Dec 20, 2012
As I was driving my kids to school this rainy, dreary morning, I had the local Christian radio station playing. A discussion among the DJs began after a Christmas song ended, and I didn't quite catch the beginning of the coversation over the sound of the rain pounding on my car and focusing on the interstate traffic, but a few key words caught my attention: divorce and father, forcefully made absent from his kids' life...
I turned it up to catch the rest of the conversation, since the stories the DJs tell on this station often come with great advice and I know it's also safe for my eight year old son to hear. And, given that my eight year old son's (Trevor) bio father is voluntarily absent from his life and qualifies as a deadbeat dad to a stellar level (some of you know the history I've shared about him and his on-and-off again interactions with Trevor and me over the years), I figured this could turn out to be something Trevor would benefit from hearing as well. He thinks about his bio dad often and asks about him, wonders about him...but I can't "fix" this man who is my son's progenitor for my child, as much as I truly wish I could, and have spent years making whatever efforts possible to let him know all doors of communication are open for he and his family to make with Trevor. None of them take that opportunity much more than two or three times a year--and those are generally major holidays and his birthday. My ex is especially bad about making empty promises literally every time he speaks with Trevor. The last time he spoke with Trevor was over a month ago on Trevor's birthday, and he said he'd call Trevor back that weekend. He never did. This is sadly typical. I'm sure he'll call on Christmas day and promise to call a day or so later, but we won't hear from him for another few months.
As a fill-in over the last year and a half of our interaction: My ex came to Alabama to live here in our same city, no more than 15 minutes from our home, but he did not tell me he was here or make any contact with us once he got here, nor did I have any idea he intended to come live here (or why) as he'd told me he got a contractor job through the DoD from March 2011-12 in Afghanistan, so...that's where I thought he went. I found out he was in AL after he'd been here for almost three weeks. I decided not to interrogate him for the massive lie he told me about his "military career" for the prior three years that never existed; I honestly just don't care to know the reasons for his habitual and pathological lies anymore. Anyway, he stayed from June 2011 to December 2011, then without any good reason, informed us he was leaving to go back to Colorado for a few months, but intended to come back to AL within 3-5 months (which would have been between March and May 2012). His only reason for going back to CO was "I have some personal things to do there." He never came back to AL between those months, despite telling Trevor he would in his once a month phone calls he'd made during those months. Trevor gave up on expecting him to come back to AL.
Then when I found out that CO legalized marijuana in the November elections, that pretty much ensured me that he will stay in CO indefinitely (he's been a weed/alcohol/drug user off an on since I've known him from age 14). He has not paid his required but pathetic $147 per month in child support since August 2012. I can only imagine it's due to whatever income he makes going to pot and pleasure and hence impairing what's left of his memory to prioritize his son. But sadly, it's expected, so whatever.
Anyway, back to that story on the radio I'd tuned in to hear. One of the DJs said that a father had divorced the mother of his two young children when they were about Trevor's age (under age 10). Without details, the story said he'd admitted to making mistakes, and he therefore did not get custody of his children. But after the divorce, he had gotten his life together not long after and felt he could be a better father, the father he should have been. But his ex wife ended up cutting his contact with the children completely, and despite that being a violation of his paternal rights, he had no money to legally fight it. So he had asked his pastor what to do, saying his ex wife was keeping him from making any contact with his children, even going as far as refusing his child support and returning mail such as birthday cards and gift packages he'd mail them. He told his pastor he felt helpless and didn't know what to do or how to pursue finding a civil way to be a part of his children's lives. The pastor told him that for the time being, there may be nothing more he could do except one thing--be a father worth finding once his children were old enough to seek him out on their own.
So in his home, he set up two bedrooms for his kids. For every birthday, every Christmas, or even just time he thought of them as if they WERE a daily part of his life, he filled their rooms with what gifts he'd gotten them over the years that passed, never giving up in the attempt to mail them only to have them returned. He opened bank accounts for them and paid child support into those accounts regularly. He also set aside extra funds for each of them for college and major school field trips and such, and money for each of them to put towards buying their first cars. He did whatever he could think of to show how much he loved and wanted to invest in his children's lives and futures, and prayed they would seek him out to contact him as they grew older.
