Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Education”

Another Heart Broken

As usual with this subject of the post, I must offer the following disclaimer due to trolls that stalk my page…


I think I made this perfectly clear.

In divorce, there are two types of parents when it comes to custody.  Parents who want to be in their child’s lives, and those who do not.  And while statistics may show an overwhelming bias against one parent over another, the critical point remains that a child who starts off with two parents, needs both of those parents, regardless of gender, even after divorce.  This post is not about a mother or father who does not care.

As an adult child of divorce, I am especially sensitive to the relationships between children and parents during a divorce.  And having been divorced, I must deal with issues as the parent, as well as memories of my childhood, or lack of.  So the things I say, I do not take lightly, but most certainly, take sincerely.

Today, I received an email from a reader, who happens to be a father.  Like the majority of my followers here, I do not know identities (except for some of the trolls that I have figured out).  Given the details of the email, I know this email is the real deal.  An email such as this will end one of two ways, the parent is given some additional support to see things can get better, perhaps a direction how.  The other result, as far as I am concerned, 100% unacceptable, the loss of the parent from the child’s life.  This occurs most likely through either suicide, or surrendering their rights as a parent.  In either way, the system clearly fails if this is how not just this father’s story ends, but any parent.

Ask any parent whose child has passed away due to either illness or accident, the hole left if their heart will never heal.  And though the situation is different, constructing a narrative that causes the destruction between a parent and their child, even though both remain physically alive, creates a similar feeling of loss.  Some may recover from this neglectful and abusive behavior.  For some, this ends up as permanent, as if the child had actually died.

This father writes me, to mention that he has decided to surrender his parental rights, no longer able to sustain the fight for his children, financially, emotionally, or physically.  As is often the case, custody cases can easily approach six figures, emotions can take one step forward only to take two steps backward, and the wear and tear on the body from the stress may never be able to recover from.  Clearly to this father, and he did not state which of the three factors, or a combination of all of them, led him to this point.

As I said, I will not discuss my own custody issues, but I do what I can to encourage others, both mothers and fathers to work things out, for the sake of children.  And I do this not as a divorced father, but as I mentioned, as an adult child of divorce.  It is a relatively new concept, or concern, because all of this time, attention has always been paid to the lives of the children, assuming that once in adulthood, all would be good.  Well, except for the glaring statistic of divorce rates of children from divorced families.

In communicating with this father, I found myself dealing with a new issue, that even through my own situation, I never recognized as an option.  But I was going to convey it to this father, the decision he wanted to make was going to be a huge mistake to not only him, but to his children.

My father made decisions that he made in my young childhood.  I had always made it a point to not know what happened between he and my mother, because whatever happened between them, should have made no difference to me.  In the end, it did, because my father would eventually make the decision to “disappear.”  He never surrendered his rights to me.  But even with an ultimatum leveled on him at my high school graduation, he still made his decision, and it was one that could never be taken back.

Now, obviously, the picture above, clearly shows that my dad and I did eventually make up.  We had a very special relationship, the rebuild caused by a tragic event.  The first half of my life with, rather, without my father, was gone.  There was no getting any of it back.  But with grandchildren that loved him very much, it gave my father and I a much needed opportunity to heal.  And in the end, I forgave my father, and loved him for doing what he could for his grandchildren.  All these years later, I still do not know, why things happened the way that they did.

I have several friends who were divorced, and now have grown children.  I have heard their stories of those who gave up, and those who fought, and fought, and fought.  And the only true regret that I have ever heard,  was from those who did “walk away.”

And then I felt myself dealing with a new issue, that I had never felt before.  And this emotion would be the catalyst for how I would encourage this father, do not give up.  Though I got the opportunity to make amends with my father, and spend some valuable time and memories, there was one issue that was never, and will never get the chance to be cleared up.  And it is something that will last me, as long as I live, because he is no longer here to defend himself.

From the time my children were adopted, through the beginning of the divorce, to today, my children know me as the loving father I have always been.  As of late, geographically things are not convenient, but my children know that I will always be there for them and will do everything I can to help them, no matter where I am.

And here was the new issue.  My father did not.  And he lived less than twenty minutes from me growing up.  He not only was responsible for the decision to spend time with me or not, but he also chose not to fight for that right either.  And this is now the issue I struggle with.  It is one thing for me to be able to proclaim that I will never give up my rights as father to my children, it is another that my Father did not.  And for that, I cannot forgive him.

And that is what I tried to get across to this father.  Giving up must never be an option.  I get it.  Our bodies take a horrible beating from the stress and financial toll of this fight.  But that does not even compare to a child will never forgive you for “giving up.”

Should we have to fight til our last heartbeat for our children?  No.  And fortunately, states are now realizing the relationships between parents and their children need help, and are changing the law to allow these changes to take place.  It is a slow process, but it is happening.

