Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

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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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.

Honor Memorial Day Before The Barbeque And The Beach


Today is one of the longest work days for many workers.  They are watching the clock tick slowly to quitting time.  For many, it is the beginning of a 3-day weekend, filled with picnics, parties, barbeques, the beach, and fireworks.  This time of year is also known as the unofficial start of Summer, typically more than three weeks officially on the calendar.  And because it is a 3-day weekend, there is plenty of time to get all of these activities done.  But before you commence with the pre-Summer activities, recognize and honor what Memorial Day is really about.  And you will see, it has nothing to do with celebrating at all.

Often confused with Veteran’s Day by many, Memorial Day is just that, we memorialize and remember, all the men and women who died while serving our country, though it is common to assume the deaths occurred during wartimes.  But the truth is, for too many, our troops continue to struggle, especially emotionally upon their return home from battles.  And we have learned in recent years, how little we actually do to help our veterans deal with their health and their emotional issues, unfortunately until it is too late.

Just take a moment and think.  Can you name at least five wars since Memorial Day originated after the Civil War (originally named “Decoration Day”)?  It should be fairly easy, as even high school graduates who enlist realize that they will likely be deployed into one of those conflicts that is currently ongoing.  Really, besides the World Wars, and the Vietnam War, can you name others?  People died in these wars, we should know them by name.  At least knowing the history is a step in the direction of honoring our fallen heroes.

Libya

Yemen

Syria

Iraq

Uganda

Somalia

Pakistan

Afghanistan

And currently, our military presence is being built up to defend against Iran.  These are all conflicts in less than the last twenty years alone.  Eight wars/conflicts.  We have members of our military killed too frequently from the conflict itself, friendly fire, or even suicide, when they come home, unable to deal with the horrors of war that will not stay behind where the conflict occurred.

In the 20th Century, more than a dozen wars in the last two decades happened.  Two dozen more wars, including two world wars, the Vietnam War and Korean war filled up the 1900’s.  And the reason we remember the fallen, there are nearly three million reasons.  Millions of deaths of people who committed to fighting for our freedoms that we enjoy every day.

But as I mentioned, the deaths do not just occur on the battlefields.  Our country has no problem sending young men and women off to war, but when it comes to getting them help when they return home, our government lets our military heroes down, often tragically.  According to Military.com, 321 soldiers from all branches of the military, committed suicide last year, an all-time high.  That is nearly one every day.  Simply put, we are not doing enough to help the men and women who serve our country in the military.

Just today, on one of my groups that I participate in, a vet wrote that he was ready to give up his fight against his cancer.  The man, a father, a soldier, fought in war, but has given up hope, not that he does not think he could not beat the cancer, but for what.  He is also dealing with a domestic issue, his divorce.  As often happens, even among those who do not serve in the military, this vet is being alienated from his children.  The pain of dealing with war, is difficult enough emotionally by itself, and so is the reality when a parent is told by their child, that they no longer want anything to do with that parent, often repeating hateful lies spewed by the other parent or other family members and friends.  Combine both of these emotional situations, he no longer has the will to live.  His words, “why bother?”

The responses to this man have been many.  All of us are trying to do what we can, no matter where we live compared to the western state that he resides.  All of us in this group share the same cancer history.  Many of us in the group are also veterans of war (I am not, just for the record).  And some of us also have domestic issues that are emotionally charged.  But we all offer the same message, “we are here for you,” and “though it may not seem it, your children need you.”

ACE, ask, care, escort.  It is that simple.  This fellow cancer patient has reached out for help.  It is not up to us to decide if he really wants to die, and we certainly do not want that for him.  The conversations continue still this late in the evening from his initial posting this afternoon.

In my lifetime, I have known many family and friends who have served during war times.  I do not know anyone who died during those battles.  But I have attended military funerals.  They are powerfully emotional tributes.  I remember Memorial Day services in my childhood, which included military gun salutes.  And of course, we always got “poppies.”

There was always plenty of time for the picnics and parties.  There always is.  But there is also time to make sure that you honor our fallen military men and women.  And that is what this weekend is ultimately about.

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