Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

summer

Fall of the House of Dad

OFF-gnomehouse

I’ve written about this before. I’d like to recap and bring some structure and organization to the story of my house struggles and my depression surrounding the crushing effects of the divorce on my personal and financial stability.

In divorce the man often is the parent who is asked to leave the house, and leave the rest of the family as undisturbed as possible. I get it. We are trying to lessen the impact of the divorce on the kids. But… What about the dad? As they continued on in some sort of “daddy’s on a business trip” mode, I was immediately homeless and alone. Um, it is quite different.

And one of the first challenges, if money is an issue, is establishing a new home, a place where you can begin being a dad again. How long it takes to reestablish this residence depends a lot on your mental state of mind and your employment situation. In my case both were significantly damaged. I moved into my sister’s spare bedroom. And this might have been a saving grace. I was not ready to be alone alone. When I was “off” I had my sister and her two kids to keep me company. My story became, “And I didn’t need to be alone. I was so lucky.”

But I tried to keep my joy and wits about me as well.

My divorce was finalized in August of 2010 and my next full-time job came along in December of that year. I appeared to land on my feet at a fairly high-profile and well-paying gig. Immediately I started looking for a place to live. I knew with the way credit works that I needed to establish myself as a home owner as quickly as possible. And in February I found a smallish house in a neighborhood a lot less expensive that our family home, but within my kid’s school district. And in March we launched the “gnome house” chapter of our lives. My kids were in 4th and 6th grade at this time, and my house was actually closer to my son’s middle school than their mom’s home. It was a short-lived victory.

In July of that first year, my employer changed their entire business model and eliminated my position after six months. Now, I could give into my mom and sister’s evaluation that I jumped to early, but I knew that my options for buying were going to be much harder without the big job. I was glad I had a home, but I collapsed into a summer of hardship as I struggled to find work again. At the same time, my kids and I had a great summer. We swam in the nearby lake, we played basketball and soccer in the twilight of the summer evenings, when the Texas heat gave way. We had an adventure together. And for all intents and purposes we were happy in our little house. On the days (most of them) when they were not with me I thrashed and struggled with my life and the impending loss of my newly established home.

When school started up again, things began to fall apart for me.

And the strains of money began to show up in discussions with my ex-wife.

We struggled on, I continued to profess my intention of getting caught back up with the child support that was set during the divorce at my “big corporate job” rate. She started feeling the pressure of the cash call as well, and there is no blame here. She was a very responsible money manager. In her mind she was doing what she felt was necessary. I was doing what I thought was necessary as well. I remember an email exchange between us where she said, “You seem to think that your mortgage and expenses are more important that your responsibility to your children. I don’t understand that.”

Um… My response was this, “I think we knew this was going to be hard. And I think dad deserves a place to live and a food and electricity to provide a place for himself and his kids, when he has them. I will get caught up on the child support, and I assure you I am not spending any discretionary money. I have no discretionary money. I am working to find a job so I can keep my house and resume full payments to you.”

At this point I was just irregular. When things got really bad is when I actually missed a full payment. Her emails became more hostile. And our “conversations” devolved into sometime resembling this exchange. ME: “I think we should talk about the kids summer plans.” HER: “When will you have the next payment?” ME: “Um… I don’t know. I have some prospects, but nothing has come through.” HER: Silence. And that’s how the communications between us, that had been positive and kid-focused, got off track. And things went down hill fast after she started refusing to discuss anything with me that didn’t involve a payment date and plan from me.

And then things were forever changed. She filed her cause with the Attorney General’s office. And we were suddenly in a legal battle again and I went from struggling and working and not making enough money to a “deadbeat dad.”  But that wasn’t enough. I was also now nearing default on my mortgage. I again pleaded with her to give me some options. She began her new response, “I signed an agreement with the AG’s office not to negotiate about money with you.” END OF DISCUSSION.

As the last year began to close it became clear that she was blocking my attempts to file restructuring bankruptcy to try and keep the Gnome House. I looked to my mom for some financial support, but she really hadn’t like the house from the beginning. Fuck. I was out of options and in newly threatening weekly letters from the AG’s office. It was time to sell. And without a full-time big corporate job I didn’t have the income to even look for a place to “move to.” And so at 51 years old I was heading back under the roof of my mom. The shame was palpable, but what were my options?

So in March of this year, 2014, I sold my home and moved in to my mom’s house. OUCH. My mom and I laughed through the situation with a phrase, “Well, it beats living under a bridge.” Yes, it does. But it didn’t have to go this way.

Some where in the divorce she had lost all compassion for me. When my house was being threatened by foreclosure she pressed the entire issue, her issue, to the AG’s office, thus obstructing any potential remedy I might seek. And in the loss, my kids and my mom and I have gotten very close. And it’s funny, they have better rooms and better meals than they ever had at my house. In my haste to reestablish a homestead and a place for me to be dad, I had chosen a house that has some fundamental issues. (No dishwasher, a septic system, and only one kid bedroom.)

At this moment I’m in a converted single-car garage in the middle of a rich neighborhood. It’s not bad. I’m not thrashing. But it’s hard. I have no privacy, no place to even think of establishing a relationship. And what’s the first warning sign anyway? Someone with money troubles, or god-forbid, no home.

In the divorce I am certain we were both doing the best we could. In the blindingly sad negotiations I agreed to giving up my request for 50/50 parenting, and I accepted the financial responsibility that would lock me into the big corporate track for the duration of the agreement. (Until my last child reached 18.) But what I didn’t know is that in all this “good will” negotiations that my soon-to-be-ex-wife would press the entire thing onto the state’s attorneys.

She did it with little more than a reference to “looking after the children’s interests.” Um, sure, maybe, if I was doing something that demonstrated I was trying to skip out on my child support payments. That’s when you go to the AG’s office! Not as a normal course of business. And when my home was threatened is the moment, I think, that you get real about the situation, you show some compassion for your co-parent, and you pause.

In divorce, you are still in a financial coupling. When I lost my job we all suffered. But that’s not the moment to file against your former partner. I do think she’s still mad at me, the same anger that infected our marriage. I’m not sure how that happens, or how someone dissipates it on their own. It takes work. And in a recent kid-focused therapy session her rage surfaced again, and I was again seeing the woman who I gladly release. I don’t need to be in any kind of relationship with someone who harbors such vitriol. And so we drop down into a logistics-and-money relationship. Sad. But maybe that’s more accurate. That’s kind of how the marriage had become as well.