One day, he got a knock at his door; he answered it to find his daughter standing there, looking angry, hurt, ready to demand answers. He let her say what she wanted to say, which wasn't too much and wasn't too nice to hear, and took a deep breath and told her, "I am so very sorry. There were so many things I could have done better, that I should have done better. There is nothing I regret more than failing as a father to you and your brother when you were children. But please, before you go, please just believe me when I tell you that I have done everything I can possibly imagine to make it up to you. I'd like to show you. Would you please come in for a moment?"
She was somewhat taken aback but accepted his invitation inside, where he showed her the rooms he'd set up for both her and her brother, full of the things he'd gotten for them over the years, telling her there was not a day that went by that they didn't cross his mind, but that he had not been able to get in touch with them. He handed her the many greeting cards he'd tried to send, with "Return to Sender" stamped across the front, along with the unopened packages. He handed her the statements to the bank accounts he had for them, telling her that he wanted to provide them the means for school, transportation, and future needs.
She was left speechless. Amazed. But most importantly, reconciled with her father. She called her brother after that meeting with her father and told him to get in touch with their father immediately--things were not anything like what they thought about him, what they'd been told or made to believe. He was the dad they'd wanted and needed after all, and he was there for them, waiting for them, prepared for them to be a part of his life and to be a part of theirs.
He had been a father worth finding.
Granted, I am nothing like the mother in the above story, and I hadn't caught whether or not that story was truth or fiction before the DJs told the story, but regardless...it has a powerful message. I glanced in the rearview mirror at Trevor and saw him gazing out the window at the pouring rain as we drove along, and I know he had listened to every word of that story. I couldn't help but feel disappointed for him, knowing how much he wants his bio dad to just be a consistent part of his life, just to contact him and tell him a promise that is real, just to know that he can ask me to call so he can leave a voicemail for his "dad" that will be returned. But as he gets older, the faith he has in that man is slowly fading, and won't be long before it's extinguished like all my hope and faith in my ex has been. I don't doubt for a single moment that Trevor will seek out his father in his mid to late teens or early 20s. He will. I know my son, I know how much he feels forgotten and just wants to know why...and knows the only person who can answer that question is is "father."
I wish I could say I had the faith in my ex to be the dad worth finding for Trevor. But unfortunately, I have no faith in him to have anything for Trevor worth anything at all--not even answers. And time is quickly ticking away.
I realize that Trevor has the father he needs in my husband, who loves him and literally counts him as his "firstborn" son and provides everything a father should for Trevor. I couldn't ask for a greater blessing and only wish things could be legalized for my husband to adopt Trevor, but my ex refuses to consent to that because he "doesn't want a stranger raising his child," although he's been absent from Trevor's life since Trevor was two years old and my husband has been his daddy every day of his life since he was three--more than half of Trevor's life now. If Trevor is asked, "What is your dad's name?" or "Who is your dad?" he responds with my husband's name with zero hesitation.
But what does not change is that he knows who his bio dad is, and that is who he came from, and to add, he has maintained enough inconsistent contact with Trevor over the years for Trevor to desire that attachment to not be severed. Enough time and contact over his little life has been established for him to love his father. I've told my ex time and again, just because he doesn't live with you, doesn't mean he wants nothing to do with you (he tried to tell me that was the main reason he is inconsistent with Trevor, because he feels like Trevor is not interested in him) or that he is not interested in you. I told him how Trevor can only be as interested in him as the efforts he makes to invest his time and devotion to Trevor. I said, "He's old enough to know he doesn't live with you and does not expect to live with you or have to choose between you and us. He understands that. All he wants from you is your time and dedication to him. He wants to know you love him enough to think about him every day and to act on your thoughts consistently. All he wants from you is to know that you want and care enough to be a part of his life. If you don't give him that, you will lose his interest, and eventually, his love."
It's always amazed me to see that my ex truly seems to understand these things when I tell him, and seems inclined to better himself and nurture what bonds he can make with Trevor. But then...without fail every time...he never follows through with any efforts after about a month passes.
It's been a weary and disappointing road to travel, that of raising a child with inconsistent influence from a deadbeat dad who will probably never be a dad worth finding. The only comfort I can find in it is knowing my husband and I truly do everything in our power to hold every door of opportunity open for my ex to be the dad Trevor wishes he would be.