Checking out was my way of being selfish. When I reflect on how I was before, it’s hard for me to understand how I could purposefully miss so much. That’s exactly what I did, purposefully miss so much of my marriage. Events in my sons’ lives that seemed small at the time but seem gigantic now. Thinking about those specific times, I feel like an outsider. Around sometimes but never fully there. Just on the periphery. Watching but not participating. Missing all the important moments.
As I think about many of those times now, I can’t for the life of me understand how pursuing personal gratification was more important than my wife or my boys. The list of events I missed is long. The number of things I was physically present for and mentally absent is much much longer. A lot of those times I remember from photos but the actual memories are a blur. Like I saw a snippet of a video but didn’t really see the whole thing. I have the Cliff’s notes version of parts of my memories.
I am reminded of what I have missed by those that were present. My wife and I are remodeling a house and preparing to move. We were pulling out old pictures and came upon some from my oldest son’s junior year. It was when he had a lead role in his high school play. I made it back for the performance after having revealed to my wife and sons that I wanted to leave them. My wife let me know that I could come home if I would walk away from that affair partner. I took the way out and ran towards home. Only I still wasn’t completely present.
My oldest son saw the picture and the look on his face. He commented how painful that time was. How justified he and his brother were for hating me during that time. Later, I realized how much he hated me. In that picture, during that moment, I had no idea. Looking at his face in that photo now, I see the pain and hurt at one of the most important times in his life. That pain and hurt is ingrained in his expression because of me. I feel like throwing up just thinking about it and what I did to him.
My youngest son likes to go to Starbucks for coffee, really because he likes getting out of the house and driving. He is graduating from high school this year. Any time he asks me to ride with him, I go. We were recently driving when a song came on the radio. He got very quiet. I didn’t understand what was going on. He immediately turned off the music, which is very unlike him. I asked him what was going on.
“I can’t listen to that song,” he said.
“Why not,” I asked? “What’s wrong with it?”
“Don’t you remember it,” he asked?
“No, I don’t. Should I?”
“It was popular when you and Mom were fighting so much. Right after you came back home.”
Ugh. I could see the lines at the corners of his mouth turning down. The stress across his brow. The pain that hadn’t dissipated from four years prior. Still just under the surface.
“I know you and I have talked a lot about that time. I just want you to know again how sorry I am for how I hurt you and your brother and especially your Mom. Nothing can excuse that. I am so sorry.”
“I know,” he said.
“You and I also talked about how I could make amends to you. The only way I know how is to be a good Dad, be present, and always tell you the truth. Is there anything else I can do,” I asked?
“No, just do that. Be honest. Tell me the truth. And be here.”
COVID-19 and the results of a global pandemic have been overwhelming to so many people. Sickness, death, job loss, economic hardship, food shortages, isolation. The effects are still being meted out on all of us. As I search through the circumstances of now and look for how God can use this for His benefit, the one area I see is the ability to be present. In the midst of all of this, I have been allowed to spend so much time with my wife and kids. Even as they are out of the house or about to be out, they have both been staying with us through this. I can’t even quantify how incredible this time has been with them.
Keith B. NotUnknown.com
Thank you God for giving me an opportunity to be present.