We carry on. We do better. We keep going.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent – still in transition
@theoffparent

image: the gnome house, march 2011, the author, cc


up and away

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 5.41.36 PM

[from a second wave – poetry]

alter my state
break the language
into sound and tone
and help me escape
an endless afternoon
this summer heat
has pushed me back
inside and inward
i crave expansion
explosions and fire
shooting skyward
in multi-patterned bursts
i cannot take flight
alone
in need your friction
and fizzle
to ignite my day
and burn through the night
i have set traps
built altars
begun to mumble
incantations
to draw your flutter
to my flame
and now i await
amazed at the waiting
for what might arrive
and how you
first
appear

8-8-14

image: neither fish nor man, jewelry for sale on etsy, creative commons usage


Urban Fit Uber Cute Couple Bias – UFUCC

OFF-lulu

A number of interesting ideas came up during my walk around the local lake this morning. I was blessed with the presence of my 11-yo daughter, who is just about full-on irritated with me at this point. “Right on schedule,” I said to her, as she rolled her eyes at me for the 15th time this morning.

The good thing about reaching the “dad is such a dork” phase with my kids is this, I don’t have to behave in perfect and rigid parenting patterns, I’m more of a crackup. And they have grabbed a wicked sense of humor from me. So I am unabashedly dorky, and I’m happy to crack myself up full-on and catch my daughter busting a smile over in her eye-rolling seat.

At one point I made a joke this morning, as she switched the radio for the 10th time to another rap/pop non-musical “tune.” I said, “Listen I’m starting to have a few problems with our relationship. I think we’re going to need to see other people.” She rolled her eyes. I went on. “I mean, I’m paying for everything, I don’t like your music that much, and we never agree on where to go eat these days, so… I think we might need to take a break.” We both cracked up

We’d had so many pseudo blowups, that the real one wasn’t even very interesting or dramatic. It was disappointing, because I had prepared a lot of goodies for the date night.

The resonance, however, with the conversation I had last night as my “friend” was blowing up at me at the “hi-how-ya-doin” moment of our date night. She started spewing a ton of “always” and “nevers” at me. And I registered that she was off her rocker, blaming with wild generalizations about the “entire relationship” and not just her disappointment. And let’s see, that morning she had been 20 minutes late for our walk meetup. And I was fifteen minutes late, due to a father-daughter issue I needed to work out, and BOOM, I’m uncaring, unsuited for a relationship, and obviously only interested in doing what I want to do. (Oh, and I actually don’t dig her choice in music, but that was never brought up.)

If I could’ve rolled my eyes at her last night I might have been better off then trying to negotiation or talk rationally about her outburst. There was no “hi” at the door, there was “I’m mad at you.” And as I tried to blow it off and make light of it, as she often reverts to, “just kidding” this time she wasn’t kidding. And there was just enough resentment and disappointment underneath the wine she’d been drinking to set her off on an unreachable tear. I left. And I’m done done. We’d had so many pseudo blowups, that the real one wasn’t even very interesting or dramatic. It was disappointing, because I had prepared a lot of goodies for the night. But it was more drama and crisis that screamed RED FLAG and GET THE HELL OUT.

I walked.

And this morning as my daughter and I continued our playful banter about all things boy-girl, all things father-daughter, all things “dad is a dork” we laughed off most of the jokes. Sure, she was irritated with me. But it wasn’t really about if I did something great or if I did something dorky. It was just her being 11 year-old and reaching that separation journey. It’s okay. She needs to find her detachment. And now I’m free to play the “dorky dad” she likes to complain about. And I’m free to crack us both up and to illicite eyerolls at any moment. This is where we are.

She was still acting out some routine with her ex-husband or something. And I’m in no mind to be a stand in for her target practice.

Just as we were finishing our hour walk an uber fit couple came down from their lakefront condo in sporty LuLuLemons (my daughter’s crush brand at the moment) and started stretching on the trail as we walked by. I have to admit the woman looked spectacular. And I’m guessing my daughter noticed the tall dark and handsome guy in the fancy workout clothes as well.

We got off on this riff about LuLuLemon clothing for guys. “It’s only for gay guys,” I said. Eyeroll.

“No dad, it’s not.”

“Any guy, inside the LuLuLemon store, and not there with his daughter or girlfriend or wife, is GAY. G. A. Y.”

“Dad that’s so wrong… You’re being, what’s the word for racist except about…”

“Sexist.”

“Yeah, you’re being so sexist.”

“Actually you’re right. I’m being sexist.”

“See.”

“But tell me this…” I was ready to set the punchline of the weekend.

“What…” She was pre-rolling her eyes as we were getting ready to get back in my car.

“What is the LuLuLemon logo in the shape of?”

“Hair.”

“Yes, so what non-gay guy is going to wear shorts with girls hair as a logo? Gay I tell you, gay.”

“They are not gay, dad, you’re just being your dorky self.”

“Fine. We can agree to disagree.”

“And I’m going to get you a pair of LuLuLemon shorts for your birthday.”

“Oh really… You’re going to pay $75 for a pair of shorts for me? Nice.

“Yep. And you’ll be hooked after you wear them one time.”

“I’ll be looking forward to it.”

As far as the woman who misbehaved last night. She was not 11 years-old. She was demonstrating time after time how unready she was to have any kind of adult relationship. She was still acting out some routine with her ex-husband or something. And I’m in no mind to be a stand in for her target practice.

So I walk on, right past the UFUCC. And I anticipate my new LuLuLemon shorts in November when I will officially become gay. Unless I don’t, and then I suppose I will become a LuLuLemon spokesperson.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: run, yoga, fusion class, carolyn coles, creative commons usage

[Note: I don’t think I am sexist, or anti-gay, or homophobic for writing or joking about this. And I don’t really have any beef with LuLuLemon, except for the CEO’s comments, and the price of their fancy yoga gear.]


please stay gone

[from a second wave – poetry]

i can’t take it back
you’ve got it
our love has spawned
these beautiful
beautifuls

and when you’ve got them
i am ultimately alone
alone in an ultimate way
a way i never anticipated
as we looked ahead
our mad plans
and said
i
do

today
i don’t
and i can’t imagine
what misguided joy caused you
to send me photos
happy photos
i guess you’re showing me
“our kids” are so happy

but
why

are you in any of the pictures

so i can put you up on my mantle
if i had a mantle

please leave yourself out
your smile still hurts
the ache now is for them
and the loss of any seconds
with them
you were my world
you are gone
please stay gone

thank you

4-30-14

for the story read: divorce support

image: dad and kid on the beach, dinuraj k, creative commons usage

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 6.09.47 AM


Divorce Support: For the Children *and* the Parents

OFF-fighter

We need to dispense with the pleasantries right up front. (You are welcome to let me know how you feel about this in the comments. They’re always open.)

