Interview With a Trooper – Episode VIII

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted an interview segment (because reasons), so I figured I’d get another post on the wall. How’s everyone doing??

  1. What did you do for your last birthday? Idk, that was 7 months ago. I think the twins came over, we cooked out, and I had some celebratory drinks.
  2. What did you dress up as on Halloween when you were eight? Probably Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. Either way, I was winning.
  3. What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was very young, a baseball player. In high school, a teacher. In my 20’s, the best dad possible. In the 30’s…same. Now, in my 40’s, I want to go back to my childhood.
  4. What do you call carbonated drink called? Call 911! I think the interviewer just had a stroke!
  5. What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?  Weird.
  6. What do you call your grandparents? I never met either of my grandfathers. Well, technically, that’s not true. One died before I was born, the other when I was two months old. So I did meet one of them, but I don’t remember it. Both of my grandmother’s I called grandma. Unoriginal, yes, but still loving.
  7. What do you consider unforgivable? Cheating, or any other form of betrayal from someone in whom you’ve placed trust.
  8. What do you dislike about living in your neighborhood? Nothing, so far. I mean, being this close to train tracks is somewhat annoying, but it’s not the end of the world.
  9. What do you do for a living? I do IT support in a K-12 school corporation.
  10. What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep? Toss and Turn? Try to get up and do something productive? I’ll normally either read or put on a movie I’ve seen a million times (like Star Wars) and eventually I’ll pass out.
  11. What do you do most when you are bored? Um, find something to do that isn’t boring. Duh.
  12. What do you find yourself always procrastinating? Procrastination.
  13. What do you like about your home? The roof is nice. It keeps out the rain.
  14. What do you love about living in your neighborhood? Um…IDK. It’s a neighborhood. I just live here.
  15. What do you love about your favorite TV Show? I don’t really have a favorite TV show. I don’t really have favorites of anything.
  16. What do you think about more than anything else? I’m trying not to think about anything these days. It keeps me from despair.
  17. What do you think about the most? Well, right now I’m thinking…how is this question any different than the one before it, and how it’s not, and that this is a stupid question.
  18. What does your name mean? It means I answer when someone says it.
  19. What drains your energy? What doesn’t? I haven’t had much energy at all these past few months. Hopefully, that will change as I recover from surgery.
  20. What dreams have you given up on as unrealistic? Having a child who doesn’t talk back.
  21. What female celebrity do you wish was your sister? Uh….I don’t know. I’ve never wished for another sibling. My family is already big as it is.
  22. What flavor of tea do you enjoy? I don’t really like tea. I pity the fool.
  23. What has been the hardest thing for you to face or learn? Hell, I don’t know. Even if you narrowed that question down to the last six months I couldn’t pick just one thing so much shit has been happening.
  24. What has required the most courage of you in your life so far? Walking away from my first marriage, methinks.
  25. What inspires you? I don’t know if inspired is the right term, but my children keep me motivated. Without them I don’t know what would keep me going.
  26. What is a strange occurrence you’ve experienced but have never (or rarely) shared with anyone? That my first wife used suicide as a tool to keep me from leaving her. I’ve written about it at length here, but it’s not something I shared with many people in real life. For some reason, I still feel a bit of shame about the whole ordeal.
  27. What is an ideal first date for you? Not having one.
  28. What is at the top of your bucket list? Creating a bucket list.
  29. What is good about how you are living your life right now? So far I have not given into despair.
  30. What is hard about being a parent? EVERYTHING.
  31. What is hard about not being a parent? NOTHING. I mean, that’s probably not true, but I’ve been a parent so long I can’t remember what it was like to NOT be a parent.
  32. What is on the walls of the room you are in? Pictures. I am surrounded by family pictures. I love it.
  33. What is one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up? Coffee?
  34. What is one of the worse things that could happen to you? It already happened, I think.
  35. What is one thing that you’ve never revealed to your parents? See question 26…
  36. What is one thing you’d rather pay someone to do than do yourself? Why? Move. I hate moving and have moved way too many times in my life.
  37. What is something about yourself that you hope will change, but probably never will? How easily irritated I sometimes can be.
  38. What is something most people don’t know about you? Me and Vader hang out and play Texas Hold ‘Em every Saturday night.
  39. What is something that amazes you? How people keep defending Trump and the actions of the GOP somehow blocking witnesses to his impeachment trial.
  40. What is something that scares you that you would never ever try? Jumping out of a plane. Or even flying in one.
  41. What is something you are gifted at? Sarcasm.
  42. What is something you look for in a partner? A sense of humor.
  43. What is something you wish you were gifted at doing? Writing.
  44. What is something you’ve never done that you’d like to try? Winning the lottery.
  45. What is the best compliment you have ever received? You’re a good father.
  46. What is the best part of your job? There’s a lot of things I like about it. The camaraderie with those I work with. Interacting with the students (most of the time). The freedom I have to run the network as I deem best and the trust that’s been given to me to do so. The list goes on.
  47. What is the farthest-away place you’ve been? Bentonville, Arkansas. That was an interesting trip…
  48. What is the first amusement park you’ve been to? Six Flags over Georgia, I think.
  49. What is the first app you check when you wake up in the morning? Depends on which notification is at the top of the list.
  50. What is the first book you remember reading? One of the Hardy Boys novels. When I was in middle school I read a bunch of those books.

