Being Raw and Honest on Father's Day

Today is Father's Day, 2021. And to all the father's out there, may you enjoy a blessed and peaceful Father's Day. This year is quite a bit different than most years, and I think it'll help if I write down my thoughts and feelings on a day like today. This will be raw and uncensored, and is just one man's view of life and the world.

I'd mentioned earlier on that life is good, and it truly is. But I also said it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. Well, today is neither sunshine nor rainbows, but perhaps the gloomy weather in between. So, today I've got my coffee and I'm listening to some classic country/rockabilly mixed with some modern Americana/Alt-Country going. No tear in my bear stuff, just some jaunty guitar with fiddle and some Johnny Cash meets Hank Sr. vibe. I'm old school Texas, what can I say?

Yesterday, my wife and I along with my in-laws decided to celebrate Father's Day yesterday, on Saturday. This was to avoid the crowds and long wait times just for a table at any restaurant you can imagine. I'm not much of a people person, and when I have to wait in line for food I'm paying for, I'm not a happy guy. I think it's an Army thing. When I was in the service, I waited in line for everything, including meals. So, as a fat and happy civilian, homie don't wait in line anymore.

And, with having dinner and gifts on Saturday, we can all enjoy a nice peaceful Sunday without running around and getting all tired out before the new work week begins. It was great food, and great times with great people, and our diabolical plan worked... it wasn't crowded or anything. And even when it did fill up, it wasn't loud.

I think most people are just in shock at being able to go out again and enjoy things like before. Perhaps that's mellowed people out on the whole. I'm sure not everyone, I mean there's always an asshole in the crowd, right? But, by and large, I'm seeing more courtesy and politeness. Sure, there are some that would love the thought of killing you where you stand because of a myriad of things that in a sane society just shouldn't matter that much. But overall, I'm pleased at what I'm seeing thus far in regard to courtesy toward one another. So, please keep it up... you're giving an old guy some hope for the future.

Today was pretty awesome so far. I went to bed really late, because, hello? Night owl here. But, I was up by 8am and just laid in bed. I do that most days now. I'm typically up before my alarm even during the week, and since I have a job where I'm never technically "late", I usually enjoy some quiet time in bed before getting up to face the day.

That in and of itself is such a blessing. I mean, I'm usually up an hour to an hour and half before I want to login for work for the day, so it's not like I'm laying there until noon. And so today, I woke up earlier than I intended, and will probably be good and ready for bed later this evening at a more reasonable time. So, what's making this Father's Day so different?

A lot of it has to do with what's happened this year, and when I allow myself to think about it, there's been a lot. This is my first Father's Day without my dad with us. We lost him to COVID in February. I plan to write a detailed post on that, but for now, suffice it to day, it's still hard to believe. Now, don't get me wrong, my dad and I weren't especially close, and I think that was more me wanting that than him. The one thing I can say, though, is that he was a constant in my life, and so it doesn't feel the same without him regardless.

My dad is a great guy. Heart of gold, wit as sharp as a tack, and while not formally educated, he was very wise in the ways of the world. And in addition to all that, he was sometimes hard to get along with. At least for longer spans of time. We saw eye to eye on so many things, but yet, he always had an opinion about my interests or goals. Weird. We were so alike, yet he could be so critical and so perhaps he was criticizing himself more than me. But, I was the one he was looking at when he would.

In any case, I still miss him. I took for granted that because he was always there, I could just text or call anytime. And, sometimes I did. Most times, however, I'd just text Happy Father's Day, Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, etc. I felt that with my dad, less was more so that I could continue to appreciate him for who he was and not who I wish he would be.

He lived in another state, so there was also that nice buffer as well.

When it comes to my boys (all grown men now), I think I know how my dad must've felt by my preferred distance. Because it seems that's what my younger two are doing with me. Circle of life, right? I tried to be the parts of my dad that were good, but also the parts where he could have done better. In other words, if I thought I could do it better, then do it.

I think I succeeded in a lot of areas, but far from perfect. I did however, rescue them from an abusive mother that they're too traumatized to even remember how she was not. I had primary custody of them from the time they were 6, 8, and 11. My oldest ended up going back with his mother a few years later, and ended up in prison. My younger two stayed with me and my wife. We'd send them to their mother's home out of state every summer per the court order, and my oldest would come visit us before he was incarcerated.

Overall, though, me and my wife and my in-laws clothed them, fed them, made sure they went to good schools, and gave them pretty much everything they could want. It feels good to provide for those you love. And, knowing what those boys went through when they were younger, I wanted to make sure they never felt that way again.

So, one thing different this year is that my middle son actually texted me a Happy Father's Day. This is WAY more than he'd normally do as he usually doesn't call or text for birthdays or holidays. So, at least getting that was a shock in a good way. Hopefully that means I'll hear from him a little more often, but I just can't allow myself to get my hopes up.

And again, this is about the same I would do for my dad, so it looks like I'm getting a taste of my own medicine. And if I made my dad feel even some of the way I feel now about how bad I miss my kids and how much I wish had more time to spend with them, then I'd been a horrible son. Not horrible in the actively mean part, but horrible in preferring not to have my dad involved more in our goings on as a family. Again, it was hard to do with his personality, but I really should have done more.

My youngest son stays in touch a little more often, but he's also pretty busy. Both my younger two sons are non-commissioned officers in the military. So, they tend to be quite busy, or at least that's what I tell myself. Now, even with my youngest being in touch more, he got married in secret the day after Memorial Day. Didn't tell anyone. Not his friends, or any family. Not my side of the family and not his mother's side either.

