TENDER MERCIES – A Fathers Heartache part 10

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I have never seen my children on the first day of school.  I don’t know what that is like to see the excitement of the first day of school, their new teachers, classroom and friends.  Most often I am unable to find out how the first day of school went for almost a week, when they come to visit.  They aren’t allowed to phone, the only time I find out sooner are those occasions when I can get to the school for lunch with them.

I seldom get the opportunity to take my kids to school, maybe two or three times a year I get this treat to pray with them in the morning before school and wish them a good day as they head off to class.  Most people take these moments with their children granted as a regular occurrence, for me these are tender mercies and opportunities to experience a wonderful time with my children.

Today was such a rare wonderful opportunity to experience this moment in time with them.  This morning was extra special as I was able to wake them and get them ready for school, take them, pray with them and see them off. Today,  I got the extra special treat of picking them up from school on the same day.  Days like this are rare, I treasure them and realize the blessing that they are.  These moments with my children are what keep me pressing forward everyday.  I try not to focus on the issues my ex creates in her controlling nature and enjoy the moments that are mine.

My children attend a school with a year round track schedule and today was the first day back to school from being off track for the past 3 weeks.  With Veterans day this year falling as my holiday I was able to spend the weekend, an extra weekend with them and take them to school today.  As I watched their excitement and nervousness at going back to school after this break, I reflected upon this day and the similarities it must have to an actual first day of a new school year.

I have missed out on many opportunities, ones that I will never be able to get back with my children, today was a gift from God, an opportunity to experience ever so slightly something I have yearned to experience with my children for a lifetime.  Although today wasn’t an actual first day of school, I am grateful to have this opportunity to have as close to one as I have ever experienced.

I OFTEN SIT IN SILENCE, I OFTEN SIT ALONE – A Fathers Heartache Part 9

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Last night was my sons annual football banquet.  Each year I put together a highlight video for the boys and their families to watch, each boy is given a copy as a memento of the season.  Last night was no exception and after hours of preparation the video was again ready to go and copies made for each boy.

I arrived at the restaurant early to make certain that everything was ready to go and that video would play on their televisions. Once this was finished I anxiously waited for my boy to arrive.  I hadn’t seen him in days and was excited for the opportunity to talk with him.  I quietly sat and  waited about twenty minutes for him to arrive. 

Suddenly I felt him place his arms around my shoulders as he hugged me and said hi dad, I love you.  My heart swelled momentarily until I heard his mother sternly inform him that he couldn’t sit with me and had to sit with her.  I watched a sadness appear on his face as he gave me another quick hug, whispered I love you and went to sit near his mother.   As I surveyed the room, I noticed that the other boys were all sitting together in the center tables, my dear boy was sitting head down next to his mother as he quietly obeyed her demands.

I sat there, my heart aching for my boy as he humbly and dutifully did as he was instructed, all the while watching the other boys laugh and play.  I was grateful to see his mothers friend arrive nearly 30 minutes later when she finally allowed him to sit with his friends, so she could have her moment to “talk”. 

Alone I sat at my table, watching my boy both quietly sitting next to his mother and also as he laughed with his friends. I fought the tears and anger at the way his mother controlled him.  I thought to myself how much I would have loved  to have been able to sit with him, yet this was his night to be with his friends, it wasn’t about what I wanted, it should have been about what he wanted, this was his night for him and his team.

I often sit in silence.  I often sit alone.  The numbness from the continual hurt at watching my kids many times from a distance pierces my soul.  I hunger for the days when they can express their love for me, their dad, without fear of the reaction from their mother.  My only hope and prayer is that one day my children will come to grasp the magnitude of my love and devotion for them, even if at times it is from a distance created by others…

SMALL MOMENTS AND THE GRANDEST OF MEMORIES – A Fathers Heartache part 8

I finally had the most wonderful and  AMAZING time with my children on Halloween.   I have waited 8 years for this moment to come, when Halloween would fall on my day for a visit.  In years past I would attend … Continue reading

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.

THE DAILY HEARTACHE – A Fathers Heartache part 5

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The hole in my heart never leaves.  I feel its presence with each heartbeat.  I feel the pain with each breath I take.

There isn’t a single day when my heart doesn’t ache from missing my children.  Each morning as I drive to work my thoughts are on them.  I wonder what outfit they wore to school.  I wonder how they did on yesterdays test.  I wonder how they slept.  I worry that they didn’t eat breakfast. I wonder how practice went, how Londyn is doing with her cheer classes and how football is going for Bridger.

These thoughts race through my mind complicated by the lack of communication I am able to have with them.  Sometimes they will sneak me a text message from their ipod when their mom isn’t looking just to say I love you dad!  I live for those precious little messages and moments in life when they aren’t with me.  While I drive, my mind stays focused on them, I fight the urge to cry as I long to see them, to hear their voices and talk with them, to see their smiles and feel their hugs.

