There is No Tomorrow – A Fathers Heartache Part 12

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Oh how I have missed having my children with me.  These past couple of weeks without being able to see them due to the Thanksgiving holiday was difficult for us.  It is frustrating to think anyone would keep their child away from a parent, yet that is the unfortunate reality that my children and I face.  It was 14 days since my last 4 hour visit, and I only had 4 hours to spend with them last night, 4 hours to last us another week.

These nights are about what the kids want to do.  Interestingly enough they all wanted to go spend some time in our home.  My wife was working late, so it was the 4 of us at home.  Alexa and Londyn wanted to play together as they missed each other so much.  The girls quickly took off to the bedrooms to laugh and giggle, followed much later my a game of hide and seek with all of them.  My son Bridger wanted to shoot on his nerf hoop in his room, so we shot around for a little while, while our baby Bella chased everyone in the house in her walker.

The house was full of noise and laughter.  A far cry from the normal silence we face when the oldest 3 are away with the other parent.  I hunger for those moments of sweet music as the children laugh and play together.  My home is meant to have the sound of little feet as they pitter patter across the hardwood, the giggles and the joy that comes from them when they are together.    I treasure these moments in time as they are fleeting for us.  Our children are growing so fast and these few opportunities go by so fast as I try to hold onto them and stay in the moment.

As our night was coming to an end last night, Bridger asked me about this blog.  I suggested he write a story and draw a picture for it that we could post.   He loves to write and draw, yet thinks he isn’t very good at it.  As the eternal optimist and wanting to encourage him to chase his dreams, i posted his story last night to show him that people would read it and like it.   Thank you for proving me right.

https://jisbell22.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/tim-and-his-monster-by-my-11-year-old-son-bridger

I was once told by someone dear to me, whom is married to his first wife and has raised their kids in a traditional family that I spend more one on one time with my kids than they do.  This saddened me to think that could even be possible.  I yearn for time with my children and live for these moments when I get to see them.  I have spent my life wanting to be a great father and do the best I can with very limited opportunity.  I truly live for these moments.

Over the years as I have pondered these comments, I wonder if the reason that was said was due to the fact that I give my children the attention they need when I have them with me.  We pray, we play, we cry, we laugh and we love one another and spending time together,  Maybe its because we don’t get the time we would otherwise have that we spend every possible minute together.  Maybe others take for granted that time that we do not as a result of our limited time together.  Maye our time together becomes more important because we don’t have tomorrow to ride bikes, play and laugh.  We can’t procrastinate the time we spend together as a family whereas others might put things off because they can where we can’t.  Maybe by putting things off, they never get to it?  I have never fully understood his words, nor how it is even possible.  I can only guess.   I have learned over the years to always find joy in the journey.

A BLESSED WEEK – A Fathers Heartache part 7

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The school that my children attend is year round.  They are on a track schedule where they are out of school for 3 weeks and then go back for 12 weeks and then off again.  During the 3 weeks from school, I am able to spend time with them for one week during each off track cycle.   I look forward with great anticipation for this golden moment in time.  This is a time for my children and I to reconnect, a time when we can let our walls down and strengthen our relationship.

Last week was one of those precious moments in time that I treasure above everything else.

I left the office at noon everyday last week in an effort to maximize every single second I could with my dear children.  We went to the movies, the arcade, the ballpark.  We carved our pumpkins and went for hikes.  We laughed and we cried together.  It is in these tender moments of mercy that I am able to have with my children that keep me energized and capable of continuing on during the difficult times in between.

My children were able to participate in the primary program on Sunday. I fought the tears as I watched them sing and give their little parts during the program.  It was the first time I had ever been able to see them in a primary program, I savored the moment watching them.  During dinner Sunday night, my dear wife asked the kids what they liked most about spending this week with us, the answer that my son gave me brought tears to my eyes as he replied, “our family and being part of it.” Words are incapable of expressing what I felt at that moment.

Sunday night, as I sat on the couch with Londyn laying in one arm and Bridger laying on the other, we reflected together on the fun times we had during the week.  I was able to tell both of them how deeply I love them and how grateful I am to be their dad.  We cried together as we felt the realization that our week together was coming to a close.  We took courage and strength in knowing this would be a short week apart as the coming Halloween and weekend would be spent together, our first Halloween that had fallen on a night with dad.

As I dropped them off early Monday morning, on my way to work, I thanked my Father in Heaven for the time I was able to spend with them.  I pondered the coming silence I knew would take place without the phone calls and communication.  I looked forward to the coming weekend and holding them in my arms again.