  • Divorce is an awful hardship for everyone in the fracturing family.
  • With two professional parents, the man is likely to make more money.
  • Two homes costs more than twice as much, for the person paying child support.
  • Child support is not an entitlement, even if the law and the benefactor might see it this way.
  • The financial bindings of the family exist long past 18-years-of-age.
  • Both parent deserve food, clothing, and shelter.
  • When adversity strikes, both parents are affected.
  • 50/50 parenting after divorce is not the norm.
  • If your former partner struggles for a few years after divorce, with emotional issues, financial issues, etc. this is an opportunity for continued compassion, not legal action.
  • Some fathers will be assholes and try to get out of paying child support or (in the case of 50/50 custody) their fair share of the expenses.
  • 50/50 custody and a 50/50 financial split actually keeps the father closer to the family.
  • If you married and parented 50/50, regardless of how you feel about the divorce, regardless of which side you were on (stay married or leave), you should work together towards a 50/50 divorce.

You can’t ask for primary custody and then start complaining about having too many parenting responsibilities. Well, you can, but the argument says more for 50/50 custody than it does for your obvious hardship. Of course, you complained during our marriage that I didn’t do enough. Didn’t pay the bills right, didn’t mow the lawn enough, didn’t put the dishes in the dishwasher every night before heading to bed.

So we’re divorced. And in the eyes of the law you are the custodial parent. It’s what you wanted. I’m sure you had your reasons, I’m sure you could’ve told the judge, with a straight face, how you do all the parenting. But you know it’s not true. Not even close.

She didn’t care about me or my house. She wanted the money. She was entitled to it. Obviously. It was right there in writing.

Let’s say you get married and both of you work. In the negotiations for how kids will be possible you both decide that the mom will work significantly less, so that the kids have their mom with them at all times. As they enter school, perhaps you will start back to work, so we can share that load again. And we may decide that you will still meet the bus at 3:00 every weekday, but it’s a privilege not a chore. It’s a benefit not a burden.

So when the grand consul de divorce asks, “So how do you share the parenting duties now?” You can answer, I’m the primary care giver. And I know you honestly believed it. Well, okay, maybe a tad of it was vindictive and defensive. I mean, you had to say that to even begin the discussions at anything other than 50/50 custody. How old school.

Falling back on the line, “It’s what she will get if you go to court,” I was handed the options. Non-custodial parent, SPO (standard possession order), and a hefty child support payment.

But wait… Didn’t we agree to the parenting arrangements? And now it’s being used against me? Didn’t we agree to a cooperative divorce? How is this cooperative, when you come out of the gate asking for well-over half?

If I had really gone the cooperative route, I would’ve hired an attorney right at the beginning as well. She did. Instead I put my faith in the counselor, and in the good will of the mother of my children. I was wrong, or misguided, on both counts.

Here’s the situation. When the court awards custodial and noncustodial roles, a nice child support formula kicks in. That’s how the state likes it. Somebody is going to pay. And in your decree, if you are as lucky as I am, you will have a document that even allows the court to garnish your wages first, before your take-home pay. The message is this. You cannot be trusted to pay in a timely manner. And even if you are having financial difficulties, the child support payments come first.

At least my kids have rooms to sleep in when it’s my time. But did she think of the consequences of taking legal action against me?

I don’t argue that my kids deserve the full benefit of both of our salaries. But when I lost one of my primary clients, and was about to slip into a late-payment status, my ex-wife pushed everything into the Attorney General’s office. Putting my livelihood at risk and preventing me from taking any measures to save my house. She didn’t care about me or my house. She wanted the money. She was entitled to it. Obviously. It was right there in writing. I signed the decree. What was I arguing about.

I wasn’t arguing. I was pleading. “Please don’t do this. I am not trying to hide any money. I am looking to replace the client. I am looking for a job, to leave the consulting practice I had built over the  last four years. Just hold off. There is no need to bring the state’s lawyers into this.”

Here filing our case with the AG’s office was akin to her shouting “Fuck You.” Of course, that’s my opinion. And, of course, she is entitled to her money. That’s the law.

But what is the law of human dignity? What does compassion for your co-parent mean? What does co-parenting even mean, when one of the parents has a loaded gun pointed at your head? At this very moment, my attorney tells me, the AG’s office could have my ass thrown in jail for failure to pay child support. A criminal? How cooperative is that?

As we moved closer to AG day, I was asking my ex-wife to understand my situation. “Don’t you think a father also deserves a place to live, and the electricity and cell phone service to continue gainful employment?” She answered, “I don’t know what you want me to answer to that.”

Um… What I wanted her to do was not file suit against me with the State of Texas and turn me into a deadbeat dad. What I wanted was to keep the house I had fought so hard to buy and afford, just barely scraping by, even in the good times. What I wanted was a tiny bit of compassion. “Just pause for a second and think about what you’re doing. Do you think it’s going to help the situation by filing suit against me? Do you think that will make me work harder, or look for a job harder?”

No answer.

I’m not sure what her motivation was at sending me pictures of HER with the kids. Maybe it’s motivation to get a job and get back into the swing of paying for her vacations with the kids.

And she filed. And now I’m a deadbeat dad. I’m lucky. My mom (yep, 51 and living with mom) had some spare rooms in her house. At least my kids have rooms to sleep in when it’s my time. But did she think of the consequences of taking legal action against me? Did she imagine how that might damage my credit? Might take my house out from under me? That it might even show up in my background checks as I’m looking so desperately for those full-time jobs that would afford me both a place to live and her child support checks?

I don’t know what she was thinking. I don’t really know what she thinks today. She’s still hoppin mad about something. The money. My 50/50 effort in getting the kids to doctor’s appointments, after school activities, etc. She’s just mad. But she’s been mad at me for years. At least one full year before she divorced me. So she’s gonna be mad. That’s a fact of life. I hope she gets better. But I can’t count on that.

I’ve had fantastic interviews all summer long. Five of them turned into final-round negotiations. And I still haven’t gotten the offer. Hmm. I’m not sure what’s in that background check. I’m hoping that her AG action did not put a “do not hire” mark in my file. But I guess I won’t know.

Anyway, it’s a long road back to having a BIG CORP job and a happy home. Even getting back into a house, now is going to be a long way off. She took… Wait, it was my fault. I should’ve done better. It’s a long way back. And I’m not sure she would’ve fired off the final “Press Charges” missile had she known her actions would damage my ability to pay her the money she was demanding.