I yearn for the time when my children can spend time with me without the shadow of the issues we are forced to deal with from others.  I see the sorrow in their own eyes with each goodbye, as they too know that the communication and contact will be vacant from their lives until our next visit.  I know all too well the pain that I feel daily, I see that same pain in my children’s precious tender hearts with each hug and kiss goodbye.  We hold on just a little longer and little tighter each time we part.

I worry what this does to my children.  I get angry that someone would hurt their children in this manner.  I get angry that by her choices to leave our family and run away with another man that my dear children are forced to suffer and hurt.  My heart explodes in sorrow each time I think about the life that has been forced upon them by her actions.

Then I take a deep breath and slowly let it out.  I regain my composure and put on my happy face for the day.  Time to work.  I take a few moments to look at the blessings I do have in my life.  I have amazing children, including sweet Alexa,  whom I love deeply and they love me.  I have the most wonderful and amazing wife possible, who’s unquestionable love and devotion to our family and myself provides deep rooted anchors in my soul for me to weather the heartache.  I have a beautiful, kind loving mother who never fails me and 5 brothers who will always be there.

I realize daily that I have been surrounded by loved ones to strengthen me so that I in turn can be strong for my dear children.  I only pray that they can borrow my strength so that their tender little hearts aren’t shattered.

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.

FOUR HOURS – A Fathers Heartache part 2

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Four hours… that’s it.   One weekday visit of four hours.  The time flies by, so many things race through my tired mind as I pull up to the school to see my children.   My heart is pounding again with the anticipation of their little arms around my neck hugging tightly as we embrace.

I have spent this week in a convention for work in Southern, California.   After a week of meetings I anxiously jumped in the car Wednesday afternoon with the sole purpose of being home on time to see my little ones.  I allowed myself plenty of time to get home and experience any delays.  My life is planned around this four hour window of weekly time, especially during the weeks when I don’t see them on the weekend.  Two traffic jams and 14 hours later I arrived home with little time to sleep.  The adrenaline at the excitement of seeing my children was sufficient to propel me through the shortened workday Thursday.  Anxiously and exhausted I left my office and found myself standing under the familiar tree at the schoolyard where I wait for my children each week.

Off in the schoolyard I see the blonde heads of two children as they weave in and out of the other children as they race to me.  They race into my arms and as we hug, I fight the tears again of gratitude and joy of seeing them.  Our little time is precious.  As my kids have gotten older, the Thursday visits aren’t like they used to be.   The activities that keep my kids grounded with normalcy in their lives often make their way into our short weekly visit.  These make for our time together all the more fleeting, yet deep down inside as I fight the pain of our shortened time together, I realize with great love that I have for them that this is what they need.  The dance, football, basketball and soccer provide my children with the opportunity to live and enjoy life, free from the sorrow that has been brought upon us by another persons choices.

Quickly, we head for home.  The car ride is full of conversation as the kids talk over one another in the excitement to tell me about their week.  I catch up on school and how the assignments are coming.  We talk about the tests they have that week as we make certain they are prepared.   The spelling lists, vocabulary lists, the math, all discussed on our 20 minute drive home.   Their mother prevents us from talking on the phone during the weeks.   Our only conversation occurs during these short visits or on the semi monthly trips I make to eat school lunch with them, just to see them again.

We get home where we can play with the dog and get something to eat.  I sign their homework assignments for the day as we finish them, and then we are off to drop my son at football practice.  Oh how he loves football, he works so hard at it,   It has been good for him.  I remember the first day when he told me he had landed the starting Quarterback position.  How his eyes lit up!!   He was so proud of his accomplishment and I was so proud of the young man and leader he was becoming.  I pray daily for them to continue to press forward with their goals in life, so they can overcome the obstacles we are presented with.

On the way to football they call their mom to let them know that my son stopped at home to get the football gear.  I hear her ask them how their day was.  I find myself fighting down the pain, anger and frustration at the irony of her preventing our phone calls.  How I desire to be given the same.  I replace the hurt as I focus on the deep love for my children, the desire of mine to keep them free from the heartache at my home from this situation.  I focus on my desire to love them and not allow them to be hurt when in my presence and painfully I swallow the bitter pill, consuming it internally so that my children can be free of the poison, if only for a short time while they are with me.

Two of the four hours, my son is at football.   Sometimes we watch his practice, however today was some quality daddy daughter time.   I ask my 8 year old daughter where she would like to go…  She wants to look at Halloween costumes so we spend the next couple hours looking at costumes while we walk hand in hand with her skipping along, she talks incessantly.   We talk more about her cheer classes, we talk about school, her friends.  She asks about her step mom and sisters, who are out of town at a different convention.  She asks me about my trip and how it was.  She squeezes my hand and says I love you dad!  My heart melts, the tears form, as I fight the emotion from overwhelming me.

The two hours with my daughter fly by.. she sings roar and the fox song to me on the way to the football fields.   I smile and sing along with her.  We get my son and head home for him to change, we grab a pizza on the way.  They play with the dog, eat pizza and we laugh about silly things.

