Sunday, June 30, 2013

Real Men Don't Cry Son

I did not cry when I saw you born.
I swear there was something in my eye.
Real men don't cry son.

My eyes did not get damp
after I dropped you off
on that first day of school.
Real men don't cry son.

I haven't had to hold back tears,
whenever you've done well in school
got that first big wrestling win,
or hugged me when I've needed it.
Real men don't cry son.

I'm not teary eyed right now
as I miss you and smile
because I want to play games
but I can't bring myself to.
It don't feel right without you.
Real men don't cry son.

I won't have to hide tears,
when you shoot your first deer,
go out on your first date,
put on that cap and gown,
load up a truck and move,
nor on your wedding day.
Real men don't cry son.

And there most certainly won't
be any tears of laughter
streaming across my face when
you are older and you read this
and smirk at me and say, "Dad,
You are just as full of crap
as your dad has always been."
Real men don't cry son.

I Didn't Approach A Beautiful Woman

     Sometimes when I'm sitting at home reading it seems necessary to get out of the house, if only to avoid thinking about all the things I should be doing at home besides reading.  It seems as though the sun is beckoning me outside to enjoy whatever delights I may find outside my front door.  It seems like I spend too much time in my own little world forgetting that there are other people on this planet.  So sometimes I go other places to read.
     The bookstore was having a buy two get one free sale on classics so I chose a bunch I might be interested in and headed to their coffee shop to narrow my pile down.  I was going to enjoy a mocha and read the first chapter or so of each.  Then buy my three books and head home satisfied that I fulfilled my internal quota of out of the house time.  Then I saw her and forgot about my plans.  I almost even forgot about reading.
     She was long and lanky, gangly as they say.  She was graceful in how ungraceful she was. Her hair was a thick, brown mane that would be almost impossible to do anything with so she didn't even try.  She wore big old coke bottle glasses and fashion that almost seemed to go together.  She was the kind of woman I find most beautiful.
     I noticed her right away.  It was hard not to.  She was loudly apologizing to a store employee for having spilled her cappuccino.  In her embarrassment she was gesturing wildly and would've knocked over four more drinks if they had been on her table.  The books she'd been perusing were cradled in her arms like they were babies she had saved from a fire rather than books she'd saved from a spill.  The employee pointed out that she had spilled a little on her pants but she seemed unconcerned with that.
     They gave her another drink for free, over her protests, and things settled down.  I bought my mocha and sat at a table close to hers.  I wanted to be close enough to try and catch her eye as I pretended to read but far enough away to avoid any future spills.  Come to think of it though, I should have wanted to be right in the line of fire.  If a beautiful woman spills coffee on a guy she almost has to give him her number, right?
     I sat there and read Kafka and tried to figure out how to approach this woman.  Both the book and the situation were impenetrable mysteries.  I hope that maybe the place would get crowded so that I would have an excuse to join her at her table but it didn't.  I thought about the direct approach but a bookstore isn't exactly a place a woman expects a man to approach her.  Besides, who wants to take the chance of getting rejected in public when they're sober?
     I watched her read.  I love watching people read, seeing the little smiles or the narrowing of their eyes as they react to words on the page.  I like the subconscious little ticks people have, how they lick their lips or constantly tuck their hair back behind their ear even though it hasn't moved.  It's fascinating to watch someone so absorbed in a book that they've forgotten there is even anyone around to watch them.
     She would look up every now and then to take a sip of her drink and, of course, I would look away because beautiful women still somehow have the power to make me feel like a shy little teenager.  Before I looked away though, I would let our eyes meet for just a second or so and smile.  She never smiled back but she didn't frown either.  The look on her face was that of a woman who isn't used to being looked at.  It wasn't negative but it wasn't inviting either.
     My instincts told me there was something, some signal, I was missing but I have terrible instincts with women so I ignored them.  She was beautiful and I wanted to know her but I was at a loss as to how I could accomplish that.  I read a little more and thought about her and the situation more than what I was reading.  I caught her eyes a few more times and still saw nothing inviting but nothing unwelcoming.  I decided my best bet was to wait until she finished her cappuccino and ask if I could buy her another.  It was risky, all those people, but it was the best shot I had.
     When she finished her coffee, though, she stood up, said alright to herself, gathered her books once more in her arms, and then walked toward the shelves as if to put the books back.  I grabbed three of my books at random and headed towards the cash register.  My plan was to buy my books and be heading across the parking lot at about the same time she was.  It could be a little creepy to approach a woman in a parking lot I guessed but it was daylight and somewhat busy so she shouldn't feel threatened.  Besides in the parking lot the audience for my rejection wouldn't be as big.
     I kept my eyes on the door as I purchased my books and she hadn't left yet.  I thought I had timed things right but she was nowhere in sight as I walked out of the store.  I'm a smoker, though, and a smoke is always a good excuse to bide time.  So I lit up, basked in the sunshine, and waited for that beautiful woman to walk out of the door.  I thought about planning what I was going to say to her but I'm not a lines kind of guy so I decided on just hi.
     I was halfway done with my smoke when she walked out, with someone else.  She was holding the hand of a woman that was pretty similar to her.  I understood now why my instincts had been saying no and they were right for once.  When the warm sunshine hit them they paused in the parking lot and kissed.  It wasn't the kind of kiss drunk desperate women share in bars to get guys attention.  It was just a short brushing of the lips like long time couples will give each other when they want to say I love you without speaking.
     They looked at each other and smiled and walked to their car.  I smiled as I watched them and then walked to my truck.  It was a shame that she was taken but they were reassuring.  Some couples you can just look at and know their love is deep and true and they were one of those couples.  It's good to know that kind of love is still out there and that someday I might find it again if I ever get the nerve to approach a beautiful woman and if the one I approach isn't gay.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Should I Tell My Son I Miss Him?

     I was perusing other fatherhood blogs to see what I might do better and to find interesting topics to discuss when I came across this post from singleparentdad.  He discusses when to tell his son that he misses him.  His situation is different from mine in that he's talking about weekends or a week that his son is gone, not months, but I still identified with it.  He talks about missing his son, because he son brings a calm that he simply doesn't feel when he's not around, but not wanting to tell him because he doesn't want his son to feel guilt over not being there.  I understand this completely.  My ex tells my son she misses him all the time and his reaction is always sadness or indifference.  It never makes him feel good.  So I try to avoid telling him I miss him.
     Still, I don't want him to think I don't miss him either.  I don't want him to think that it doesn't make a difference to me whether he's with me or not.  When it comes to actually saying the words "I miss you" I follow his lead. If he says he misses me I tell him I miss him too.  I think on the rare occasions he admits to missing me, he's looking for reassurance so I give it to him.  I tell him I miss him and remind him when he'll be back home.
     Being guys, though, we mostly tell each other we miss each other without saying the words.  He'll text me to show me the cool Zelda cards he just got and I'll tell him I've been playing his favorite game.  He'll call me just to talk about wrestling and I'll tell him when the next time we're going to eat White Castle of Five Guy's is.  He'll give me a great big painful hug when he sees me and I'll throw him to the ground and tickle him mercilessly.  The easiest way I can tell that he's missed me is that the last week he was home, before bed every night, he would voluntarily give me a kiss on the cheek without any prompting from me.  Trust me, when an eight year old boy kisses anyone without being coerced it's a big deal.  I hope the smile on my face showed him how big of a deal it was to me too and how much I've missed him.
     The author of the blog I linked to talks about how he might be making a more complicated issue of it than it is but I don't think he is.  I worry constantly about my son's emotional state.  Some of that is, I think, the normal worries of any good parent in my situation but part of it is just that I worry because things don't seem to affect him sometimes.  He takes things way too much in stride and I know he gets that from me and my family but it worries me.  He's only eight.  The fact that he's gone through the past year and a half without any behavioral issues and few emotional problems makes him amazing but it also makes him abnormal.  I know kids are adaptable in a way adults struggle to be but I worry I may be inadvertently teaching him to be unfeeling instead of adaptable.
     So I want some other opinions.  Do you think I'm right to only tell him I miss him when he says he misses me?  Do you think I should tell him more or less?  Do you think I'm making this all too complicated?  Do you have other ideas?  I need some feedback on this one people.  I know I act like it sometimes but I really don't know everything.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Am Saying It Now

