Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the day “December 21, 2014”

True Loss


I wrote previously in “Scrooge 2014” about the bad Karma I have during this time of year.  I concluded the post about that I have discovered over those forty years, is how much I can take, how to survive the holidays (and the events that make them more difficult, but also there will be a next year.

One of my greatest faults, and is most likely a result of the survivor guilt I deal with daily courtesy of my battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, is that I never leave myself room to acknowledge or allow myself, to suffer grief or pain.  My late brother-in-law who passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) often told me that just because his prognosis was worse than mine, did not mean that the health issues we both struggled were any less real or painful than the others.  And common sense would cause us to agree.

But when it comes to the loss I am going to experience this season, I will be taking the same path as I always do.  Someone will always have it worse than me, and therefore who am I to complain about it.  I will do everything in my power to not allow this custody situation to happen next year.  I will spend time with my daughters next year.  At worst, I plan to only lose this one year.

For others, their loss is permanent, no chance of ever getting it back, their loved ones gone forever, except in spirit, and that is very little consolation, especially during the Christmas holiday season, what is supposed to be the most joyous, now faced with the first year without someone close to them the loss I am going to be experiencing, in not being with my children during this holiday season for the first time ever.  Let me be clear, the post was nothing more than a reflection of what I have been through over four decades.

Last week, a tragedy beyond description occurred back in my hometown in Pennsylvania.  A decorated war veteran, who happened to be going through a tumultuous domestic issue, murdered his ex-wife, her mother, her grandmother, a teenage niece and parents while wounding a teenage nephew, before committing suicide himself.  Now, his two children, near the same age as my daughters are orphans, a teenage boy is orphaned, but now without his father, is the infant of the father who committed this awful act.  Seven dead, and four children now left without a parent, or parents.  While everyone tries to put the pieces together of what happened and why, the loss remains and is permanent.

For me personally, there are two families that are also dealing with an unimaginable loss, each suffering the loss of their only sons.  One young man, mid 20’s, was killed after being involved in a car accident.  The other, died from complications from treatments received which actually cured him of his cancer at the age of 24.  Both of these families are going through this holiday season for the first time without their sons, also while trying to make sense of why.

This will be the first Christmas with my father.  I did not get to see him much during my childhood, but I spent the second half of my life, never missing one Christmas morning with him, or enjoying the time that he spent with my daughters.

My heart goes out to anyone who is dealing with loss this Christmas season, not just a “first Christmas.”  And also, not just for a physical loss.  Those facing severe health crisis with unknown futures also suffer loss, and year after year, often face flashbacks, reminding them of the pain faced during this time.  It can be last year, or ten years ago.  Many times, that feeling of loss never goes away.

But as someone told me recently, it is during a time like this, during any loss, that you have to dig down deep, and cling to any faith you have, whatever your religion or beliefs.  It is not just the actual loss that has been taken away from you, but so much more is trying to be taken away from you, by an opposing force (again, no matter what your faith), and it is important that you cling to the faith that has stood by you time and time again, no matter how many times you have been knocked down or kicked in the teeth.

Yes, a “Blue Christmas” is more common than many realize, or may never have experienced.  For those who are in that place right now, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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Scrooge 2014


Scrooge 1

I hate this time of year.  Now when I say that, I do not mean it to say that I set out to ruin anyone else’s joy.  I personally just do not like this time of year.  It is a double whammy for me, because not only Christmas is celebrated during this month, but so is my birthday.  This time of year for me is just so difficult for me to get through.  Reflecting back, I have not had one normal December, with no crisis to deal with, in nearly forty years.  That is right, forty years.

ghost of past

Journeying back to 1976, the first of my annual yule time nightmares, my house caught fire from an errant spark that came from a match, being struck by my aunt to light my 11th birthday cake.  Other memorable Winter seasons include one of the biggest struggles I faced, battling cancer.  Another year, three of my relatives passed away between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  My stepmother was hit by a car crossing the street just days before Christmas.  But literally, I could list thirty five more years.

Scrooge 6

Towards the later part of my life, in the 1990’s in particular, I got away from really wanting to celebrate my birthday, or the materialistic glitz of Commercialized Christmas.  Once I had been told I was in remission, I have never asked for another gift in my life.  To this day, I still will never ask for anything because as far as I was concerned I got the ultimate gift, another shot at life, cured of cancer.

Scrooge 4

That is not to say, that I did not enjoy watching others celebrate the seasons, I just do not enjoy them for myself.  For me, it goes beyond “thinking positive.”  Every year, since 1976, I have had to deal with some sort of crisis during this holiday season.  Following the arrivals of my daughters, I had always held out hopes that my fortunes would change, but they did not.  Instead, I had to put more energy into making sure that my daughters did not realize what I was dealing with.  I wanted them to enjoy the magic of the holidays.

ghost of present

This year however, is going to be my most challenging yet.  Not only am I dealing with the first Christmas without my father since his passing from lung cancer,this is my second year into the divorce with my second wife, which has raised contentious emotions to extreme levels.  The children continue to be caught in the middle of our divorce.  This year was going to be difficult enough, as this was going to be the first year that I am physically away from my daughters on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It was at my own doing, to make the custody agreement process go as smoothly as possible, as I would get to see my children the day after Christmas for their extended school break.  At least, that is how it is supposed to be.

Scrooge 3

But something so much worse, has the potential to make this season, the worst of my life ever.  Even my battle with cancer is not as bad in the lifetime effect, what is about to occur.

ghost of future

An issue with unemployment and my child support agreement, I am not only behind in my child support, but I do not have the funding to have my daughters visit me this holiday season as was arranged through our custody agreement.  I could not make the flight arrangements when flights were affordable because of pending legal proceedings and not knowing when I would have to travel again.  By the time the proceedings were completed, it was December 19th, my birthday, and all flights are sold out, not to mention, well over $1000 each just for one way if they were available, hardly affordable for a parent struggling to make child support payments.

Scrooge 5

In a desperate attempt, I even created a “donation” site to beg for money, to help me afford to see my children during this holiday, since I was unemployed and had no savings.  But with the hatred that my ex wife has for me, it was not long before she discovered the fund, and through her attorney, ordered me to cease immediately.  I was being prevented from raising funds from any way possible while being unemployed.

Scrooge 2

With no job, no savings, and no financial help from anyone else, this now goes beyond just not being able to see my children this year for Christmas, or Christmas without my dad.

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The picture above is one of the last photos that was ever taken with my father and I.  I also do not remember any other Christmas with my father throughout my childhood.  I will never let that happen when it comes to my daughters.  This year unfortunately did not go as planned with the visitation for a number of reasons, none of which changes the current situation for me, that I will not be with my daughters this holiday season.  All I can do and have done, is promise to my daughters that this will be the last Christmas season apart.

For me, it is another year, of trying to find solace in the true meaning of Christmas to me.  My faith.  It is my faith that has gotten me through all of these other years, and it is being tested to its limits this year.

I am sorry my angels.  I know the hurt that you are feeling.  Which is why I will make things better, I promise you.  I love both of you too much to let this happen again.

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