I live for these moments with my children.  I yearn to be a full time dad to them, to tuck them in each night and to hug and kiss them each day.  It is through the weeks like we just shared that I know I am making a difference in their lives, and they in mine.

MY PRINCESS WITH A HEART OF GOLD AND A BROKEN WING – A Fathers Heartache part 6

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My dear sweet little girl turns 9 next month.  She was only 20 months old when my ex left.  Over the years this precious little girl has experienced tremendous turmoil in her life.  The man that my ex left with turned out to be very abusive physically and emotionally, not only to my ex but to my children.  My kids would tell me stories of his abuse, how they would hide together under the bed every time this man became angry, which apparently happened a lot.

When my kids were little, I used to be frustrated at finally getting to spend time with them and they would crash!  Within 20 minutes of my getting them they would be fast asleep.  This happened nearly every single time for two plus years.  I longed to play with them and to be able to spend quality time, yet each time they would come over they would spend the vast majority of our time together sleeping.  I would normally sit on the couch holding both of them, one in each arm for hours as they peacefully slept.  This was difficult for me to have my time with them spent sleeping.

I spoke with a friend who is a psychologist to express my feelings about this.   She informed me that my kids were falling asleep so quickly because they felt peaceful and safe with me.   Their lives were in such disarray and turmoil that they were exhausted when they came with me, the peace they felt allowed them to relax and fall asleep.  She told me that they needed this time desperately.  I was relieved to know why, yet heartbroken to think that they would be living this way with their mom.

My daughter was being potty trained at the time that my ex left and married him, as you can imagine, all the changes and turmoil led to many accidents for her.  Bridger expressed their fear to me again one night and told me how Londyn had been spanked hard bare bottom for having an accident and how Wade had yelled and yelled at her until she was too scared to even move.

I confronted them on their doorstep that night regarding this, I had called the police and met them at the house.   The police simply told me it was a civil matter and I needed to go to court again to resolve this issue.  Again I headed into the courtroom to protect my children from this abuse.  The judges ruling was appalling.  Since it was not her mother abusing her she would not change the custody and I was reprimanded for getting the police involved.

Needless the say my children have experienced much pain and heartache over the years as a result of the many men my ex has brought in and out of their lives.  This has created, especially for my precious little girl, an emotional distance from people.  I see the walls she has built to protect her tender little heart.  I see glimpses of hope in  her eyes as time goes by, especially during the times when she is with us for longer than a weekend.  Those few opportunities each year that they get to spend more than 2 days in a row in our home seem to open her up where she can express her love.

Londyn is my Angel With Broken Wings.  My heart aches each time I see her struggle to say I love you to anyone.  Her heart is so incredibly large, she is the first one in the family to help others.  She shows her love through her actions each and everyday of her life, yet the emotional sharing and connections she struggles with deeply as a result of what she has experienced.

We try so hard to carefully help her take down her walls.  My wife and I focus on her needs as they relate to feeling unconditionally the love and acceptance and safety in our home.  As she gets older, she is able to more effectively express her thoughts which have led to a greater opportunity for those moments when she will share her feelings.   I make certain that the days when Bridger has practice and Londyn does not have cheer when they are with me that time is sacred time for Londyn and I.  We have our regular daddy daughter time when it is all about her and her needs.   I wish deeply that I could have more opportunities to spend one on one time with her.

A couple of times each month I will have lunch with her at school.  Each time I walk into the school cafeteria her eyes will light up and she scoots over to make room for me at the table with her friends.  It warms my heart with each opportunity to sit at the table with her and her friends as they talk about school and their recess plans.  The hugs in school when I leave are getting stronger and stronger.  She will whisper in my ear each time I love you daddy, thank you!  I pray that these little things that I am able to do will help to heal her broken wings.

I dream of the day when I can see my little girl soar.  When her tender heart has healed enough to be able to fly on her own.  When sharing her feelings and emotions with those she loves comes naturally.  In the meantime, I watch her put on a brave smile everyday as she tries to conquer the world, while knowing how much her tender heart aches.  She is a Princess, with a heart of gold and a broken wing.

BRIDGERS COURAGE – A Fathers Heartache part 4

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My son is devoted to his football team.  He loves playing football, he even turned down a trip to Disneyland with me so he wouldn’t miss a practice, he wouldn’t let his team down.  He has spent the past 3 1/2 years playing quarterback and loves to be in the middle of all the action.  His team took 2nd place two years ago and are the defending champions from last year.  Sports have helped keep my dear boy on stable ground during all the tumult of his short little life.  In spite of all his mothers moves, we have been able to keep him on the same teams throughout these years which has allowed him to develop some deep friendships on the team, many of the boys play on the same competitive football, basketball and lacrosse teams.