If We Were Having Coffee

So, this used to be a thing. I kinda wanted to hang out with you guys, but didn’t know what else to say here so I’m gonna say we’re having coffee, because, well, coffee.

It’s been some time since I’ve had coffee with you all (or y’all to use the local vernacular). When we last saw me ’round these parts I was trippin’ ’cause my kids had just been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I was feeling pretty down on myself because I hadn’t noticed what had been going on inside their minds.

I’m happy to say that they’ve been on medication for close to two months now and both boys have reported the medicine has helped them cope with their anxieties. Baby B still has some trouble finding motivation, but I’ve discussed with him that no medication is going to give him that. He’ll have to manufacture his own motivation, unfortunately.

If we were having coffee you’d probably comment on my weight loss, which would make me incredibly uncomfortable and I’d sheepishly thank you for noticing. I’ve lost a little over 50lbs in the last few months. I’ve hit a plateau, so I’m taking a little break from my regimen, while still maintaining a somewhat healthy diet. I’ll get back to it soon, as I have a few dozen more pounds I want to lose.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you how uncomfortable it makes me that people keep complimenting me on how good I look or how much weight I’ve lost. People keep referring to me as skinny, or tell me there’ll soon be nothing of me left. I’m sure they all mean well, but it all makes me want to hide. I just want to be me. I don’t want to be noticed for what I do or don’t look like. Although, a little part of me is a bit ecstatic that I can fit into clothing sizes I haven’t fit into since I was in high school…

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that the twins just turned 18 about a month ago, and that I just can’t even. It’s a bit fucked up to know that I’ve been their guardian for their entire lives and now if I want to talk to their doctor the boys will need to sign a release form stating that their PHI can be discussed with me. I mean, they are legally adults. I have no legal say-so over them any more and it’s an odd feeling. It’s like a part of who I am has been stripped away.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that I met someone. Despite having a thick wall up this person drilled her way through and nuzzled right up to my heart. It has been a long process as it was an extremely thick wall, but inch by inch she made her way in. She has been extremely understanding and patient with how slowly I want things to go and respectful of how scared I am of putting myself out there again. She has just been amazing.

If we were having coffee I’d admit to you that I’m afraid to tell people that I’m seeing someone, because that makes it real. I’m afraid of it being real, because every real thing I’ve had before has blown up in the most spectacular of ways. I’ve learned, though, that as I’m admitting it most people had surmised as much anyhow, so I was really just hiding it from myself.

If we were having coffee I’d ask how you’re doing, of course, and listen as you told me all the things.

Maybe we’d play a game as we slowly sipped on our brew and talked shit about our moronic president. Maybe we’d watch cat videos on YouTube. Or maybe, just maybe, we’d enjoy each other’s company in silence like a couple of old friends are wont to do.

I hope everyone is doing well and that 2018 doesn’t bring nuclear winter (I wish that were a joke). I hope Santa dropped more than just coal in your stocking and that your children (if applicable) are doing well.

Happy New Year, bitches.

Runaway Train

newcoffeeIf we were having coffee you might raise an eyebrow at my SoCo and Coke. “I thought we were having coffee?” you might ask. To which I’d reply, “Coffee isn’t strong enough to help me face life.” Self-medication might not be healthy, but it helps me not to care that it’s not healthy. It also helps me cope with the struggles I face.

Working two jobs fucking blows. I have never felt so worn down. I am working 6 days a week. 40 hours at one job and 17 at the other. Any free time I have is spent with my children.

Well, with one of my children.

Baby C has had a disastrous start to his education. The ADHD I suspected he had going in to kindergarten has been confirmed with all the grace of a wrecking ball taking down a wall built with Legos. He has trouble focusing. He has trouble following direction. He’s disruptive in class. He has punched other students. He has kicked other students. He has spent entire afternoons with the “behavioral specialist.”

My son is brilliant. He has no problem learning the material in class. He knows his letters. He knows his sight words. He can count way past 100. I have to stop him simply because he’d count all day long and I have things to do. He knows his colors. He can sound words out.

What he can’t do is get past himself. Everything has to be his way or he simply loses his shit. He wears an imaginary crown and expects everyone else to bow down to his will. Some of this is typical 5-year-old behavior. Most of it is just inexplicable.

A month ago (or so) we scheduled an appointment with his doctor to have him evaluated for ADHD. We filled out forms. His teacher filled out forms. He was prescribed medication. The results have been less than spectacular.

Initially, he seemed to improve at school. The longer he’s been on the medication, however, the angrier he’s become. That’s when he started hitting other children at school. He began having outbursts of anger at home. Just today he’s yelled at me twice. It may not seem like a big deal, but he’s never, ever yelled at me before two days ago.

I’m done. I’m calling his doctor on Monday and demanding he be switched to a different medication.

One of the benefits of working at a school corporation is having access to hundreds of teachers who have dealt with every type of child one can encounter. They have a certified counselor on staff with whom I’ve been able to discuss Baby C’s difficulties. I have a medication in mind I want to try and a plan on how to attack C’s issues. While I’m thankful for that fighting this battle on top of everything else I’m going through is taking its toll on me.

If we were having coffee I’d confess I’m emotionally dead. I’ve unwittingly built a wall around myself and heartbreaks of the past have paid for it. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt anything, good or bad. I actually had a coworker say to me the other day, “You don’t ever talk to us.”

