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

Posts tagged “my dad

What You Took Away; What I Get To Remember


The privilege of walking into my daughter’s room just now and giving her a hug and a kiss, is something I never thought I would lose, in my lifetime. But divorce changes all that. Sure, the relationship had been deteriorating for years or months, even if I’m not the one who asked for the divorce, or consulted a lawyer. BUT… You took my kids from me, effective immediately, no discussion. The minute you walk out of the marital home, you’re life changes forever.

Three summers ago I stepped out of MY house for the last time. It became, “Your mom’s house,” from then on. And I knew that I would not be good in the house alone, so I left it without fighting. The kids needed some security in this amazingly unsecure world we were thrusting on them. There was a cover story, “That Dad was sick and taking some time off at Aunt A’s house.” But it was done. There was no returning or repair for that summer of despair.

I don’t take a single moment with my kids for granted. I am transformed when they are around. I cook. I rouse. I wrestle.

The happy thing I have to report is this Summer, while trying and destabilizing at times, has been the best Summer yet. The closest I came to being depressed was struggling with a sore throat that took over a week to heal. And I was kind of ready for the down time. I’d been running and jumping pretty fast all summer.

And in our routine, Summer means I get my kids on Thursdays AND Fridays every week. (It helps the ex-y with the child care bills, and gives me an extra day of kid time.

I was chatting with another dad the other morning. We were waiting for our daughters to get inside the gym where they were counselors at a gymnastics camp. He said, “It doesn’t matter if they are off playing games, something about knowing they are in the house, is comforting.”

One of the most spiritual moments in my life was the first couple times I stood in my newborn child’s room and watched them sleep. Something about those moments affirm why we are here, and why we as adults keep working so hard to provide a better life, even when things get really hard. In those earliest parenting bedside prayer and answer sessions I felt, somehow, that the life I would provide for my kids would be less traumatic than my own.

And today I understand it more than ever. I don’t take a single moment with my kids for granted. I am transformed when they are around. I cook. I rouse. I wrestle. I take them on errands, I walk down to the lake and swim. I listen to their stories. I tell a few of my own. And while their mom is missing, it feels nearly complete. It’s the closeness and the joy I take in holding hands, or putting a hand on my son’s shoulder while he shows me his latest computer game creation.

I am Dad.

When my father walked out of the family home (as my mom tells it, she had given him an ultimatum about his drinking, and he chose the booze over us.) everything went to shit. Christmases suddenly became very sparse and un-festive. And he really withdrew further into drinking and eventually married a woman, a much younger woman, who liked to drink as much as he did. But the end result was my happy/unhappy home was dumped out and crushed and my father vanished into his own dark pit.

In the beginning moments of the divorce I did not know if is was possible to remain friendly. And even as we struggle a bit with money issues (now divorced) I know we are both doing the best we can.

We had visits. I went to dinner at his house once a week. But he was bitter. And his bitterness inflamed his drinking. And my mom and I had to develop a communication system about how I could call her to come get me when my dad was too drunk to drive. I remember sitting on the floor of his living room, watching Ba Ba Black Sheep together. He was remarried and the Mexican house keeper made the most amazing chopped up french fries for dinner.

And we tried talking about stuff. But he was heading towards oblivion most of the nights, and since he didn’t have to cook, it was easy for him to slip into the comfort of his pouring and adoring wife.

The last time I recall spending a Thursday evening over there, I was in 8th grade. He came home a bit early so we all decided to swim in their pool. I was thrilled he was going into the pool. It almost never happened.

And in the horseplay that seemed so rare and exciting my father grabbed me and started holding me under water. I’m sure he was euphoric with both drink and exercise, but he didn’t let go. And in a final effort to free myself I kicked him in the balls and swam away from him as he released me. I called my mom and went home without having dinner.

And that touch is something I know will never happen with my kids. I’m not a bitter divorcé. In fact, I’m framing myself as a single parent for now. And I do occasionally wrestle and horseplay with my son who enters 7th grade in a few days. And the thing I know, even in my loneliness and feelings of separation when they are gone, is that I am a great father. And I will continue to be a positive and loving force in their lives as long as I live.

I can see the benefits of my divorce from time to time too. I have time to restart my live performances as a musician. I am rarely exhausted. I am learning to cook. But that moment, every so often, that comes up when they are not under my roof, that wish to return to the quiet newborn’s room and know that things are going to be okay, I don’t forget or ignore that moment either. I am grateful my ex-y and I have done such a good job at pulling our marriage apart while remaining good co-parents.

In the beginning moments of the divorce I did not know if is was possible to remain friendly. And even as we struggle a bit with money issues (now divorced) I know we are both doing the best we can. And our children together are thriving, even with two homes.


The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:


image: i love my father as the stars, yvette, creative commons usage

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.


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

related posts: