Remember Mediation? I Do

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This is an excerpt from my book, There’s Been A Change of Plans, A Memoir About Divorce, Dating and Delinquents in Midlife. It is available on Amazon.

The day had come for my final meeting with my beloved divorce attorney, Madison Pierce. This would be when we would sit down and go over my financial settlement, which, frankly, I was looking forward to because I had been thinking of investing in a new energy bar for dogs that I had heard about through some very hush-hush channels. Okay, it was a weird lady who owns four chihuahuas that I met in the vet’s office. Also, I had decided that I would go ahead and build an outdoor kitchen and pizza oven on my lanai. I mean, just because I’m divorced doesn’t mean I don’t love eating pizza outside. Yes, I was definitely ready to become fiscally responsible and start a portfolio, whatever that is.

So, this is how the beginning of my financial independence went down:

MP: “You will be receiving an alimony check every two weeks in this amount.” She points to a number on the page that was roughly the amount I spend on our household’s weekly snack and soda supply.

ME: “Awesome! I guess there is another account set up for me to draw from on the other days?”

MP: Laughing as if I had just made a joke and then getting a real weird look on her face when she realizes I didn’t. “Amy, this is it. This is what you agreed to. This is your settlement.”

ME: “Okay, no big deal. I still have my AmEx black card for emergencies.”

MP: “No, you don’t. That account has been closed out. We went all through this in mediation. Do you not remember?”

Mediation? Of course, I remember mediation. Doesn’t every woman remember the time she came THIS close to getting put in a choke hold by a cop and taken down to a squad car where said cop carefully lowers her into the car making sure she doesn’t hit her head before slamming the door shut? Duh. Of course, I remember.

I remember sitting in a room with Madison and being plied with espressos and chewy candies from a glass vase. A man came in from the opposite room where Mark and his team were sequestered, brandishing a document. He handed it to Madison, who put it down in front of me. “This is your first offer of settlement,” she explained. I took one look at that thing and went completely still. My heart began beating faster and faster, and I could feel fear laced with venom bubbling up in my throat along with, I’m sure, a worsening case of Barrett’s Esophagus. I remember my mouth opening and whispering the words,”Mo—r Fu—r.” And then all hell broke loose. I literally lost my freaking mind and began to scream:

“Where are you!!? Where are you!!?”  Spit literally flew from my mouth, and I imagine I looked like an even more deranged version of Carrie’s mother in the original movie when Piper Laurie loses her s–t. It was like I had become possessed by Andrew Dice Clay.

The door opened and another wimpy guy with greasy hair and a suit from Men’s Warehouse came in and said, “Mrs. Koko, if you don’t calm down we’re going to have to call the police. You are upsetting the secretaries.” At that point Madison stepped in and hauled me out of there, drove me to Macaroni Grill where she ordered me the lunch plate of Fettuccini Alfredo and said, “Well, that went pretty well, I think.”

So, yes, I remember mediation.

Looking back, I now realize what had incited me when I looked down at that first offer. It wasn’t only the fear of existing on generic PopTarts for the rest of my days, but seeing my life’s work summed up at the bottom of a tally column initialed by my husband of almost thirty years. It’s like saying “Okay, you spent twenty-seven years with this man. Together you made it through college and a war, after which you held his sweat-soaked body night after night when he woke up screaming from dreams of limbless men. Now, we see here you gave him four children that you devoted your every waking moment and pretty much every thought to, and you also made sure there was a gallon of egg nog on the Thanksgiving table every year, even though he was the only one who drank it. We think that’s worth this amount.” That is what I had to come to terms with–a monetary value assigned to my life, otherwise known as a divorce settlement

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