I played that song over and over on my cell phone’s tiny little speaker. I couldn’t fight back the tears anymore and my sons could see it. They just fell and I couldn’t stop them anymore. I wouldn’t stop them anymore. I was done. I KNEW I was a good father and couldn’t hear one more person question that. Not only just “another person” but my own mother; the person in my life that was supposed to be my biggest cheerleader; the one who should know me better than anyone else. It was the straw and I was finished. There was no need for further thought. I picked up my sons, put their shoes on we were out the door. Gone. Doing something that was technically illegal, but should never have been so. There was no “approved” supervisor at that moment; I was alone with my boys and we listened to this song over and over as I just drove. It had given me strength before and I was hoping it could work one more time.
To give some background, I separated with my wife at the end of January 2008. I had lied, I had cheated, and worst of all, I had hurt the people I loved. However, amongst all those lies I had gained truth. It was a truth I had fought against. I didn’t want it to be truth, but I could no longer deny it. There was turmoil in how to embrace that truth and not destroy lives. Unfortunately I did hurt people. I loved being a father, I wanted to be a father and I couldn’t see that existing after I told my truth: I am a gay man. My truth had finally brought me peace when I was taught that it shouldn’t. It did and I couldn’t pray that peace away. It, however, didn’t come without complications and pain.
I had made plans to tell Liz that it was over and that I would be leaving. It was going to happen. The first Wednesday in February; I couldn’t deny it any longer. I was going to go tell one of the guys that had been very present on my journey. He was out of state at that time and I was going to take off with the car for a few days and, after telling him, I would be home to tell Liz and find a new place to live. Boston was the plan as “Boston” by Augustana was an unofficial theme for me. That was the plan and I had finally accepted it. I was nervous, but I had an inkling of peace.
My plans didn’t happen. I was driving to work one morning (1 week before my first Wednesday deadline) and I got the call. The guy I had shared my journey with was on his way home to SLC and I knew it was over. I wasn’t going to be in control of my coming out. She had no details, but knew enough to know that it was over. That I wasn’t going to be around anymore. We were no longer a couple facing this together; we were now individuals backed into our corners. I said nothing to her, I didn’t need to. He would be in SLC soon enough and he would tell her everything. I was numb.
At the beginning of the week (the week of my Wednesday) she told me we could file online and it would be over. No need to fight or make this expensive. By the end of the week, I was notified she had an attorney and it was time to lawyer up. I knew I was fighting her family and I knew it was going to get ugly. I had already gotten the call from her saying that I would not have any in-person alone time with my sons. I could call or I could see them at my sister’s house, there was no other option. I was angry. I had been stripped of my natural duties as my son’s father. Then, I made the number one mistake most heterosexually married, but divorcing gay men make: I let guilt drive me. I had met with a “bulldog” attorney that was going to push fast and push hard to stop this madness. It was going to get even more ugly and he was going to make it a point to become a total annoyance to the other attorney. I felt good, but then guilt came back. I was the one who cheated, I was the one who stepped out. I was the GAY one. So, I kept looking. I met with an attorney that seemed “nice”. He appeared to have some knowledge as to what he was doing and he seemed calm. He was the guy I was looking for. One who could solve my problems, talk smoothly, and persuade the other attorney to solve this. I was wrong on so many levels. He was tree-hugging hippie that suggested I take a trip to nature to calm down ahead of the temporary orders hearing. I was still only seeing my sons if I agreed to have my sister supervise at her house. I went from Dad to visitor. April 12th rolled around and we were set to meet in court for the first time. (Ironically that was the day I proposed 5 years earlier, and the week I had first talked to Liz in 9th grade) I had grown concerned over the overly calm demeanor of my attorney and his lack of responsiveness. He assured me that he knew what he was doing. The attorneys decided to try to settle as much as possible before meeting the judge. I went into a little conference room and Liz and her gang went into theirs. Two of her brothers were there. I knew I wasn’t fighting her, I was fighting them.
This was a temporary orders hearing, not an actual divorce hearing. I gave in and gave in and gave in. I was losing everything and wasn’t too surprised. Material things were not my concern. Being a father again was my concern. It finally came down to that. She had requested that I be granted minimal visitation with strict supervision. I was appalled. I had always been a great father. She had always told me how glad she was that I her children’s father. She had told me how much more involved I was than many of the other fathers she knew. This was her anger talking, this was her family’s anger talking. She had requested that I jump through all sorts of hoops and psych evaluations in order to allay her fears that I was a danger to my sons. I had lied, I had cheated, I had emotionally hurt her and others in my coming out, but I had NEVER hurt my children. My lies had brought out a greater truth. I was a gay father. I was finally at peace with myself. I had a sense of honesty and integrity that was never present before. I was a great father and needed to be in that role ASAP. I will give my attorney some credit. He at least didn’t foul up as much as he could have. He convinced me (because he really was unprepared) to go along with her request with a few modifications. I would only be allowed to see my children if one of my family members was present or one friend that I had known since I was a kid. That was it, no one else unless they were directly approved by her. I would see a therapist of my choice and she would have a chance to talk with her as well. I had to prove that I wasn’t a danger to my children. That was really the one and only night I have ever drunk alone. A bottle of 99 Bananas, some poor gay man I was chatting with, and my misery. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, but that didn’t stop me that night. My life had been stripped from me and I had no idea where to go from there. My lawyer had failed and I had failed. However, it did cure my guilt. My infidelity had nothing to do with my children and I wasn’t going to watch as she attempted to push her version of cause and effect on me.
