If I put myself in her shoes; I am scared of what I'll see. A little girl will observe a man holding and loving his two children. She'll see him pick them up and play with them. She'll see him tuck them in at night. Within minutes she'll be able to tell the difference between the love he gives them and the love he gives her. In that moment she'll wonder where her version of him is. Her dad. And then I'll call; eager to hear her voice. And she'll say to me "Daddy are you coming over my house"? And I'll say, "Soon princess I promise". Though soon to her isn't soon enough. Soon can't pick her up and love her like this other man is loving her brother and sister. Soon can't play Mr. Monster with her as her mother is too busy caring for twins. Soon isn't her father. So she'll keep me on the phone to get a fraction of the attention that she deserves. She'll play a game, gossip about her cousins and ask me a million questions to relate who I am to who she is becoming. In the time spent apart, she can feel an new unfamiliarities entering our relationship. All the while, she'll ask me several times If i'm coming over and when. She'll tell me how she has some candy for me and how when I come over we'll eat "panny" cakes. She'll say "daddy you can sleep in my room". A smart little girl. She'll work every angle like a salesman, to help me get closer to her. She's such a magnificent little girl. And at the opposite end of the phone I'll struggle to keep it together. I'll struggle to not be close enough to her to hold her hand. And whether it shows on my face or not I'll be crying. Sometimes the feeling is so intense that I won't even know that I am crying. All I'll know is that my Princess means the world to me and I have to get near her. From the moment she was born that little girl had my heart. And she's too young to know it. She doesn't know how her feeding me and her mother Doritos in the middle of night still stays in my mind. She doesn't know how I revisit the moment of her screaming from the sound of a motorcycle pulling off outside of my window. That terrifying cry sending me into an blind panic. I can't explain how picking her up in that instant made me never want to put her down. My daughter is the physical embodiment of everything that I cherish in this world. And if I look at life through her eyes...If I face the full extent of moving away from her...I see a little girl wondering where her daddy is. In her mind she can't fully understand why her dad isn't around as much. I'd be lying to you If I told you that, the realization of that didn't weigh heavy on my heart. Id' be lying to you If I told you that at my lowest, I didn't reach out for her. Sometimes I reach out to my right hand hoping to feel her little fingertips hit mine. There have been a million nights where I fell to my knees with my arms open, hoping that she'd run into them. Could you imagine what it feels like to hear her cry over the phone. To still feel that same sense of panic and not be able to pick her up is often unbearable. To not be there in these moments is torture. When those kids were murdered at Sandy Hook elementary my heart skipped like every other parents. The need to hold them close to me immediately took over. And yet I could not. I would be lying to you if I told you that it was easy for me to write this.
I never knew how much I meant to him until one day I got upset at him and he cried. But he didn't cry more so because I was upset, he cried because he wasn't reaching the level that I was pushing him too. In that moment I learned that maybe I can be a bit too hard on him. I wasn't just some guy that he saw, I was a man that he idolized. Life was just so hard on me and I'm terrified to think of the ordeals that he might go through. I'm terrified of life hurting him too deeply. And perhaps that paranoia is foolish of me. I should have more faith in him than that. He's my little man. He has my blood in him and will make him strong enough. It's just so hard to think of this world and a little boy in it. It's hard to think that someday my little man will be a gentleman and will get his heart broken because of it. I wasn't always the greatest father towards him. I can admit that. I can admit that there was a time when I let my anger towards his mother get the best of me. I can admit that I was afraid of the of being a young parent. In time all that went away. The fact that he didn't look much like me became irrelevant. He was me. He reminded me so much of how goofy/serious I was when I was a child. He reminded me of how even in a world of such insanity, there can still be something innocent. I found simplicity and joy in his laughter. In the times that we played I remembered innocent joys of my youth. We play fought like my oldest brother and I, when I was a child (before the drugs). He didn't like reading, yet he loved it when I read with him. He didn't like vegetables but he ate them whenever I did. As he spent more and more time with me, I noticed how he would mimic me. My little man...my son...wanted...to be like me. That was amazing to me. It was amazing to us. I wasn't a horrible guy but I wanted to be better for him. I wanted him to aspire to be better than me. As I did my father. We became inseparable. He'd cry when I would bring him back to his mother. I would remind him to stop crying and then I'd go off to work or class. I went from being an afraid young man to an eager father. And then one day everything changed. I called to see when I could pick him up for the week but his mother wasn't as flexible as usual. I suggested different times but those weren't good either. Unbeknownst to me, his mother decided to not let me see him. With a month left to go before my move back to NY, I had to deal with