A few things have occurred since the last entry… including the introduction of latest George Clooney girl… and we’ll address that in an entry soon but… the custody challenge is over and I want to keep this entry to that topic.
Texas law requires mediations be set before final hearing. The final hearing had been set for July 1st, this was the 4th legal challenge with a previous mediation without attorneys, an emergency hearing that Kiana should be removed immediately (that did not occur), a hearing that recognized that Kiana is better off with one of her parents than in daycare but that her mother should have access to my medical records but this was a mediation… I’ll tell you after the last couple of years of financial struggles, I’m curious as to how I never thought of going into the legal or medical fields…
Having already been through three legal settings where it seemed that they didn’t blink, I had low expectations of this mediation. Kiana’s mother’s attorney had stated once to me a long time ago before I had an attorney that there was no point to a mediation because neither of us was going to give up custody… Well, it took the right mediator who was intelligent enough to keep us in separate rooms so that we could sit there and focus on the issues and not on old emotions…
I have no idea what was said in the other room as the mediatior went back and forth with clear capacity that he knew what he was doing. He started in the other room, where it seemed he spent most of the time or that may just have felt that way. I’ll always wonder what was said in there because with our first session, the custody challenge was off the table. It took seven hours and a lot more than that in fees but in the end, the conclusion was that this legal fight that I should only have supervised visits as opposed to being the primary guardian because of my health issues was over.
It had been requested that I give blanket access to my medical records to Kiana’s mother. While again, if you read this, I am not exactly private about my medical issues… my main hesitation is that when you don’t trust your brain, your biggest issue may be confidence and you need to be able to share this with your doctors and have them say yeah that’s not a big deal, or hey that’s something we’ll keep an eye out for but it may not be a big deal. At the survivor’s breakfast and at the young adult cancer group, there is some echo of how much do you worry about this cough (for lung cancer patients) that headache for us etc. But if you think that someone is sort of in the “back of the room” trying to use an excuse to take your child away… then it would make it harder to be more honest about fears from appointment to appointment. But I also understand that if you’re a loving parent, and I believe her mother is, you’d be worried when someone is raising your child with a disease. The conclusion there was that there would be an annual summary written every April at her expense (come on now, if there’s a cost to hand you my medical records, I’ve given my doctors enough money, you can pay for it) and that if there was ever a time I was hospitalized she would be notified immediately. I can’t imagine any parent who wouldn’t want that.
Because it’s been a big part of mine and Kiana’s life and I’ve become an advocate-of-sorts for cancer causes, there was an interesting provision put in there. As is standard, the non-primary parent gets an extended summer visit. Her mother and I had a conflict because Kiana had been accepted to camp Kesem, a camp set up for children whose parents have illnesses. Her mother stated she couldn’t go this year but somehow the mediator managed to help us make it to where it was established that any summer Kiana was going camp Kesem that couldn’t be a time where she was going to be with her mother. To me, the main goal of that was simply that I’ve learned along this course, that I’ve gotten to be a better runner by listening to other runners and coaches, I’ve gotten to be more at peace as a cancer survivor by interacting with both excellent doctors and other survivors, I’ve gotten to be a better father by hanging out with other good parents and professionals… But even while I am the guy whose in headlines for being the father with brain cancer that won a marathon, I am not a “father” every second of the day, nor a “runner” nor a “cancer survivor” but when there are moments that require those focuses to be sharper and both the professionals and the human contact have helped improve that. It is my hope that because this has been a significant part of Kiana’s childhood that kind of summer camp will help her make some connections specific to that if/when it’s necessary. So I appreciated the flexibility.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to hammer these things out between us but obviously we’re nowhere near that. I’ve tried to get her to go to counseling forever so that someone can keep us focused on the only connection left but she’s said forever that I’m not ready and still wouldn’t go.
There were some other things like sources of conflicts that we worked out. No one got everything they wanted… I was trying to get weekends exchanged so that I had Kiana the same weekend as other single fathers have her to have playdates so to help that feel more “normal” to her (there’s been another single dad from Livestrong that our kids didn’t get to meet till spring break) but her mother wasn’t open to that and I didn’t want to spend too much time on it so it didn’t shift at all. We wanted slightly different approaches to medicine than the Texas code required but I do think Kiana won out here with some good health insurance options (I found out there while making some phone calls that even if I wanted to or could, I cannot return to the workforce until at least January 2014). She wanted some things that didn’t go her way.
I am actually a mediator and I’ve always loved an old quote. "The key to resolving conflict is suspension of one's point of view as the only point of view." I believe both her mother and I did that. But the one thing above all, in importance to me, is that we walked out having (with help of course which again shows why I want to go to counseling) resolved it between us and not put it in a judge’s hand. The mediator said something I wrote down, “the family judge doesn’t usually decides cases, he just decides who the decider is going to be.” So I am glad that he helped us and that we both proved capable of suspending our own view as the only point of view and reminded us to put our fate in our own hands. I’ve learned some of those lessons from this journey the hard way and some the easy way. An old military friend said to me, you pick the hills you’re willing to die on and everything else is flexible and there should be very few hills you’re willing to die on. Signing up for less time with Kiana was one of those hills for me… getting Kiana better health insurance was one of them. Let’s just say I am still alive. But I really am proud that we worked it out amongst ourselves. We’re still a long way from home or from good coparenting or from properly establishing trust… but I am glad this chapter is over.
While everyone likes the running story, the honest truth is that’s just simply how I refresh. It tells you something that the workout Tuesday night I was dragging at best knowing that the legal setting was the next day… and that on the day of the mediation I was up at 5 am crying in worry because someone who left in the middle of cancer was trying to take my child away long before cancer does. The mediation took a long time and for the first time in a while I missed a run on Wednesday because I had a fun commitment shortly after… and skipped lumosity and had a fun evening. I’ll do a hard workout today and do lumosity and all that jazz but let’s just say that literally the moment I got to bed, I closed my eyes and I was out faster than you could have said good night with at least one piece of mine feeling more at ease than it has in months. This morning I got up and took Kiana to school like I have almost every single morning since she started and like I will almost every single day as long as I can.