This is not a joke. Or a bad TV show. Or an even worse movie. Nope, this is my life, up close and in person. And I'm not kidding, I live next door to my ex. Why? well, it just sort of happened.
First some background. We met when I was 18. He was 23, handsome, successful, funny, and totally in love with me. I wasn't into love or serious. He convinced me. He wrote me letters - long ones (remember before email? Sigh). He sent me flowers. Brought me gifts. Drew me cute pictures. Made me tapes (tapes kids, before CDs - remember that?!). He held me when I cried because I was afraid he'd break my heart. And he promised me he never would leave me. He chased me up and down the highway throughout college until I said, "I DO." I never slept with anyone before him. He was IT.
Fast forward oh...10 years. He drops the bomb: he doesn't love me. Never loved me. Can't stand me. Oh but we need to stay married because we have kids. I am a stay at home mom - gave up my career to raise our perfect twins (and they are perfect - almost). They were 4, and I wasn't going to be left alone. So we stayed together.
Fast forward 5 years - (are you counting? we're at year 15 of the marriage....hey I'm math challenged, too). Still doesn't love me, doesn't like me. Thinks I am selfish because I leave my shoes around the house. OK so I gave up my family and moved to his. So I gave up every career (and there were good ones) to follow his career around the world. Cook his dinners from scratch, never freeze anything, rules about toilet paper on the roll and making his breakfast lunch and dinner, leave my church and my heritage to join his, coach the kids' soccer team, coach their after school drama team, sell more girl scout cookies than the entire troup. Yep, I'm a real selfish bioch. OH and go to Law school and graduate 3rd in my class so that he can divorce me....
Fast forward 4 years. Yep 19 long, unloving years of marriage and I finally say, "You know what? I can't wait til the kids are in college. I'm done now. Buh-bye." He freaks. Says No. But, obviously, ultimately we divorce. He moves out and takes his entire 401K with him. I keep the house. It was almost a fair trade - he got more on the balance sheet but I didn't have to move, so that was ok. The kids want to split their time 50/50 so we exchange kids every week. He moves about 4 blocks away, which is perfect. We even share the dog - despite the fact she's my dog - my mother's day present. but the kids want the dog with them, so I say ok. (I am so darn selfish I tell you).
Fast forward 6 months. Oh did I forget to tell you that his parents live next door to me? Yeah, they do. And they still love me. His sister still calls me nearly every day. Heck I've been a family member for 20 years. I still have the in-laws over to dinner once a week. Help with whatever I can. (See the selfish pattern just won't end). So why doesn't he live in the house and I move out? It's complicated, but it's about assets and, quite frankly, he stopped loving me years ago, why should I move?! he wanted out, out he got. Buh-bye.
I forgot - we were fast forwarding. One sad and horrible day, his mother has an accident and, very sad, long story short, the in-laws move out suddenly to a retirement home after months of hospitals and rehab. (Yes, I visited her and made her key lime pie when she couldn't eat hard foods and helped with her exercises and put food in dad's fridge. I am so selfish). Suddenly their house is empty of people yet full of 40 years of STUFF. Mother is a master "stuff collector." What to do? HEY what if Ex moves in, sorts through the stuff, gets the house in shape for selling? Great idea. Dad, adorable man that he is, asks my permission. I tell him, "GREAT IDEA!" Solves your problem, solves the kids' problem of always being at 1 house and the "thing they can't live without" is at the other house. Perfect.
Except for one thing. My Ex HATES me. Will not speak to me. Has asked his sisters why I won't just "leave his family alone." Tells the neighbors that I "took his house and left him with nothing." (Um what about that hefty 401k??). Says I was selfish to make him "move long distance" from his parents. I didn't realize 4 blocks was long distance. Says I took the house that meant so much to him - you know, the one we talked about selling as soon as the kids graduate high school. He won't answer my emails. Won't answer when I call his cell - like the time I called from the hospital to tell him his daughter had a concussion but would be ok. Nope, didn't answer, didn't listen to the voicemail.
And that, my friends, is where this story begins....