It’s all okay. We’re going to make it. All of us. Her too. She sent pictures tonight of her and the kids at the beach. (That was our family vacation.) I’m not sure what her motivation was at sending me pictures of HER with the kids. Maybe it’s motivation to get a job and get back into the swing of paying for her vacations with the kids. (Sorry, that was bitter and sarcastic.) I’m sure she was just sending me happy pictures along with her happy thoughts of me getting that next big job. I think that’s what she wanted all along. Maybe that was even the unconscious reason she divorced me. (see: please stay gone < poem)

Onward and upward. I’ve been asked to a full-day interview next week with a company I’m very excited about. This is my fourth full-day interview this summer. How do I get a look at that “background” file? (grin)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

this post recast in a poem: please stay gone

back to The Hard Stuff

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image: thai boxing | the boxer, marshall astor, creative commons usage


More Play Summer: Keeping Your Joy After Divorce

play-more-summer

The concept that we learn most of our relationship patterns from our family of origin is fairly well documented. What we learn from Mom and Dad is either 1. what we want to do; or 2. what we don’t want to do. Often we are not clear on pulling the two different concepts apart. And more often, the connections are even more obscured by emotion or lifelong baggage.

Today, I had a moment of realization about my family of origin and the disastrous path my Dad and Mom took.

I walked down to the lake from my modest house. And the sign above reminded me, “Oh yeah, this needs to be a play more summer.” And I thought about my parents and our monstrous house on the lake. While my dad was successful in business, his relationship skills were limited and eventually destroyed by alcoholism. And what I missed, once my father moved out of the house (I was 5) was the time and space to play with and really get to know my Dad. Or, more importantly, know that he loved me. Somewhere deep in my heart, I’m still not sure of that one.

Today, swimming in the lake, by myself I was noticing my life at this moment. Even as my kids are traveling on a summer vacation with my ex-y and her boyfriend, I am happy.

My dad worked hard every day, and as part of his come down each night he would have a few toddies with the boys in the office next door. His success was limitless. His medical practice was thriving. He had just completed a stunning lake house and would drive his boat to the country club in the mornings and drive his car from there to work. It was a golden life. Well, you would think it should be.

But my dad was really mad about something. He was always mad. [Hmmm. This sounds a bit too familiar.] The anger of my father is legendary even among my friends. He was an ass all the time. And somehow he resented his own success, because he had to keep working so hard to maintain it.

My mom said she made a proposition to my father one time early on, as the success was coming, but the stress was also growing with it. She offered to go with him, anywhere, take some time to enjoy the money he’d been making, get away from it all. He declined.

And in the real sense of the word, he declined from there, even as his financial success shot upward.

By the time my mom gave him the ultimatum, the drink or me and the kids, he was probably too far down his own destructive path to imagine that recovery was possible. And being a doctor, AA was out of the question. He insisted to me, years later, as I was a son pleading with him to get help for his drinking, “I don’t have a problem.”

Today, swimming in the lake, by myself I was noticing my life at this moment. While I’m struggling a bit financially, I’m sure that I will continue to pull up from the strained economy. And even as my kids are traveling on a summer vacation with my ex-y and her boyfriend, I am happy.

My dad got on a trajectory of success and big money that would’ve been very hard to get off. My exit was easier, I was no longer willing to be shut out sexually from my wife.

What I have, however, that is so different from my father, is a clear and loving relationship with both my daughter and my son. They KNOW how much I love them. They will never wonder if they are enough. I tell them all the time.

And I have made some choices to keep this clarity of purpose at the forefront of my life. I could work more. I could go back to Dell and slave it out at the corporate-level again. But in those two years, even as my life was following the life dream of many, I was unhappy.

It was “almost” enough to keep me there. I loved coming home to my wife and kids in the affluent neighborhood and knowing that I had provided for their well-being and  support. But there was an imbalance.

My dad got on a trajectory of success and big money that would’ve been very hard to get off. My exit was easier, I was no longer willing to be shut out sexually from my wife, and I was also not willing to just jump into the next corporate job to make that fantasy picture come back together. It was a fantasy that was killing me, making me fat, separating me from time with my kids. I made a choice.

Today, swimming in a modest public park, I recognized the pressure my father must’ve been under and I said a little prayer that I learned from his early death, that possessions and wealth don’t bring you joy. And in the end, the pressure of those things may be what separates you from the most important things in your life, your family.

My father lost his family in his divorce. But he made choices to go down the alcoholic path. I have not made the same choices. And my hope is that my ex-wife will find some joy in life, some relief from the constant anger that seemed (sometime it still seems) to be aimed at me. I am certain I was not my father’s issue. In the same way I am certain I was not my ex-y’s anger problem either.

We each have to grow and evolve as individuals. We have no choice. I think I have evolved into a more caring and more dedicated father that my father could be. And today in the lake, I gave thanks to my health, love, and awareness.

More. Play. Summer.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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A Moment of Self-Care Might Be In Order

breaking up with your exI seem to be moving on, beyond the divorce. I know, if you’re a reader, you’ve been noticing more about love and dating and self-improvement, and I think that’s a good, evolutionary, thing. There’s a new  project, I’ve thought about for a long time, The Whole Parent, that may be ready for further exploration. Or maybe, the next LOVE, and how to go in, eyes open, as I did with GF #1, and develop that deeper connection, that adoration, that becomes love. I’d like to explore the “let’s be together forever” kinda feeling.

It is a happy and solid moment for me right now. Feeling like my D is receding a bit from my daily focus. Sure, the kids, and the money, are still a focus, but the ex-y has much less to do with my healing. She just is. Sure, she’s raised a ruckus about money, and that is probably the sole source of friction in my life, at the moment, but in general, I don’t pay much attention to her.

In the same way, I don’t pay attention to her, I don’t have to respond to all of her emotional outbursts. She has faded into the background noise, with people like mortgage collectors, and the cable company. They’re all going to get their money, before any damage is done. But they’re merely details. There is no emotional charge from Time Warner. And the ex-y may call for a jihad, but she’s really just expressing the same old distress that blew us apart. It’s not a crisis. It’s just business.

A word of wisdom from the old divorce recovery class, “You’re ex should be like a convenience store clerk. You go in and take care of your business, but you don’t necessarily need to know how their day was.”

The same may be happening here. I’m no longer that concerned with PAST and more interested in the FUTURE. I’m ready to explore what’s next.

And now, I think I need a retreat in nature. I’m not sure if it’s a sans-electronics (cause I write on this thing) but definitely a change of location for 5 days or so while the kids are traveling with the ex-y and her fiancé. (It’s bound to happen, they’ve been together now for 1.5 years, that’s longer than we dated before we got married, of course it hasn’t happened yet.)

I don’t know that you ever GET OVER your divorce. There are often moments that sneak up on you and remind you how much you lost. But mostly, for now, those are about the kids and not the ex-y. She was painting our relationship into a sterile glass box for over a year before I noticed the lack of oxygen, or touch, or compassion. She was already gone.

A friend from my divorce recovery class said it best, “At some point, ‘ugh’ will become ‘meh.'”