What I Should Have Said To My Ex-Wife
     Somewhere along the way you've become selfish.  Maybe that's my fault.  Maybe I didn't do enough for you so you had too.  I don't know and by this time I don't care.  Your selfishness has hurt me but whatever.  Now it's hurting our son, though.  You're leaving him. You have to choose between a better life for him or a better life for you and you're choosing yourself.  I'm sure you're telling yourself the same old rationalizations people always use; that you'll be a part of his life, that you'll see him every summer and as much as you can otherwise, that he'll understand when he's older.  I'm sure you even think that he'll decide to come live with you someday.  The truth is that you're going to become just someone he sees in the summer and talks to on the phone sometimes.  You're always going to be Mom to him but you're always going to be the mom who left him and he's always going to wonder why.
     This area we live in, this little world, isn't much sometimes.  I like it but I probably wouldn't be living here if you hadn't convinced me to move here in the first place.  It's a bunch of small towns that we didn't grow up in or near.  It can be hard to meet people sometimes, find a job sometimes, I know.  Still, this little world is our son's world.  It's what he knows and what he wants to know and what he loves.  It's where he's best at and it's where it's best for him to be.  If that's not enough to keep you here there's something wrong with you but I wish you the best I guess.  Go then, there are other worlds than these.

What I Should Have Said To My Ex-Girlfriend
     I told you if I'm not enough for you then let me go and you're doing that.  It's almost funny that you pick now to start listening to me.  Still, I wish you nothing but happiness. You've survived a hard life and you deserve everything you want.  I'm sorry I can't give it all to you but I'm sure you'll find someone that can when you're ready for them.
     Every relationship is it's own little world.  We fill them with phrases and actions and activities and looks and touches.  Ours was filled with "licking the same window" and books and becoming a soccer mom and "oh my sweet baby" and quirky movies on Netflix and so much more joy.  When you look back on it you won't see much except darkness and sorrow because that's how life has taught you to see the past but I'll know.  I'll know we had a joyful world but like most joy it was fragile and it's breaking now.  So go if you have too.  Go then, there are other worlds than these.

What I Wish I Could Have Said To My Best Friend
     I love you Brad and I'm going to miss you.  I'm going to name my son after you and if he turns out to be half the man you are I'll know I've done a good job as a parent.  I learned how to be a man from a lot of men; my dad, your dad, my grandpas, your grandpa, your stepdad, and many, many more including teachers and coaches and uncles and just friends and family friends.  I learned more from you than all of them combined, though, and those of them that know you would agree with me.  I'm always being told how good it is of me to be your friend and how lucky you are to have a friend like me but that's wrong.  You're the one who has been good to me.  I'm the one that has been lucky to have you as a friend.  You've battled enough, my friend.  You've spread more love and joy in your short life than most of us could in several lifetimes.  So go on and close your eyes and let go.  Go then, there are other worlds than these.

What I Hope I Can Say When My Son Leaves Home
     I guess it's strange for a parent to say this to their child but I owe you a lot.  There have been times in my life when I could have just quit but I didn't because I had you.  It's more than that, though.  We've battled and butted heads but you've always been a good boy and you're becoming a good man.  You've always found joy even in sorrowful times and you've made my life so much more joyful than it would have been without you.  You have a knack for knowing when people need a hug or a pat on the back or a joke and a smile and I wish I had that knack.  I'm actually jealous of you for that.  You've been an inspiration my son and if I've inspired you half as much as you inspired me I've done a pretty damn good job.
     It's been you and me against the world for awhile now.  Guess what?  You leaving here today prepared to start your own life means we won.  The world didn't steal your childhood and it didn't keep us from making a man out of you.  I'm proud of us.  I'm proud of you.  It's time for us to fight our separate battles now but don't worry.  All you have to do is ask, and if I know you won't even have to do that, and I'll find my way to your world to help you in your battle.  Now get out of here before I started crying and hugging you and embarrassing the hell out of you.  Go then, there are other worlds than these.

What I'm Going To Say The Next Time Someone Asks Me What I Want In A Woman
     My great grandma was my buddy and I was hers.  We would sneak up behind each other and yell boo and scare the crap out of each other.  We'd eat barbecue in the backyard and her face would be smeared with sauce and she'd look at me and see mine the same way and smile.  When I was that young I don't know if I ever felt more loved than when she would hug me and say "Hiya Buddy."
     The doctor waited until the whole family was there to tell us she had died.  I didn't understand the how and why but I got that she had died and I was devastated.  I've cried in a way I've seldom cried since, with the unashamed sorrow only a child can show.  My grandma saw this and took the time, after her own mother had died, to come to me and hug me and tell me "I guess I'll have to be your buddy now."
     Grandma was my buddy too.  She gave me bite sized candy bars and insisted on taking care of me after I broke my arm.  I would go to her house during summer every workday and it was just like a parade of my favorite things.  Breakfast would be Nuttin' Honey cereal and we would make jokes about their commercials.  Lunch would be tomato soup, a thin sliced ham sandwich, and some potato chips served to me on the couch where I was lounging and watching her cable tv.  We would watch game shows together and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and we watched the Democratic Convention together when Bill Clinton was nominated.  If someone asked me if I wanted to go to Grandma's house the answer was always yes.
     Grandma was always a prim and proper woman.  It was hard to believe sometimes she was the daughter of the woman with barbecue sauce smeared all over her face.  So although she accepted the fact that her children were going to be around her deathbed there was no way she was going to let her grandchildren see her like that.  So my parents sent me to the Mayfest in O'Fallon instead of having me sit around a hospital waiting room.  I remember walking around with more money in my pocket than my parents usually gave me for the fair and trying to have fun but not being very successful at it.  My parents were right, though.  It was better than a hospital waiting room and it did distract me some.  I don't remember if it was my older brother or my dad who found me, picked me up, and told me that Grandma had died but I do remember the first time I saw my mother after that.  She came to me and hugged me and told me "I guess I'll have to be your buddy now."
     Mom has been my buddy too and the best woman I know.  Someday though, in forty or fifty years, Mom will pass away too and I'll need a strong, loving woman like these women in my life have been.  So I want a woman that will wrap me in her arms when I need it and say "I guess I'll have to be your buddy now," and be worthy of that word and understand what I mean when I say that.  I want a woman that will be strong enough to be there for me and interested enough in who I am to know why I will say to Mom as she lays in her casket, sixty or seventy years from now; Go then, there are other worlds than these.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I Am a Laborer

