I have watched over you since before you were born, reading to you over the phone when you were still in your mother’s belly, watching you with your mother in the hospital and for every year afterwards. I volunteered to take over raising you not because I wanted to take something from your mother, but because I honestly thought I could help provide a safe and stable environment for you, and because I wanted the chance to be a dad.
You were unexpected. You were unplanned. But you were not and have never been, unloved.
And while I cannot rescue you from the choices you have made to this point, I still love you. And I am still your dad. That’s why this hurts so very much. I know we have not always had the easiest of times communicating with each other. I don’t like expressing or talking about the feelings I struggle with, your step-mother and both my ex-wives can attest to that. It was even harder to share with you, watching you struggle without knowing for sure what all was going on. I still remember the first time I really really knew how bad things were for you when I got a call from the counselor at school. She told me to ask you about something you had written in her office that day.
So when you came home, I asked, and you showed me a piece of paper that said “Sometimes I wish I was dead.” You were 10.
And in that instant my heart broke… and has remained that way for years.
I am not your friend. I am not a “yes” man. I am not going to give you everything you want and let you do everything you think you want to do. I am your dad. That means that it is my job to teach you, to care for you and to raise you to the best of my ability. I made mistakes, like all parents. I was not perfect, but I did and have and will always love you.
I wrestled with you to help let the emotions out when they were just too much. I dried your tears in so many of my shirts, I don’t think I have a one left that hasn’t had tears or snot on it. We read together, listened to old radio shows together… I thought I was doing okay. And maybe I did…
But somewhere along the way things went sideways.
Whatever the cause, illegal drugs replaced the ones the doctor proscribed to help your mood. Lying became the norm and you stole. Not just from me, but from family, friends and stores. Nothing like being surrounded by store staff demanding you to empty your pockets. We yelled, we cried. We fought, but I tried to never let go. Even in the end when I sent you out of the house to your mother’s, I never let you go completely. But to keep the rest of us, including your baby sister safe, I had to make the hard choice. That has bothered me every day these last couple years, especially as I am still seeing patterns of behavior that concern me.
It is like nothing we did, or fought for, or spent time trying to talk about or fix matters. And I cannot tell you how much that hurts. If you would believe them you can ask my friends how many hours, days, weeks, I spent agonizing over the questions of if I was doing right as a parent, how to help show you how much I loved you, how to raise you right. I cried more nights than I can remember, worried about the future. Seeing it happen now is like a nightmare I can’t wake up from. Not because it’s inescapable. You can still pull out of it. You can still fly.
But I can’t fix it anymore. It’s up to you. And for any parent, that’s a terrifying thing to face.
I love you D.
I know it probably doesn’t feel like it, especially right now, with everything that has happened lately. But I do. Sometimes love means protecting people from themselves. And it’s not fun…for anybody. I still hope you can pull yourself up out of the hole you are in. But I won’t help you dig further down. I am your dad…and that’s why this hurts so much.
I would ask who’s got time for a little dialogue on Nietzche or Plato but that takes a bit more than I’ve got in me at the moment, even if sleep, like a clear breath, is eluding me at the present time. My best friend once asked me to consider if part of the reason I struggle with insomnia is because I don’t think I deserve sleep. I think there is some truth to that…well, that and allergies and being so drugged up I can barely walk straight (*see allergies) but not so drugged I can fall asleep. But in the meantime I wanted to articulate, albeit probably not really at the top of my form, what are some of the things I want out of this process. I got a chip from my EPO marking the 1/4 portion of the way through. It’s not quite, but close enough to matter, so this seems like a good time, since I’m sleep deprived, cranky and emotionally raw, to start…
1.) I want to use this year and a day to review how I approach being in relationship with people, with particular emphasis to intimate relationships. I was once told that “great sex comes and goes but it’s the company that matters.” And I would like to learn how to be the second part of that phrase, be better company. Honestly question what my motives have been over the years without becoming bogged down in minutae and hand-wringing, but seriously looking for the lessons I can learn and work to improve the man I occassionally catch glimpses of in the mirror and in the smile of others.