Sincerely

The Off Parent

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i believe, i pray, i fly

poem of desire - love poem - beach[from Making Love To Other Women – poetry]

and if i bring poems to her and she doesn’t understand
when i sing songs and she gets bored
if i offer a casual massage and she’s too busy
what then?

and if i ask and provide opportunities
when i wait and hold out hope
can i become addicted to longing
what then?

i know what missing you feels like
before we’ve even met
i can smell you, and feel your hair in my face
i know what i have lost

and if the shower after the day on the beach
and the cool dark unfamiliar room
rough and clean white sheets
the curtains billowing in the blow of the ac

and if my longing does not call you in
and my waiting proves fruitless again
i can still send out sirens songs
and use this desire as a sail

of course i hunger for her
and a near miss is a miss completely
and a word, a poem, a song, are precious
even without an ear to whisper into

in fibers deep in my soul i know
she is nearby, doing her thing
i am not finished with my baking
these ‘projects’ are just beginning

perhaps at this moment
she would be a distraction
and from afar she is muse, lover, mother
vixen, tease, goddess, everything

i know what longing feels like
i learned to do without even when she was next to me
i can thrive alone, in desirous creation
i don’t want to, but i do

sing along little bird
bring your bright feathers into my mouth
give flight to your fantasies as well
there is time, there is time, there is always time

hearts a flutter in beautiful presence
i am still becoming more loveable
my plan is drawing you in
even as I have failed to execute in the past

i can call, and write, and throw
poems and intentions and agendas at you
i can wait and be patient
to see if you will ignite

perhaps you are that one
that madonna that brings me to god, again
again, I am ready
i believe, i pray, i fly

i believe, i pray, i fly

6-19-13

 


A Son’s Sadness on Father’s Day

brunch on father's day 2013Poking his sister in the head and pulling her hair were natural acts for my 12-yo son. And today at my Father’s Day brunch, things were no different. Except when my mom asked each kid to tell one thing they liked about their dad. I was supposed to tell something I like about “being” their dad. And my mom was going to tell what she liked about watching me be a dad.

A simple father’s day request, over brunch. My mom set up the question, my daughter went first.

“I like how my dad is always positive and supportive of us. And that he’s not like our cousin’s dad.”

Ah yes, easy to be a great dad when contrasted with a devil dad.

And with that, my son, who had taken extra time to come up with his appreciation, slumped into a tearful silence. He couldn’t go next.

My mom went next. “I love seeing how you support and love your children in everything they do. And how much they know you love them.”

Okay. All good there.

So I went next, as we were going around the table like a card game.

“I really love how each of my kids are excelling in their creative pursuits, both musical and non-musical. I am amazed by how creative each of you are.”

And with that, my son, who had taken extra time to come up with his appreciation, slumped into a tearful silence. He couldn’t go next.

My mom got uncomfortable and tried to ease off him and change the subject. I asked that we just give him some time to recover. That it was okay for him to be feeling some emotion. My mom gave me a worried look. He was fine. I did wonder what he was feeling so deeply at that moment. Was it connected with something I said?

He took some time. And the rest of us moved on and talked about various things. But I came back to him when he seemed to have regained composure.

“Not to completely let you off the hook,” I said. “Surely you can think of one good thing to say about me.” We smiled at each other. He was back.

He spoke clearly, “I like it when you try to help, even on things that you can’t help on. You still try.”

I liked it. I added, “Anything specific, right now, that I’m not helping on?” I smiled big at him, letting him know I was open for anything, but also teasing a little about anything I might be missing on.

“No,” he said. “Nothing comes to mind.”

It’s hours later, and the kids are back at the ex-y’s and I’m still trying to decipher what he was saying. And of course my interpretation is only MINE. I will have to wait until Thursday, when they are back with me, to see if I can gain any insight into what he was trying to communicate.

As I was coming home several things came to mind that would’ve made me sad at his age. AGAIN, these are about ME and MY DAD, and MY PARENTS divorce, but I only have my own story to reference.

  1. Sad that he’s not able to be with me all the time, or that we are separated so much of the time.
  2. Expressing his understanding that the divorce was not my idea, and that I tried to keep it from happening.
  3. Sad that the rest of his life isn’t as positive when I’m not around.

I don’t know.

My dad didn’t die until I was 20 years old, but he was unavailable to me the moment he walked out of the house when I was about six.

My son is a bit on the quiet side, when it comes to talking about emotions. (Duh, he’s twelve.) But in tender moments I stay close and don’t exit or let him exit either. I want to dig into this moment with him and see if I can get at any of *his* sadness and help him make sense of it.

In my parent’s divorce my dad exited in a big way. He was an alcoholic and when the divorce happened he went even further into his disease and married another alcoholic. They drank themselves to death.

My dad was unable to show any emotional connections except when he would get sloppy drunk and morbidly sad about the divorce. I recall him crying to Charlie Prides, “The Most Beautiful Girl” more than once. But that’s what alcoholics do. They suffer the self-pity of their own self-destruction and then drink more to make it less painful, and thus make it worse.

When the cancer treatments forcibly sobered up my dad, and he was dying, I finally got a chance to say to him how much I loved him. And he was able to hear me.

A few months before his last trip to the hospital, he was living at a golf resort about an hour from town. I spent the weekend with him. We watched tv, played cards, and had a few meals together. Nothing much.

As I was leaving to go back to town on Sunday morning, he said, “We haven’t gotten to do too much of this. And I want to do it more.”

“Yes, Dad. I’d love to be with you as much as I can.”

His last entry into the hospital he lost consciousness pretty quickly. He hung on for a week, but it was merely time for us to sit beside the bed, cry, and hold his limp hand as the machines hissed and beeped.

I am present for my kids. The divorce did not take me away from them, but it does limit the amount of time we have together. And as I continue to heal and get distance from my divorce, I am aware of how important my close and solid connection is with them. It’s the most important thing I do.

This father’s day, I give thanks to being a dad. And sharing those last days with my dad that remind me how precious every moment with them is. My dad didn’t die until I was 20 years old, but he was unavailable to me the moment he walked out of the house when I was about six. He drank himself into nightly stupors, first alone and then married. Already my kids have got a much better deal. Not ideal, but okay, survivable.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

And tonight…

my son is a gamer

Resources:

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Got my dad by my side – A video of Peter Gabriel and his dad by Peter’s daughter Anna Gabriel.


Tired of Kissin Frogs

girl of the summerAnd just like that: I’ve hit the opening of summer, alone.

All that potential stored up, and a little head cold that took me out of a potential date with the last remaining “woman with potential.” Oh well. Let’s re-assess.

1. OKCupid is dead. Once you go through and HIDE all the “no fkin way” matches there are about 8 women that are interesting. The one responder was fun, (SEE First Date Closure) but pursuit would’ve been an act of interest not inspiration. I don’t want interest. I don’t want kinda. I want fireworks.

