Your Name Is Dad!

I was only six months old when a decision was made that would have a considerable impact on my life from that day going forward. Only, it wasn’t my choice to make. My mom had all she could take, it was time to give my dad the boot. Once old enough, I’d come to discover why it was that my mom had made this choice, which I’m sure wasn’t an easy one. How could it be? It meant she’d be raising my older brother and I on her own.

My father, whom my mom met while they were both attending college, apparently wasn’t ready to evolve into adulthood, nor was he prepared to be in a monogamous relationship. So the day came where she said enough is enough!

My mom was guarded in how she spoke of our dad and didn’t force us to see him him, nor did she withhold us from seeing him. By the time I was six, my dad had remarried and he and his new wife had a two-year-old son of their own who lived with them.

Now, being in school and old enough to begin to understand more, I quickly began to detect that something was different in my life from that of all my friends and cousins. They all had a father in their home, I didn’t. At first, I remember being confused and disheartened. Why did everyone’s dad live them? Why was I the only one in my circle of family and friends, who at school, gatherings, or sporting events, only had one parent? Was something wrong with me? Were people, when laughing, directing it towards me?

I, unlike my brother, wanted to spend as much time as I could with my dad. I’d spend weekends at his home when able and longer periods during time off of school. We also went on annual ski trips and various other camping trips through the years. It didn’t matter how much time I’d spend with him though, it was always as if I were a third wheel or an outcast. I never felt good enough, accepted, loved or that anything I could do would make him proud. It was as if he had a new family and I was only a guest in a stranger’s home.

A typical weekend at my dad’s consisted of either going to work with him part of the weekend, with the other portion spent as a spectator to my step-brother’s football, baseball and basketball practices and games, mostly coached by my father. He would encourage me to become involved in sports, yet when I did he would never even attend. Sometimes, some of his friends would come and my question to them was always, Has anyone seen my dad?

Skip trips, I was happy to be spending time with my dad, but he had also taught my step-brother how to ski and sent him to lessons with an instructor. So naturally my step-brother and dad were much better than I, so I always got left behind with my step-mom, who was on a whole lesser level of skiing than I, yet I was forced to stay with her, sometimes getting lucky, she took a break and left me skiing on my own which only left me with ample time to think, well, that I was alone and my dad and step-brother were out having fun.

However, when we were together it was was often conversation of how I didn’t have clothes that were nice enough, how I didn’t look sporty enough, and yes, I had nowhere near the quality of clothing as did my dad and step-brother but how could I? My mom was working full-time while doing her best to raise two boys, basically on her own. I say basically, because we did have help from her side of the family; my aunts, uncles and grandparents as well as $185 per month from my dad as child support meant for my brother and I.

That is, when it was on time and when the check didn’t bounce. As a child, even I was sharp enough to know that $185 didn’t go very far when considering all the expenses my mother with two boys, a home, and all the bills that went with both. In spite of that, I often had to endure my dad trash-talk my mom, stating that she wasn’t spending his support money on what was supposed to, that to him was sporty clothes, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.

I never felt or believed my mom didn’t take care of us, but I did feel lesser than others because of the things my dad would say. In fact, I remember an incident where my mom was taking me to get some school clothes in a town next to the one we lived in, when she pulled up into the Kmart parking lot I slid down in the seat so I would hopefully not be seen by others and I refused to get out of the car and go inside.

Looking back on that today, it embarrasses me and humbles me because my mom, she did the damn best she could, and could she have afforded nicer clothing she would have gotten it for my brother and I in a heartbeat. I can’t imagine how she felt when I behaved so selfishly. She was in debt for much of her life just so she could provide for us.

When I was home, not at my dad’s, and at any family function or just spending time at the homes of extended family members, I was always forced to endure trash talking of my dad. I knew they meant me no harm and had every right to dislike my dad, but it hurt me anyway. I loved him just as much as I loved my mom and just hoped that one day I’d so something right to please him, causing him to love me as I loved him.

I sympathized with my mom’s side of the family, because they were doing everything possible to help care for my brother and I, but I couldn’t help but feel like the rope of a tug-o-war contest, with my dad on one side and my mom on the other end. Only, nobody won, the only loser was me. I even joined in the bashing of my dad at times because I also loved those who were bashing him and didn’t want them to love me any less if I were to say what was really in my head.

Shut up, that’s my dad you’re talking about and I happen to love him!

I couldn’t risk further rejection or abandonment. So, this would would be one of the first issues in my life I’d suppress and have only myself to discuss it with. There were many days and nights where I recall myself sitting in my room, crying because my cousins were going on vacation with their mom and dad. Or times my friends’ dads were taking them hunting, fishing or doing a million other fun things.

I resented that in both my friends and cousins. I think I reasoned it so much that the motor-sports I was involved in thanks to my uncle, I wanted it all to myself. I wouldn’t talk about it at school, I wouldn’t invite friends to go with me, I’d rather have thrown away my teddy bears than my outgrown racing shirts. It was something I had that many people didn’t, but it could never replace having a father in the home who loved you.

As a grown man, that desire to be that child with a loving dad has not diminished one bit. With the trouble I’ve gotten myself into, the relationship with my dad is worst yet, really non-existent. I also, with my racing magazines, battle with giving them to others to read. It’s still like the one thing I have that others don’t. I know it sounds childish because it seems childish to even say, but it’s the truth.

Many days spent at my dad’s house, I recall my step-mom dominating my dad. It was as if he could never do anything correctly or anything good enough in her eyes. During most visits at my dad’s there was at least one screaming match; her screaming at him. This did two things: it infuriated me that she was being so mean to my dad who I loved so much but it also caused me to lose my respect for my dad, that as a man, he wouldn’t stand up for himself, he’d tuck his tail between his legs and drop his head. I so badly wanted to tell her to shut the hell up, but also to tell him to be a damn man!