“I’m here to make money, not socialize,” was my response. Without hesitation. Without thought. And it’s true. I don’t have time for any of that bullshit. I’ve got shit to take care of. I’m there to earn a paycheck so I can catch up on my bills and have money to pay for the things my children need. I don’t have time for any kind of drama. I don’t want to listen to anyone bitching about their problems. I’ve got my own I’m trying to deal with.

The counselor I alluded to earlier told me that I was in survival mode when I confessed that I’d run out of empathy. My coworker is having similar problems with her 4-year-old. Unfortunately, I can’t muster up a shred of empathy for her. I just don’t give a shit. A part of me knows there’s something wrong with that. Unfortunately, I don’t give a shit.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that I’m tired of politics. I’m tired of listening to Trump spewing his idiotic rhetoric. I’m tired of his whining. I’m tired of the lies foaming from his orange mouth. I’m also tired of Hillary spewing her bullshit and acting like she’s got the interests of the regular American at heart. I can’t stand that she keeps bringing up Russia every time someone confronts her about the WikiLeaks emails instead of directly answering the questions. I don’t trust either one of those fools and I feel like no matter who wins we’re fucked. It’s an indictment of our democracy that these are the best two candidates our government could put forth.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that I’m fed up with all the clowns indignant because of NFL players kneeling during the anthem. The National Anthem and the American flag represent more than just our military. They represent our entire nation. Anyone who is confused by this doesn’t understand what the flag stands for. Colin Kaepernick and the other NFL players taking a knee during the anthem are absolutely NOT disrespecting the military. They are simply trying to bring attention to the fact that an inordinate number of minorities are being slain by white police officers. That’s it. They are upset that veterans of our military aren’t getting the medical care they need after sacrificing their lives and bodies for their nation. They are upset that “liberty and justice for all” isn’t actually for all. I get that people are tuning into football to escape the shittiness of reality, but that doesn’t change the fact that their message needs to be heard and acknowledged. This is not a nation I’m proud of. Yes, it’s a better place to live than most, but let’s not act like it’s perfect. We are flawed. Not all men (or women) are treated equally. This is NOT the land of the free.

If we were having coffee I’d apologize for going on for so long, but explain that I’ve got a lot on my plate. I’d then open my ears to listen to anything you have to say. After all is said and done, I’d probably give you a hug and apologize for being so distant. I don’t mean to be, but that’s just how I feel. I’d tell you I hope you’re all doing well and that things are looking up for you. Then I’d go crawl back inside the hole I’ve been hiding in.

I’m Just Gonna Leave This Right Here…

About five years ago when Baby C was just a few months old he was chillin’ in his walker one night while I sat at the computer doing…something I don’t even remember. Probably answering blog comments or something. It’s not important. What is important is Baby C. And he was in his walker.

C navigated from the kitchen, where I was sitting, to the living room, and then to the steps. Now, had he not been in his walker this would have alarmed me because he was only a few months old and you just don’t give an infant access to the staircase without supervision. Everyone knows that’s just ludicrous. However, he was in his walker so I didn’t sweat it. Kids that can’t even walk, and can barely stand for that matter, can’t get out of their walkers, amiright?

Since I was absolutely positive he was absolutely safe absolutely, I turned my attention back to that thing I was doing that I can’t remember. Then, a few short seconds later, I heard THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP CRASH, then the sound of my sweet Baby C wailing the most horrific scream I’d ever heard escape his precious, miniature lungs.

I bolted from the table and raced to find C lying on top of his overturned walker at the base of the staircase. Somehow C had gotten out of his walker, climbed up some stairs, and then fell all the way back down.

Instinct took over. I quickly inspected the entirety of his itty-bitty body. I checked for broken bones, lacerations, swelling, etc. The worst thing I found on him was a red spot on the back of his head where he must have smacked it against something on his way down.

Once I was positive he had no serious injuries, I clutched him tightly to my chest and began to weep. I had done this. I had failed him. I had underestimated him and he had gotten hurt as a result. I was stricken with guilt.

In the end there were no visible marks to prove what had happened. No lasting consequences. The red spot faded after just a few minutes time. Inside, though, my heart was skinned and scabbed over. It felt like it had been chained to the back of a 4×4 and driven down a gravel road. It took me some time to get over an, in the end, extremely minor incident. Though it was a minor incident, it could have been much worse. The possibilities of what could have happened to him while tumbling down those stairs are endless, but by the grace of whatever deity you believe in the only permanent scar from that incident rests on the edge of my guilty heart.


I’ve yet to meet a parent who doesn’t have a similar story. Not a one of us doesn’t have a story where our child(ren) got hurt because we weren’t as vigilant as parents as we should have been, yet the mother whose child sneaked through (not climbed over) a poorly constructed fence into a gorilla exhibit the other day is being raked over the internet’s virtual coals. I’ve read some vicious shit on Facebook today condemning that mother. She was negligent. She needs to be charged. Blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. Rage.

Raisins_Face

Puhlease. Calm the fuck down, internet. You’re giving yourself an ulcer.

Witnesses have said that the child made a dash for the fence before anyone could even react. That child was through a gap in the fence before anyone could catch up. Now, could the mother have done more to prevent this? Sure. She could have had the child strapped into a stroller or something. Does this mean she’s a horrible mother for not having her child strapped to a prison on wheels? Absolutely not.