It’s again time for them to go home.   I dread this time.  It is always painful for me and wish how it didn’t have to be this way.   The drive to their moms is never long enough.  Never enough time.  We talk.  They inform me that they are moving again, this will be the 10th move in 7 years at their moms.   My heart breaks for them again with the constant change.   I wonder why they can’t stay with me permanently in the home they know and love.  We don’t move.  We stay in one place.  I wonder why her and this husband can’t stay in one place.  I wonder why my kids must suffer for the choices of their mother.  I wonder why the courts believe that the mom is always the best place for the kids.

We arrive..  I keep the tears in check as I tell them how much I love them.  I promise to see them at the football game on Saturday.  We hug,  We Kiss and then it’s another goodbye… they are gone for another 7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds until I can talk to them again.  As my dear children walk away, the tears are now flowing freely, my heart is breaking again, my sorrow is full.  On my drive home, I rebuild the walls to keep the emotion at bay as I begin looking forward to the next week.  It will be better, we have the weekend.

A Fathers Heartache, When others choices change the life we planned.

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My experiences as a father have been much different than I ever thought that it would be.   I never fully understood the impact of others decisions and how those decisions would directly affect my opportunities with my children, nor how that would dictate the time I could spend being a dad.

As a young man I always knew that my children would be the center point and primary focus of my life.  I have always loved plaiying with kids.  I would look forward to the day when I could coach my kids in sports.  I knew that I would be there every step of their lives.  

When my children were born I would stay up to take care of them.   I would read to them every single night.  I couldn’t wait for morning to come so I could hold them.   Before I would leave for work I would hug them and give them a kiss goodbye.   I couldn’t wait to get home from work, each day upon returning home from work they would race into my arms.  They were young yet they were so fast as they would race into my arms.   Life was good.  I loved being with them and spending time with them.

My wife was blessed to stay home with our kids while I worked.  I wanted my kids to learn respect and love for their mother and would make certain that they saw me helping her with the household chores and taking care of the their needs.  I tried to be a team with her to make our lives good.

Then one day it all changed.  The decisions of my wife would forever alter my dream of being a dad.   Her life was not exciting like it was in the soap operas that she would watch.  The decadent life style she watched on TV everyday soon became what she wanted.  After each of her illicit affairs (5 0f them in all) we would reconcile and attend counseling.  I was determined to keep our family together.  It was heartbreaking, painful and emotionally draining. 

Finally one day I returned home from a 3 day business trip to find our house empty of everything and divorce papers on the counter.  My world was ended.  My children were not home.  I was not able to tuck them into their beds at night, unable to say their prayers with them, unable to hug them and to kiss them.  It seemed the choices that were made by my wife had now hit me square in the face, I was paying for choices that were not my own.  My heart ached for my kids and I missed them terribly.  I didnt care about all the possessions she had taken from our home.  I longed for my children.  Days would drag on without them.

The divorce took only weeks to complete and then she was immediately remarried.  She had taken our children and moved in with a man they didn’t know, and one who wasn’t kind to them. They were torn apart inside.  The family courts in Utah being as extremely dysfunctional as they are granted me the minimum parent time of one 4 hour visit per week and every other weekend.  My life had now been impacted again by another person. 

I found myself alone, lost, sad and frustrated at what had happened.  My children and I did not choose this course for ourselves, yet we were the ones missing out.    My days were spent planning our weekly activity and our weekends our weekends together,  That little amount of time became most valuable and precious.  It was sacred time and I wouldn’t let anything interfere with it.

Now as time has gone by, the wounds are deep and painful. Time doesn’t heal these wounds, it only masks the pain.  The pain and anguish is present daily.  My children became the victims of choices that were not theirs, nor their fathers and yet the relationship they had shared with me was incredibly different and changed. 

Through my ex wifes multiple marriages and relationships my kids have been deeply scarred.  They are afraid to open up and share the pain that they feel.  I try to be there for them to listen, yet as she denies them the ability to call me, or to talk to me during the weeks, our time is limited to resolve all the heartache that they feel.  During our summer breaks we reconnect and rediscover that long lost connection we shared daily of bedtime prayers and stories. We laugh and enjoy the sacred moments of precious little time together,  We live life and enjoy life. The rest of our lives together are spent trying to keep a foundation of love and trust between us through this rollercoaster we call life,  I love my children and pray daily for them to be happy and know how much I love them.  They are still my world.  Every decision I make revolves around their happiness and future to the best of my ability to keep for them.  Every job promotion and transfer that I have turned down, every trip I have refused, every mile I have driven to see them and every school lunch I have eaten with them is worth every precious second I get to spend with them. 

This is not the life I chose for them or for us.   This is the life we have been dealt.  All that I am and all that I do is to show them my unconditional love.  The rest is in our Heavenly Fathers hands to help me where I cannot be.  I deeply pray that my children will always know how much I love them and what they mean to me.

The next time you see a father, alone, waiting for the small window of time he gets to see the children he loves.  Please remember, that it’s not always their choices or their decisions to be placed in that spot.  They do the best they can in spite of the obstacles created oftentimes by others.