the idea that I would not be able to tell my son good bye. I couldn't focus. I couldn't function. The anger that I had finally put to rest toward her came back stronger than ever. I moved back with the deepest feeling of betrayal that I had ever felt. I channeled that anger into finding a better job and losing weight. I couldn't afford child support + a lawyer, on my salary. I couldn't fight to get him back the way I wanted to and as a father, as a man that hurt. An entire year went by until I heard his voice again. An entire year went by until I saw his face. An entire year went by until I got too hold him. Everyday I wondered how he was doing. It hurt to think of him wondering where I was during his birthday and christmas. It hurt to think of him waiting for us to read books or play with blocks and I never showed up. It hurt even more when I discovered that she had moved with him and I didn't know where he was. Several times, upon leaving a visit with my daughter, I would drive around the city that they were last in. For hours upon hours I would turn down block after block hoping to see her walking with him. I never did though. I never got that relief. She was no longer in contact with any of our old friends. And to my terror I did not know where my little boy actually was. I found myself blocking out thoughts of him in harms way and me not being there to help him. On the days that I couldn't block them out, I would find myself bowing my head and praying in tears at my home or desk. I didn't get my relief until I heard his in a long overdue phone call. The first thing my son said to me was "Daddy can you read me some books"...after a year of not seeing me, my son, who didn't like reading, wanted me to read him some books. In, that moment, those few words broke me. I can't even lie.
A little girl is waiting for her father to come and pick her up. A little boy is waiting for the man that he looks up to, to read him books. My daughter says "Daddy when are you coming to my house"? My son says "Come to my house and Don't leave me". In these moments I find a reason to keep going. My heart breaks with every request, and reassembles with every ended call. In these moments I think of the man I want to be and I strive to become him. Moving away from my children was the greatest pain I have ever faced. And regardless of the reasoning, I will not throw blame towards their mothers and out of respect for them I ask that you do the same. Sorry, but I needed to say said that. I remember the feeling that I felt as I hoped in that Uhaul and drove away. I felt torn in that moment. To be honest I haven't been the same since. I keep going because I will get the life that we need to function. I keep going because they need me and I need them. There is a life destined for us and I am and will be there dad. They will not look to another man as their father. Being far from them has hurt me more than any man or woman is capable of hurting me. In my mind I can picture driving down to a house that I own near them. In it their would be two rooms. One for a boy and one for a girl. A race car bed would be in his room and pretty princess decorations would bring life to hers. And instead of talking to them over the phone or skype, I'll be tucking them into bed, kissing them good night. This dream drives my forward motion. This dream is my unstoppable force. The pain of leaving them is my unmovable object. This is part of the secret to my invincibility.
-In the 7th Month of Not Seeing My Son-
There are those moments where I go out to enjoy the simplicities of life. Or try to at least. I'll go out somewhere or write in someplace I haven't written before. The main goal is to take in the new atmosphere and just get away from the pressures that I experience. And while getting away i'll see something that will bring me right back to what plays on my emotions the most. I'll give you an example. Once I was out at the museum of natural history and while in line I saw a father picking up his son. The boy was about the same height as my son. Maybe even the same weight. They were smiling and laughing at each other. They had looked more like best friends. I just stood there in a crowded line, watching them. I didn't pay attention to the noise surrounding me or even the woman that I was with. I only thought about my son. I thought about how much he'd enjoying being at this museum with me. I thought about the last time I picked him up or saw his smile. A smirk came to my face as I imagined his goofy, high pitched 3 year old laugh. And then I heard it! Or at least I thought I did. I looked to the left and saw a little kid walking by a stroller. He wasn't my son either. None of the children in the museum were my son. And all I could think about was WHERE IS MY SON! Anger and panic started searching through me as I scanned every light skinned, high pitched 3 year old thinking, WHERE IS MY SON! My date couldn't understand it. No one else could because know one close to me was going through it. I wanted to stop what I was doing and drive down to where he was last to comb the city again, though I knew that wouldn't get me anywhere. I started breathing slowly to calm myself down. I started thinking of the dinosaur exhibit to distract my tears. I closed my eyes and remembered to hold my composure. Things weren't were I needed or wanted them to be but they were getting there. Things were falling into place and I needed to not do anything impulsive to disrupt that. If I really wanted to see my son, then I would need to calm down. Rushing in head first in situations like these, almost always demonizes the father in the eyes of the courts. I wasn't going to allow that to happen to me. The line moved forward and I continued on with my date.
