This is going to be one of the toughest posts I have ever made thus far…..
My friends know me as a jovial, laid-back, happy person. They admire me for my love of sports and my dedication to the Browns, Indians, and the Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as laugh at me for hating the NBA, Soccer (not Football), my sarcasm, and most of all, my sports nerdiness… (is that a word?.. if not, I just made it one)
With all of that being said, and for those of you that DON’T know, I have a son named Alex. He will be 25 on April 14th (Happy Birthday!!). He will me moving to New Zealand on Monday, and will be gone for at least a year, I had not seen him in three years, and I decided it was time to see him before he left, and for nearly three months I have been trying to come up with the courage to reach out and ask him if he wanted to meet. This is horrible, but the trigger that would allow me to reach out to him came on Feb 8, 2019. My cousin, Brian passed away. Brian was a somewhat important figure in his early life, and I thought he would want to know he passed away. I reached out to him and after telling him about Brian, asked to meet up. He agreed, and on Tuesday, we met up and it turned into a five-hour visit.
Before I get into how that visit went, a little backstory…
I am a terrible father, as was my father before me. I didn’t spend any quality time with Alex, and he has any and all reasons to be angry with me. We have basically been estranged since 2009 and our contact with each other has been slim to non-existent. I feel as if I have failed him, that I was supposed to reverse the family history and I failed to be there when he needed me, as well as being the father he needed, instead of being the father that was just there on weekends as he was growing up. I had so many opportunities to make a difference in his life, but the only influence I managed to have was for him to resent me and fester an anger that was 15 years in the making.
I wont go into details as to why I became the father I am today, but needless to say I allowed outside influences, past feelings, and laziness determine my fate. I blame no one but myself and take full responsibility for my actions of the past. I firmly believe had I made different decisions and listened to my parents when he was still very young, things may have been different and we would have been closer, but alas, I made the decisions I made and I am now living through the ramifications of those decisions. All of this does not diminish the love I have for this kid, now man, but his view of our relationship has been tarnished and jaded because of my inaction over the last 25 years. I wish I could go back and make better decisions but it is what it is, and I now have to try and earn his trust and love again.
With him moving away it is going to be more difficult to earn his love and respect, but I will take it one day at a time. I only wish him the best and hope he finds whatever it is he is looking for, he has a lot of anger inside him, directed at both myself and his mother, and I cant help but think we have both failed him as parents. there is a lot I could say about his mother, but because this isn’t about her, I will let those thoughts stay inside me, and not reveal them here.
So on to the visit on Tuesday….
The best adjective I have for how it went is “Cordial”. There was no screaming, no finger pointing, it was just an afternoon of him and I connecting and going over what was going on in our own individual lives. We discussed our feelings on our relationship and for the most part we agreed that there were a lot of mistakes made and that he has a lot of anger in him over what happened in the last 20+ years. I am glad I got to see him before he leaves, and I will always remember his face when we left. I went in for a hug and he was reluctant, but I forced the hug and would not let go as I wanted to try and make him understand I know and own the mistakes I have made in the past and would like to move forward, but it is up to him if we can move forward or not.
With all of that being said, I enjoyed our visit, and it was good to see that he was at least willing to see me, and for that I am grateful. My takeaway from all of this is some advice for those fathers out there. Your children are supposed to be the primary focus of your life. They look up to you, they idolize you, and you are the most influential male figure in their lives. SPEND TIME with them, do things with them, even if it is something that you really don’t want to do, even if you hate it, even if you would rather stick a hot poker in your eyes, do it… If your daughter wants to paint your toenails, let them. If your son wants you to play video games with them for countless hours, do it. The time you spend with your child in their most impressionable years will be time that frames their vision of who you are, and they will remember those times for their entire lives.
Good luck Alex, I love you, and I wish you nothing but the best in whatever life has to offer…