Though I am prone to crises of confidence in my parenting ability, overall I think I’m a pretty damned good father. I’m, of course, far from perfect. I have my flaws, but my kids have, thus far, turned out pretty fantastic. Should my abilities as a father be judged based solely on that one incident? No, that would be stupid. Yes, I had a lapse in judgment, but that one lapse doesn’t define me as a father or negate all the good I’ve done for my children.

Likewise, this woman’s ability to care for her son shouldn’t be determined by this one incident. The only thing 99.9% of us know about this woman is that her 4-year-old got into a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. That’s it. That is no basis for judging this woman as a mother (not that any of us has a right to judge her anyhow). Yes, her child got away from her. Yes, she could have done more to prevent it. No, she’s not a deadbeat or negligent mother. So let’s just pretend that this woman feels about the size of an ant inside, and is drowning in a growing pool of her own shame, because she probably is. I know I would be. Let’s also pretend that all the blowhards online calling for her to be arrested are making her feel even more guilt-ridden and ashamed, because they probably are.

How about instead of rage, compassion? Despite popular opinion, kicking someone while they’re down isn’t the most opportune time to do so. Frankly, we shouldn’t be kicking anyone at all.


While we’re on the subject of this horrible incident, let’s discuss a couple of other things…

That fence? It needs to be reconstructed. As an attraction mainly for kids, any zoo should be as safe as it possibly can be. A four-year-old should not be able to slip through a gap in the fence.


The day after the gorilla was put down there were protesters at the zoo. Animal rights activists were protesting the killing of the gorilla. While I understand their frustration, the fact remains that doing so likely saved that boy’s life. If those people would settle down and listen to the professionals (you know, the people who know the most about gorillas) then they might understand why the decision was made. For what it’s worth, I agree with the professionals. Not just because they’re experts, but because their logic actually, you know, makes sense. It’s tragic that it ended this way, but the right decision was made.


In the end, there is failure and blame littered all the way around this entire tragedy. How about, instead of tying anyone involved to a virtual stake and igniting them, we show a little sympathy for a mother who just lived through what was likely the most harrowing moments of her life? How about we take a moment to appreciate that the four-year-old was relatively unharmed during this ordeal? How about we realize that the zoo didn’t want to kill that gorilla, but instead did the unthinkable because it was the only sure way to save that child’s life? You know, show a little compassion for some folks who, despite having made the right decision, still live with the guilt of having made it. And then following through with it.

Put down your stones, internet. You need not cast them today.

A Brave Farewell

I haven’t written regularly in ages. I haven’t had the urge. Even when I get an idea in my head for a post, a lack of motivation kills whatever ideas I may have concocted. BUT…I’m sitting here a bit buzzed after a long, stressful week at work and decided to catch up on some reading when I saw this week’s FTSF topic: One of my biggest fears I ever had to face…

The biggest fear I’ve ever faced, and overcome, is the fear of leaving the twins’ mother.

What started out as a somewhat normal relationship between myself and a woman four years my senior rapidly turned sour. I realized rather quickly that we were severely different people and that there was no chance we would ever be happy together.

Despite my realization, I put off saying anything to her for a multitude of reasons. She was a single mom struggling to pay her bills. She guilted me into moving in with her because she was having financial trouble. Yes, the decision to move in with her was ultimately mine, but manic breakdowns where she told me she’d have to beg her ex-husband to take her back multiplied the guilt factor ten-fold. So I moved in with her. We are different people, though. While she has socially liberal views, she lives somewhat conservatively and has a very conservative sense of humor. Or, she did at that time. I obviously have no idea what she’s like now. I was foul-mouthed, 20 years old, and not ready for (nor wanting) the type of responsibility she was thrusting upon me.

After about three months of shenanigans, I decided I couldn’t live like that any more.  And I told her so. She flipped the fuck out. She went bananas. She screamed. She cursed. She stormed out the door and told me over her shoulder that she was going to jump off the I-75 overpass and left me there with her sleeping children. Eventually, she came back, but I didn’t end up leaving because I was suddenly afraid.

What if she actually kills herself? Could I live with the guilt? What would happen to me? How would I deal with it? What would happen to her children? Their father moved across the country.

I ended up staying, but things got worse. She was paranoid about me leaving. She was controlling. She was manic. She was oppressive. I knew she needed help, but at the tender age of 20 I didn’t have a damned clue how to help her. I tried to stick it out, but I just couldn’t deal. I told her again I was going to leave…and then it happened.

She actually tried to commit suicide.

When I first told her she tried to storm out of the room. She was going to go jump of the I-75 overpass. I had to physically restrain her from leaving the room. I was not going to let her hurt herself. After a while she seemed to calm down and told me she needed to use the restroom. I moved myself down the hallway far enough so that she could reach the bathroom, but couldn’t make a run for the front door.

It never occurred to me just what we kept in the bathroom. You know, where the medicine cabinet is. For the life of me I just didn’t see it coming.

She came out moments later. She slowly crept towards our bed and laid down on the floor beside it. She calmly gazed towards me, and as a tear rolled down her cheek told me, “When you wake up tomorrow you won’t have to worry about me again.”

She had swallowed an entire bottle of Benadryl.

