Sometimes life does not turn out the way you had always thought it would. As I get older, I realize there are many reasons for this. People change, friends change, people move away, friendships change, life changes. We change. I change. It happens.
I had come across a picture the other day of Kia and Durango, my dog and cat, I once had. It was as if I had stared at the picture and suddenly became frozen in time, kind of like that 1980 movie Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour, where Reeves finds himself back in time with his long lost love, and finds a penny in his pocket from the era he came from – catapulting him back to his present day. Such is how I felt when I came across the picture as I was going through my laptop the other day. A flood of memories came over me, as if I had become temporally paralyzed.
My mind recalled the moment I had snapped that picture, how playful Durango was with Kia, and Kia basically tolerated Durango’s rants. It brought me to a different place in my life where kids were younger and life seemed simpler. We were still in that “raising kids” mode, and the future was anybody’s guess at that time. I don’t recall having a negative experience with the kids, in that they were “just kids” and we were just your average family. Unbeknownst to anyone, I had a secret that I had been keeping for years, and not a soul was suspect. Who knew that someday my life would bust open.
What seemed like an eternity followed, with endless discussions with attorneys and legal pursuits would become my own private hell for some four or five years to follow. Going through a divorce has changed me more than any single even, though a divorce is hardly a single event in itself. They say divorce brings out the best and worse in people and your true colors come out. This holds true for relatives and children as a direct result of the divorce. Not that I would ever expect sympathy or even contact from my ex’s relatives, but as they say, blood is thicker than water. I have never talked with anyone on her side of the family since then, nor would I have expected to. But after some 20 years of being “family” I would have thought that even a passive email may have happened at some time. Maybe not. Maybe I am just living in the past.
But one thing I did not expect to happen was that my estranged daughter would continue her own pessimistic journey of hate and despair, and basically not to have any contact with me. For the first few years, I tried exhaustively to reach out to her and re-establish contact. She has always been stubborn and self-righteous, and her continual denial of my role in her life truly makes her own ‘colors’ come out. I was a good father to her, or so I would like to think at least. I had told her many times “I am divorcing your mother, not you!”. It is especially hurtful when she is many times the hypocrite I am, proclaiming a Christian love and forgiveness for all. In fact, my last contact with her was a text message a few years ago saying “I forgive you.” Forgiveness to me means overlooking mistakes that happened in the past, and moving on as if it never happened. It means rebuilding bridges that have been torn down and needs fixing. It means looking in the mirror, realizing that we’re all not perfect, even though we may always think it is the other guy, not me.
I feel like my hands are tied. I have tried to re-connect with her, but you cannot force people to think your way. I used to think every single day about her, but now I have moved on to a point where I have more-or-less accepted the past in that I cannot change anyone but myself and everyone must face their own reality. Knowing her, she craves the attention of my so-called abandonment and “poor father” I was to her as if to gain empathy from others. She is and always will be an attention whore. I am sure that part of her has not changed.
This last year has been a bit trying as well as my son moved out-of-state with his girlfriend. I had minimal contact before when he lived 50 miles away in San Jose, but now he is some 2500 miles away. Even if I talk with his just as much as before, there is a significant difference when someone moves that far away. You can’t just drive down on a Saturday afternoon for lunch. I have to admit that I am disappointed with how my relationship is with him these days, recalling how my own days of his age were often spent hanging out with my dad in his work shop. I just wanted to be with him. Period.
Kids are different these days. High tech gadgets and social media. Both my kids seem somewhat apathetic and self-consumed. They are consumed with their own lives in a way that crowds out parents. While I have not talked with her, I am sure my ex feels similarly with kids moving away. It is understandable that kids want to start their own lives and have their own identity, but at what costs? Ignoring the parents that raised them?
Then I look at my wife’s kids today. One lives fairly far away and the other has a very active social life. Both keep in regular touch with both parents, not just one. I admire that. Not just my wife’s efforts to retain the relationships, but that both kids do the same, even with a steady boyfriend, or weekly going out to clubs and having fun. Both kids keep in constant touch with their mother and father, though they are divorced. So where did I go wrong?
Times change. It is amazing what a single picture does to you and the flood of memories and emotions it brings back to you.
I do not miss the “old times” per se. I do enjoy the present life. But in many ways, I have to admit, I feel robbed in my relationships I lack with immediate family and even cousins. I wish things were different, and though I tried many times to re-connect with cousins, they all just want to live their own lives.
…. and then some reach out to me only for a donation when a family member is ill, or help pay for travel or income reimbursement due to hardship? Sometimes it is more of a curse than a blessing of having so many cousins. More reasons for isolation and avoidance of the drama.
Life changes. Sometimes it is hard to stay current and not think about what once was, simpler times.