2. Women with Potential. The overthinker has been removed. And the remaining woman, while AMAZING, is a slow mover. I’m taking the persistent but distant approach. She’s not been in a close relationship for many years. So moving anything along down that path with me will require time and patience. I’m fine with that. BUT… I’m back in farming mode. (Meaning, trolling OKCupid and generally opening up the universal box of wishes again.)

3. Self-Improvement. Probably the most important part of finding my next match is continuing to grow and build my own momentum. Over the last few weeks, stress and general business has led to less than stellar health routines. Less frequent walks, eating out a bit more than I would choose to, a Spring cold have all left me with a tad bit less energy and zip than I would like. On the creative side, however, I’m moving forward with some of my aspirational music plans and starting collaboration with a drummer to consider putting my live band back out in the clubs, locally.

4. Refining my roll. Cultivating my creative energy is critical to calling in the goddess of my dreams. If I’m not in full-bloom how will I attract a blooming beauty myself?

In this pause, I am returning to center. I don’t think I will pursue miss maybe from OKC. I’m going to stay home tonight rather than push so hard with “woman with potential.” There’s a relief at having a stay-at-home night. I’d prefer it to be WITH someone, but that’s still not in the plan.

I am tired. I’m going to leave the frogs in the swamp and not work so hard on finding her. I’m going to work harder on being the frog prince she might be looking for and taking care of my spiritual and creative needs so that I radiate with my passion.

It’s gonna be a hot Summer. And this is a marathon not a sprint. There’s no real hurry. And wouldn’t I really rather be with the NEXT ONE, rather than just SOME ONE?

At this moment, I feel the joy of being in a centered and emotionally content place.

< back to On Dating Again index

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Concrete Bed – Nada Surf
“to find someone to love, you gotta be someone you love”


Breaking Up and Getting Over It: Someday We’ll Know

creative commons useage http://www.flickr.com/photos/34864643@N00/4649142787Tonight was one of those nights when you see your ex, and you think, “Thank god I have been released.”

It’s not that she’s suddenly become unattractive. Or that she’s doing a bad job at being a co-parent. (Hammering me for money is another thing altogether.) But there’s a hardness that I hadn’t noticed before. She’s gotten too thin. And kinda mean looking. (This is not meant to be a rag, sorry.)

She also looks very professional, and I am grateful that she seems to be thriving in her current job. As we no longer combine forces, she no longer has my sympathies, but I respect her hard work. She’s always been a dedicated worker.

But tonight, watching our son perform in orchestra, I was glad she came to sit next to me and then decided, “I need to be closer where I can see,” to move towards the front. I had a nice side view of her intense face. She was staring into her phone. (Seems to have become more and more the mode for her.) Perhaps she was exchanging chats with her lover. Perhaps racy emails with her girlfriends. Who knows. But what I saw was a complete disinterest in what we were doing at the school. It was a check box. A task that needed to be completed at the end of the school year, like so many other tasks. And it was the last event that was keeping her from her night with her lover, before a weekend where SHE HAS THE KIDS.

It really must be odd, and I don’t know the feeling, of wanting to be elsewhere when your kids are around.

I should have been the one working late, not her. If I had been a better provider, she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

My daughter said something tonight, about how there was never any food in the house. “L the babysitter always goes to the store for dinner stuff, and there’s never any left overs.” Now, my daughter, who was saying this, has a tendency to be dramatic. But she was sharing a glimpse into the life that my ex-y has constructed.

I know it well. When she got on the work train, while we were married, there were many times when it was assumed I would feed, read, and put the kids to bed. I was being her “wife.” Well, I was grateful again, that she was employed. And I would do whatever I could to make a nice house, a nice leftover plate for her, and a bunch of smiling (from bed) kids for her to return home to.

And, god knows, there were even more times when she was performing this type of 100% parenting for me, while I was working late. But there was some different tone about the entire thing.

For me, it was more acceptable. Like the man at work, the wife at home making dinner. While I spent a number of years at a large corporation, it was a lot easier for her to work less than full-time, and spend a lot of extra time with the kids, at their school, doing projects at home.

When she was working late, by contrast, it was kind of dramatic. Like there was some great urgency that was keeping her at the office. And some sense that it was quite unfair for her to have to be working so hard.

WAIT A MINUTE!

That was MY INTERNAL VOICE saying those things. It’s dawning on me — right this very minute — the resentment I was feeling was not about her attitude, it was about mine! WTF? Seriously? I should have been the one working late, not her. If I had been a better provider, she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

Maybe she played into my shame, a little. I don’t know. But I can now see this was MY SHIT not hers.

In the discussions with women, of our age, about who they are meeting in their dating lives, what I get is that most people our age are cynical and bitter.

I’m wondering if my scoffing at her taut looks tonight is also a product of my shame. I’m asking myself, “Sour grapes?’

I don’t think so. BUT, she was the best thing I’d ever had up to that point. She stayed with me through the toughest times in both our lives. And then she gave up on me.

No, for that I won’t be forgiving her. For the release from a sexless and joyless marriage, I have to thank her. I won’t be putting up with that again either. Ever.

And that’s the wonderful thing about the story. Even if I don’t know the ending, what I do know is the possibility is out there. GF #1 showed me what it feels like to really be adored. I CAN HAVE THAT AGAIN. And I actually deserve it.

In the discussions with women, of our age, about who they are meeting in their dating lives, what I get is that most people our age are cynical and bitter. I am always complemented on my POSITIVE ATTITUDE. “You’re so positive.” or “So much positive energy.”

It’s not exactly the same thing as irresistible, but I’ll take positive right now. And that’s the side I’m showing my kids.

The ex-y also asked me if I would let the kids know about the money shortage as well. As if she needed me to fess up to my own contribution to whatever struggles they were having about “stuff.” I spoke to them tonight about my current situation. I said we could not go to the BBQ place for dinner, because I didn’t have the money for it, and I had plenty of food at home.

“Why don’t you have any money?” my son asked. It was just a point-blank question, no real emotional inflection.

“I have three clients that owe me money right now. And it’s not like I don’t have any money, it’s just that when things get low, I really don’t spend money on stuff like eating out, when I have food at home.”

That satisfied both of them. My daughter, who has become somewhat obsessed with Starbucks, was quiet.

I am positive. I am certain I will continue to dig out of the financial hole the divorce and my subsequent low-times wreaked on me. All systems are go, the work is ahead, the clients are happy. (Affirmation: no low-times this summer.)