     The sun is a son of a bitch sometimes.  It burns and it kills.  I don't work outside but that almost makes it worse.  My work features lots of thick walls and poor ventilation and plenty of concrete and metal to absorb the heat of that cursed big ball of fire in the sky.  There's some air conditioning but only where it's required for the product.  Like most big corporations, the one I work for considers the product more important than the people.  The area I'm working in right now is usually ten degrees hotter than it is outside.
     Even when it's not hot it's a physical job.  Lifting fifteen pounds, thirty pounds doesn't seem that hard until you do it all day everyday.  Then there's the bending and twisting and turning and pushing and pulling and just the constant motion on unforgiving concrete floors. There are easier jobs at my work, I'm doing this one because it keeps me on day shift, but even the easy ones drain you when you do them day after day.  Lifting a half pound part, looking at it, and putting it in a box doesn't sound that bad.  Now do it a thousand, two thousand, six thousand times a day.  Eventually your hands get sore from gripping the parts, carpal tunnel becomes a real concern, your arms get sore from the back and forth motion, your eyes get sore from the constant strain of looking over each part as carefully but quickly as you can, and your brain gets dull from doing the same thing over and over and over again.
     It's hard is what I'm saying.  I'm dwelling on it a bit because those with truly physical job are either nodding their heads in understanding right now or thinking if you think that's hard you should see my job buddy but those with office jobs or service jobs are saying so what, I've got stress.  Don't talk to me about stress.  I work with explosives.  You get so used to your butthole puckering that you barely notice when it happens.  And even without the explosives there are forklifts running around that could crush me, machinery that could mangle me, chemicals that could poison me and although I've never been seriously hurt at work the threat is always there.  I got hit in the face, near the eye, the other day by a thick cardboard tube with a seventy pound tank round inside it and just kept working.  I didn't think much of it until the end of the day because I've been scared much worse at work.  So again I say, don't talk to me about stress.
     What does any of this have to do with anything?  It caused problems for me in my marriage and it has caused problems for me in my relationships.  Most people just don't understand how much this drains you.  They expect me to go through this for eight, sometimes ten or twelve hours, a day, come home and do my fair share of the chores, be a father to my son, and still have something left.  They worked all day too and they're still ready to go.  They just don't know.  They just don't know.  I've done their jobs before.  I've been in management and worked with the public and counted money and answered phones and sat in front of a computer all day.  They haven't done my job.  They just don't know.
     This problem isn't particular to the women I've been with either.  There's a lack of respect for physical labor in America anymore.  The attacks on unions and manufacturing in general are evidence of this.  I don't have any hard data to back this up but I'm pretty sure the divorce rate at my work and in physical labor in general is much higher than the national average.  An office job, a service job doesn't leave you as sore and tired as a manufacturing job, a construction job, farming, or coal mining but spouses and significant others don't understand this anymore and they expect too much from the laborers they love.  This lead to arguments and anger and eventually resentment.
     This is one of those problems I recognize but really don't have any idea what the solution might be.  I guess I could only date women that do physical labor themselves but that would limit my pool of possibilities significantly.  I could come home everyday and whine and complain so that they would know but no one wants a whiner and I don't want to whine all the time.  I guess I just have to hope to find more understanding women than I have thus far.
     I give what I've got.  Besides going to work there's everything else I do for my son.  Then I have laundry and dishes and all the day to day living stuff that has to be done.  Anything I can do for a woman is with what's left of me after all that.  Usually, it's surprisingly quite a bit.  Usually, I'll give a little more than I've got left and run myself ragged for them.  Then they'll wonder why I'm tired and grumpy all the time.  Maybe I just won't find a woman until my son is grown and I have more time and if that's the case that's fine.  Until then I'll just keep laboring through life and hope someone understands.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Am Eight Again

     Tonight something epic happened.  I took my son, Brad, to Target to spend a gift card he had left from his birthday and we came home with Rock Em Sock Em Robots.  I got a little nervous when I saw some assembly required but then I remembered that this was a simple toy from a simple time.  It didn't require a hexagonal wrench, a blowtorch, and a samurai sword just to get the toy out the box.  Everything snapped together and in less than five minutes Brad and I were trying to knock each others heads off....of our robots of course.
     He picked the Blue Bomber because the name reminded him of the video game character MegaMan so I was the Red Rocker.  Somehow, I've always pictured myself as a red rocker. We mashed the buttons that make them punch and pushed and pulled the robots back and forth knocking stuff off the table in the process.  Occasionally, he would get frustrated and just reach out and punch my robot with his bare hand.  We laughed and talked smack to each other.  We played with this stupid little toy game for a half an hour and decided we would use it in place of rock paper scissors from now on.  I'm not sure who was having more fun.
     That's one of the best parts about being the dad of a boy, I get to relive my childhood all over again.  When he could barely walk I taught him how Tonka trucks should be rammed head on into each other.  I get to watch wrestling with him and listen to him cheer for John Cena like I cheered for Hulk Hogan.  One of our favorite things to do at the park is play hide n seek.  We play Super Metroid together and when he asks me how I remember some secret I get to tell him about how his namesake and I spent many hours playing Super Nintendo.  I got to show him the joys of a good book and it was like I was discovering them for the first time again.  I play him older music and....well he thinks it sucks.  Can't have everything, right?
     The coolest thing about it all is that he appreciates it.  He's not just humoring me.  I have a t-shirt with the classic Nintendo controller on it and he calls it the epicest t-shirt of all time.  He's always asking me about Macho Man Randy Savage and he wants to do the ohhhh yeeeeeaaahhhh with me.  I never have to ask him to play hide n seek unless he wants to play tag.  Then I have to suggest hide n seek because there's too much running in tag for this old man.  He chose to buy Rock Em Sock Em on his own.  I didn't even see it on the shelf.  He won't ever admit it but I think just hanging with Dad is his favorite thing to do. The really coolest thing about it is that he does it because he thinks it's fun but he also does it because of the smile it puts on my face.  That's the kind of boy he is.
     I should be prepared for these days to end, I know.  He'll be a teenager someday and I'll be lame.  I don't really think these days will end.  They haven't with my dad and I.  Sure, I would put on a show for my friends but it's like that line Montgomery Gentry sang "Well, I'd just roll my eyes and make a beeline for the door but I'd always wind up starry-eyed, cross legged on the floor, hanging onto every word."  There still isn't much in life I'd rather do than have late night coffee and ice cream with Mom and Dad.  When my ex-wife decided to move away without trying to take Brad with her one of the things she said was, "I can't take him away from you.  You're like his best friend," and it's true.  I don't know if that's something he learned from the way I am towards my dad or if it's because of something I learned from the way my dad has always been to me and I don't care to know.  It's magic and you don't question magic.
     I don't let my friendship with my son get in the way of the other parts of parenting.  I discipline when he needs it.  I'm not a very strict parent but that's because I don't have to be.  Still, I think cultivating that friendship is the most important part of my job right now. If he doesn't think of me as a friend as well as a parent, how can I ever expect him to turn to me in the truly hard times in life for help and advice?  I see the saying on Facebook a lot that our cousins are our first friends, and I love my cousins, but my parents were my first friends and I'm proud of the fact that I'm sure my son will say the same about me.  And the bestest part about doing this most important part of my job?  It's my pleasure.
     When I sit down to play with my eight year old son it's like I'm playing with his namesake at eight, again.  It feels like I'm eight again and this time I don't have to spend the whole summer with a cast on my arm.  I broke my arm from jumping on the monkey bars but do I let that stop me from encouraging Brad from jumping on the monkey bars?  Of course not. I'm eight again and an eight year old boy always dares his friends to do the things he got hurt doing.  I always explain boys to people this way; if there isn't a chance of something getting broken or someone getting hurt it ain't no fun.  Well, I suspect that my son and I will be taking a lot of chances before he turns nine and long after that too.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Am My Father's Son