Many of my writing sessions occurred in Panera. That's actually where I met J. I would have an hour lunch break like many working individuals. In that hour I'd escape from whatever was bothering me or, quite the opposite, I'd connect with what actually was bothering me. I only had an hour though. In that small time frame I was locked into my writing. It was rare for me to ever see of feel any type of distraction that would alter my objective. J was one of those distractions of course. Yet another distraction were many of the children and families at play that came into Panera. At first, when I saw the families I became nostalgic of the family that I once had, between my daughter, her mother and myself. I would remember our outings. I'd recall the laughs that we shared or the innocent moments that only a child can provide. It did hurt. And for the record losing a family is a horrible pain that I wish on no man. The urge that I felt to write in Panera made the pain worth endearing. In time, my reoccurring woes with my personal issues died down. I was happy to see these families and was encouraged to someday have one of my own again. I never wanted to believe that just because I went through one bad experience that all of my future experiences would end in heartache. These families were living proof that some stories have good endings or, promising beginnings. Even with my built up admiration for these families, I should have known that I was flirting on a fine line with my own sensitivities. On one particular day I was writing as usual. I had shut out the noise of the Panera, filled with a subway like rush hour. It was just me and the iPad. As usual, the words flowed from my fingertips as if someone, greater than me, were telling them to me. A child accidentally, bumped my table and shook the empty salad bowl. I smirked at the boy and gave his mother my "it's no big deal" wave. His interruption reminded me to look at my watch. Ten minutes were left in my break. It was time to get back. I had a habit of losing track of time when I wrote. The nice, yet awkward looking girl that works there, took my tray before I exited. A man wearing a tan coat exited in front of me. In the sway of the glass doors I heard a cry. A familiar cry. A cry that sent a chill down my spine almost like my daughters. I instantly thought, "Niyah"? A midst all the noise of the crowded restaurant I heard the cry again. And it sounded exactly like my daughter's. I stormed through the glass door like a lineman going through sled tackles. I'm sure that people were staring at me, but I had to see who was generating that cry. My heart started pounding. All I could think of was, "Is she here? Why is my daughter in NY?". The sound then nestled in my left ear like the ocean in a sea shell. I panicked. Every ounce of my body scouted for its location. It came in again calling me towards the front of the store. I lightly jogged to the front of the Panera, excusing myself to suited men lounging about. I made a left turn to discover if it was my daughter or not? What I saw left me puzzled. A small white child was in a parked car with her mother. She was fussy like most little girls can be, like my daughter was as an infant. My "fussy fuss" I'd call her. Her cries must have managed to find their way pass the 1/2 down windows. I don't know how the cry managed to reach me on the inside. I could have sworn that it was my daughter's. I had experienced a few moments like this in Panera, where I simply reacted in a head jerk like an alert guard dog. But this was different. It felt so real. It felt like I was going to get to hold my daughter. It felt like she was in trouble and I was going coming to the rescue. Except, it wasn't any of that. It was more like a mirage in my mind. A tormented decision that played an evil trick on me. I remembered sitting in my car and driving back to the office that day. Before I resumed my work, and before I listened to any music, I bowed my head and prayed.
*If you are near your children, hold them and tell them you love them. If you have difficulty seeing your children for whatever circumstance, fight to see them. Fight to be there dad. They are worth it. You are worth it. Don't let anyone interfere with loving your children. I know deep down inside it will hurt to combat with someone that you created a life with, but all and all it has to be done. Tell your children how important they are. Take them out with you. Be proud of them. Children are some of the greatest joys of life that can ever happen to us. Make sure they know that. (And read them a bed time story)
A photo of a King Lear Monument taken by Undrtheskysoblue
King Lear was a King who went mad