrugged.
“Well, it’s the last time, anyway,” she says.
That’s a pretty sad way to end an era, being late with the very last support payment. It didn’t have to be this way; she saw him just last week. Too bad he didn’t have his cheque book with him, or even his ATM card. Too bad he hadn’t thought ahead.
This week, Marissa will walk on stage at the Scotiabank Place and receive her diploma and her commendation for being on the Dean’s List. She will do so in front of thousands of graduates and in front of her boyfriend. And for the first time in her life, her father will be there, too, the guest of honour. He’s flying from God Knows Where, and then he’ll slip out and be gone like the wind.
I won’t be there. After years of courts and lawyers, I am not yet ready to be in the same room with him, even if it holds ten thousand people. I am not that big a person. I am still burned raw on the inside. My daughter understands, she knows that I was there for every moment of her life, for every scraped knee and heartbreak, for every achievement and personal tragedy. Finally, it’s his turn.
When she walks up on that stage, I hope he sees his daughter for the fine young woman she has grown up to be, a girl who has worked since she was 14, who survived being run over by a bus, who managed to make sense of her life when her own mother could not. I hope he will see all that he missed, but I know he won’t because he just doesn’t get it.
Cat’s in the cradle.