Friday, October 4, 2013


I deactivated my Facebook account a few days ago. I've done exactly the opposite of what I've encouraged several friends and family members to do. Don't let them chase you away, I've said. Don't let them get the best of you. Don't give them the satisfaction. But I couldn't even take my own advice. I couldn't stay. I just wasn't strong enough.

A little over a month ago, we received an email from our oldest son informing us that he had been searching for his biological father - my ex - for a number of years, had finally located him and had every intention of contacting him. I took offense to the manner in which we were informed and sent a short and somewhat curt response, then took to my password protected blog to vent my frustration.

My son took offense to the titles of those blogs in a scathing email. I have not responded.

A couple of days later, our son posted the information in a public announcement on Facebook, then we noticed that he and his wife had "friended" my ex, his wife, his son and his son's wife, then later my ex's sister.

Over the last month, Tom and our son have emailed back and forth several times, each trying to explain his thoughts and feelings, but tempers quickly escalated and have remained high. The emails they exchanged weren't accomplishing anything. There wasn't any resolution or foundation for any sort of understanding or agreement.

A few days ago, I decided to read those emails and just a few sentences into one of them, I stopped. I stared at the computer screen. It didn't seem to matter that his revelations created more questions than answers for us. He made it clear he didn't even want to talk to us about it.

I sat there just staring at his words. I couldn't move my gaze past them. My eyes teared up. I took a deep breath and wiped my cheek. One word: Wow.

How did this happen? When did he stop caring? Why didn't I notice? How did I miss it? I felt completely disrespected and I started an emotional downward spiral I couldn't keep in check. What did I do? Where did I go wrong? Bad mom, bad mom, bad mom.

Then a couple of days later, my son posted on Facebook an old photo he received from my ex's family, a "family" portrait of me, my ex, his parents, sister and my son. I remembered it well. The negative body language was discernible and the staged "happy family" photo was almost laughable since it was taken just weeks before we separated for the second and last time and I filed for divorce. It made my stomach turn. Later that same evening, my daughter-in-law posted a photo, oddly enough, of my ex's old car at the 1970 Winternationals in southern California. I shook my head. Ironically, it was my ex's trip to the 1968 Winternationals with all of our money in hand, driving our only car and leaving me with a baby just over a year old, a half gallon of milk, 6 eggs, a few slices of bread, no money and no transportation, that was the final straw, the week I'd finally had enough, moved out and filed for divorce. Old, ugly memories came flooding back. This was exactly what I didn't want and what I feared the most - the possibility of being forced daily to view remnants of some of the worst times of my life. I immediately deactivated my Facebook page in order to detach myself from all of it.

But, last night I had a moment of clarity, or what the Greeks call an epiphany, or what my father-in-law calls a revelation, or what some of my friends might call divine inspiration.

I've had some really tough times in my life. I've written about some of them here. I've moved on and have lived a pretty damn good life with a man I love deeply and who has loved and supported me for over 45 years. A person can overcome and move on from almost anything when you have that on your side of the court.

But, it's impossible to move on or even maintain your integrity and a positive equilibrium if you're forced to sit on the floor surrounded by old yellowed photographs that constantly remind you of how miserable you used to be. It achieves nothing and disrespects any positive outcome you try to create. Yes, the key is to move on and create new, positive and uplifting experiences and memories, but it's also choosing not to resurrect the hurtful past by taking control of who and what enters or reenters your life, your space. I have to admit that I've not been really good about doing that in the past. I've allowed people back into my life repeatedly, knowing the baggage they carry with them and the memories they stir within me, only to be forced, once again, to demand their exit.

I have no idea what my ex is like today. I don't care because it doesn't matter. What matters is how I feel when I see his name or his photo. I see the person who treated me and my son with utter disdain and such neglect that it endangered, on more than one occasion, my son's health and well-being. I see a person who chose to abandon his human responsibility in order to serve his own selfish material desires. That is my bias. That is my history. I choose not to relive it or resurrect it in any form.

While I can ask others to respect my history, my personal space and my boundaries, I must first respect myself enough to control these areas in my life. Today I am saying, "Do not enter. You are not welcome here and I'm not going back there, even if it's just for a minute."

I don't know what my son will do or how far he will take this. Only time will tell. It's his life. He's an adult. I love him and I want to give him all the space and time he needs to follow his journey, wherever it leads him. But it doesn't mean I have to go with him.

I have missed my friends and family on Facebook, but to be free of the reminders and negative input has been so uplifting. I feel lighter than I have all month. I may reactivate my account some time in the future, but I'll set my parameters to weed out as much of the peripheral negativity as I can. If that doesn't work, I'll have to deactivate it permanently.

Finally, just for the record, there seems to be some confusion about what constitutes a "real dad." When a man deposits his sperm, wipes his hands clean and abandons his responsibility for the life it helped create, he's a sperm donor. When a man commits to opening his heart and raising a child, supports, gives freely of hugs, kisses and laughter, heals wounds, cleans up vomit, changes diapers, attends parent/teacher conferences, cheers at soccer and baseball games, teaches integrity and respect, and loves unconditionally, regardless of whether sperm is involved, he's a "real dad."

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