And I am positive I will find a more compatible mate. Now that we have this kid thing sorted out, there is only the relationship between me and this new person to sort out. I don’t need anything from them but adoration and the opportunity to adore them back.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: creative commons usage – medusa

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Someday We’ll Know – The New Radicals


She Would’ve Liked Me To Just Leave the House

divorced dad and kidsWhen the proverbial shit hit the fan, and she had fully articulated that she wanted a divorce, that she had gone to see an attorney to understand her “options,” that even our therapist had shown his doubts about our survivability, she wanted me to leave. She was incensed that I simply would not LEAVE THE HOUSE.

I made a declaration over and over as she kept raising the subject. “I will not bring this divorce full-force into this house until our kids have finished this year in school.” She was not happy. She used ideas like “trial separation” as enticements. No way.

But I was not willing to uproot the entire family, because the ex-y had come to a decision, had weighed her options, and seen an opening and a greener pasture outside my arms.

I was the survivor of a horrible divorce, when my parents started the kid wars that became my life. When I grieved my divorce, as it had been spelled out for me by my sessions with the ex-y, I was crying for my kids, not for me. Of course, I’m aware enough to know that my tears for my son were really tears AS A SON, who was losing his dad. I lost my dad, big time. When he walked out that door, the second time, he never came back. And our lives quickly descended into a living hell for years. My dad is not me. My son is not having that experience. Not by a long shot.

But I was not willing to uproot the entire family, because the ex-y had come to a decision, had weighed her options, and seen an opening and a greener pasture outside my arms. Our kids were in 2nd and 4th grade. It still makes me angry to think she was so oblivious to their needs and only focused on HER needs. Her needs for immediate separation and space. For her to get HER house. I guess…

I did not move out until the kids were done with school. It was two of the hardest months of my life. Knowing I was toast, that my wife was unreachable, and that I was more of a ghost dad than a dad. But I stayed my ground. Fuck her and her separation and space. And fuck if I was going to give her the house, just like that.

In the end, that’s what happened, she got the house, as my real estate friend who was experienced in several divorces said she would. “She’s gonna get the house, and your still going to be paying for it,” he said. And while part of that does not seem fair, it’s the way it is. Any whining about it is whining. Let’s move on.

I did not walk out the door that March. But in many ways, as June arrived and the kids completed their semester in elementary school, I suffered mightily for my decision. I think it was the right decision. As I said to the ex-y, it’s a business. We can’t just divorce overnight. There are a lot of details to work out. So what’s the hurry? Other than the fact that you want me out, you want to start whatever is next. And boy didn’t she. She was sexing it up within weeks of the divorce papers being filed. SHE WAS THE STARVED PARTY? What? That’s kinda funny.

…Being a great parent, and looking after the best interests of our kids even when it goes against what we want or think we need.

Okay, so I stayed and now I have my badge of honor and my heart-on-sleeve righteousness. But it was a hard two months. As we navigated sleeping in separate rooms and getting the kids ready for school, and coordinating the details of running a family. By June I was a basket case. I was depressed beyond belief, I was hardly functional, but hey, we’d done it. The kids got to finish 2nd and 4th grade without the sigma of their familial collapse.

I’m trying to take precautionary action this year, before June arrives with it’s regret and memories. The long summer. The death of my marriage. The real separation of my kids from me. And the last three summers have been very hard. I can plan, strategize, and keep meeting with my talky doctor, but to say I’m bulletproof heading towards summer would be a fool’s dream.

I am leery of summer now. I am a bit sad just now, thinking about how hard the past three summers have been.

I am also strong, rebuilt, and reoriented towards health, fitness, and being a great parent. And part of that includes looking after the best interests of our kids even when it goes against what we want or think we need.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Single Parenting Magic – The SPO Has Given a Happy Moment

July 2012 the SPO delivers a "fifth" weekend

One. Three. Five.

Do those numbers sound familiar? In the SPO (standard possession order) those are the weekends the typical dad gets his kids. The first, the third, and the ever so lucky fifth. So this year we have Christmas in July. For some great turn of the calendar, this coming weekend is a magic “fifth.” And what that does, if you don’t know, is set up the double-weekend.

So I’m not saying she’s not being a good mother, but I do think our priorities are different. In some ways she WAS ahead of me in the entire divorce process. She would say it wasn’t premeditated, but she was closing down our communication channels for several years as she distanced herself from intimacy with me. It wasn’t hard. I was compliant. I took care of myself. But in doing so, I lost the heart of why I was in a relationship. It’s more clear now that I don’t have it, but I was desperate to stay connected. When that wasn’t offered, I was desperate to stay together until things got better. (Um, yeah. That’s a bad equation. NOTE: The other person is NOT going to change. They “might,” it’s possible, but it’s like waiting for the alcoholic to stop drinking. There’s always wishing and hoping and planning and doing better… And then there’s the slip or exit.)

Drop off and pick up can change the tenor of my entire week. Going by our old house was almost unbearable for the first year and a half.

So within weeks of the finalization of our divorce she was leaving the kids with a sitter to have sex with a repair man in another city. Oh boy! Yes, the word REBOUND came screaming up at me when I heard about it. And in my divorce recovery class, it was the only solace I had. Yes, she was already having sex with someone else. BUT HEY, it was a definite “rebound.” Fuck that. In many ways she had moved on and was all ready to GET IT ON with someone else. I have to say, “I get it.” But I was a little more calculated in my decisions, or maybe I was just so far behind in understanding emotionally what was happening.

The loss of the kids, the unlimited time with your kids, is the hardest thing. Well, that’s AFTER you get over the fact that this person has decided to bet against you. And suddenly you are left alone (and in my case homeless) to fend for yourself. And on all those nights that she has the kids for consecutive nights, you will learn to lick your wounds and get back up on your feet. Yes, it’s a process of self-discovery, but it’s like having the ladder out-of-the-hole kicked out from under you.

I guess there’s no good age for kids in divorce. And while my kids are thriving, I can see the loss in my daughter’s face when we are finally back together after a long period away. And her hugs and “mother hen” affection are just a bit over the top. I love it. I glow in it. I am careful to be the awesome dad in the father daughter constellation. As they say, she is learning, will learn, how to be with men by the healthy ways she learns to relate with me. It’s a huge responsibility. And it makes me sad not to be there for her. (The ex-y can date and babysit herself to her heart’s delight, but my daughter has become one of my primary concerns.)

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with her “relationship,” these days, but it does seem to me, that she puts her needs ahead of the kids. Perhaps that was the switch that allowed her to actually file for divorce from me. At some point she had to detach from me first. Then she had to make a decision that being without me was better for HER than being with me.

The kids are the hard part. Drop off and pick up can change the tenor of my entire week. Going by our old house was almost unbearable for the first year and a half. It was too close, to easy to want to crawl back into my old bed, to easy to long for a “return” of some sort.

And the SPO does take a huge portion of the time away from the dad. The lawyers and counselors likes to point out that “it’s pretty close to 50/50.” The problem with that logic is how that balance is achieved. There is this provision for the summers, that the NCP (non-custodial parent) can have the kids for an entire 30 days.

