Thursday, June 16, 2005

Where I Draw My Strength

The simple answer? My son. There’s a lot more to it than that – some of it comes from the way I was raised, some of it from the way I saw my father respond to the challenges of being a divorced parent. I was a lucky child. While my parents did divorce, there was not a lot of anger involved and they remained friendly in the years afterward. I’m just beginning to understand the challenges my father was faced with. After my parent’s divorce was final my mother, my brothers and I moved to Florida. I don’t know, and may never know, if the move was a way to punish my father or if it was a situation where my mother needed to find a job that paid better. In any case, my father watched his three sons move 1200 miles away.

It could not have been easy for him financially, but he did it. He sometimes paid extra money when we needed it, and sometimes paid early if we needed it. I’d hear my mother talking on the phone with him, and it must have been hard for her to ask, but it was clear that he never made it more difficult. I wish I could have seen more of him in those years. There were times I needed a dad – I didn’t grow up in a pleasant place.

I don’t know if I’ve ever gone into the reasons why my brothers and I ended up moving back with my father when I was a teenager. DCF was about to take my brothers and I away from my mother. The biggest reason is that we were completely uncontrollable. She could not get us to go to school, to help around the house or to quit causing problems wherever we went. We kind of escaped before they managed to act – we were very lucky.

My father was married to a woman who had never had children. The three of us were an eye-opener for her. For a woman to allow three young boys come to live in her house is quite a leap of faith. To say that she rose to the occasion would be an understatement. She was just as good an influence on us as my father. She passed away about ten years ago – it was a big loss for all of us.

I remember as I was growing up in Florida how much I missed my dad. There were times I needed somebody to tell me how a man (or boy) was supposed to react to people and situations. There were times other kids laughed at me because my dad wasn’t around. I never want my son to have to go through that.

When this first started there were a couple of weeks where I did not get to see my son much at all. It was a very hard time for me and it got even harder when I did get to see him. He was so young and he was not happy being away from his mother. He wanted to go home constantly in those first few visits – that was very painful. Before she filed her charges I would take him for walks every day when I got home from work, I would help feed him dinner and play with him before he went to bed. I basically had to rebuild our relationship.

Over time I’ve managed to build a very strong relationship with him. I’ve done it despite interference from her at nearly every turn, and I’ll continue to do it. I’m now “my daddy”, and he is starting to not get excited to go back home. He had no problem with staying overnight with me, and we had a great time together.

One of my biggest worries is that once the divorce is final she’ll try to move away. One nice thing is that she’ll have to give me ninety days notice to give me a chance to fight it in court. Beyond that, she might be in for a surprise. One nice thing about being unemployed is that I’ve learned the relative value of a job compared to my relationship with my son. In the future I’ll have no problem moving if I have to so that I’m near him.

So where do I draw my strength? From seeing him smile at me, from hearing the joy in his voice when he sees me and says “It’s my daddy!”, from the hugs I get. I also get it from the memories of missing my father, from the example he set for me, for the example my grandfather set for me. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s part of a family of good men. He also doesn’t know that he’s fitting in just fine.