Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Happy Father’s Day Weekend


My favorite time of year.  Father’s Day weekend.  It is a weekend filled with lots of emotions.  On one hand, I get to spend the weekend with my daughters who simply put, are my reason for being.  On the other hand, I miss my father, who passed away just over five years ago.  So, it is a bittersweet time of year.  And as I look through all of the photos that I have taken over the last fifteen years of my life, I am reminded just how important the title of “Dad” really is.  And as the collage demonstrates, my parenthood is careening towards having young adults.

Gone are the tea parties and pretend play.  No more animated movies.  In fact, my older daughter has already stated her disapproval for the computer generated reboots of Disney classic animated movies that she grew up watching.  I really have my fingers crossed that she will at least let me watch “The Lion King.”  But on the plus side, they now enjoy watching more topical movies, biopics especially.  One of the coolest moments came for me, watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” with my daughters.  And they continue to realize the impact that Queen had in the entertainment world.  I have already begun to prep them both for “Rocketman”, yes, by encouraging them that the soundtrack for the movie “The Lion King” was written by the Rocketman, Elton John.  Their curiosity has been elevated.

Gone are the coloring books, alphabet homework assignments, and learning multiplication tables.  I am now looking at full blown essays and interpretations and insight reviewing fiction stories, or research on current events.  As I writer, this is definitely one aspect that I really enjoying, and if I do say so, I expect both to exceed  what I do.

After changing their minds on what they want to be several times while growing up, there seems to be a direction that both are heading, and they are making decision on course selections based on those directions.

Did I say I was lucky to be seeing these transformations?  Healthwise, absolutely.  My health scares over the years, yes, I am very lucky to be seeing all of these events.  And in divorce, I am also lucky to be seeing my daughters.

Sadly, I know too many fathers, and have read hundreds more stories sent to me of fathers, unable to see their children for any number of reasons.  To be fair, there are also fathers out there who have turned their backs on their children, either out of frustration for a system, or denial.

Being a father, missing my daughters, loving my daughters as much as I do, I cannot fathom what would make a father make the decision to turn his back on his child(ren).  Did they never want the responsibility of being a father?  Did the child not provide any “familial currency”, purpose, or value to the father?  Was the father frustrated by constant attempts to interfere with the relationship with his child(ren)?  Quite possibly with the assistance of the law and statutes that allow so?

Could it be someone else’s decision that a father is not getting time to spend with his child(ren)?  A bitter former spouse using the child(ren) as pawns to exact revenge by refusing to allow the father to see his child(ren)?  Does the father even know that he might have children?

Then there is the unimaginable loss every year this weekend comes around.  Is the father faced with the loss of a child due to tragedy.  We have all heard that a parent should never have to bury their child.  But it happens.  And then there are those of us, many of us, who have lost our own fathers.  As I am now in the second half of my century, many of my school age friends, mourn the loss of the parents, many quite recently.

I miss my Dad.  I love my children.  I consider myself lucky to have been my Dad’s son.  And I am not only proud of my daughters, but I am quite lucky.  Lucky to have had both blessings in my life.  And to those who face struggles in their lives, with the relationship between father and children, you are in my thoughts, hopes that someday, your situation will resolve positively.

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You Could Say “The Honeymoon Was Over”


The following is a continuation of my series on my 30th anniversary of remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Considering the major detour in our plans for getting married, my battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, everything went as it needed to go.  The plans for the wedding.  Thirty radiation treatments.  And the all clear from the oncologist.  I was given a follow up appointment for when we got back from our honeymoon.  I got married (my first time), and we had a fun time on our honeymoon.

A common fear that nearly all of us survivors have once completed with our treatments, is the fear of recurrence, or relapse.  In other words, “it came back.”  The hint of a symptom we had during our diagnosis can send us off of a cliff of uncontrollable worry.  We barely get to celebrate our remission before that twisted concern already attacks us emotionally.  For me, and I do not know why, I did not have this feeling.  I felt the follow up was just a pain in the ass, taking up my time.

I had gone through a CT scan before, so this was not going to be a big deal.  And I had no reason to expect any news differently than my last appointment.  Except for some sunburn on my trip, I had no issues with my body as far as any symptoms or changes.

But the phone call I got a week later with the results sent a feeling of paranoia through me like I had never felt before.  “Mr. Edelman, we have the results of your CT scan.  Dr. M would like to discuss those results with you.”  Yep, if it was nothing, I would have been told so right at that moment.  I was not going to be made to come in just to be told “all is good.”

Dr. M:  Paul, the CT scan picked up new disease below your abdomen.

(It needs to be noted that with my original diagnosis, any evidence of Hodgkin’s had been limited above my abdomen)

Dr. M:  I cannot determine if this is actually a new onset, or if your Hodgkin’s has recurred, because of how soon, but we are considering this a recurrence.

I had relapsed.  FUCK CANCER!