Let’s see what the problem is with that idea.

1. Financially it would be a huge hardship. If you could take the month off, it would be a killer vacation opportunity. But, like most parents, I would guess we have to keep working our normal schedule, then it becomes a 100% child care expense for a week.

2. Emotionally the kids are going to suffer being away from the other parent for a month. Maybe as the kids get older this will be an easier decision. But right now, the kids would be hurting to be away from Mom for that amount of time.

3. Logistically, you’ve got to make provisions for their care, entertainment, and nurture, while continuing to provide financially for both them and their mother.

As they say, if she’s happy, my kids are happy, and that’s supposed to make me happy too. It sort of works that way.

So, let’s just say, it’s going to be awhile before I am able to swing (or even want to swing) a 30-day visitation during the summer. THEN, the next best thing is the magic fifth weekend.

One more moment of reflection on the “balance of the schedule.” So JULY for me is going to be like EVERY OTHER MONTH is for her. OUCH!

I’m not interested, nor do I have the funds to change our legal agreement. BUT… at some point the “balance of time” vs. the “balance of the financial obligation” might have me looking at changing the custodial arrangement. I simply don’t have the funds to pursue it. And, for now, it’s working out to my advantage. A sad and somewhat lonely advantage, but nonetheless, I am getting a ton of work done in my “off parent” time.

So for now, I can thank my ex-y for taking care of the kids the majority of the time. (Note: during the school year she does shoulder an unfair burden of school parenting and homework, but hey, that’s the breaks.) And I can be the best dad that I can be during the time I have my kids. And I can celebrate the little gifts of the “fifth.”

And she can go right ahead and remarry, as she’s already mentioned in relationship to her current boyfriend, if that’s her path. I’ll do what I can to support her and the kids through whatever’s next. And I will keep the anger and bitterness here, in this process-writing, rather than in the my dealings with my ex-y. As they say, if she’s happy, my kids are happy, and that’s supposed to make me happy too. It sort of works that way.

In July, this year, I’ve got a lot to celebrate.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Just Being Dad Is Enough: A Hot Summer and a Ghost Horse

the off parent talks about the road ahead

Since my divorce in August of last year I have been rebuilding my life and my relationship with my kids. Too much time at work, too many economic ups and downs, too much stress, have all brought me to this point on the journey. Today.

As I was walking alone in my new neighborhood this morning the slowness of the activity and the drowsiness of the heat had me recounting summer time with my Dad. And the contrast between those very sparse memories and the more generous memories I am working to create with my kids on Fridays and alternating weekends this hot hot summer.

My new neighborhood is very conducive to bikes, so when she is here, my daughter and I ride every morning, “before it gets too hot.” And I have seen streets and areas we might never reach on foot. And we zoom together around the quiet streets. Fearless. Explorative. Together.

And my son and I often go for walks, since he does not like bike riding at this point. We mostly walk to the lake/pool neighborhood complex, and occasionally to the convenience store where he partakes of his favorite summer drink, the mango slushee. The last time it was just my son and I we were walking along up the hill in the picture above when he noticed a horse.

“Dad, that’s a horse in that yard over there.”

Sure enough there was a large brown horse staring at us as we puffed up the hill in the heat towards the mecca of slurpeedom. We stopped and said a few words to the horse. He said nothing. And we walked on.

On our return the horse had moved out of sight and we talked about how wild it was that a horse was “just standing there.”

Now every time we pass this place in the road we look for the horse. My daughter and I ride by the field looking for him everyday she is with me. She was disappointed not to have seen him. We are both hopeful, but so far the horse has not reappeared.

So this magical moment reminds me of the optimist’s Christmas joke when the child is given a bucket of horse poop as a Christmas gift. He opens the present and laughs, “I knew there was a horse in here somewhere.” A nice summary of making the best out of a bad situation by keeping our perspectives on the positive side.

And here’s one other thing that I find entertaining. The name of the street to my house is San Juan, or Saint Juan. (As if…) And even better is the cross street that accurately marks this crossroads in my life.

the off parent - san juan

At the meeting point of sainthood and bs. As I see it, we always have a choice to go either way.

UPDATE 7-29-11: This morning, Friday, the three (plus dog makes 4) of us trekked to the local taco trailer for breakfast. And along the way we saw:

the off parent - ghost horse

Again, the horse said nothing, but we are almost certain that we saw an actual horse and not some mirage from the heat. My son said he saw the horse breathing.

We were blessed with one other creature who enjoyed as much ride as walk:

We’re pretty sure the dog didn’t see the horse. There was no acknowledgment of either one by the other.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Team Dad, “Even When We Can No Longer Be Together”

doing dad's day with livestrongI put on the LiveStrong band on Father’s Day this year. I was wearing the band in honor of my father who died over twenty years ago, and my long-time mentor who died six months ago. That’s why I put the band on. But the conversations I did have, were with MY KIDS.

For both of my kids the yellow band was a piece of jewelry. Like a watch or another colorful band. Both of them kinda knew who Lance Armstrong was. Neither had ever heard of LiveStrong, or knew what the band was about. But as a TEAM we wore the bands for our own reasons. I can see how binding up your positive energy with other cancer survivors or families of cancer survivors is a powerful support. With just the three of us, there was something magical about giving my kids these bands and having them wear them.

We talked about cancer. We talked about my dad. We talked about my friend who died. They had accompanied me to the wake at his house. And then we went swimming. And we put on lots of sunscreen.

Celebrate togetherness even when we are no longer able to be together.

And so the 30-days have passed with very little conversation outside my little Team Mac. And we’re over halfway through the summer. And what a summer. I’ve been taking Friday’s off to simply hang with them. Do what they want to do. Do nothing. Go to the pool, the lake, the movie, the corner convenience store to get a slurpee. And something occurred to me. I didn’t really get much “hang time” with my dad.

So I am basking in these moments. Storing my own warm times and giving my kids the memory of a Dad who knew how to hang and be flexible and had the strength to throw them high and far into the water. And that I think is the lesson I learned. The Team Mac picture was taken just before I let them go watch a terrible summer movie by themselves while I tele-computed from inside the mall. They wanted to go, I didn’t. I really didn’t. So we worked out a compromise. And the bands and even the picture symbolized that bond we are establishing. Trust. Care. Togetherness even when we are apart.

And maybe that’s the biggest lesson: Celebrate togetherness even when we are no longer able to be together. I feel their connection: my kids AND my father and father figures. While I am here, I will make this connected team of three the most important goal of my waking hours. And even as the yellow bands lose their charm and get put in a drawer, the memory of the throws into the cold, deep, lake water will never be lost.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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