My Dad died September 21, 2005. He was 66 years old; I was 27. His passing devestated my Mom, and ultimately led to our family becoming even more estranged. I never knew my Dad was the glue that held our family together; I never knew he was my hero. Today would have been his 75th birthday. I think of him often, possibly even daily. I miss him. I miss having a Father, especially now that I am a Father. So I reflect.
Growing up, my Dad wasn’t a big part of my life. We seldom played catch, or spent quality time together. He took me hunting a few times, and occasionally we’d go fishing. We didn’t watch sports together, and although he did attend many of my games, he never took a genuine interest in me, or the things I was interested in. You see, my Dad was an addict, and his addiction robbed him, and his family of many things, however, somehow, he managed to function in society, build a business, provide for a family, and most of all, he loved us. I vividly remember watching him so desperately try to get back all he’d lost in his dying hours. I swore I’d never let anything come between me and my family, but I did. I am the son of an addict who for the past 15 years have too battled with addictive tendencies and selfish behavior. I am my Father.
I remember feeling angry at him for many years, and even at times today because of the life he chose. He wasn’t there for the birth of my kids, he wasn’t there through my divorce. But I got over the anger, and now I just feel sad. Sad, he’ll never meet my wife Ashley, who would have been his trusted ally. Sad that our children will have to learn of him through pictures on the wall and memories we share of him. Even now, I weep.
I’ve made many mistakes since my Dad’s death. With the business, my family, and myself. However, in the past few years, I’ve grown in as many or more ways. For the first time in a long time, I feel happy…I feel fulfilled. I’m learning how to live life to the fullest, to speak my mind with love on my tongue, and be comfortable in my own skin. I’m beginning to see the good that came from the bad, and people let me tell you…there are good things to come. At my Dad’s funeral, I read a poem I wrote. It reads as follows…
I can only imagine… what life will be without him. Shoes too big to fill; an act too hard to follow; a life never to be outlived. A great man; a captor of the hearts of people. Filling every room he entered with an energy only described by experience. A mystery to many, a legend to all. As he epitomized the American dream, generosity never escaped him. Simplicity was his suit, hard work his trump. A leader’s leader, a deal-maker, a lover of life. Hard-nosed, but loving. Opinionated, but kind. Confident, but not arrogant. Proud but not boastful. A patriarch. Never will he be replaced, and life on earth for those who knew and loved him, will never be the same. However, pushing through our grieving, we must celebrate. Because in death, there is life, for all those who believe. He believed in the one who came that we may have life; that is Jesus Christ. He accepted the free gift that is available to all of us. But like you, I still wonder, what is he doing now?
I can only imagine.
Although some things have changed, all of the things I wrote about my Dad nearly nine years ago remain true. He was an incredible man. He touched the lives of so many through his huge personality and generous heart. Although he wasn’t the type of Father that coached my little league baseball team, I learned a lot about life, and although he and I were very different in some ways, we are similar in many more.
He was funny, generous, and very affectionate. He’d cut my fingernails in church, and take me for grape juice when I was suppose to be in trouble, and of course, he’d smoke on the way to and from. He taught me how to sell, and always said…”if you learn how to sell, you’ll never be out of a job.” He was right. He taught me how to make it on my own by telling me no, however, I always knew he would be there if I really needed him. I could go on and on about my Dad, and probably will for the rest of the day with family and friends. When you lose someone, all the things that drove you crazy are exactly the things you miss most.
So Dad, if you can here me. I love you. Dad, I miss you so much. I still pick up the phone to call you before realizing I can’t. I miss your laugh, your heart, and sitting on the porch with you. I miss picking you up for breakfast. I wish you could meet Ashley, Kyson, and Sariah. Oh and Dad…Ashley’s pregnant! Ashley told me not to tell anyone, but I can’t stop. I’m trying very hard to be the man I want to be; a loving Father and Husband, but I often fail. I took over the business you built, and did some cool things before having to sell the company. It was a very difficult decision, but I didn’t have much choice. I’ve tried to look after Mom, but she seems to be handling herself fairly well. I know how much you loved her, and she talks about you all the time. Dad, I’m not sure if Heaven is real, but I sure hope it is, so I can see you again. Life on earth isn’t the same without you. I love you Dad.
Leading up the the 14 hour mediation my ex and I endured prior to our divorce being settled, I thought we had at least an agreement in principle. That was of course until I stepped into the conference room and began what ended up being one of the most difficult days of my life. It may have been less emotional had kids and money not been a big part of what drove every decision, but nevertheless it was a hard long day, and the biggest takeaway for me was that I never knew who I was married to until I divorced her. Money + kids + hurt = MPD.
You’ve heard the story before. I gave her virtually every free and clear asset I had; I kept all the debt, and she kept the kids. Literally. Because of some laws that need to change, and my own ignorance, she managed to keep the kids in her hometown, which is two hours from Houston, and coerced me into a ridiculous step-up program with my daughter which required me to spend a few hours at a time before I was able to get her overnight, and then later for the weekends, etc. It was as if I were a criminal. I certainly didn’t have to agree to any of that bullshit, but I did, because I was wrought with guilt, and emotional pain. Anyway, all of that’s over with now, but when I think about it, all that anger comes back. On to the point.
During the mediation, I unknowingly agreed to alternate Spring Breaks, although by law, I wasn’t required to do so. I caught the mistake the next day, called my ex, but she wasn’t budging. Over the next few years, my ex and I had many conversations about her “allowing” me to spend more time with the kids. I would propose every imaginable option, few to which she was agreeable to, and never to anything that included any multi-day or week long options, even when neither of the kids had school or any other restrictive reasons to keep them from spending a great deal more time with their Dad. If you are a parent, I’m sure you can imagine how difficult this has been, and for all those Fathers out there, and on some occasion Mother’s, who have restricted access to their children, I know you get it.
A few months ago, I took my ex back to court and managed to get the judge to grant my wife and I every spring break with the kids; a huge win for us and our kids. We were not successful in getting relief on spousal support, which ends in December, but frankly, I didn’t care one way or the other, and I felt we had a better chance with the judge if we had two things for him to decide on, kids and money. Her attorney put on some real theatrics too. He actually showed me drinking a beer as part of his “evidence.” What an idiot. The good news is, our judge is a fair, just, reasonable man, and he made the right decision. She keeps getting paid, and we get the kids; kind of.
My ex and I don’t get along very well, but things have progressed some, and I think over time, our relationship will continue to improve. It’s hard to forgive someone who’s kidnapped your kids, and then tells herself and everyone else that she did what was best for the kids. Good news is our kids are smart, and they’ll figure all that out when the time is right. In the meantime, I’m going to fight for every minute I can get with them.
I have always tried to write in a way that has an optimistic outlook on circumstance and life, but nearly all of my hurt and anger that lies just beneath the surface of my skin involves how I feel for my children. I’m thankful for the time I do have with our kids, but it’s never enough. I miss them before they leave, I miss them when their gone, and sometimes I miss them when they are here.