In my Father’s Image

fathers and sons

Recently, my son became very ill, and as the doctors asked me about our family health history, I found myself becoming angry again at my ex-husband.  The anger wasn’t because he deserted me and his children (though I find that seeping back in once in a while); the anger was due to how he left us. He made it impossible for me to ever find out if the symptoms my son is having could be related back to his family history; therefore, there is this big unknown part of my children’s history that I would like to access, so I can help them be healthy for themselves and for their future children.

I took this photo of my son and husband (at the time) right after my father’s funeral.  My husband said that my losing my father reminded him of how quickly time passes and the importance of cherishing every precious moment we have with our children. The portrait symbolized to me the relationship between a parent and their child and how important it is, as parents, to guide our children to the future that is waiting for them.  I never thought that my own husband would disregard the gift’s God has bestowed upon us.  I no longer try to understand what made my husband do the things he did, as it is out of my control and is time wasted. Yet, inexcusably I still witness daily the internal pain and damage he left behind. I always thought that maybe he was too damaged from his own childhood to ever be a parent, but three years after deserting his own children, he had another one.

It may seem cruel, but I sometimes view my ex as created in Hitler’s (interesting enough, he liked his employees to call him that) image because when our marriage became the darkest is when he could not handle his youngest son (in this photo) being different from other children.  I’ve mentioned in my blog before that my son has Asperger’s Syndrome, and my ex-husband had no patience or empathy for the symptoms that developed from my son’s diagnosis. I almost think that he kept having children until he could create the perfect specimen of himself.  My heart aches for his new child that he had with his new wife, and I pray for the innocent boy’s safety every day.

This photo has been hidden in the back of my closet for years in fear of it bringing back the pain of the past for my children. However, this week as I have been filling out medical forms for specialists for my beautiful, kind-hearted son, I looked back at this portrait and realize that it doesn’t have to represent the father that walked away, but it reminds me of the characteristics my son shares with his maternal grandfather that I sadly lost that Thanksgiving week in 2000. My son grew up not having the guidance of either a father or a grandfather, but I have kept my father’s image alive within my son, by sharing his stories, his morals, his ethics, his love, and so on.  As I look into my son’s eyes, the eyes that trust that I will find him the best care and answers this week, I see my father’s soul looking back at me.  My son may have been born from a man who has no soul, but that doesn’t mean that’s how my son’s story ends.

My son has a heart of gold and carries his grandfather Jim’s heart and soul with him everywhere (that is what I see in this portrait now), and as long as I bring him up with wonderful people surrounding him that also share those similar ethics, morals, and love, my child will take that into his future and it will continue to touch the ones fortunate enough to come into his life. I will never be convinced that blood defines a family, but instead family is defined by the incredible people who lift us up and encourage us to live each day being better than we were the day before.

Remember Your Shadow is a Reflection of Your Shining Light

shadows

I’m just toying with my artistic side today.  I was studying when I looked up and saw this beautiful shadow looking back at me.  It reminded me of my son and the shadows that follow him.  I wanted him to know that his shadows are only there because of the bright, shining light that radiates from his beautiful soul.  His favorite artist is Lady Gaga; therefore, I wanted to reflect her words the best way I could.  I can only hope for my son that he can one day live in a world that respects individuality and one where he can walk down the street and feel free to be himself without being afraid to have bullies and haters lurking in the shadows he still fears. We all have those shadows around the corner, but today I choose to be a light for those who may still be afraid to turn theirs on.

