06/18/2017 Father's Day Excerpt
I deeply love and greatly value my daughters for exactly who they are: Precious Souls. Life is measured in varying degrees of contrast. Joy is measured in contrast to sadness, success is measured in contrast to failure, and what we cherish is often measured in relation to what we hold in our hands versus what could potentially slip through our fingers.
For this Father's Day, I encourage you to value and appreciate all that you have in your hands as well as all that has evaded you by circumstance. I love my children as much, if not more, than any father could appropriately love his own children. Value and cherish every moment with your family members, for you never know which moment will be your last before it slips through your fingers. For those of you who deal with harsh situations, I know your pain; you are not alone. For those of you who think you are above having overwhelming circumstances engulf you, I encourage you to reconsider the precious moments you hold in your hands. We are each susceptible to the sun shining and the storms relenting their rain upon us. Dig in, enjoy the ride in whichever stage you encounter, and know that life is fleeting and precious. The connections we make with others are the remnants that last beyond our circumstances. Happy Father's Day; enjoy the contrasted perspective I offer in this excerpt and cherish your situation and gifts around you.
My daughters were laughing around me, and I enjoyed being filled with love and joy. The camaraderie between parent-and-children in a normal setting is an incredible joy. Beginning in their early years, I was always an intricate and interactive father in my daughter’s lives. This continued through to this moment, as I watched them laugh. As a family, we had our moments of friction, but it was blatantly obvious to me that I had an overall nurturing and healthy interaction with them, aiming toward more and more joy and security in life. The feeling of wholeness surrounded me. Completeness, accomplishment; these were synonymous with the joy that my daughters would bring to me, and I knew I could occasionally make them smile and bring them laughter (after all they were teenagers now) along with security and joy. The marriage was not perfect, but it was a complete unit, and that pleased me greatly. We could look out for each other, we could help each other, we were in this together. We were in the same boat. As I looked out on my daughters, the images began to fade; I was confused. The twilight of the morning had come, and I found myself between time and reality, being carried over as I began to awaken from my slumber. It was similar to how one finds the pivotal point after being told the punchline to a joke and the point that one’s mind realizes the connection, eliciting laughter; only this transition did not elicit laughter. I transitioned from the joy of being with my daughters to the reality that this life no longer existed. It was a pivotal point that repeated each morning. The dreams, which varied, initially reflected the pleasant norm that I had believed existed in our family unit, and then became crushed by the transition from twilight to harsh reality.
In a brief moment, the pain in my chest returned from my dream-numbed sleep. It was as if two sledge-hammer “heads” pushed out from my chest, trying to make room for my lungs to breathe and my heart to find room to continue to beat. My body ached. I was exhausted, and the ordeal that had taken place in the whirlwind of my life’s recent events had taken their toll on me. My body withered, having shed about 20% of my body weight from the stress and general circumstances that had been thrust upon me. I was carried over into reality, the reality in which I had not seen my daughters in many months. I was estranged from them. I had been banned from them. I was not permitted to contact them or see them. The daughters that I expressed that I loved every day had been cut off from me in a moment. I became a pariah.
Not long before the split, my oldest daughter, Marie, had responded to one of my messages after she had expressed challenges with money. I thought she could use the encouragement, and I had told her that I loved her, that she was doing great, and that a little help from us does not change how great she had been doing. Marie responded by saying “Thanks Dad. I love you, I’m great…” I daily told my youngest daughter, Ann, who was still living at home, that I loved her. Ann and I had recently taken a trip to California where I chaperoned her and her friends at various amusement parks. Kat, who had apparently been planning my demise long before our split, continued to play the verbal role of a typical spouse. Though she continued to be oblivious to the pain related to my medical issues, she maintained the charade up through the last moments before coming home from work the day of our split. It was still “all about her.” Kat made references that we didn’t have much money left, and I again made a reference to having saved a few dollars in my wallet. I also expressed my continued efforts to earn money from side work. After our split I found out that Kat had been spending the equivalent of two hours of my work’s pay repeatedly for her lunches, and the money that I knew should have accumulated seemed to slip through her hands like sand. In spite of knowing there should have been an excess of money at the end of the month, I tried never to address or call this out so as to avoid an argument. I did not address this mostly due to the pain that I frequently encountered multiple times a week which caused me to not have the strength to argue with Kat, though she appeared to be her usual oblivious self. The few dollars I saved always went to the benefit of the children and the family unit. Kat was serving herself.
