Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Moment I Realized I Was a Single Dad

Back in 2008, after my then wife left home, I found myself running the kids to church events, school events, etc., etc. One evening, I took my son to a youth group function at church. While he was there, I drove across the street to a Chik-fil-A to have a little something to eat and wait for his event to end. All of a sudden, it hit me that I was alone. No one sat with me, there was no one to talk to. I looked up and saw two other dads there with their kids, alone. I had no way to know whether they were single parents or not, but I imagined they were. And there I was visualizing my future with my own kids. Doing my level best, feeling a little set apart from acceptable society, having chicken sandwiches with my loving children. It was definitely not the life I had imagined or ever could have dreamt. But it was what it was.

Emotions rolled over me and I drifted helpless in them for several moments. As I learned through the entire experience of separation and divorce, you will never know until you experience it. And here I was, experiencing my first moments of single-dadness. I want the absolute best for my kids and I knew that I could now no longer offer that to them with a broken marriage. Now I would leap from experience to experience with them in the times that I had them, wondering how to impact them in positive ways and realize that I would always be self-conscious in public places as I wondered what others would think of my fathering.

My heart went out to all the fathers currently doing this and the ones I would meet who would start going through this. I was in the club now and since men are typically looked at more negatively in broken marriages, we have to support each other, even in a passing, all-knowing nod. It feels like we need t-shirts that say "Dear Happy Family: Mind your own damn business!" The truth is for everyone in whatever situation they are in, sometimes you just can't do a lot about it. Making the best of it is still a heartbreaking occurrence.

What we need, and where I can agree with many lefty hippies, is exceeding compassion for others. An eye to try to see someone's heart rather than their appearance or performance. Let's try to see someone else's story, how it might start with something other than, "give me a break." We are a world of broken people and nobody has it all together. To think anything different is a lie and a betrayal of humanity, of humankind.

I challenge you, today, give someone the benefit of a second look. You may see that the woman holding a cardboard sign asking for money in the parking lot of a Walmart is not just panhandling, but, as her sign reads, she needs help meeting rent this month so she and her 3 kids have a place to stay for 30 more days and her sign is actually staying accountable as she keeps changing the amount she needs on the sign each day after she counts what others are giving.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Being a “Version 2” Dad

Two days ago I was considering what I had been experiencing with Christmas with my kids. Christmas 2008 was awkward and heart-breaking as my ex and I tried to do Christmas together at “home” and it quickly became the story of how many ways I could be a self-righteous SOB to the ex. Christmas 2009 was spent alone and without money. It was horrible overall, despite my reaching out to the kids by reading the “Christmas story” from Luke to them.

This year, because I had a job, some money, and a car, I was able to plan ahead and get the kids for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We’ve been spending the time in Utah (a halfway place between WA and WY, the circumstances of which shall be covered in a separate post) and I have been gleefully available for every hug and kiss and trying to be a part of every game. I haven’t seen my kids since July and have been staying in contact with them over the phone and, more recently, my daughter and I have been emailing.

Christmas gifting the kids since 2008 has been a different experience to me. For a while I had wanted to simplify and spend less on the kids. We live in a consumer society and I wanted Christmas to be special, a time of peace for the whole family, a time to reach out and “do for others” rather than having the focus on ourselves. But it takes two to make that tango work and I didn't have the support I needed to do it. So, we continued to spend several hundred dollars each Christmas. What really confirmed this feeling for me to spend less was the email my kids’ mother sent last year to me and my parents, telling us what she was getting the kids for Christmas and making available the option to help out with the cost if we wanted to. I was embarrassed to see the total cost outlined for each kid and that it was being made public for all to see how much my then-wife was spending. Everything just seemed wrong.

This year, I wish I could have done more than I have; the kids need and want shoes, Jake threw out his snow gloves because they don't fit anymore, etc.; but the gifting was more purposeful and I am comfortable admitting to anyone how much I spent were they to ask. We did traditional PJs and ornaments, Christmas morning breakfast, and then just spent time together enjoying each other. PEACE, LOVE, MEANING.

Now, assuming we spend the next years flip-flopping who gets the kids for Christmas, that leaves me with only 4 more Christmases with my babies until they are grown. To me it’s devastating because it makes me realize, again, just how much I am missing in a broken marriage. But it also helps narrow my vision to think ahead of time, to do things with purpose and meaning and to make these last 4 “kid” Christmases really special.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Facial Hair

For several years now, I have had a ‘hockey goatee.’ My mom enforced a no facial hair rule over her boys and so when I was out on my own, I finally took the opportunity to grow something. I would get tired of a goatee and then shave it all off. Then I'd go right back to it. Having a clean face makes me look younger, I think. But the goatee helps to thin my face in my older, plumper, age.

One year, I was planning on being a pirate for Halloween and wanted the entire costume to be authentic. This meant I started growing out my hair and my beard. It was hilariously bad. My skin and AS don't like that much hair. My skin begins to react with itching and general unhealthiness. My AS ensures that the prevalence of hair is always on the forefront of my mind. It becomes something I have to consciously think about every day to overcome, to endure. My hands can't stop trying to “fix” the unruliness of all the hair and I spend too much time finger combing and scratching. But isn't it fun to see me as a mountain man?

I just got up out of bed, at 5 AM, to shave my facial hair and trim my goatee. It had been all growing since last Tuesday. My normal routine is to shave every other day (except on the weekends), and trim the goatee to scruff once a week. But with all this growth, my face was starting to itch a bit too much and I need to make sure that the soap is actually getting to my face. So, an early morning shave became a moment of relief for me. I wonder how many other Aspies are okay with facial hair.

2010 in Reflection

Wow! I'm laying in bed on a winter's night reflecting over the last year. It was only like 12 days and one year ago that I rolled into West Richland, WA in a rented moving truck on fumes. I reduced my belongings to what fit in the truck… some things I just had to leave for grabs by my then neighbors. Like the cool red anodized microwave that worked perfectly. I had no idea where I would be living or what I would do to make money, or even if this was a good idea.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How I'm doing

Well, it's been quite a long time since I have blogged. Many things have happened. In June I was hired by a local credit union to work in their marketing department as a Marketing Project Lead. My initial reaction was, “Oh, crap! Now I need clothes.” Since it was around my birthday, I used birthday money to buy some pants and shirts. I feel very comfortable working in this position. It's more or less where I would have been if I had kept working and not run my own business. My boss is great. I work with talented people. And I get paid and have benefits.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Because Sometimes You Just Have to Make Things Better

When I moved to Washington in December, I was blessed by my friend Justin who was able to get me into a place right away. The rent for the rest of December and all of January would be covered. That gave me some time to find a job so I could pay for rent … but that's a different story.

I spent the first couple of months sleeping on the linoleum floor which covers my bedroom, which I like to term, “the closet”. Then I started becoming increasingly aware of the age and condition of this house.