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

Posts tagged “being dad

Too Positive, Too Optimistic? A Blind Side.

the off parent - slivered moonI really want to blame this last sag on my exey, but it ain’t so. The morass I have just been climbing out of was mine and mine alone. Sure there were some inflection points, post-divorce, that could’ve been mitigated with some cooperation from the exey, but the fail was really mine.

I don’t want to write about this.

My Achilles heel is being too optimistic. And certainly, at times, too forceful in my positive (possibly aggressive) approach to life and problems. I recall the “muse” saying to me, “You’re just about the most positive person I know.” I felt proud of that. But…

Well, occasionally my happy outlook and plans don’t work out the way I hope. (This is everybody, I know.) And this time a few things fell through to make my recent transition much more swift and dramatic than they needed to be. Had I been working a more realistic and pragmatic life program I think I could’ve done a better job and saved myself and my family a bit of heartache.

Again, I’m not talking about the divorce, I’m talking about … money. (Frown.)

Not what I wanted to admit to or blog about, EVER. Of course I have blogged about it, a lot. But I was on the “it’s going to work out” side of every story. It didn’t work out.

Now I’m in regroup mode. My lovely but not ideal house is sold. And I’m in a total rebuilding process. It’s good. It’s going to be better. And there are things I was neglecting. Now, with eyes, open, I’m conscious of bringing down the YES-force a bit, and get back into the “what needs to be done” mode.

New beginnings are always hard and exciting at the same time. I’ve gotten back on the tennis court. I’m about to start Aikido again. And my focus has returned to the loving support of my family, ex-wife included, and how I can best provide for all of us. It’s hard to imagine how intertwined we remain even after the divorce, but it is clear we still need each other.

If I have one Sagittarius trait in spades it is positivism and energy to carry out those plans. But it’s also my weak point. If I put too much faith in my “win” attitude, the losses can set me back more deeply than if I had also been making contingency plans.



The Off Parent

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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.


The Off Parent

And tonight…

my son is a gamer



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

Another Single Father’s Day

doing dad's day - team dadIt’s been three years. In posting about divorce and dating I’m here to say, the transformation in the last three years has been amazing. I don’t think it was the only way to go, but when the other person decides they are DONE, there’s really only the “business of divorce” left to take care of.

I’m struggling a bit, still. BUT, I’d have to say I’m on the happy side of the recovery process. I did wake up this morning with a huge panic, thinking my depression had just jumped on my ass while I was sleeping. (I do recall an epic bad dream.)

I’m happy to report it was only a momentary freak out. Probably based on the beginning of summer, and the fact that I was behind on one of my work projects. Because when I start feeling REALLY GOOD, I can also start fucking up. [Not this summer — my mantra — not this summer — not this fucking summer.]

It’s the end of day on a long Friday, where I’ve been up-and-at’m since 6 am. I’m actually going to the semi-annual divorce recovery graduation party tonight, hoping to introduce myself to a woman I crushed on last year, but didnt’ get to talk to. I was at the party with GF #1. Anyway, it’s been a long road. BUT, TAKE HOPE.

There is a way out. There is life beyond divorce. And there is happiness beyond all the grieving that must be done. Here are my last three Father’s Day posts. I expect I’ll write a real post in the next few days, as well.


The Off Parent

Update: As I introduced myself this evening to the crush she was getting her purse to leave. “I wanted to say, Hi. I’m J from Facebook.” She connected after a few seconds, and remembered that I had attempted to connect with her after the last graduation class. I said, “It looks like your leaving.” She smiled, “Yes, I’m going to my boyfriend’s house.” BOOM. … Next.


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

the off parent - ghost horse

the off parent talks about the road ahead

Living at the crossroads of sainthood and bullshit

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 summertime 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 slushie. The last time it was just my son and me, and 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 slurpiedom. 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 on the road we look for the horse. My daughter and I ride by the field looking for him every day 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, is de vaca, or “of cow.” Or as I refer to it, at the crossroads of sainthood and bullshit.

the off parent - san juan

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 (our dog Scrambles, pictured below on his favorite chair) who enjoyed the walk as much as his ride back on my daughter’s shoulders.

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


The Off Parent



Missing My Dad and Becoming a Better Dad on Father’s Day

dad gets seriousSeveral months ago when my 25+ year mentor died of cancer I took my kids with me to the wake. I thought it was good for them to be touched, ever so lightly, by the idea that people die. And I knew that they would bring a bit of kid-light into the house while we were there.

Yesterday when I showed them my post about LiveStrong and my dad I was slightly surprised that they had no idea what the yellow wristband meant. They had not heard of LiveStrong. (of course, they are 10 and 8) And explaining my idea for remembering my father over the next 30 days, they both seemed distracted, or uninterested. I was important. But the concept of this grandfather, never met, who died of some disease, not really understood or felt, was a bit too far off for a Saturday afternoon. (understandable)

And then I asked them if they remembered the afternoon we visited the man’s house who had recently died. They both did.

“It’s sort of like that. He’s gone already, but we still love him and want to remember him.”

And then we were off to the swimming pool on a 105 degree summer afternoon.

Today is Father’s Day 2011. My father has been gone since I was 21 years old. I sometimes envy friends who still enjoy dad-time. But mostly I am happy for them. And I look for my dad-time in others. It is not often that I look for dad-time by being reflective of MY dad. I spent a good deal of my 20’s and 30’s doing that.

But today is different. Death has spirited off another wonderful man and I am left fatherless again.

What I want for my kids is to have much better memories of me than I do of my dad. And in the shortness of it all, if I only had another 11 years with my son, for example, I really need to make it REAL. And part of that realness is self-awareness for me about my father, feelings around the loss of my father, and even in some ways a better awareness of the cancer that took his life.

While I was at the coast with my kids last week I made an impromptu PSA about wearing sunshirts in the summer. It wasn’t a publicity stunt. It was just a moment where I woke up on the beach and said, “Wow, if my dad had been wearing these kind of shirts, if we’d just known…” And in my sharing fashion I wanted to honor that thought.

This 30 day memorial is similar in its discovery. I am not doing a “branding” experiment, but branding is something I do. It’s something I understand. And the LiveStrong “brand” is something that I am quite curious about. And I’m in marketing. So when the little yellow wristbands took over the country I was fascinated by the program, message, reach, and impact of the concept. I didn’t join in.

So today I’m joining the LiveStrong army. I don’t know much about LiveStrong or all the things they do. But there are two significant things that connect us. 1. I understand branding and the development of social communities; 2. my inclusion in the LifeStrong family is as simple as putting on the yellow wristband. As a marketer I really am curious about the “value” of the yellow wristband in generating awareness for LifeStrong and cancer support and community.

As a person who’s life has been impacted by cancer, I really want to feel the connection with others. I want to talk about it. I want to hear about their stories. I want to connect. And from my limited understanding of the LiveStrong mission, I think this is one of the main objectives, I want connection.

So today, in honor of my dad, I’m putting on my LiveStrong wristband and I’m going to tell his story, Dan Jones’ story, and I’m going to LISTEN. Most of all I want to listen. To the connections that are formed by such a simple symbol. A thin yellow band that took the world by storm.


The Off Parent


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.


The Off Parent

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