Happy Mother’s Day: A gift for my children

moms blog

I can’t help on Mother’s Day to reflect back on my life as a mom. I see all of the messages on the internet to the best moms ever. Can we all be the best moms ever? With all of the dysfunction in the world, do people really believe this? I know I do. I think moms get a bad rap. If a child messes up, the mom is always at fault. I never hear in a news story, what kind of dad did they have? Yes, today we celebrate the moms in the world, but it seems the rest of the days in the year, we blame them for everything that goes wrong.
I know I live with my own guilt as a mom for the mistakes I made as my children were growing up. I have “two” amazing children. Everyone is always complementing me on what a great mom I am because of my “two” special children. But I always wonder if my daughter and son are a reflection of my parenting than what kind of parent do others think I am when they learn I have a third child? He hasn’t spoke to me in over a year and continuously blames me for everything wrong in his life. Even though, his father was abusive and I fought to get us away from him, his dad is who he wants in his life. This torments me daily. No matter how many successes I achieve, it’s always in the back of my mind, is my older son right about me? Am I the terrible person he says I am? Am I a failure as a parent or the wonderful parent my other two children say I am?
Recently, I was given a glimpse into my ex-husband’s new life. He’s remarried with a one-year old son, and has three thriving businesses. He’s the toast of his new town. Since he left, all of his professional dreams have come true; maybe even his personal ones. It’s been seven years since I filed for a restraining order, and I too, have had my own successes. I was awarded 100% custody and have gone on to receive not one, but two Bachelor’s degrees and a minor, and in a few weeks will have my Master’s degree, and in the fall will begin my doctoral program. I have watched my two younger children grow into amazing, thriving, independent, loving young adults. We have lived in sketchy places and had to scrape every dollar together to survive, but we have done it all while at the same time trying to be the best, honest persons we can be.
So if my ex and I have managed to be happier apart, maybe the common variable in the equation of our destruction was me? That scenario plays in my head daily; after all, my older son still blames me for the demise of our family. But for the first time, I decided to use my critical thinking skills I acquired in college. I decided to trace the paths of my ex and myself since we split away. My path has been hard work and hard choices. I have worked as hard as I could to make a better life for me and my kids. Being their sole parent, I strive to be the best role model I can; not only have I worked to be an advocate for people in domestic violence situations, but an advocate for children with Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s been a rough seven years, and it may be another three or four before I receive my doctorate, but I can say I traveled this path with my head held high and without hurting others in order to travel down it. I have actually tried my best to uplift others along the way. My journey wouldn’t hold as much value if I wasn’t striving to pay it forward as I headed down it.
As for my ex, he continues to avoid his financial responsibilities he left behind, and may be in his one son’s life, but he has moved on as if the other two children never existed. He has lied to his current business partners and community about his true identity and the path of destruction he left behind along with the mounds of debt. He even attempted to file bankruptcy on child support and alimony. He has all of his businesses in other people’s names, so that he doesn’t have to pay more for his children he deserted. He even lied to the judge and said he was dying of Colon Cancer. He’s committed tax and bankruptcy fraud; yet, no one calls him out on his bad deeds. He may seem professionally and personally like he has it all, but I have to wonder if he lies asleep at night wondering if he will ever be found out. What if his one-year old son finds out that he has a long lost brother and sister? What will he tell him? I doubt it will be the truth. He doesn’t know what the truth looks like. He is known in his community to be this incredible engineer and fabricator; yet, he never went to college nor graduated from high school. I am not putting him down for not going to college; I married him knowing that. What I hate is how he lies about who he is. What if his designs that people are buying, due to his engineering background, are faulty? Who takes the fall for that? Him? Or his business partners who have taken all the financial risk and have staked their reputations on his background that they never checked into? If his past speaks for itself, he won’t stick around to be accountable.
The best part of my look into my past, is that yes, it’s been a tough seven years, but I can sleep at night. I know that I am a good person, not a perfect person, but a good person. I no longer have to look over my shoulder due to his abuse and lies. I decided to take another path; yet, seeing who he is now, I know that his character and moral values have stayed the same. I am grateful to be free of him; I am grateful two of my children are safe from him as well. Yet, should I still beat myself up for the 24 year old son who chooses my ex over me? I would be lying if I didn’t say I miss my son and am hurt by it, but on the other hand, how long do we let others punish us for decisions we made years ago? I didn’t know his dad was an abuser when I met him or I wouldn’t have married him. Do I think it affected how good a mother I was at the time? Most definitely. Did I continue to be that person and bury my head in the sand after leaving his father? No! I left and I fought for three years to keep my kids safe.
I have worked extremely hard to build a life built on ethics and love. I have been in counseling with my children and apologized for not leaving sooner. I will be haunted by the memories of that man forever, but I am proud that I took a stand and left. We have struggled to make ends meet, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel and am grateful for the friends I have made along the way. I am proud of the woman/mom I have become and have decided today is the day that I give myself a Mother’s Day present – that present is forgiveness and permission to start this day and every day after, loving myself for the woman I am and finally walking away from the woman I was in my marriage. She no longer exists. If my oldest son cannot move into the future with the woman I have worked, long and hard, to become, and let go of the woman I was then, he will have to deal with that. I know my truth and am proud of who I am. I will always love my oldest son, but I cannot ever allow abuse and degradation ever back into my life, so until he can do that too, I will have to love him from afar. Today is the day that I love myself, forgive myself, shut the door on the past, and embrace the new life that awaits; my children deserve it, my friends and family who have supported me deserve it, and last, but not least, I deserve it! Happy Mother’s Day to the woman I am and to the children who have been waiting patiently for this day – I love you – always and forever!