What made it even more shocking was that we didn't even know he was seeing anybody. And, he didn't tell us he got married either before or right after. My father-in-law saw some clues on Facebook, but we weren't 100% sure. So, I texted him to ask if he had anything he wanted to share. A few minutes after that, he called me and came clean.

Now, that was a hurt I cannot describe. For most things in life, I try not to internalize and take personally, because most times, no one even cares enough to go out of their way to make my life just a little harder. But, when it's my son, I really thought I mattered more than that. Well, maybe not thought, but hoped. He said he valued his privacy and he knew because of his young age, there'd be tons of questions. And I get that, I totally do. But wow... not even a word of her existence beforehand.

Marriage is one of those milestone events you hope to still be alive for to see your children walk down the aisle with the person they love. To share in it, not take away from it. But, he thought all of us would do that taking away instead of celebrating and sharing in the happiness. Even as I write this, the pain is so strong. Again, I know he didn't go out of his way to hurt any of us, or to willingly make us suffer but it still hurts really bad.

He said that in a couple of years, sooner than usual, he and his wife will renew their vows and have a bit to-do at that time. So, I guess there's that to look forward to. I guess.

For all the ways I wanted to avoid my dad, I never hid anything from him. He was my father, and even though divorced from my mother, they were both still my parents. Sure, there were some major complications in having divorced parents who would stop at nothing to get back at one another and use their kids to do it. But, it was from that horrible experience that I defused that from even being an option when my ex-wife and I split up. I made it clear to all my boys that they would never have to pick just one parent to attend a special event. I assured them that both their mom and myself were capable of being at the same place at the same time to support our boys that we love very much and not ruin it.

My ex and I were far from friends when we split up, but that never made it to the boys. I never bad-mouthed her in front of them, although I can't say the same of her restraint around them. But, when the younger two boys each graduated high school a year apart, their mother and her family made it down to Texas to attend their ceremonies. And my family was there, too. Everyone kept their distance, and was cordial, and I thought I could sense relief within the boys when everyone remained civil.

And so, this is why it's all so hard for me to reconcile that my son would keep us out of something so important in his life. Yeah, I get it, it's his life, and he's establishing himself in the world, but I'm not there to oversee him. When they come home on military leave, we go drinking together! Sure, I'll always be a concerned dad, but I DO stay out of their business. I never pressure them to call or visit, I really do try to stay out of their way. I guess I just wish that would translate to them wanting to be in touch more regularly because of that.

Instead, they enjoy the peace and quiet, and my staying out of their way just gets me more life without my boys.

Now, my oldest, he stays in touch very regularly. He's in prison, but we have our phone calls at regular intervals, and he has access to an email system that he can use, so we can keep in touch that way. He told me a couple years back that he now understands what I was trying to do when raising them. While I wish he would have remembered that before making decisions that would land him in prison, I can now hope he'll actually remember what I was trying to teach him and make better choices. Choices that are healthy ones, and not bad ones just to spite his parents.

So, we have a good relationship. And, while it kills me every single day that he's behind bars, as his father, I'll never stop loving him. I'll never condone what he did, but I'll never stop loving him or ever think he's beyond redemption until he shows me otherwise. I used to be pretty black and white when it came to matters of justice. But, you have every belief you've ever had challenged when it's your son (or daughter) paying for the crimes you never thought in a million years they'd ever commit.

And when I hear people ask out loud whenever there's a horrific crime committed in the world, "Well, where the HELL where the parents? How could they raise someone to be a monster!". Well, I can assure you, that while some parents may have been neglectful in a few or even many areas, no parent wishes for their children to do things so bad that they end up in prison. Hell, even county jail is bad. And I'd been a way more active parent than a neglectful one. My wife, who is their stepmother, took them on as her own. Her parents, my in-laws, accepted them and raised them as THEIR grandchildren. No distinctions about biological bonds were made. Love was the bond, not a family tree.

So, no, I didn't raise a felon. I don't condone felonious activities. But as a parent, especially as a parent, the one thing we have no right to do is to take away free will. And when our children do bad things, yes, it can crush you down to your soul. But, I can say I never once exposed him or raised him to think that being on the wrong side of the law would ever be an option. Period.

He's supposed to call later today. Not only because it's Father's Day, but because it's also his normal day we set up for our regular phone calls.

And, so, last night before I went to bed, I had these thoughts cross through my mind:

  • I served overseas to liberate a people that may never appreciate what we did and what we sacrificed for them.
  • My two youngest boys may never appreciate what my wife and I did to rescue them from abuse, and to give them a more than comfortable life. Also with sacrifice, and a willingness to do so.

And my final realization:

  • When it comes to choosing what I want to do to be of service to others, I sure did pick the two most thankless jobs one could think of, didn't I?

But, when it's all said and done, I wouldn't have done it any different, and when people ask, "what did you do with your life"? I can honestly say that I freed people from abuse, from my own children to people I've never met in person, and I did it all willing to pay any price, and with the best of intentions not just in my heart, but in my soul.

Happy Father's Day, Dad, I'll try harder next time.

[Quick Edit: My youngest also texted after I wrote this, and my oldest called. So all three wished me Happy Father's Day. I'm 3 for 3 this year! First time in a very long time and it feels great]

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