2.) I want to use this time to explore my relationship with my son. Due to circumstances beyond his control I have had a number of issues being around him, particularly as he’s gotten older and I see more of his mother in him. I’ve been uncomfortable with this duality, as my feelings towards her are hardly charitable at the best of times, but my feelings towards him are generally positive…but when they get mixed up… I want to love and respect my son for who HE is, not what I have struggled to define… if that even makes sense. Anyway, I want to be a better father. I have managed to hold the two of us and this household together on my own these last few years. I could NOT have done it without the love, assistance and support of my circle of family and friends, but I didn’t have to be in a relationship with someone else to raise my son. I am NOT a victim of my circumstance, but a chooser. And I chose to love my son and to be the best father I can learn to be…
3.) Regardless of what the first entry into this blog was about, I started this journey the moment I stood up in front of a crowd of people whom I had disappointed and hurt, but who loved me anyway and asked them to forgive me and promised to God that I’d stop running away from whatever it was God wanted me to do. I started with a prayer… a prayer to be remade. So the last thing I’d like to make progress on this year is my relationship with God and Christ. Where does the ministry that I feel called to provide fall into my life? Where, when and how will I make time for God and others? How can I best respond to the love that is constantly being poured out upon me? It’s a bit intimidating and in my opinion it aught to be… The love of the Almighty should scare the pants off of us at first. It’s not like anything our experiences here in this existence prepare us for and as it picks you up and wraps around you and gushes through you it takes your breath away. There’s truly nothing like it… and that’s what makes it so special, and so freely given. If I truly believe that God’s love has touched my life then how can I NOT respond? I spent years looking…but I’m done with that now.
How many in the crowd didn’t get it? When Jesus entered Jeruselem… Would we recognize any better than they? I wonder…
I finished watching the movie “Swing Vote” tonight, and while some might consider it trite, there were a number of things about it I related to, including the struggles of drifting along as a single dad, just trying to make ends meet without any thought to what I might be or where I was headin’. I too am ashamed. I have been willing more than once to let others care for my son. I have struggled to find a place for him in my life and in my heart. The circumstances surrounding his birth were not easy and I have carried that as a burden over his head and mine for most of our relationship.
But that’s not the answer. And while our relationship is so much better than it has ever been… that says more about how bad it was before than how good it is now. At least now we play together sometimes, watch movies together, read some together. We’re still trying to figure out what the boundaries are for just he and I. What kind of a disciplinarian do I want to be? What privalages does he want? And the temptation is there to just chuck it all…I’m frustrated and tired, he’s stressed and a teenager… we endure, but enduring is not the same as journeying… and not all pain is equal, but new life comes into being with each pang…
Much like that of the disciples as they followed Christ, is one of discomfort, confusion, and fear. But it is also a journey of discovery, hope, and love…in a way that has truly never been present in my life before, at least, not like this. Do I cry out in praise of the miracles I’ve seen or the Messiah, regardless of how uncomfortable his message makes me feel? I can’t just be a passive participant in this. This isn’t something that’s being forced on me, and even though I DO wonder and struggle with where it’s going and what I’m missing and how far I have to go… this IS something I asked for, I believe in…I want. If I didn’t there’s not way in HEAVEN or HELL I’d still be here dealing with this.
So I must do more than endure.
I must journey…and face my own triumphal entry…regardless of the cost.
This journey, this transition, this transformation… it’s something that utterly upsets the habits and balance of my life before and as such is beyond the entirety of my power to affect. All I can do is be willing. Willing and open to the opportunities and possibilities that are there for me to take if this is what I really want. And I suppose at the end of the day that’s the question that matters more than all the rest. I’ve been involuntarily liberated from my past and all the old ways of seeing and doing in my life. Do I really want to go back to them? I can, at least at times, see a partial picture of what might be laying on the horizon and I think it’s worth struggling for. It’s just so bleedin’ far away…And I’m really tired.
I collapsed on my bedroom floor today for almost 45 minutes and cried…
I found my diary a couple of days ago. My actual physical diary. I’d been talking to my son about writing down some of the things he’d been struggling with, his feelings of betrayal, loss of trust, and abandonment. We’d talked about ways we coped with what has happened and I’d been sharing about my diary and about this blog and he had stated that he didn’t know what to write about in his, if he started one. So I shared with him the very first entry of my diary, from March 29th, 1991:
today was a bummer of a day. we just left Bizmart and a totally awsome turbo graphic 16 for $125.00!! & my dad wouldn’t buy it.
p.s. the day wasn’t a total bummer because I hit the jackpot, found money, and get to go to C.P. [Children’s Palace – btw] if dad doesn’t stay too long (he he ha he won’t!!)
p.p.s. He did!!