To say that I was shocked would be an understatement of elephantine proportions. I collapsed upon our bed and wept like a child who’d had his candy taken away. In my horror it never occurred to me to call 911. It never occurred to me to seek help. I was just…shocked. So I wept.

The morning came and we both awakened. Relief swept through me like a tornado through the corn fields of Oklahoma. She was alive, but she spent the majority of the next three days in our bed asleep. It still never occurred to me to call 911 the next morning. It never occurred to me to do anything. I knew she needed help, but the thought of telling her family the reason she was trying to kill herself was because I was trying to leave her prevented me. So I said nothing to no one.

I also decided from that moment forward that I would stay with her no matter what. I was not going to be the reason she committed suicide. I was never again going to do anything to push her towards that ledge. I was never going to do anything to jeopardize our “relationship.” When, months later, she dragged me to the jewelry department and said, “This is the wedding ring I want,” I didn’t object, despite the fact that I had never proposed (nor did I want to). When, a couple of months after that, she told me she wanted another child, I agreed without argument.

Eight months later she was pregnant. Nine months later I was the proud parent of a set of beautiful twins.

Years went by. She spent two years in college. Our boys took our full attention. When they got a bit older and required less of our attention, though, unhappiness began to creep back into my psyche. She was still controlling. She was possessive. Our personalities were still complete opposites. Most importantly, though, I didn’t love her. And never had.

For years I had wrestled with the idea of leaving her, but I never did. I was still frightened by that night. I was still afraid of what she’d do to herself. More, I was afraid of how my children would cope. Would they be okay? Would me leaving fuck them up? Would they hate me? Would things be alright? It was a perpetual struggle.

But I made a commitment. I told myself I would honor that commitment no matter how unhappy I was.

One night as I sat at the computer (doing whatever it was one did at a computer in 2006 – probably MySpace), she came down to say goodnight. The obviousness of my unhappiness was soaked on my face. She asked me what was wrong.

Before I could come up with some bullshit, which was what I always did, I blurted, “I don’t love you.” I have no idea what compelled my mouth to spew those words. In the past I was always able to come up with some lie to tell her about what was bothering me. Maybe my subconscious was tired of my bullshit.

She flew off the handle. I can’t even remember what she said, but none of it was pleasant and all of it was at a decibel high enough to shatter glass. As I sat there, dejected and berated, I decided I’d finally had enough. My limit had finally been reached. The meter was full at last. I wasn’t going to take this shit anymore. I wasn’t going to stay in this façade of a marriage. I wasn’t going give her happiness at the expense of my own. I was finished sacrificing my life.

It was the bravest thing I’ve ever done. I refused to be controlled any longer. Her emotional manipulations fell on deaf ears. Her angry outbursts solidified my resolve.

There was one moment of weakness, though. One night as I returned the twins to her, their tears shattered my resolve. I came back home, but things only got worse. A month later I left again and never looked back.

It’s been nearly 10 years since this all transpired, and none of my fears came to fruition. She didn’t commit suicide. In fact, she finally sought treatment after I left. My boys, though they were initially distraught, have turned into fine young men whom I’m proud to call my sons. They are kind, funny, and compassionate souls and I’m still unsure what I did to make them turn out as well as they have (or even if I had anything to do with it).

Deciding to end a relationship, and a family, may not seem like a brave thing to do, but out of everything I’ve ever faced it was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.

If I Had My Way

My phone vibrated in my pocket. I fished it out, wondering who might be calling me so late in the weekend.

The caller ID said it was my son, Baby B.

“Hello?” I answered in a somewhat confused voice.

“Can I come over and pick up a pair of shoes?”

“Sure.”

“Okay. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

I dropped my phone back into the lint-trap that is my pocket and resumed my battle with the evil pile of laundry which had inexplicably invaded my bed. Several minutes later, Baby B arrived and grabbed his shoes. On his way out the door he thanked me.

“For what?” I asked, perplexed.

“For letting me in. I didn’t know if you’d want to see me. At least, any more than you have to.”

That caught me off guard. I couldn’t tell of this was a lame self-depreciating joke (the sort which I have perfected) or if he was deadly serious. In my response, I opted to reply as if it were the latter.

“Son, despite how crazy you sometimes make me, if it were up to me you’d be here every day.”

And I mean that, from the very bottom of my grinch-like heart.

I know I don’t always show those I love how much I care about them. It’s a foible I’ve yet to remedy despite my feeble attempts. I love too much. Or sometimes not enough. I don’t really know how to love. But I’m still learning. And I hope I’m getting better.

So in the event that my children will inevitably read this (because I’ll be IMing them the link), let me tell them now (in written word because I’m 1000% more capable of articulating my emotions in written word rather than in person where my emotions get the better of me and words spill incoherently from my mouth like vegetable soup from a broken bowl (my mom did the same thing…I get it honsetly)).

My twins, you have no idea how much time and money I spent fighting for every minute I get to spend with you. It took almost a year after leaving your mother to get the 50/50 arrangement we have now. That was the one thing I fought for in the divorce was equal parenting time. I was not going to let you guys go.

For years afterward there was a gaping hole in my heart whenever you weren’t there. I’d often stare at my wall full of your pictures while agonizing tears of sorrow poured down my (likely) unshaven face. In fact, just the other day I had a “memory” pop up on Facebook in which I lamented (just a month after Baby C was born) just how much it still hurt that I didn’t get to see you every day.