One week ago today after practice Bridger called me, which is extremely rare and NEVER happens so I knew something was up. I could hear the sorrow in his voice as he fought back the emotion coming from his broken heart.  I quietly listened to my son through his cracking voice as he told me that the coaches had decided to bench him because he missed a block in Saturdays game.  Immediately my mind raced back to Saturdays game and I could recall the block he missed, I couldn’t forget it as I vividly remember the assistant coaches tirade directed toward my son from the sidelines.  As a parent, it is often difficult to hold my tongue when a coach goes off on the 11 year old boys.  I choose instead to discuss privately with the coaches that my opinion is that the yelling is overboard and that they can be more effective and get better play from the boys with a calm criticism instead of the ranting and raving.

My heart ached for my son.  I knew how deeply important this is to him.  I know all too well that this is what has helped my son cope with the heartaches he feels and the sorrow at not being able to see me when he wants.  Sports, especially football have been a lifeline for him, he has devoted himself to his team and being there for them.  His example of commitment and what that includes has been inspiring to me.  His focus and dedication to practice and game time has been exemplar.  My immediate thought as a loving father was how can they do this to him for one play?  Wisely I kept my tongue and asked first how he was doing with the change.  His voice broke now, with tears as he told me he understood and wanted what was best for his team.

Now it was my turn to fight back the emotion and the tears as my heart broke for my son.  I cleared my throat and asked him what now.  He informed me that the coaches said he could play on special teams and fill in at safety.  I asked him who the new quarterback was going to be and if he would still be the backup.  He quietly told me that it was the coaches son who would take his place and that he wouldn’t even be backing him up.  Never in my life had I had to deal with the politics of little league sports in this manner.  How can I explain to my son that it is ok that after 3 1/2 years in his position and being very successful in it that he was now taken out so that the coaches son, who had never even taken a snap could be the star player?

Then as I was fighting the building frustration at the incredulous politics of little league football, my son said, “it’s OK dad, it will be best for the team.  i just want our team to do well.”  My son reinforced in me at that moment that all the long conversations over the years we had shared, about being a leader, about teamwork, about lifting those around you and making them better, about how leaders lead from example, that these conversations had sunk in.  My boy understood more about life, more about people, more about leadership, more about compassion than most adults do.

Sadly, the call had to end as I could hear his mother telling him he had to get off the phone now.  I expressed my deep love and admiration for my boy as he quietly whispered, “I love you Dad” as he hung up the phone.

My heart was breaking for more reasons than my sons sorrow.  It was full of love and gratitude with the knowledge that although our time is extremely limited and our moments to talk rare, my son had learned the important things in life that I have tried so hard to teach him.  My efforts have not been in vain and those small moments of time when we are together have impacted my sons life.  I had made a difference in his life that I never thought possible given the circumstances we were forced into.  I ached to hold my son in my arms and comfort him, yet I knew he could feel my arms around him without me being next to him to hold him.

Saturdays game came. The team suffered their worst loss of the year.  I watched him as he awkwardly paced the sidelines while his offensive teammates were on the field.  I watched as he cheered for his friends and congratulated the new quarterback when he made a good play, i could see his heartache and longing to be in the game written in his eyes, yet he hid that from his team. I took tremendous pride as I watched as my son stepped in on defense and prevented 2 touchdowns. Yet during all this, he made a contribution to his team that I am not certain even the other boys realize,  my son showed by tremendous courage and true leadership on Saturday. Although he wasn’t the one leading the offense, he led the team from the sidelines with his quiet courage and strength as he accepted willingly the decisions others had made, while cheering on his teammates in a futile loss.  My son has learned that choices of others impact everyone, even his own.

ANOTHER WEEKEND – A Fathers Heartache part 3

 

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Another anticipated weekend with my children has ended.  I dread Sunday nights when they have to go back to their mothers.  I worry about the environment they live in, and the fighting that takes place in that home. I worry about how well they rest at night sleeping on the floor, she sold their beds to go shopping last year and still hasn’t replaced them.  I cringe to think that this is acceptable in the court systems here in Utah.  I worry about them each time that they leave and feel powerless and helpless to do anything. 

There isn’t much from a legal standpoint that I haven’t raised in an effort to protect my children from this vagabond life they live.  I find myself caught in protecting my children against the abusive neglectful powers of the Judges and the court system.