She had one last task to do before coming home, and that was to speak to the owner, her boss. Something shook Kat between the time that she sent messages to me through social media while she prepared to leave for work and the moment she called me on the phone on her way home. Something made Kat snap. Perhaps Kat was confronted and called out for an intense issue at work. I may never know what the catalyst was; I may never know the trigger. Perhaps she owed the owner money and it was time to pay it back. Perhaps she anticipated getting yet another loan from the owner and was denied, forcing Kat to either face her spending habits or blame someone else for her overspending. Kat’s obliviousness to money was not a surprise. It was a shock, however, to later learn that while I occasionally could reserve a few dollars from my small allowance (saving from what I did not put in fuel), Kat spent hard earnings with each lunch outing while I was completely unaware. I was rowing the boat with one oar, but I was unaware that Kat had been dragging her weighty oar in the water, causing me to work harder against her opposing drag, in addition to the rocks of debt she hid from me. She was working against me.
Somehow, I became the target of her upcoming rage. For some unknown reason, Kat seemed to set things into motion long before this day, and something made her decide to release the clutch and set the gears in motion for my undeserving demise. My nightly dreams of my loving children were always interrupted by the harsh reality in which I truly existed because of Kat’s lies. This contrast caused me much confusion in the months that followed.
Why would anyone direct their hatred and anger so fiercely upon a person who did not deserve it? This is the question I tried to understand, but I could not comprehend. Never could I have imagined that I would become one of the 700,000 falsely accused each year. People don’t think it could ever happen to them. When we hear or read about it happening to someone else, we tend to quickly judge without knowing the facts or truths. We weren’t there; we have no right to judge the cruel truths that are hidden behind a liar’s convincing allegations. One certainty that has been solidified is this: If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone in the world. How is it possible that this epidemic is not being recognized and appropriately addressed in our society and within the systems that are currently in place? As I was fully transported from my nightly dream into my morning reality, I once again related to Prometheus from Greek mythology.
Prometheus was a Titan (ironically my alma mater mascot) who was helplessly chained to a rock. Zeus ensured that an eagle would daily consume his liver, only to have him regrow his liver overnight for the next day’s meal so that the same torture would happen again. Prometheus translates as “forethought.” He brought to humans the gift of fire and the skills to work with metal. The irony that enveloped my circumstances will unfold within the chapters of this book that intrigues you. Was it jealousy that brought Zeus to punish Prometheus? Was his forethought and intelligence abhorred so incredibly much to justify such a punishment? Was it Prometheus’ fault that humans misused the fire and metal, or should he have been held to blame for the intents of the hearts of all presented with his gifts?
This was my torture: knowing that my girls were ripped from my world of reality and I could not reach out to them to show and tell them the truth. I slowly and mechanically rose from my make-shift bed on the floor of my parent’s extra bedroom and prepared for the day as I did each work day. I was going through the motions. I was not suicidal, and therefore the only choice I had left was to keep moving forward down a dark tunnel, hoping that someday I might stumble across a morsel of light. Suicide was not a choice for me, though it lingered one step away across the line I had drawn, though my newly discovered enemy had been taunting me to seize that route. I was merely existing. My hope was that there would be a remote chance that my horror would someday be turned around in my favor, in spite of the odds and the opposition I faced. I had little choice but to hope something better existed in my future. I was in the abyss; trying to survive the devastation that had been forced upon me. In my confusion, I knew I had done nothing to deserve the hostility that I encountered with repeated blows and attacks on me and my character. The assaults were excruciating, and I hid my pain through my work day, aside from openly weeping to my mother on my government phone during my breaks. It was just enough to complete the next few hours of work until I drove “home” again to my parents house to eat lunch, later to return to my robotic-like routine at work. I was a zombie that forced smiles to customers, and fought off tears privately in the back room of the store.
Zeus had a cruel punishment for me. I was chained to my circumstances and I had my heart eaten out repeatedly. Nightly, my dreams would restore my heart and joy, and each morning my heart was ripped out of my chest again. I would see fathers with their daughters at work, and the last remaining morsels of my heart muscles were torn off of the remaining sinews that formerly held my heart and joy in it’s place. Death would have been less painful, easier perhaps, and though I had rare moments of despair, I had truly always wanted to live. In the depths of the abyss, I wanted my circumstances to change, but I always wanted to live. It is who I have always been and it is who I am in my core. Kat had repeatedly been suicidal when our daughters were not around to hear it; I addressed it the best way I knew how, with compassion and empathy, to bring her out of it each time. This, however, is the irony: Kat, my accuser, used the lie that I was the one who was suicidal in order to manipulate my demise, cutting me off from my daughters and friends who could be fooled by the foundations of lies that she had incorporated into a blueprint that she then used to build her deceit upon.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt, and I also hope you know the value of keeping your priorities in order. Your spiritual beliefs should always come first, since the relationship you have with your Maker is the most important. Next should be the people around us who we cherish. Money, possessions, and "things" that we cannot take with us when we leave this world should never have a higher priority over the first two. The connections we make with others remain in our core and are undeniably solidified. They cannot be purged from us by any given person, no matter what their efforts might be to do so. Whether you cherish your precious gifts in your core or in person, know the value of these connections on this Father's Day.
D. P. Bickerdike