My over-priced attorney dropped me 3 weeks later…..magically just before his license was suspended.
So as of April 12th 2008, I had been unnaturally stripped of my natural role as a father. I was a visitor in my children;s lives; a visitor that was ordered to have supervision. I was told that I was an unfit person. Those that knew me had decided that this punishment was fitting an unrelated crime. Worst of all, my sons became fatherless at the hands of an attorney that took an early weekend to go paint his house.
Flash forward about 6 months. The divorce still trudged along. My family became more and more distant and even less likely to act as supervision. I honestly stopped texting them about it. It hurt too much not only to hear the “we’re” busy, but more the overwhelming silence. No reply, no excuse, no concern. Shane’s wife (Shane being the one and only non-family adult allowed as supervision) had returned from Mexico and I had moved out of his place. It became difficult for him to be supervision anymore, but he did what he could. I saw my sons for a few hours here and there. On a rare occasion I would see them for an overnight. That was rare.
The only time I had my boys to myself was in putting them to bed. There was no one there (not that Shane really wanted to be). It was dad time. It was our time. It was time to sing “Baby Beluga” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Down by the Bay” and all the other favorites. It was time to snuggle and talk about the day. It was time to laugh. It was time to be a family; no one there to look down on us or try to step in and parent. It was our time. It was always too short, but I cherished those quiet moments laying on the floor of Shane’s basement “camping out” with my sons. It was the few moments of peace I had in those ugly times.
Those that have survived some of my previous posts (a certain novel-like one comes to mind) will know that music has a very strong way of connecting with me. “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol is one such song that has great meaning.
I first heard this song as a heterosexually married man. Many may think of it as a romantic love song, but it never was for me. I liked the song a lot, but had no real life attachment it matched to. I didn't feel this way about being with my wife even though I did earnestly try. I tried and tried to find songs that matched us, but they never did.
So, it was a song I just loved and let it at that. No correlation to real life, just good music.
That changed in those nights of momentary peace when my sons and I would lay down for bed and have family time; time where I could look in the eyes of these amazing boys and see that they didn’t judge me or hate me. They looked up to me. They loved me.
This song came to have meaning. I would play it on my phone on occasion when they almost asleep and I was taking a few moments to myself to enjoy being a dad. They would hear me play it occasionally and began to see it as Daddy’s song. Tucker would asking me to play the “car song” over and over. It melted my heart and it was our song to us.
It may have the appearance of a romantic song, but it doesn’t have that meaning to me. To me it fits life with my sons and the love I have for them. It is a song that reminds me of the few moments we have to ourselves. (side note, finally proved supervision was ridiculous and no longer have that hurdle in my life). It reminds me of those nights just laying in bed sharing time with my sons as they fell asleep. We had the world in front of us with no limits in those fleeting moments.
My sons are my greatest teachers. Their innocence, their compassion, their resilience, and, most importantly, their unconditional love for me have kept life buoyant in an otherwise world of rough seas. Love is only the beginning of how they touch my heart.
Looking in their eyes I saw innocence. I saw the promise of letting my children keep their optimistic, unconditional love for the world in their lives. I unlearned so much prejudice as their student. I hope to be a better man and help them keep that openness to the world. Let them love who they want and see people as people, not gay, not straight, not black, not Latino, not poor, not “different.”
And, so it happened as I mentioned in the first paragraph. Those who are supposed to love me and support me didn’t. My family had walked out in a time of need. Those that didn’t walk made it a point to stand around and take their jabs. My mom’s comment to me about whether I wanted to be a good dad was enough. I didn’t need to feel their lack of understanding anymore. I didn’t need their judgment anymore.
So, as said before, I picked up the boys and we left. I broke the rules, and I didn’t care. I was their dad and I was a damn good one, or at least did everything I could to be.
Life is tossing some ugly things at me. People I want to trust (one specially) continue to break that trust. Continue to turn to the negative. Continue to hurt and bring me down. I have stood up to that, but it comes at a great price. Now I will have to fight to secure that my sons have equal access to a dad they love.
So, this song is our song. My son’s still ask me to play it on my phone or light up when it comes on the radio (partially, I’m sure, because Tucker loves cars so much). It is about us. There will always be rough seas, but I will always be their dad and they will always be my sons. When life hits hard and I feel alone or when my heart just aches to see my amazing sons I play this song. Still makes me cry, but brings me peace. I picture their love as I look into their perfect eyes. We will always have that love and bond that fathers and sons should have.
We may end up being a family always doing it all on our own. I may never find the right guy to love and add to our family. I may never be loved or accepted by my family again. I may never have riches or even a house of my very own again, but we will always have each other. We still have our nights at bedtime to sing, to laugh, to smile. We can forget the world, forget their judgment, forget the pain. We can look forward to their dreams and wishes. We can see a “garden bursting into life.”