I have been counseling cancer patients for nearly three decades and one thing that I always tell my patients is that you either need to have an extra set of ears at the appointments (we did not have phones to record conversations back then).  There is no doubt that I missed some very important discussion after Dr. M had told me about the relapse because my mind had taken me in a totally different direction.  It would have been normal for me to once again revisit the “denial”stage, but I did not.

Self:  It was your choice.  This is your fault.

Of course, these two sentences are totally irrational, but at the time, it was appropriate, and earned.

Under normal circumstances, oncologists will treat with chemotherapy and likely followed up with radiation.  Historically, Hodgkin’s had been treated with radiation alone, and with success.  But vanity played a role, as I was going to get married in less than four months from my diagnosis and staging.  Radiation would show the least amount of effect and I would be done before my wedding, and well, I would be in the middle of my chemotherapy at the time of my wedding, delays were not possible in the treatments.

Now I would begin my second guessing.  While I would never know if I would have relapsed with just chemo, at that time, I would have still be going through chemo.  But clearly, the decision was mine, and it was made.  It was my fault.

Who knows how much conversation I had missed at that point, my mind wandering.  But when Dr. M finally regained my attention, I heard the words that I had feared all along.

Dr. M:  We want you to start on chemotherapy as soon as possible.

So, back on the treadmill I went.  There were things that needed to be done to prepare for this next phase.

My Two Dads


It was a story that captured the nation and social media, especially in the realm of separated or divorced families.  A picture of a little girl, and two “dads”, attending an event dedicated to fathers and their daughters, a father/daughter dance.  For years, when I lived in Pennsylvania, I was the disc jockey for an event like this, annually, for eleven years.  What became quite clear over those years, there were so many different situations at this dance, especially who escorted the young ladies.  While a majority of the parents that were there, were biological or legal (adopted) fathers, there were also uncles, friends, mothers, and step-fathers.  And there were any number of reasons, if a child was not there with their own father.

The two men in the photo have very important roles to the little girl.  One of the men is her father, divorced from her mother.  The other man is currently engaged to her mother.  When they get married, he will carry the title, “stepfather.”

Decades ago, the “step” along with either mother or father often carried a negative connotation to it, thanks probably to Cinderella, and the way her stepmother treated her, as did her stepsisters, in the fairy tale.  Often times, step children were often portrayed as being sub-family, of little value to the step parent, treated as not one of their own.

There were television sitcoms along the way that would help to disprove the myth of the dynamic of the stepfamily, most famously, the Brady Bunch.

The focus of this television show, featured a widower father, and a mother who is believed to have been divorced, though it was never formally televised because back in the 1970’s divorce was still pretty much a taboo subject.  So it was never really addressed why Mrs. Brady was single.  But together, along with their housekeeper, the Brady’s functioned as a unified unit, never really having to deal with the fact that other than the pilot episode, the show never really dealt with the issues of a stepfamily, rather just appearing a regular family.

But the dynamic of a step-parent has taken a much different direction these days.

In this photo, both men appear to be having a great time, all for the benefit of the little girl.  And it is not that because the men are best of friends.  Quite the contrary, in the beginning, they were adversaries.  But as this story was printed, they realized that the situation, the Daddy/Daughter Dance was not about them, it was about their daughter/soon-to-be stepdaughter and the memories that she was going to have of that event.  The men admit that there were difficulties in getting along in the beginning, most likely due to the emotions spurred by the divorce between the girl’s original parents.  The future “step-father” is only naturally going to to be an ally to the mother, and adopt any hostilities toward the father of the child.

But these two men realize what is at stake.  The girl is young.  But she is going to remember this moment for her lifetime.

As a child, I had both a step-father and a step-mother.  While my biological parents may have had their adversarial relationship, I can honestly say that both of my step-parents stayed in their lanes.  Neither tried to exert any kind of parental power over me and at no time did either attempt to replace their biological equal.  And when it came to special events, like graduations, weddings, baptisms, etc., it was always made clear, they would not make that special day in my life, or my children’s lives, about them and their issues with my other parent.

The story does not address the emotions of the girl’s mother, nor does it tell of any confrontations, negative issues, allegations, of the family as it legally separated and divorced.  But what is clear, this father, and the step-father-to-be have done what so many strive to do, keep the divorce limited to the husband and wife, and not the mother and father.  A divorce is between a husband and wife.  A mother and father cannot get divorced.  And no matter the feelings that one spouse has for the other, those feelings should never be taken out on the children at their expense, especially to make the other parent “suffer.”

Children of all ages, will always remember what they have seen, and what they have been told.  And if it has been lies, coming at the expense of the other parent, costing time and the relationship, the hurt and resentment will take a long time to forgive, if possible, and even to forget.  Children know what to expect of their parents because they have spent most of their early lives with them.  They know what is possible, and what is not.  As the two men above demonstrated, when it comes to the children, keep the relationship with the children, about the children.  It can be done.

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