I love you. All three of you. And if it were up to me, all three of you would be with me every minute of every day. You guys are what keeps me going. I do nothing without forethought of how it will impact your lives. But I can’t have you all the time, and, quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t even if I had the opportunity. I could never take your mother and her family away from you. I may not always agree with her parental choices, but deep down I know she loves you as much as I do, and I could never deprive you of that love. Or that of her family. Know this.

I know I’m sometimes hard on you, and that can make it seem like I don’t love you. I can assure you, though, it’s quite the opposite. I’m hard on you because I love you. I push you so you will become the very best version of you that you can possibly be. I want you to choose the right path where I choose the wrong one. I want you to have a better life than I have had. I want you to be able to provide better for your children than I could for you. I want you to be more prepared for the real world than I was, because, let’s face it, the real world blows. (Case in point, Trump is probably going to get the GOP nomination.)

I also know that I’m sometimes short with you. I don’t mean to be, and I never ever seem able to stop myself. I don’t realize I’ve snapped until afterward. Please remember that I do have a mild mood disorder and that I am being treated for it. I’m trying. Really.

I hope I’m wrong and that you don’t really feel like I don’t want you around. Trust me, I know that feeling and felt the same way about my father at your age. It’s not pleasant at all. I will continue to do my best to find ways to show you I care. On the off-chance that I’m not able to make that change, though, please refer to this. I cannot imagine my life without you boys, and I hope I never have to.

You boys have grown into young men of whom I’m very proud.

I just wanted you to know.

 

You Couldn’t Let Me Be

Couldn't let me pee
Familiar urge rises again
Call of nature strikes and then
Make a run for the commode
For relief I must unload

Like an orca hunting seals
There you are nipping at my heels
Push you back just to shut the door
As I have done many times before

You couldn’t let me be
You couldn’t let me pee
Instead you make a scene
You’re driving me out of my mind
You stomp and wail and squeal
Don’t like the way it feels
Why’s this such an ordeal?
My sanity has been left behind

Now you’re pounding on the door
You throw yourself upon the floor
Ask me if I have to poop or pee
Knob starts shaking, Oh Em Gee!

‘Neath the door your hand appears
Need about a dozen beers
If I liquor up my inner beast
Maybe at last I’ll know peace

You couldn’t let me be
You couldn’t let me pee
Instead you make a scene
I’m ’bout to just run away
You stomp and wail and squeal
Don’t like the way it feels
Why’s this such an ordeal?
You ruined my fucking day

My Children Trump You

On a cold, dreary December morning in 1999, my life was drastically and irrevocably changed. I was blessed with not one, but two children within a span of 60 seconds. It wasn’t just the sleepless nights, nasty diapers, and mountain of new responsibilities that turned my life upside-down, though. My heart changed. It was restructured. Everything that mattered to me before took an immediate back seat to the two bologna loafs wrapped burrito-style in bleach-white hospital blankets.

scan0050


My marriage, as every marriage does, had more than it’s share of challenges. One of those challenges, unfortunately, was the fact that I had children from a previous marriage.

When we first began dating, my wife and I simply did not see each other during my allotted time with the twins. That was a rule from which I simply would not deviate. I did not want them to know that I was dating someone. I did not want them to know that I had moved on from their mother. I did not wish to dash their wounds with salt. I did not want to introduce them to some woman I was still getting to know. I did not want to bring a woman into our lives whose time might be short-lived.

After about five months I felt reasonably sure I had a long-term relationship on my hands, so decided I wanted to introduce my future wife to my past, present, and future children. But first I had a discussion with them. I asked them how they’d feel if I loved a woman besides their mother. Their first response, naturally, was they wanted me to love their mother and to come back home. That was most definitely not going to happen, and I told them so. I then asked again if it was okay for me to love another woman. They thought about it, then decided unanimously that it was. Then they immediately demanded to meet her. My sweet, seven-year-old boys always could make me laugh.

My wife and I had many disagreements over the years about my children. My staunch refusal to attend any sort of social activity on nights that my boys were with me were often moments of frustration to her. I am truly sorry for that, but when I have only 50/50 custody of my children I’m not going to find a babysitter for them just to go out with friends. Especially when I’d rather spend that time with my boys. My wife would also become upset over the fact that she had no say-so in their upbringing. She felt that since she was helping to raise them that she should get to share in that responsibility. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. I appreciate, truly appreciate, everything my wife did for my children, but ultimately they are not her children. They have a mother, whether I like her or not, and it is up to their mother and I to make decisions regarding their upbringing. That’s just one of many pitfalls being a step-parent can bring. I was a step-parent for nine years, and I know it’s not easy, but that’s how it goes.


I recently read an article about modern American parenting and its profound affect on American divorce rates. In this article the author suggests that it’s okay to love your spouse more than your children. (The author encourages it, even.) That it’s okay if you’re children don’t always come first. That putting your children above all others, including your spouse, is detrimental to your relationships and, yes, your marriages.

Sometime between when we were children and when we had children of our own, parenthood became a religion in America. As with many religions, complete unthinking devotion is required from its practitioners. Nothing in life is allowed to be more important than our children, and we must never speak a disloyal word about our relationships with our offspring. Children always come first. We accept this premise so reflexively today that we forget that it was not always so.

Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you with utmost certainty why I feel the way I do about my children, and why they come before any one.