I do not know the age of this man’s children, but they sound young.  He has lost everything in fighting for his custody, and likely will not recover any time soon.  But the ultimate loss will come if he stops fighting for his children.  I have no idea how my father felt making the decision that he did.  But I do know that I did not want this father to find out either.

As I wrote this post, I received an email from someone else.  And this father had just won his custody fight, a very long one.  It turns out, that he was good at documenting, and presented the judge with an overwhelming amount of documentation that showed how relentless the other parent was, in trying to take the kids away from him, no intention of co-parenting, or even letting the children be in his life.  Seriously, if you have to try this hard to prevent your children from seeing their other parent, you are using your children as pawns or weapons.  Shame on you.  And you need to know, it will never be the other parent that will pay for that, it will be the offending parent that is despised by the child, no matter how much the denial.  It will happen.

I asked the email owner if I could forward it to the other writer, who could definitely use some encouragement.

Look, if you walk away from your child, know that is something you will never get back.  But if you truly love your children, you do not ever give up any fight for them.  Giving up is never an option.


Preparation For Chemo – Part 3

Of the three parts of this series, I have saved the most important for last.  Why?  Because there is no factor more important, than the mindset of the patient, especially as they head toward a fork in a road, where both roads are a potentially fatal choice.  One will kill you for sure, the other has the potential to kill you.

My team of medical providers seemingly complete, I went to my pre-chemo appointment to make my final arrangements  to begin.  All of my testing was done.  What happened next, I was not prepared for, and evidently neither was my doctor.

I checked in with the receptionist, and sat down waiting to be called back to the exam room.  As always, there was a stop by the lab to draw my blood, and into the second exam room on the left I went, with a legal pad under my left arm, a pen clipped to the pad (we did not have smart phones to record conversations, had to take any notes the old fashioned way).

I had chosen Dr. M to treat my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for one reason only.  Though I referred to him as older than dirt, he did cure my grandmother of her breast cancer just five years earlier.  I could overlook him being long in the tooth, and the fact that the bedpan had more of a personality than he did.  This was going to be the guy to get me through this ordeal.

Dr. M. closed the door and sat down on his stool in front of me.

Dr. M:  So, we have gotten all the preliminary testing done.  How did you make out with the sperm harvesting?

Me:  They said there was not enough to be worth storing.

Dr. M:  You should have insisted anyway.  One could have been enough for you to have a family.

Me:  But, I…

Dr. M:  Ok.  Your heart scan and lung tests came back good.  They will be able to tolerate the chemotherapy plan.  It’s my understanding you would be okay with starting Friday (2 days later)?

Me:  Yes.  Because I would not have to miss much work for my treatments.  I would just leave an hour early from work, and have the weekend to rest before going back to work on Monday.

Dr. M immediately began to stand and walk towards the door, appearing to have finished our appointment.

Dr. M:  Very well, that is okay.  Will see you Friday afternoon.

Me:  Excuse me doc?

Dr. M turned around having already mentally concluded the appointment.

Me:  I have some questions about going through the chemo.

Dr. M slowly and hesitantly turned around, looked at my left hand, which had now exposed the first page on the legal tablet to be full of writing.

Dr. M:  What is that?

Me:  Like I said, I have some questions.

Dr. M had not even seen the second page of questions.

Dr. M:  Are you serious?  I don’t have the time to spend with you answering all that.  You will have to talk to the nurse.

And Dr. M walked out.

As I mentioned earlier, my team involved with reaching my cure, was almost complete.  Dr. M did not realize, or did not care, there was another member of the team.

Dr. M did not acknowledge me as a team member.  Without me, there would be no treatment.  Yes, I know that would mean that I would die.  But I had serious questions about being given drugs that were so toxic, that were going to not just kill the cancer cells, but many of the good healthy cells in my body as well.  Going through chemotherapy is not just a physical battle, but a mental one like none other you face in your life.

I was not considered part of my team by Dr. M.  And that is where he was mistaken.  In this case, and others like mine, there is actually an “i” in team.  And yes, I know the punchline, it is in the “A hole”.  And the minute you start to advocate for yourself, the reaction is to actually respond to you as if you are being an asshole.  But there is no doubt about it.  I was a member of the team, the most important member, not just because I was the patient, but because without putting the fires out in my mind of all the concerns that I had, I was going to die.  Just because a doctor did not want to answer my questions.  And yes, I acknowledge there were a lot of questions, and they all pertained to what I was about to go through.

For my own sake, I, and I repeat, I was a team member, I needed to advocate for myself.  If you remember anything from this post, or anything on “Paul’s Heart,” it is the importance of advocating for yourself.  In most cases, it will make a difference, especially if you do not have the confidence in others to get your through your difficult time.  You must do what you need to do, to get through.