Happy Birthday to my lost child

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Today is my oldest son’s 24th birthday.  Some would be full of joy, but instead waking up and thinking about it, brought me to my knees.  He was my first-born and I have never forgotten the day I found out I was pregnant with him.  I was at my parent’s house, with my fiancée, addressing wedding invitations.  The phone rang and it was a nurse calling about my pregnancy test earlier in the day.  The only reason I agreed to the test was because during the marriage license blood test, I learned I had a low Rubella count and the doctors couldn’t give me the vaccine if there was a possibility I was pregnant.  I laughed at the thought of it, as I knew I took birth control, but nevertheless, the doctor insisted on the test. 

To my shock, the test came back positive.  I just stood there in my parent’s basement, holding the phone, speechless.  I did not know what to say.  My fiancée was scared something was wrong and begged me to tell him what the nurse said.  I looked at him and told him I was pregnant.  To my further shock, he grabbed and hugged me and said, “you are having a boy and his name is Cody”.

My pregnancy and delivery were extremely hard, but were all worth it when I held my beautiful son in my arms.  He was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen; he had stolen my heart. I went on to have two more incredible children, but still, no one forgets the feeling of having a first child.  It is so scary.  Children aren’t born with instruction manuals, so I was constantly worried about being the perfect mother.  I have learned through the years, I was not.   I could have given my son all of the love in the world, but it would not ever erase that I had chosen an abuser as his father.  

I didn’t know his father was abusive, that was something I slowly learned over the years.  It’s like putting a frog in a pot of hot boiling water, it will immediately hop out, but if you put that same frog in a pot of warm, comforting water and – s l o w l y – turn up the heat, the frog won’t know to jump out before it’s too late.  That is how my ex-husband introduced me to abuse.  He courted me and was charming, loving, and doting; he made me feel like I was the only person in his world. It wasn’t until he had a ring on my finger and our first child was born that he started to gently turn up the heat.  He always had reasons for the way he talked to and treated me.  I knew I could take anything he sent my way, as long as he didn’t hurt my children.  I never wanted a divorce because I may not have been there to protect my children from him if he got custody, so in my mind, I thought it was better that I endure his abuse until my kids were grown and then attempt to escape his madness.

What my husband’s abuse never prepared me for was the torture I would suffer after I had left.  I realized I couldn’t wait until my kids were grown because once he kept turning up the heat, I didn’t know if I would survive and then my kids would be left with no one to protect them.  So when my children were 17, 13, and 10, I fled; that was almost 7 years ago.   I got all of us into counseling and have worked 18 hours a day to be the best parent and person I can be.   My younger two children have flourished in our new environment, but my ex was successful in turning my oldest against me.

We were always so close, and he told me how proud he was of me that I had the strength to leave, but a year afterwards, he started talking to his dad again and I saw him being drug down into my ex’s way of thinking.  He told me that year that abuse is genetic and he had no other choice, but to follow in his dad’s footsteps.  I felt those words as if someone had slit open my chest and ripped my heart from inside of me.   When I had my children, I thought of the beautiful futures they would have; I didn’t picture them to grow up with anger and hatred.

Today when I woke up and knew it was his birthday, I pictured the boy, who when he was three, would pull me into the living room to dance to video music on VH1.  When he was in elementary school, he loved to have me play Lover Boy’s “Working for the Weekend” everyday on the way to school.   I never missed one of his concerts, soccer games, basketball games, or swim meets.  In the summer in California, we would go swimming every day and on the way home from Six Flags, we would turn on the Backstreet Boys and sing their songs, at the top of our lungs, all the way home.

Yet, one by one, we lost his grandmother, his cousin, and then my dad.  With each death, he started to build a wall that I didn’t know how to get through.  Unfortunately, that wall has grown so high; he may never reach around and grab my hand.  Even though, I see him once in awhile, we have not had an honest conversation in five years.  I miss my son with all of my heart and every year when he turns a year older, I wonder if I will ever know him again.  He lives less than a mile from me, but it might as well be a thousand.  No matter how much I loved that little boy, I cannot embrace a 24-year old man, who chooses hatred over love.  I can only live my life with honor, and then hope, one day, he will see that he too can choose that path.    Until then, I guess there will be days I wake up in tears, not just for what I have lost, but for the future, he too, deserved.