The answer, quite simply, is divorce.

When my parents got divorced I feel like my brothers and I kind of got lost in a cataclysmic emotional supernova. Having been divorced I know how emotionally devastating it can be. The problem, for me, came when my parents began to move on from each other. When they began dating their respective significant others I felt left behind. Neglected. Devalued. Of course both parents had the right to move on. They both had the right to be happy. But as a teenage boy who saw his time with his parents dwindle, and whose opinion was dismissed the moment it was voiced, my heart was bruised.

That feeling has been nestled in a forgotten chamber of my heart since I was 14 years old. So, yes, when I was going to bring a woman into my children’s lives who wasn’t their mother, I asked for their permission. It didn’t matter that they were 7, I wanted them to be okay with it.

Every decision I’ve made since becoming a father has had, at its core, the well-being of my children in mind. I consulted them before marrying my second wife. I consulted them before dating her again after we got divorced. I consulted them before I leased my new car because it would tighten our monthly budget. I may not always make the best, or even a good, decisions, but when I do anything I have fully considered how it will affect them before I act and, most of the time, consider their input beforehand.


So, yes, my children and what I deem best for them comes first. It isn’t some misguided devotion to a phantom “parental religion” or because of some bizarre expectations of society, as the author of the referenced piece above suggests, but because I don’t ever want my children to experience the feeling of knowing that someone else is more important to their father than they are, because it’s entirely impossible. No one means more to me than my children. No one. The love I have for my children is as indestructible as Superman, sans his weakness to Kryptonite. My children mean more to me than any other thing or being on this planet. When my children were born they literally shoved almost everything in my heart out so they could have it all to themselves. (#OccupyDadsHeart) Loving my children more than anyone or anything wasn’t a conscious decision I made. It just happened.


Perhaps the author is correct about one thing. Perhaps putting my children first was detrimental to my marriage. You know what, though? I don’t even give a fuck. I’d rather lose my marriage than make my children feel neglected. If your children feel neglected or unimportant, you’ve lost them.

zero fucks given

If/when I decide to bring a new woman into my life it will not be before I’ve had a discussion with all three of my children. You might think it’s idiotic that my children have a say-so in who I do or don’t see. I disagree. My decision to bring a woman into my life will affect them as much as it affects me. If I bring a woman into my life I’m bringing a woman into their lives, and if I do so without even discussing it with them I have devalued their opinions without even hearing them. And that is unacceptable to me.

Frankly, I think all parents should put their children first. To me, that’s part of what being a parent is. When you bring another human being into this world you have a responsibility to care for, love, and mold that human being into a functioning member of society and I just don’t believe you can properly accomplish that if you’re not putting their needs first. And just to be clear, putting your children first doesn’t mean always giving them their way. It doesn’t mean pampering them. It means ensuring what you do has their best interests at heart. It means ensuring they know how much you love them. That they are valued. That what they say matters. It means they know that you’re there for them no matter what challenges they face.

At least, that’s what it means to me.

The hat I wear as a father is more important to me than any other hat I wear. It’s the hat I wear most often and most proudly. I’ve been married to two different women who were both affronted upon learning that my love for my children mattered more to me than my love for them, and I’ve never understood that indignity. I assumed every parent felt the same way. I guess I was wrong.

It Was Worth It

I was done. I didn’t want any more children, but there you were telling me, six months into our relationship, that you wanted to be a mother.

In hindsight it doesn’t really seem fair. We fell in love before telling me our relationship hinged on me becoming a father again. If I had said no we would have been over.

My children were nearly 10 years old. I didn’t want to start over. I was already looking forward to having two 18-year-olds by age 40 and having plenty of time to do the things I never got to do. You know, like, have a life.

There were many reasons I didn’t want another child, but the main reason was that I was scared. I was scared that we wouldn’t stay together and I’d be a part-time father to another child.

I fell apart when I left the twins’ mother. I mean, completely lost it. I had to take frequent breaks at work to find a place to hide while I bawled my pathetic eyes out. I missed my little boys. It devastated me not to see them every day. It devastated me not to have them run to me when returning from another gruesome day at work. It shattered me not to kiss them goodnight or tuck them into their beds. There were two gaping holes in my heart, and it would take years for those holes to close up.

Of course I knew if we had a child I would love that child unconditionally. There was no question. I was worried about how I would fare if we eventually split. Would I fall apart again? Could I survive with two half-families? Would my low capacity for mental anguish break me? Would I sink into some dismal abyss never to return? Would that be what finally sent me over the edge?

In the end, my desire to make you happy won out. I told you I’d be willing to have a baby with you, but made you promise that no matter what you’d stay with me at least until our child was 18. There’s no way I can lose another baby, I told you.

And so we tried. And tried. And tried. You marked your calendar. We had sex whether we wanted to or not. We abstained, whether we wanted to or not, when the timing wasn’t right. We both got tested. We both got medicated. We saw specialists. I was subjected to some very uncomfortable things in an effort to make you a mommy.

I truly believe the two years we spent trying to get pregnant broke our marriage. We were both mentally and physically spent. We were tired of fighting and intolerant of each other. Everything revolved around creating a small, beautiful life. I finally broke one night after something you did and told you to leave. My anger was completely justified, but I completely overreacted. I spent all weekend trying to convince you to come home, and you finally did. A day later you peed on a stick and got the news you’d been waiting for your entire life.