The kids tried to remain positive this weekend about their new home, yet I could sense the frustration about another change in their voices.  I quietly listened offering words of encouragement as they would bring up their new home in conversation over the weekend.   I desperately want my children to learn to see life in a positive way and another move is no exception as we focused on the positives of the new apartment.  We focused on the basketball courts and the proximity to the schools.  We shared the excitement that they would be able to stay in the same elementary, one less change to worry about.

Friday started like all the Friday’s past start.  I picked them up after school and after running a couple of errands for work. We talked about the week, school, homework, friends, cheer, dance, football, basketball, and spent the first hour catching up on the past week,  Things that we would normally discuss on the phone if my ex would simply allow it.  

After the errands were run we met my dear amazing wife Karla at home.   She was getting ready to leave with our baby to pickup her daughter, Alexa,  from school, she is 11 and very close to my daughter, Londyn.  She loves being a big sister.  Tonight was to be girls night while I took Bridger to football practice and then dinner.  The girls went and had dinner and then got their nails done.  I watched Bridger practice and get ready for Saturdays game.  How he loves sports!

That night we arrived home around 9:00 pm.  The girls followed about 20 minutes later and we had our family activity at home.  Tonight the kids wanted to make tie dye shirts for everyone.  We stayed up until nearly midnight tying and coloring the shirts, each with a very different design and colors.   We laughed and listened to the radio as we spent our Friday night together.

Saturday morning we were off to football!   The girls were in the cheer leading outfits ready to go!  Bridger excitedly talked about his game on the way.  He wanted to have the best game possible.  He wanted to lead his team to a WIN.  Well, it didn’t quite go as planned..  WE LOST 13-14..  It was a heart breaker.  To make matters worse, Bridger was pulled out of the game for one series for missing some blocks.  When he finally went back in, he was setting up to pass the ball when he was hit hard, down and out!  His game was over, he was hurt.

After the game the two of us spoke quietly as he beat himself up for getting pulled.  The injury was only a bruised hip, it would heal, his emotions however were fragile. We spoke of opportunities and growth.  I encouraged him that life is like football, you spend a lot more time on your backside than you do making the big plays.  It’s about consistency and getting back up on your feet each time you get knocked down.  I expressed my love for him, after a hug we felt better and we were able to continue on with our day together.

Next the family took off to the pumpkin patch to get our pumpkins.  The kids excitedly raced through the corn maze and then into the fields to find their own PERFECT pumpkins!  Karla and I smiled as the kids giggled and laughed as they raced around the fields.  The sound of their laughter providing ever so slightly some tender healing from my Father in Heaven for my broken heart.  Then we finished up the afternoon with lunch and then we decorated the yard.  The kids enjoy decorating the house and yard so much for the holidays!  They love being a part of it, I believe it provides some stability in their chaotic and hectic lives.

Saturday night, Karla and I had a surprise for the kids.  A river cruise with a pirate!  We arrived, the kids anxiously asking what we were doing and trying to figure it out.    They ran to the boat when they figured out what was happening, chasing each other around and giggling as they did so.  Again, another tender mercy.  Oh how my heart swells each time I hear them laugh!  We spent the evening floating down a river, looking at Jack 0 Lanterns and halloween displays, being chased by pirates.  Family time!!  There is NOTHING better in my book!   A time to heal from all the wounds and stresses of life outside of the family!  Afterwards we stopped and picked out the Halloween costumes, went home and CRASHED for the night, exhausted yet filled with love, laughter and joy!

Sunday came with a fall barbeque in the backyard with family and friends.   I watched as I held our baby girl as the kids played football, rugby tag and jumped on the trampoline with their cousins and their friends!  Our backyard was full, plenty of food, good times, laughter and stories all filled with love.

Then the weekend came to an end, time for the goodbyes and hugs and kisses.  I truly ache each time I say goodbye to them.  Sunday night farewells for me are some of the most difficult.  The realization hits me each time I watch as I drop them off and they leave, that I only have 4 hours with them over the next 19 days. I will find time this week for lunch at school, just to see them and tell them how much I love them.  My heart breaks with each final kiss. I express deeply to them how much I love them and we say a prayer together that Heavenly Father will keep us safe until we can be together again. 

I spend each day of my life praying that my children will understand the magnitude of my love for them and truly how I would move Heaven and Earth to be with them.  I hope that as they grow older, wiser and stronger that they will see in me a father who loved them unconditionally and did everything in my power to be with them, and not a part time dad who was there every other weekend.