After sharing this with him he had less trepidation about writing something down. If I can just get him started writing something, to get in the habit of putting his emotions down on paper…it may not be a perfect solution but it would be a start to perhaps allow him some healing as well. So since I hadn’t read my diary since I last put an entry in it I’ve been reading it off and on, skipping parts and going back to others. The last entry in the thing however still strikes me. Not the whole thing, but here is the last part of the last entry in my first diary, dated Jan. 6th, 1999:
Have you ever seen a man so consumed w/appearances that he even orders his own thoughts as to make them more poetic? The thoughts that one utters when one is alone…? I have, I see him every day in the bathroom mirror and we cross paths as we get ready for bed. But I don’t really know him. Or understand him. His loss, his hurt, his anger. Maybe one day I will. Either that or maybe I’ll become the man on the other side of the mirror. Never can say…
It’s interesting how things come full circle. I may have come back to a similar place, a single father,nervous and unsure of what the future holds, but I have gotten to know the man in the mirror. I have become the man in the mirror, and the man looking in. It has not been easy blending the two, but I am who I am. I am loved for who I am, I am forgiven, and I know my boundaries. My need to be needed and to control others has made my life unmanageable. I can let go, usually. I am at peace with being alone – most of the time. I am not perfect. And those in my life don’t have to be. There is a new day dawning and God walks with my son and I. We don’t always realize it. We don’t always want it. But God is there. And God will not leave us.
It has been hammered home how much my life means to the people involved in it. People I am ashamed to say I have not taken the time to get to know as well as I should have, have reached out to me, via emails, Facebook, in person, to share their love and support with me. And I am so grateful and so thankful. I love you all. And for those who have ridden this journey with me from the beginning… well, there really isn’t anything else that needs to be said is there?
And with that, I wanted to share the first poem I ever copied down in my journal. It was from a book of Favorite American Poetry, a book my mother owned and for all I know, still does. And a friend recently sent me a power point with the first verse of it, something else that was a blast from my past, but I think is very appropriate here:
I love you, Not only for what you are, But for what I am, When I am with you
I love you, Not only for what you have made of yourself, But for what, You are making of me
I love you, For the part of me that you bring out
I love you, For putting your hand, Into my heaped-up heart, And passing over all the foolish, weak things, That you can’t help dimly seeing there
And for drawing out, Into the light, All the beautiful belongings That no one else had looked Quite hard enough to find.
I love you, because you Are helping me to make Of the lumber of my life, Not a tavern, But a temple, Out of the works of my every day, Not a reproach, But a song
I love you, because you have done, More than any creed could have done, To make me good, And more than any fate could have done, To make me happy
You have done it Without a touch, Without a word, Without a sign You have done it by being yourself Perhaps that is what Being a friend means after all.
So the big day is comin’ up. Just two more days. On Thursday at approximately 9:00am the relationship that has more or less helped to define me for almost the last decade of my life will be over and done with. Space and relationally it ended almost two years ago, shortly before I started this blog. Legally and emotionally…well, that’s been a different facet altogether. I knew this was week was gonna be rough, for a couple of reasons. First of all it’s the 2nd busiest day of the year for work. Second, the weather and my son make life interesting and a little stir crazy. And then thirdly, there’s the divorce. I just have so much goin’ on in my head, even I can’t sort it all out. Today a dear friend sent me a list of 45 lessons for life in a power point presentation. I actually had gotten the exact same thing earlier that day from my boss at work, but I hadn’t really wanted to read it then. The few I looked at in the morning one hit a little close and the last thing I felt I needed was to get all worked up before one of the craziest days of the year for us at work. And then I got it again tonight when I got home from work after a very, very long day. And I looked, and tried to listen… and struggled…
I’m scared I’m gonna fail.
I’m scared I’ll succeed.