     It is two days past Father's Day.  This is late.  Last Saturday I drove from Herrin, Illinois to Clarksville, Tennessee to get my son for the week I have him over the Summer.  Then I drove from Clarksville, Tennessee to Belleville, Illinois went to a family birthday party, and then to an anniversary party for people who are like family to me.  Then Sunday there was breakfast with Mom and Dad, we all headed to my older brother's for barbecue and swimming, and then back to Mom and Dad's to watch wrestling with my other brother. Basically, I ran myself ragged spending time with my son and my family and didn't have the time or energy to write anything.  Dad will understand.  It's what he taught me to do.
     The other reason this praise of my father is late is because it has been more difficult to write than I thought it would.  How do you describe a man who has been everything you've needed for thirty-three years?  How do you express gratefulness sufficiently for the ballgames, the camping trips, the talks, the beer, the coffee, the lessons, the wit, the stories, the time, and the quality of the time?  These aren't rhetorical questions,  Someone tell me how.
     Dad is a Vietnam veteran.  It's an experience he says he wouldn't trade for anything but that he would never do again.  He did a variety of physical labor for half his life, doing whatever needed to be done to pay the bills.  My earliest memories of him are days when he would work very long hours, come home and wake us boys up to say hello and goodnight, and then be gone again before we woke up in the morning.  Luckily for all of us those days didn't last long.  For the last half of his working life Dad was employed by the VFW as a Service Officer helping veterans get their benefits from the VA.  It was a very rewarding job for him.
     Here's the thing, though, that only tells you a little bit about Dad.  He was proud of the work he did, deservedly so, but he's never been the kind of man that defined himself by his work.  When I would overhear him talking to friends or family he was usually bragging about his boys.  He defined himself as a father.  You would think this might cause problems between him and Mom but it didn't because she defined herself as a mother.  That's what I learned good parents do.
     Dad has never been just Dad to me though.  He's been a friend, an example, and a confidant.  He's been a teacher, a coach, and a philosopher.  He tries to pretend to be the old wise man of deer camp and every now and then he actually is.  He's a storyteller, a barbecuer though I have now surpassed him, and a wisecracker though I have now surpassed him.  He isn't just Dad, he's DAD.
     This is going to be shorter than I thought and less poignant and less original.  I feel like I fail with most things I write about but I know I'll never be able to capture Dad with mere words.  I had a bunch of stories in mind that I wanted to tell about him but I find that I'm selfish.  Those moments are mine.  My brothers have their own and we have many together. A lot of people know and like my dad, and a lot of people call him Dad, but there's only three of us that can claim him as our dad and I want to keep that feeling as our own private treasure for a little while longer.
     There's an easy way, though, that I can honor and compliment Dad here.  Remember my busy weekend, I talked about?  That's just a little bit of what I do, and try to do, for my son. I play video games, watch wrestling, and read with him.  I drag my sorry butt to work just because of him.  I'm teaching him how to hunt and shoot and rock climb.  I try to play the old wise man with him and every now and then I actually am.  When the divorce came there was no way I was letting go of him but when the time comes and he's grown I'll let him go with a handshake and some good advice.  Even then, though, I'll still be there when he needs me. Why am I like this? He's my son, of course, and I love him but people aren't born knowing how to be good parents and they don't suddenly figure it out when the stork arrives.  They learn from their parents and that's the best compliment I can think of to give Dad for Father's Day.  I am the dad I am because Dad is, and has been, the dad he's been.  I am my father's son.

Friday, June 14, 2013

R.I.P. Jared Weaver

     An old friend of mine, Jared Weaver passed away.  He would've been thirty-six on Sunday.  His services are going to be this weekend in Ohio and there's no way I can go.  I have to pick my son up from Tennessee and celebrate Father's Day with him.  I'm pretty sure Jared would understand.  He was one of those big lugs who gravitated towards children and they gravitated towards him.  His probable understanding, and the understanding his family has shown, doesn't make me feel any less like crap about being unable to be there to share some kind words and reminisces with his family, to let them know there is one more person in the world that cared about Jared and is going to miss him.  So I'm going to do the best I can and try to do that here.
     Jared would probably think it's a bit silly of me to be doing this.  He didn't talk much for a guy that talked a lot.  When a conversation turned serious he would just smirk and nod or shrug or sigh with his chin in his hand waiting for his turn.  Then when he did speak it would be a short burst of amazingly insightful words...or complete ridiculousness.  There was very little in between with him.
     I met Jared when I was sixteen and started working at McDonald's.  Jared and Jeff had been working there for awhile and were already fast friends.  I sort of slid right in and made it a threesome.  I remember one time in particular we hung out outside of work was after Jared and Jeff had found out I used to like pro wrestling but hadn't watched it in a long time. They basically kidnapped me and took me to watch Monday Night Raw with them.  That episode an odd, quirky character named Mankind won his first world title and gained a little acceptance along the way and I became addicted to wrestling all over again.  I was already addicted to my friendship with Jared and Jeff for the same reasons.
     Wrestling was a big part of my friendship with Jared.  All of us would pick stables of wrestlers we rooted for and the others weren't allowed to claim them as their own.  When one of your guys wrestled someone else's guy it was a big deal.  Jared's guy was always the Undertaker and he just kind of adopted Kane because he was Undertaker's brother.  I think in time he came to like Kane more, though.  Kane was a big, scary character that didn't talk and seemed like he just wanted to beat people up but as time went on it became clear that he was a conflicted character who deep down just wanted to be liked and he conveyed this with more expressive body language than most great actors have.  It was clear to me why Jared liked him.
     Music was a big part of my, and anyone's, friendship with Jared.  I had somehow been immune to the hysteria over Nirvana when they first appeared but Jared made a convert out of me.  In turn, he appreciated my favorite singer Alan Jackson.  He had an eclectic taste in music.  If during the holidays you dared complain about being burnt out on Christmas music he would find a station that was playing some and crank it up.  I can remember him often declaring his love for Ruby by Kenny Rogers.  We would sing big, emotional, over-dramatic ballads to each other, cracking ourselves up and making other people wonder about us.  The last time Jared and I hung out, just the two us, before he moved to Ohio we sang Sarah McLachian's I Will Remember You together as we often did.  It started out as goofy fun but by the end we were both almost crying.  Like many times with Jared, it was stupid and silly and sweet.
     Jared was a homophobe's worst nightmare.  He hugged all of his friends, male or female. He would often tell guys they were looking good or compliment their fashion.  He and I would joke about flirting with the gay waiter or the gay guy that worked at the video game store.  At least, I'd like to think we were joking but we got free food and discounts on video games.
     Video games were a big part of Jared's life, like most guys of our generation.  He bought every system on launch day and bought a lot of games he never finished.  He would complain sometimes about the cost of medicine, and if he had a seizure in public and someone called an ambulance he would moan afterwards because the bill was so high, but he wasted so much money on video games it wasn't funny.  Still, I fondly remember the endless nights of Soul Calibur and Jared getting frustrated when the button mashers with no skill beat him.
     Card games were huge with Jared, too.  Spades was our main game but it couldn't be just Spades.  A normal game of Spades didn't have enough action for Jared, didn't have enough chances for him to slap a card on the table with a flick of his wrist.  We had to add trump cards and play with the Big Folk and jokers.  Jared was often my partner and we developed that almost psychic connection that longtime card partners have.  We were damn good, too.  We'd get wrapped up in our games and drink too much and smoke too much without even noticing it.  Sometimes, Jared would even forget to take his medicine.  Of course, often the card game was just an excuse for not taking medicine he would've forgotten anyway.
     It's almost impossible to talk about Jared without talking about his medical problems.  He was diabetic and epileptic and he didn't take his problems as seriously as he should have.  I think living with his problems day after day wore him down and he just wanted to forget about them but they weren't the kind of problems you could do that with.  To spend time with Jared was to worry about when the next episode was going to happen, the next period of semi-coherence, the next seizure.  Our friend Tracy talks about being convinced every ambulance she heard was carrying Jared even after he moved away.  Sometimes it could be funny like when in the middle of Walmart he stood with his nose two inches from a poster and said very loudly, "I can't see N'SYNC", or when in the midst of a seizure he slapped our McDonald's manager so hard he almost knocked him out.  Jared would often laugh when we gave him hell about it afterwards but it was gallows humor.
     Jared had complicated relationships with everyone in his life and that's a euphemism for Jared was a pain in the ass.  No matter how many people tried to help him keep track of his medicines and blood sugar he was often convinced no one cared about him.  He would sometimes get surly and start arguments over nothing.  I think sometimes he liked people yelling at him because that was another way he assured himself that people cared.  Everyone put up with it, though, because Jared was a good, generous man.  When I wasn't able to save enough money for an engagement ring by my dating anniversary, Jared let me borrow the money I was short without blinking.  Later, when I was unable to pay him back as quickly as I wanted and apologized to him for it he ordered me not to pay him back at all.
     Jared was an usher in my wedding and he was awesome.  He and my other usher Jerry relaxed me with humor before the ceremony by explaining to me their system for determining where to sit people without asking them.  If they were dressed nicely they were groom side and if they were in torn jeans or overalls they were bride side.  Then after the ceremony my two ushers walked arm in arm into the reception like a proper couple.  At the reception there was stogie smoking and buying me far too many shots and taking the tires off of my car and a mosh pit and Jared was in the midst of all of it.  He lead a group of us in singing Bye, Bye, Bye on karaoke.  The next morning he showed up at my parents' house to watch us open presents still wearing his tuxedo with a mysterious tube of lipstick in his pocket that he couldn't explain.
     I'm sure he did but I find myself hoping Jared didn't know I was divorced.  I hope he remembered the group of us as we were when we had few worries and Jared was the only thing complicated in our lives.  There is so much about Jared I haven't talked about.  So much I learned from him and about him during late nights of coffee, Diet Coke for Jared, and conversation at Denny's.  There is so much I wish I had talked to and could still talk to Jared about.  Stephen King, one of Jared's favorite authors as well as mine, wrote "Friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant."  I've always hated that quote and I think I've always hated it because it's mostly true.  Unlike busboys, though, good friends leave something behind when they go.  It saddens me that two members of my wedding party, not to mention the marriage itself, are already dead.  Still, I hope Jared knew that parts of him will live on in me and many others.  Mostly, Jared, I hope you've found peace my friend.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Conversation Between Single Women

     "What happened with Pete?
I thought you two were neat."
     "Oh, you know how things go.
At first he never said no.
So I asked for more and more
and he acted like I was a chore.
So I kicked him out of my world.
You've got to do and do for this girl."
     "See, I don't know how you can be that way.
If I ever get a man I'll make him stay.
I'll want to see him every minute of every day.
I don't know why they all run away."

     "What happened with you and Joe?
What was it that made him go?"
     "To tell you the truth I don't know.
I tried to tell him how things should be
for him to keep getting love from me,
how he should dress and how he should act.
I told him it wasn't opinion just fact.
I told him and told him and told him he wasn't good enough
and he proved it by running away when I got tough."
     "See, I would've made him stay,
and promise me over and over he ain't going away.
He would've had twelve text while he was working.
Wherever he was, I'd always be lurking."

     "So now who are you going to try and see
to keep from getting so darn lonely?"
     "I'm not putting myself on the line.
The risk is all his if he wants to be mine.
If a man wants to be with me then he needs to treat me like a queen.
Historically a queen was unimportant and subservient but that's not what I mean.
For two people to get along there must be compromise
so him changing his ways is what I advise."
     "I just can't be like that you see.
Having a man is everything to me.
When I get one to go on a first date
he's gonna know he's my future lifemate."

     Don't take this silly little poem too seriously.  It was just an effort to cheer myself up after a rough night and it amused me so I thought I'd share.  I've had many reasons to miss old friends lately, reasons both good and bad, but tonight I was reminded of an old friend in the worst way possible.  I'll have thoughts on at least two of my old friends upcoming and, of course, I mean to try and post something special for Father's Day.  I don't know how soon all of this will happen though.  My son comes home for a full week the day before Father's Day and it's not a moment too soon for me.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I Am a Father With Rights

     Society needs to have a conversation, actually several conversations, about the role of the father in our courts and our culture.  In too many divorce courts the father is barely considered until he misses a child support payment and then we wonder why his son grows up and doesn't take being a father seriously.  We howl in anger, deservedly so, when a father abandons his family but barely react when a father is kicked out of his family for all but four days a month.  We treat fathers as an afterthought then shake our heads in disgust when boys become men that treat fathering as an afterthought.
     Sometimes I'm a little too idealistic for my own good.  I thought these discussions might already be taking place online.  I intended for this post to be a well researched discussion that linked to other blogs and their thoughtful discussions of these serious matters.  That isn't going to happen, though.  The vast majority of men discussing this online prattle on about militant feminists and a conspiracy to marginalize masculinity.  I understand being angry when faced with the chance of your children being taken away from you but anger has never really changed anyone's mind.  Women online that are talking about these matters react predictably  to the anger and start acting like the militant feminists they're accused of being.  There is very little calm, thoughtful discussion and very little useful, relevant statistics or studies about father's rights online.
     I don't like that I'm going to criticize feminists in this post because I consider myself mostly a feminist myself.  Anyone that knows my family knows that I was raised to value strong, independent women mostly because I would feel the wrath of some strong, independent women myself if I didn't.  I think it's shameful in this society that women get paid less than men to do the same jobs and that's one of the many reasons I'm proud to be a union member.  That shit doesn't happen in a union.  I have never voted for a politician just because she's a woman but if I favored both candidates equally being a woman would be a tiebreaker.  We need more women in power in this country.
     I have to criticize feminists on this issue of father's rights, though.  In the few enlightened states that have changed their divorce laws, or attempted to change them, to give father's more rights in court feminist groups have fought against it firmly.  This happens with big lobbyist groups, they fight anything that might be perceived as against their interests without stopping to think about it.  The NRA fought to limit lawsuits against gun manufacturers for malfunctioning products even though all that did was limit the rights of their own membership.  Similarly, granting father's more rights in court would actually benefit women across the country which is who the feminist groups are supposed to be representing.
     There are constant complaints that men don't do their fair share of the child rearing. Share custody of the kids with them for half the time and they'll have to.  Collecting child support is always an issue.  If fathers have their children half the time they have to pay for half their needs so child support no longer is an issue.  It amuses me to see feminist groups argue that women should have higher standing in court because they are more nurturing and caring parents.  Don't these groups realize that, besides from being untrue, that argument plays right into the Susie Homemaker stereotype that they have been trying fight all these years?  The children should be with their mother attitude is just as much a product of a bygone era as the a woman's place is at home argument.
     The one legitimate argument I've heard against increasing father's rights is that in the situation of domestic abuse a woman would be even more scared and hesitant to leave than they already are.  I have sympathy for this argument but I fail to see why the huge majority of men that don't beat women should have to suffer because of the tiny minority that does. I fail to see why the children of the vast majority should suffer by seeing their fathers less because of that tiny minority.  Isn't that, in a way, letting those assholes hurt society more than they already do?  Besides, if a man is an abuser there will often be a paper trail, hospital visits and police reports, that would make it very easy to prove him an unfit father in court.  Increasing father's rights wouldn't take away anyone's right to their day in court. So increase funding for shelters and help for abused women, make harsher penalties for beating women, do whatever needs to be done.  Just don't let one more father or one more child or one more family suffer for what some other man has done.
     The other argument against increasing father's rights that seems to make sense on the surface is a financial one.  If a divorce proceeds as it should in a just world and both parents have custody of the children for an equal time and no one has to pay support because of it then many women wouldn't be able to afford to live on their own after a divorce.  Since between sixty and eighty percent of divorces, depending on which sources you look at, are filed by the wife in most situations the response to that problem is that they should have thought about that before they ended their marriage.  I don't think any woman should be trapped in an unhappy marriage just because of money but that's part of the reason food stamp and medical card programs are in place.  There's help for a reason.  Besides, the flipside of this argument is that the way things are now most fathers have to establish a new household that's good enough for their children to stay in a couple weekends a month, maintain that household while dealing with the other financial fallout of a divorce, and paying anywhere between twenty and thirty-five percent of his salary in child support.  Why doesn't anyone worry if the father will suffer financially after a divorce? I'd be in favor of some sort of support for a woman  in cases of infidelity or when it was the husband that filed for divorce and the wife was a stay at home mom but it would have to be in specific situations and for a limited time period.
     Another argument that is used against fathers getting equal time with their children is stability and kids do need stability in the aftermath of a divorce.  The thing is having two houses doesn't equal instability.  Sure, there's an adjustment period but there's an adjustment period after a divorce anyway.  It is less stable for a child to have their father disappear from their lives except for four days a month than it is for them to split time at two different houses.  The benefit of a child still having both their parents in their life equally after a divorce far outweighs the negatives that come with such an arrangement.  If you don't believe me ask the thousands of divorced couples that live with this arrangement everyday or the children lucky enough to grow up this way after being unlucky enough to suffer through a divorce.
     Bluntly put, having a vagina doesn't automatically make you a better parent and give you more rights to be with your child than having a penis does.  When a divorce goes to court the starting point should be split custody with no one paying any support because they are each responsible for the child's or children's support when they have them half the time.  I'm not saying it has to end this way for every divorce just that that's where the starting point of the courts consideration should be.  There are, of course, many situations that would make this an unworkable solution but that's what lawyers and court proceedings are for and even in situations where split custody is unworkable the mother shouldn't automatically get custody simply because of her gender.  Anyone that cares about equality, the welfare of children after a divorce, or the future of fatherhood in this country should agree.
     I have been lucky personally that my ex-wife and I came to an agreement outside of court.  I am a father with rights but I didn't win them in court or have them by law like I should.  Like I said, I've been lucky.  There are too many good fathers out there, though, that could only say "I am a father in search of rights."  In closing, I can only say that I am the father that I am because of the father that I have and I think it's that way for most men.  So when we as a society force men to be fathers four days a month we are creating boys that will grow up to be fathers four days a month whether they are forced to or not.  If we want men to take fatherhood seriously then we have to act like it is as serious as motherhood.  I have no idea how persuasive this has been because it's been a long time since I've tried to write anything like this but I thank you for reading and I'm certainly open to any counter arguments.  I'll get off my soapbox now for a little while.

Friday, June 7, 2013

I Am Constant Reader

     This was supposed to be a different post.  I'm working on a discussion of father's rights, or lack thereof, in this country and that post is still coming.  It would have been finished by now but a new Stephen King book got in the way and those that know me know that's a significant impediment to me doing anything.  I'm sure there are some who say a reading a book is a sorry excuse to not do something, and they might be right, but if they are then a lot of my life has been a sorry excuse. Stephen King calls those that read most of his books the constant reader and I suppose that's about as good of a description of me as any.
     I don't believe the right book comes into your life at the right time just as I don't believe that about people or jobs or weather or any of that happy horseshit.  Life is mostly just just random shit that happens as we stumble from day to day.  I do believe, though, that if you're in need of something you'll find it if it's there and if you look in a good book it's almost always there.  So I read Joyland by Stephen King at the right time for me.  It's about a young man getting over his first love who befriends a special young boy with muscular dystrophy and if you know me you know that spoke to me.  I'm missing two Brads right now but that's another post for another time.
     Anyway, enough of my words.  They are so often inadequate.  Here are the quotes from Joyland that seemed to be talking about my life in one way or another.
     People think first love is sweet, and never sweeter than when that first bond snaps. You've heard a thousand pop and country songs that prove the point; some fool got his heart broke.  Yet, that first broken heart is always the most painful, the slowest to mend, and leaves the most visible scar.  What's so sweet about that?

     What I know now is that gallant young men rarely get pussy.  Put in on a sampler and hang it in your kitchen.

     When you're twenty-one life is a roadmap.  It's only when you get to twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect you've been looking at the map upside down, and not until you're forty or you entirely sure.  By the time you're sixty, take it from me, you're fucking lost.

     When it comes to the past everyone writes fiction.

     She's nothing to me these days but a scar and a memory, someone who hurt me as young women will hurt young men from time to time.

     It was never a constant thing, but did I think of her with certain malevolence in the aftermath of the breakup?  Yes.  There were long and sleepless nights when I thought she deserved something bad - maybe really bad - to happen to her for the way she hurt me.  It dismayed me to think that way but sometimes I did.

     Fifty yards ahead of us a doe came out of the woods.  She stepped back over one rusty GS@WM track and onto the railbed where the weeds and goldenrod were so high they brushed against her sides.  She paused there, looking at us calmly, ears cocked forward. What I remember about that moment is the silence.  No bird sang, no plane went overhead. If my mother had been with us, she'd have had her camera and would've been taking pictures like mad.  Thinking of that made me miss her in a way I hadn't in years.
     I gave my father a quick, fierce hug.  "I love you, Dad."
     "I know," he said, "I know."
     When I looked back, the deer was gone.  A day later so was I.

     This is a badly broken world, full of wars and cruelty and senseless tragedy.  Every human being who inhabits it is served his or her portion of unhappiness and wakeful nights.  Those of you who don't already know that will come to know it.

     History is the collective and ancestral shit of the human race, a great big and ever-growin pile of crap.  Right now we're standin at the top of it but pretty soon we'll be buried under the doodoo of generations yet to come.  That's why your folks' clothes look so funny in old photographs, to name but a single example.  And as someone who is destined to be buried beneath the shit of your children and grandchildren, I think you should be just a leetle more forgiving.

     You think Okay I got it, I'm  prepared for the worst but you hold out that small hope, see, and that's what fucks you up.  That's what kills you.

     I don't think either of them realized, then or all the rest of the summer, how fundamentally the ground under my feet had shifted.  How lost I felt.  I didn't want them to know.  It was more than embarrassing; it seemed shameful.

     Such fires are probably illegal in the twenty-first century; the powers that be have a way of outlawing many beautiful things made by ordinary people.  I don't know why that should be, I only know it is.

     I had already made up my mind about some things, it seemed, and all that remained was for my conscious mind to get the news.

     I would argue that-fantasies aside-the majority of men are monogamous from the chin up.  Below the belt-buckle, however, there' a wahoo stampeder who just doesn't give a shit.

     "That girl," he said in tones of infinite disgust, and then we moved on to other topics.

     "You'll get over her."  Her eyes were on mine.  She wasn't wearing makeup that night, and didn't need any.  The moonlight was her makeup.
     "Yes," I said.  I knew it was true, and part of me was sorry.  It's hard to let go.  Even when what you're holding onto is full of thorns, it's hard to let go.  Maybe especially then.

     He shrugged.  "I've got muscular dystrophy, that's all. That's why I'm in the wheelchair.  I can walk, you know, but the braces and the crutches are a pain in the butt,"
     "I'm sorry," I said, "That stinks, Mike."
     "I guess, but I can't remember not having it, so what the hell.  Only it's a special kind of MD.  Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, it's called.  Most kids who have it croak in their teens or early twenties."
     So, you tell me--what do you say to a ten-year-old kid who's just told you he's living under a death sentence?

     Let them go, I thought, but I was tired of letting women go.  I was tired of just letting things happen to me and then feeling bad about them.

     Life isn't always a butcher's game.  Sometimes the prizes are real.  Sometimes they're precious.

     She took my right hand and put it on the silky cup covering her left breast.  I could feel the soft, steady beat of her heart.  "I must not have let go of all my daddy issues yet, because I feel delightfully wicked."

     "I tried my ass off to believe that when I was a little girl, and I couldn't.  God and heaven lasted about four years longer than the Tooth Fairy, but in the end I couldn't.  I think there's just darkness.  No thought, no memory, no love.  Just darkness.  Oblivion.  That's why I find what's happening to him so hard to accept."

     The world has given me a good life since then, I won't deny it, but sometimes I hate the world, anyway.  Dick Cheney, that apologist for waterboarding and for too long chief preacher in the Holy Church of Whatever It Takes, got a brand-new heart while I was writing this-how about that?  He lives on; other people have died.  Talented ones like Clarence Clemons.  Smart ones like Steve Jobs.  Decent ones like my old friend Tom Kennedy.  Mostly you get used to it.  You pretty much have to.  As W.H. Auden pointed out, the Reaper takes the rolling in money, the screamingly funny, and those who are very well hung.  But that isn't where Auden starts his list.  He starts with the innocent young.
     And so those are the words I've been swimming in the last two evenings while I should've been doing other things.  I was doing what I needed to be doing, though.  That's what I do most of the time.  Most of those words, most of the book, hit close to home, cut to the bone, pick a pretty cliche just for today, and I'm not ashamed to say I cried.  I'm proud to say I cried because the tears were for a man who deserved them.  Those that know will know and those that don't will just have to trust me.  I know about words and tears after all.  I am Constant Reader.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Am a Taker