You were going to be a mommy. And I was going to be a daddy. Again.

It’s been more than five years since that day. On January 18, 2011 you gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, and for the third time in my life I knew love at first sight. I had an unshakable smile on my face that entire day.

Since that day we’ve parted and reunited like Van Halen flip-flopping between Sammy and David. Two years ago we got divorced. We’ve tried two times since then, but neither attempt was long-lived.

Despite all the heartache, bullshit, and drama, I would do it all over again. I would cry every fucking tear all over to get my little boy. I would reopen every scar on my heart to ensure he was in my life. That little boy has brought nothing but smiles, sunshine, and happiness into my life. Yes, I only have him in half of my life, but I’ll take that half over nothing at all. I’ll take half the laughs, half his love, half his time…half everything. I’d rather have that than nothing at all.

My fears turned out to be unfounded. Everything I feared came to fruition, and I wouldn’t change a damned thing. Every obstacle was worth it. Every indignity. Every blow to the heart. Every soul-crushing moment. It was all worth it.

It could be said that you emotionally manipulated me. It was merely the first time. You know what? I don’t even care. I love that child. I love him wholly and unconditionally. I would do anything, anything for him.

Hospital pic Jan 19 2011

Why I’m Angry

"Marvel's The Avengers" ..Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)..© 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.
“Marvel’s The Avengers” ..Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)..© 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

I knew all along that this ending was a likely probability. We’ve tried and failed so many times. I’m not sure I would say it wasn’t worth the try. I longed for the days when we were together and happy. Evidently you did, too.

So we tried. We got along great, which is something we could never say of our entire marriage. But something was missing. There was no spark. No passion. No fire. We were more like a couple of friends sharing a place, albeit friends sharing the same bed. But friends nonetheless.

We finally acknowledged the leviathan elephant in the room. We agreed we felt the same way. We also agreed that we would continue as roommates since, essentially, that’s what we already were. No big deal, right?

Wrong.

When we spoke I told you I wasn’t ready for you to date yet. I said that because in the past you’ve made yourself available to other men literally the second we were done. I know you and your need for attention, but despite the fact I didn’t necessarily want to be in a relationship with you I was also uncomfortable with the thought of you being with someone else. Is that selfish? Possibly. Is it out of my control? Entirely. It makes no sense to me that I feel thus even though I no longer harbor romantic feelings for you. But there we are. The heart is a confusing, twisted bitch. I also confessed that I knew this wasn’t exactly a fair request, but it seemed reasonable enough since I was willing to make the same concession.

The following weekend we had two outings. We took C to the zoo and the Out of the Darkness walk. During both events you had your head buried in your phone and your fingers furiously flying over your keyboard. You ignored our son most of both days while you stared at your digital ball and chain and texted back and forth with Lord only knows who.

I’m not stupid, although unreasonable minds may differ. I knew what was going on. I knew there was some dude at the other end of your conversation. I confronted you about it. I was hurt. I was irate. I was done.

You have always been, and will likely always be, a horrible liar. You didn’t see anything wrong with having “conversations”. You told me you liked to hear that you are beautiful (I highly doubt you were in an intense conversation with your BFF in which she was telling you how beautiful you are). You told me not to worry and that you’d never bring some man home. You told me it wasn’t fair for me to expect you not to move on. You never once explicitly denied you were talking to another dude. All of those things allude to you either seeing, or trying to see, someone. Couple that with your past behavior and I’m now convinced you’re doing, or trying to do, the one thing I told you I wasn’t prepared for.

I stopped talking to you. You didn’t seem to care that what you were doing was hurting me. Your lack of compassion for my feelings and your refusal to be honest ignited an inferno within me. It got to the point that being in the same room with you burned my nerves. I was short with my children. My patience evaporated. I was agitated, irate, red in the face, and ready to lash out. But I didn’t. I also didn’t like feeling the way I felt. I desperately wanted to honor our agreement to stay roommates, but I was consumed by my rage.

Unsure how to quench my fury, I turned to a neglected friend: alcohol. Not the best choice I’ve ever made; not by a longshot. But I figured, correctly, that being drunk beat being pissed off at the world 10 different ways to Sunday. After about four straight days of that, however, I realized that this wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle for me. I had no desire to drink every day. I had no desire to live in a constant state of rage that could only be abated by spirits. I had no desire for my children to see me using bottles as an escape route from my misery. I had no desire to keep pretending in front of the children that I couldn’t fucking stand you or your fraudulent ways.

So, for the sake of my mental health, I asked you to leave.

And you did. No longer do I have to face you after a stressful day at work. No longer do I have to fake a smile for our son’s sake when we’re in the same room. No longer do I have to seethe as you try to talk to me as if nothing is wrong. No longer am I reaching for bottled demons just to escape a cage of anger. Just…no longer.

Yes, I’m angry with you. I’m also, however, angry with myself. I’m angry because, for the fifth time, I tried to fit a square peg in a round hole (or is it the other way around?). I’m angry for believing you when you said you’d changed. Again. I’m angry I let my desire for that which is unattainable make a choice that was unhealthy for me.

No, I didn’t discuss my anger with you. I tried and you refused to hear – really hear – what I had to say. You rationalized your actions and dismissed my feelings. That, dear, is why I’m angry. That is why we’ll likely never truly be friends. That is why I asked you to leave.