This would be another thing I kept bottled up all my life. This seems to have lead me into a life of not handling authority too well, especially that of an adult male. I suppose I tend to see a bit of my dad in every adult male I’ve ever encountered. I often feel as though I’m this little kid, trapped in an adult body, justing dying to have a dad who meets me criteria for a good and loving father.

So often people have to me, It’s okay, you have a loving heavenly father. Yes, that is true, but it’s not the same nor will it ever be. God designed us for relationships, specifically a relationship with both our parents. And nothing or no one can fill that void, but oh boy, I have tried! There have been adult men in my life who have been like father-figures and I’ve learned much from them, including love for another.

I’ve become attached only to be disappointed, abandoned or not given priority. These are only human beings, who also happen to have a life and a family of their own, however I was attempting to replace my dad. I still to this day love and am thankful for every man who has been a part of my life, but it’s still not equal to having your own father in your home, who loves you above all else.

One of my Achilles’ heels was to dwell on what I didn’t have, rather than to hold dear to all I did have. I’ve ridden the roller coaster of anger and sadness most of my life toward my dad. I feel I have forgiven him repeatedly, but with that I can’t seem to get past being sad which eventually turns back into anger. So goes the process.

For years I’ve asked myself, What is wrong with you? That question points to a handful of issues. One being why I can’t get over my lifelong strained relationship with my dad. Another being the issues that lead me to prison, not once, but twice. Ultimately, it is my choices and my actions that lead me there, but something I’ve learned is that the behavior or action itself is only a symptom of the root issue. That root issue must be uncovered, found and properly dealt with if you are ever going to be free from inappropriate behaviors, poor choices and life-altering action.

In watching a DVD movie about rejection I had an aha moment. Now, I had been through years of treatment, counseling, therapy for the very issues that lead me to prison the initial time. However, it wasn’t until watching that film and grasping its message that I understood what the roots driving the symptoms were. Mainly rejection and feeling abandoned was the driving force. It was something I needed to dig up, uncover and properly deal with and that still today is a work in progress.

I was also exposed to sexual activity, porn and masturbation at a very young age which lead to major confusion and an internal battle from then forward. As I grew older, thrown into puberty, I was completely confused, lost, hurting, and feeling along in my thoughts and this would be yet another bottled up issue in my life. Back in the 80s and even the 90s, being gay (which I felt I might be) was not okay, it was not normal. From scripture I’d heard and read it was a straight ticket to hell, so fear was there. Growing up in a small town around motor sports, around a somewhat prejudiced and racist family (but not all of them) there was no chance at telling anyone about my battle.

What this eventually turned into was a life filled with secrecy, a life filled with addictive behaviors, primarily sexual in nature. Scripture in John 8:32 Jesus states that the truth will set you free. Correct as that is, not being truthful or living truthfully is quite contrary. Lack of truth or duplicity is a trap for living in bondage or slavery to the very thing that has mastered you. In my case, lust, sex, porn, as well as the desire to be wanted, needing to be loved by a male and coming to find out that the age of the male apparently didn’t matter.

I found the love, acceptance, the feeling of being needed and wanted and zero rejection in boys my age or younger. That in and of itself becomes an addiction. To feel loved and accepted by someone of the same sex was all I’d hoped for and when obtained, nothing else in the world mattered. In fact, my dad became the lost thing in my thoughts. Sexual addition coupled with an addiction to acceptance or better known as emotional co-dependency, was a bad combination and the outcome, well, here I sit in prison, potentially for the remainder of my years on earth with a sentence of life without parole.

As a child as well as during adulthood, my dad has driven right by where I lived as a kid, past my mom’s house to go to softball practice followed by the tavern. As an adult, to work and never would stop by to see his son. There were times that I’d ride my bicycle clear to where he was playing softball just to see him, only to have to ride home at the end because he was going to the tavern with his friends, never dinner or lunch with his son.

Things like that are what make it so hard for my forgiveness to be truly sincere. I know that God expects us to forgive because He forgives us unconditionally, but do I expect God to forgive me if I do the same things repeatedly without repentance? In the same way, how do I truly forgive and move forward if my dad does the same things from childhood to adulthood? I try but it’s far from easy. I do love him to this day and miss him more than I could ever be angry with him. I just wished I could’ve had a strong relationship with my father.

Unfortunately, my story is not unlike others who are incarcerated or have found themselves in trouble. An extraordinary percent of those in the judicial system either grew up in a single parent home, an abusive home (physical, mental, verbal, sexual, etc.), a household or drug or alcohol abuse or just simply an emotionally absent parented home.

It is in my opinion as well as personal life experiences that a child needs both parents in the home. In a perfect world (which we don’t live in) you would have the love, compassion, care-taking of your mother and the life lessons, discipline, love and compassion of your father.

In a situation such as mine, even if a marriage does not work out for a number of reasons, a dad can still be a dad to his children. If one lesson could be taught to men and women of all ages, prior to romanticizing a relationship, the outcome needs to be seriously considered. You play, you will pay as the old saying goes. To me it is so much more than just that. That is what many fathers do, at best. Run off, pay child support and thing they are doing something. They might even take their kid somewhere sometimes and buy them something.

Dads, you can have your damn support, have your gifts, have your summer camping trips once a year but what I want and what your kids want is to be loved, accepted, to feel worthy, needed and wanted, surely not to feel like a burden or something you could take back. Men and women have a responsibility once they cross that line and have a child, they no longer are their own person. Look at it like this: can you imagine taking care of everything you need to with yourself, yet you fail to clip the nails on your left foot all your life? You couldn’t do that right? Well dad, I’m as part of you as that left foot. Fathers, take care of your children! Your name is Dad, so please be one!

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