I was about to break down completely as a nurse walked in.  She introduced herself as Brenda.  She did not give her last name.  She was old enough to be my mother, a fact that I will talk about later in another post.  She introduced herself as the nurse that would be administering my chemotherapy.  I did all I could to fight back tears of fear.  Because at this point, I was prepared to die, preferring quality of what would be left of my life, rather than dealing with the uncertainties that could come because of chemotherapy.

Brenda:  Good morning Mr. Edelman.  My name is Brenda.  I am your chemotherapy nurse.  I understand you have some questions that you would like answered before we begin.

This did not begin the way I thought.  Dr. M said he had no time to talk to me about my questions.  So he sent someone in to do it for him?  No.  I wanted the doctor, not a nurse.  I wanted the knowledge, not the routine.  As if she knew where my mind was at, the doctor had the personality of a bed pan, she spoke:

Brenda:  Dr. M is a good doctor.  He is also quite busy.  And he does care.  He just cannot show it.  He cannot open himself to personally caring directly with a patient.  Dr. M deals with a lot of patients.  Many survive.  Some do not.  He has been at this a long time, and he has lost a lot of people he has cared about, and it is his demeanor that protects him from any further hurt.

Me:  That’s all well and good.  But I need to know what is going to happen to me.  He saved my grandmother’s life.  I trusted him.  I thought he would care.  I no longer feel that way.

Brenda took the time to answer ALL of my questions, two pages worth.  Questions that dealt with the drugs in the chemotherapy cocktail, side effects, what to do in the case of…, and more.  And after nearly an hour, she offered me one more suggestion.  She heard something in the questions that I had asked, and the comments that I made.  She recommended one more member for my team.  Someone to talk to.  Someone who had experience with patients who struggled not only with their diagnosis, their treatments, but their survival.

I had one more appointment to make before that Friday.

The Observation

Something strange has been happening with me this year.  I do not know why just this year.  I am not doing anything differently than I have for fifty-three years.  It is not something I publicly talk about, unlike other topics about myself.  And if it only happened one time, I would probably just think it was a coincidence.  But since February, it has now happened four times.

Around President’s weekend, I had been visiting with a friend with my daughters.  We were inside a small shop when a complete stranger came up to me.

Stranger:  Excuse me.  But are you Native American?

Yep.  Not even a “hello”, just jumped right into it.  Now a little known secret up until now, yes I am, or at least partially.  But the question caught me off guard.  I do not really discuss my heritage with anyone, just my daughters, who happen to be Asian.  So I have the discussion with them to teach them the importance of knowing your culture.  I believe the conversation came up once when I was in elementary school, and of course the kids in school relentlessly mocked me, which became why I never discussed it publicly again.

Stranger:  I didn’t mean to offend you.  I was just curious.  I study indigenous cultures.  And I just noticed your strong features.  Do you know if you are of Native American background?

Me:  Yes I am.  (I intentionally gave a short answer, being totally weirded out).

Stranger:  By any chance, are you of Cherokee background?

Now I was totally baffled.  My great grandmother was Cherokee.  I have known this my whole life.  I have just never publicly acknowledged it, or made any kind of issue out of it.  As far as anyone was concerned, I identified as a Caucasian.  Sure, my skin color is slightly darker.  But if I am being honest, I really never saw any particular characteristics that would point out a Native American background.

Well, at least until I started growing my hair back out again.  For a long time, I kept it very short.  The last time I kept my hair long, no one ever mentioned or inquired about my background.  But I suppose I can see some Native American in my photos.

So, more of a curiosity, how did my great grandfather meet, get involved with, and marry a Cherokee Indian woman?  I am not well versed on racism, other than the blatant examples we see on the news every day, but I do know in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, racism still existed.

First, you need to understand the history of the Cherokee woman.  Cherokee women were considered equal to Cherokee men in all aspects of life.  Something that American women of today still do not have that right.  Financially, spiritually, sexually, Cherokee women were respected as equals to men.  Crimes against Cherokee women by Cherokee men were rare, especially rape.  Family ancestry actually was guided by the women.  Because of land owned by the Cherokee, it was profitable for white men to marry Cherokee women, as it was the Cherokee women who owned and were in charge of the land in most cases.  I have only recently begun to study more of the interesting history.

I am enjoying the research I have now given myself to do.  And out of the four people who approached me, I have an uneasy feeling that three out of the four had other issues other than genuine curiosity about me, with the fourth actually stating she had an educational background.  It is a fact that bigotry and racism are escalating again, and I would like to hope, that I was not experiencing it because of my background.  As I mentioned to a classmate of mine, still friends after all these years, “you finding out that I have a Native American background does not affect or change how you know me, does it?”  The obvious answer was, “of course not.”

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