I want to keep on this path, and I have been shown and given such love and support, more than I could have ever imagined. And part of it scares me. I’m not used to it. Even writing this blog, I managed to keep things and people at arms length. I don’t like to open up. I know dear readers, it may be a little hard to believe but if you were here in front of me, I assure you the odds of us ever talking about most of what’s on here are about as likely as the KC Chiefs winning the Super Bowl in my lifetime. I struggle with words, especially when they matter. There’s a line in a great song I love – “The more I think, the less I see” – and that is so me. For a long time I have fought the idea that I could ever forgive myself. I think too much. One of my best friends and I, that’s sort of our code for all the things we consider and talk about. No one else spends as much time on minute stuff as he and I. There’s a quote from one of my favorite book series by C. S. Friedman, the book is called When True Night Falls. The two main characters are a warrior priest named Damien Vyrce and a human/demon-prince, Gerald Tarrant, who was once the founding father of the priest’s church, before selling his soul to Fear. And I think the interplay captures things very well, Tarrant starts off –
“Do you know what repentence means, for me? Do you really understand it?” There was anger in his voice now, but it had a desperate edge, “Repentence means standing before God and saying, I’m sorry. For everything. All the sins I ever committed, I wish they could be undone. I wish that I could go back to that time and do it all over again. […] I wish I could have died before my dream took hold […] I wish I could have died in ignorance of what this world would become, severed from the world of the living before I could begin to untangle the mysteries that surround me. I can’t do it Vyrce. Not honestly. I could say the words, but I could never mean them. And my last dying thought would be of all that I had yet to see, which God’s forgiveness had cost me.” He laughed shortly, bitterly. “Do you really think that would work? Do you really think such an attitude would save me?”
Now it was [Damien] who shut his eyes. He could hear the pain in his own voice as he spoke. “You’re trapped by your own intelligence you know. A simpler man would have found his way back to God long ago.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” he whispered. “Don’t you think that knowledge is part and parcel of my damnation?”
[…] “No one is ever prepared to meet God,” Damien said queietly. “We may think we are, but’s only because we don’t understand Him.”
There were many times in days past I felt much more like Tarrant. The older I get, on the good days, the more I feel like the priest. Struggling with the good and evil inside each of us, trying to hold onto Hope. But I’m still scared to go to sleep some nights. The fear of dying at age 3o is now two years past the date, but it’s still hard to shake the feeling of living on borrowed time. I try to thank Him every morning for the day I’ve been given. I know each day is a gift, a present. I’m just leery of accepting it. Too many old hurts. Too many old fears. They weigh me down and push me around. And then there’s number 38 on the list… “Yield.”
Every time today I’ve read that one I’ve cried. Because it’s the one thing on that list I truly want to do, and struggle the most with. Let go? Lay back? Trust? I don’t want to, but I don’t want to carry it anymore. Who will I be when it’s gone? What will be left when everything that has crushed me all these years is lifted? Will there be anything left? I’ve been writing in this thing for almost two years and I still don’t feel much closer to figuring out who I am. Should I yield it all at once? Can I even do so? Should I do it a little at a time? Would I ever get done?
I was going through old pictures today… always rough when you are already emotionally touchy. Particularly if you are like me and have a tendency to hold on to things that should probably let go. I have pictures from all sorts of things I probably shouldn’t anymore. Pictures of ex’s, places and things that are mixed at best in my history. But they help to tell my story. But they aren’t always the best parts. Like the rest of it, should I get rid of them or put them back in storage? I tell my son over and over again he shouldn’t hang on to the negative memories and emotions, that the only way to move forward is to let go… sounds like good advice doesn’t it? Now if only I could follow it.
I’m tired. I’m nervous. I’m upset. But in the end, no one has the power to make me feel anything I don’t let them. And I don’t have to carry the world on my shoulders. I am NOT responsible for the whole world. Even for all of MY world. I just wish I was a simpler man. It’s not the answer… at least, not the one I’m looking for. I sympathize a lot with both of those characters though in the quote above. Where do I find myself these days in that journey? I like Augustine, a man who would have undoubtedly gotten along with both of them. Valleys and peaks, pain, loss and shame. Elation, joy and peace. I’ve gone through both lately, but this… this is definitely a valley. I knew this week would be bad. But I’m trying to remember that God’s most powerful when we are at our most vulnerable. And as pkkid said on her blog, “Courage being only ‘nothing else left to try’.” Well…
I’ve tried things my way. I ran for so long and wasted so many year. I have nowhere else to turn God, but You. I have spent myself and throw myself on Thy mercy and at Thy feet. I did not come to dance. I did not come to sing. I did not come to laugh. .. I come to cry. I come in pain. I bring my fear to lay before you. I bring my hate and my anger. I’m too tired to carry them anymore, but don’t have the strength to let go. Help me I pray to let go. Help me please to just let go, and trust in You. You who are and have been worthy of my trust and my love. Rock my soul God. We aren’t done breaking me yet, but the refiner’s fire is hot and the journey is not easy for the metal. Pain and shaping, cold and beatings… but in the end, if we can hold to it, there’s the promise of something different, something better, something stronger, someone closer to You.