     My ex-wife asked for a divorce without warning and it wasn't a situation where I could stay at home until I saved some money and found a place.  I moved almost immediately to a friend's house and then a crappy apartment.  I also still paid half her bills for the first month I was gone and $500 a month in child support the rest of the year even though I has our son as much, if not more, than she did.  I'm not the first person to suffer unnecessarily by being too nice in a divorce but the combination of that mistake and it all happening without warning meant I left with almost nothing and almost nothing to buy anything with.
     I left with an old couch, a few pots and pans we had doubles of, an almost broken T.V., my books because she knew better than to try to keep my books, my clothes, a few of my son's clothes, and my truck because dammit I wasn't going anywhere without my truck.  I can't blame it all on her because as I said I was too nice for my own good.  My friends and family chipped in when they could.  I got some hand me down beds and furniture.  They gave me some other things too but it's not like I know a lot of people with a lot to spare.  Many of them, if they knew how bad things were would've sacrificed too much to help me too much so I just didn't tell them.
     I started dating about two months after I moved out before I even had my own place.  I had to buy date clothes because this self styled old, married man didn't have anything suitable to attract a young woman.  Dating was another expense I didn't need but it was something I needed to do.  I probably started dating too soon but that's the way I've always handled loss and disappointment.  I have to move on before I can move on.
     My first girlfriend afterwards bought me the plates I'm still eating off of and the pots and pans I'm still cooking with.  She also bought me sheets because we needed them ;-), some clothes for my son and I, and prepared and paid for many a meal.  My next sort of girlfriend bought me groceries and beer and took me out a lot.  She's even still helped me as the sort of girlfriend description has become just a friend.  Then the woman that just broke up with me bought my son a whole new wardrobe basically, enough new clothes for me that I won't have to buy date clothes for a while, countless little essentials like toothpaste, and, of course lots of food.  Women seem to love to feed a single father.
     In purely financial terms I was a taker in these relationships.  It wasn't purposeful and I did try to give back.  It cost me gas to see them and I paid for nights out too and I tried to help them out when I noticed they needed it.  I became a really good gift giver with my proudest present being a pair of Chuck Taylors with Van Gogh's Starry Night custom printed on them.  I couldn't contribute as much financially to the relationships as they did, though. All the help still left me with a lot to buy for my place, the ex-wife left me with a lot of bills, and my son always needed football cleats or wrestling headgear or new glasses etc. etc. and you know who was paying for those.  Also, I've been more concerned with spoiling my son than my girlfriends because he's needed some stuff in his life that wasn't disappointing.  So even though I've had a better job and more income than them my girlfriends have always spent more on the relationship than I have.
       If it was just money it wouldn't bother me as much.  Things were the way they were and they all knew it at the beginning.  I didn't hide anything.  However, it wasn't just financially. I took emotionally and physically too.  These women loved me with their heart and souls in a way I probably wasn't capable of loving them.  My focus was on loving my son and figuring out a way to still love myself after I helped fuck up his life.  I had room in my heart for these women but it wasn't enough room and not near what they deserved.  In this way too, I was a taker.
     Again, I feel compelled to defend myself a little.  Again, it wasn't purposeful and I did try.  I'm very good at making women feel beautiful and good about themselves because most women are better looking and better people than they know.  So I did that and I held them and massaged them when I noticed they needed it.  I've always been a good listener with a ready ear so I provided that.  I'm a hardworking, nice guy, who tries to be attentive in the bedroom and that's more than a lot of women get from a lot of men so I try not to get too down on myself.
     Still, what I did for them isn't much compared to what they did for me.  The first few awkward bedroom sessions with someone other than my ex-wife were gotten through with patience and understanding.  My horizons were expanded and my outlook on life changed.  They taught me new things and taught me to appreciate things I never did before. They supported me and loaned me a backbone when I needed one through a difficult divorce. In the two breakups that came from these relationships both women mentioned how tired they were.  I was tired, too.  I ran myself ragged trying to be the kind of father I expect myself to be, work, and attempting to give these women as much as they gave me.  I just couldn't do it.  They made me feel loved again and showed me I was still worth being loved. I couldn't and can't repay that.  I can only say I'm sorry and I will always hold them in high regard in my heart.
     If I thought it was just these relationships I wouldn't be worried about it; I wouldn't be up in the middle of the night writing about it.  I am worried that all my romantic relationships are going to be this way at least until my son is grown.  My situation is still improving bit by bit and so I'll have more and more of myself to give but I'll probably give most of me to my son.  I'm who he has and I'm who is supposed to do for him and be there for him and doing that to the level I expect of myself will always take most of who I am.  I don't know that I'll ever have enough of myself to be fair to anyone else.
     So the question should be is it even fair of me to date but that's not a question I ask.  I don't want to know the answer.  It might be no but I don't want to know it because I don't want to be alone.  I know that's selfish and I fear it means I'm not a good man.  Being a good man is right under being a good father on the list of things I pride myself on.  I wish there was some nice, tidy bow I could wrap this all up in but I fear it's going to be open ended and something I'll always struggle with.  Maybe that's why I wrote this, though.  So that it's out there and the women in my future will at least be warned.  I am a taker.

Monday, June 3, 2013

I Am Dad

     Yesterday would have been my wedding anniversary and to my surprise I've been up all night.  It surprises me because most of the day I was indifferent to the date and I think indifference is the surest sign of healing.  Last year's was the first anniversary we weren't together and it didn't keep me up so I wasn't prepared for this year's to do it either.
     There are differences between last year and this year.  Last year we were still technically married.  This year the divorce is final.  Last year I was in another relationship.  This year I'm not far removed from a breakup.  Last year was about new beginnings.  This year has been about endings.
     I don't think any of these are the differences that account for my different reactions, though.  It's not missing her either.  The divorce wasn't a nice one and the complications killed any chance of me missing her again.  It's not even missing being married.  I'm enjoying the single life.  It's really just missing being a family or more accurately missing my son.
     I have custody of him through the schoolyear.  She has him for June and July.  It's not quite that simple but it's close enough to explain myself.  It's common after a divorce to feel a sense of unmooring, to be unsure of who you are and what your life is going to become, and I felt that somewhat and still do.  I don't know where I'll be living next month or next year.  I don't know who I'll be with next month or next year or if I'll be with anyone.  I'm not sure what this blog is going to be about or if it will be anything more than this one post, what gets me through the summer without him, or just become part of my life.  I don't have much of a clue what my life is going to become.
     I've never become completely unmoored though, like so many do after a divorce, because I have an anchor to keep me in place and keep me from floating away.  My friends and family have been tremendous and I'm more thankful than they know but they haven't been my anchor.  I've had the same job throughout it all and I'm pretty sure I'll have it for awhile but I've never let any job truly become part of my self identity.  It hasn't been my anchor.  My anchor has been my son.
     I was my ex-wife's man before I was even really a man.  I had been the Paul in Paul and Sherri for almost half my life when we split.  At the time I'd been Brad's Dad for almost 7 years but that was the role that was much more important to me.  Some might say that was part of the cause of the split but I reject that notion or, at least, think that if it was that's her problem.  I think that's the way things are supposed to be.
     Brad is 8 now and like any other 8 year old he's sometimes 8 going on 4.  He's also 8 going on 24.  Last year when a counselor asked him if he was angry at Mom and Dad for getting divorced he answered, "A little but I know there's nothing they can do about it."  This year he insisted, without any prompting, on giving some of his birthday money to charity.  I told him before he left for his mom's this summer that I was going to miss him and I wouldn't like him being gone that long.  He replied, "I'll miss you too Dad but don't you think it's fair that Mom gets me for a little while because you get me a lot."  A few Christmases ago a friend of mine, who always buys Brad the best gifts, hadn't been working and didn't have the money to buy presents.  He told Brad this and Brad said, "I don't care about presents.  I just want to see you."  I tell these tidbits so everyone will know it's not just any boy I'm missing but an exceptional boy.  I suppose every parent thinks that way about their children, and that too is the way things should be, but it's not just Brad's parents that think that way about him.
     It's obvious that pride is part of being a father but it's not the only part.  I could state the contrasting cliches, joy and terror and elation and frustration, and they would be true too.  I think Stephen King was most right, however, when he wrote "A father is not necessary unless he is a good father.  Then he is essential."  That's how being a father makes me feel.  All those good things I just bragged about, and many more I had to stop myself from bragging about, don't happen without me.  I am essential.
     Even while he's been with his mother he's needed me .  I'm the man he called late at night when he needed to be comforted about something.  I'm the friend he wanted to tell about beating a video game.  I'm the guy that keeps him up to date on pro wrestling.  I'm the cook he had to assure that someone else's barbeque was good but not as good as the Murray's.  I'm the wise one that he had to discuss an online shopping choice with.  This all might seem trivial but it's vitally important to him and I'm who he wants and needs to talk to about it.  I'm the voice and the I love you he needs to hear.  I guess I wrote all of this to remind myself of that.
     I'll be able to sleep now because I remembered.  I've never become unmoored or lost in life because I know.  No matter how many women tempt me too question myself because they find me unworthy of their love, I'll know who I am.  I am essential.  I am Dad.