God grant us all peace this day. I still can’t sleep, but I’m workin’ my way there. And I defintely am never ready to meet God. But God is reaching out to me and is surprising me everyday with another thing on the list… Number 30 – God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do — and number 34 – Get outside every day, miracles are waiting everywhere.
Returning to the desert isn’t a one time decision. And if allowed to take too much time to plan, the reasons for not going forward will become so numerous and oppressive that eventually through their own weight and numbers they will stall out the momentum that sustains you. It’s also hard as you reach that first rise in the dunes, look back on the oasis you’re leaving and remember all the good times you enjoyed there. But it’s done, you’ve left, and the memories will stay to provide strength for the journey ahead, because you are not done yet. The journey is not over. There are still things to be encountered there that must be faced if you are to change fully. I was reminded of this by a poem of mine I wrote many years ago, when the birth of my son was near and we were heading into the Christmas season. I called it:
I’m going to be a father…had you heard?
There will be a little one in my arms crying for me.
There will soon be a little one asking me for direction.
Can I do what’s right?
Can I love enough?
Can I open enough to be a father for this precious life?
What’s it like to raise a happy child?
What’s it like to bring a child into a loving world?
What’s it like to sing and shout and cry with joy over every new discovery?
What’s it like to be a daddy?
I want to be the best at this, but I don’t know how…
I’m not ready for this…
I’m going to be a daddy soon…had you heard?
For a little bit of background, I had been 20 for just over five weeks when my son was born, his mother had been 18 for all of 2 weeks exactly. We were kids, me still in college, her just leaving high school. There was enough history and issues between us by then that we had decided not to stay together but would work together for the good of the child. I didn’t find out about my son’s birth however until we got a call from her mother letting us know that my son had been born and I could go visit him in the hospital over where they feed them in the little windowed nursery area. It was made clear to me that I would not be welcome in the room with my son’s mother and her parents.
So I went.
A little amazed. A little frustrated. A LOT scared. A LOT of confusion… I went into the pediatric area, looked around for the place where they put babies in those little glass beds, didn’t see my son and as I was roaming around the nurses station looking for a nurse to ask, I passed by her room. I only caught a glimpse, but I saw this little tuft of dark hair on his mother’s breast and realizing it was her, kept right on walking. I walked half-way around the nurse’s station, till I was directly opposite and sat in a chair, my hands trembling. I was so scared and so hurt and so angry. Here was life that I had been a part of, hopefully would BE a part of, and I wasn’t even allowed to see it, hold it, touch it, be near it. His mother had made her choice clear months earlier when she decided she wanted to date what had been on of my best friends instead of me. That’s a whole ‘nother mess, that I won’t touch on right now. At any rate, I was a mess of emotion and indecision.
So I sat.
For 30 minutes…
Waiting for her to send him with the nurses to the nursery where I had been told I could see him. He never came. I left shortly after her aunt and uncle (the uncle who had molested her for Christ’s sake) came out of the room. I’d visited with them briefly then fled. And fled was the right word. Fleeing my own emotions, the situation, the responsibility, the hurt, everything. And I didn’t stop for almost 11 years. Only to stop and find myself faced with an even more daunting task. I’m heading back into the desert. I made the choice, I’ve asked my friends and family for as much support as possible while I’m traveling. I’m doing more praying and trying to find those quiet times I’ll need to spend with God. I still feel so unready. I still feel scared. Not sure of what though. My father used part of this blog in his sermon today. I have mixed feelings about it truth be told. On the one hand I’m flattered that it worked well enough for him to share, it’s not the first time me and my family’s life have been used in relation to God and in a sermon, and will likely not be the last. But on the other, it also made me realize, really for the first time, that I have committed myself to this path. There were a number of people at church today who now know about this decision and will lovingly support me on the path I’ve chosen…but it does make it that much harder to back out. Not that I really want to. But when that reality clicks, when the realization of what you are doing hits… it can be somewhat overwhelming.
My son is also gone today, which has given me time… time and quiet to go over things in my mind. I drove down with my best friend to a town almost two hours away to drop him off for a two day visit with his mother while she was in the area visiting a friend. It’s weird with him gone. And a little scary. For all that I struggle with the idea of being a dad, for all that I fight for every bit of “me” time I get, this isn’t the same. And it’s not like when he goes over to a friend’s house for the afternoon. This is a letting go, which as I’ve stated before, is not something I’m very good at. I can only hope and pray…and ask for forgiveness.