Monday, January 14, 2008

Sense of Loss

As you all know, my wonderful little boy turned one year old this weekend. (I'm not bias he really is the cutest, sweetest little boy in the whole wide world!! :-)

Anyhow, he turned one on Saturday and on Sunday we had the biggest party imaginable for a one year old!! There were friends and family and cake smashing (by Zack of course) and present opening.

But for all the fun that we had, there was one thing missing. Zack's PaPa. Right now my son is too young to understand this loss and so I am feeling it for him. Perhaps more than I should considering that Keith is my father-in-law but I have known him for so long that he feels very much like another father to me too.

I was exchanging e-mails with a good friend of mine about this today and I was telling her how at a loss for words I was about it. There are so many things that I wanted to say but I just didn't have the right words to fully express them. Right now there is an ache in my chest and my eyes are welling up with tears just thinking about my son, in five years, looking at me and saying, "Why doesn't Papa love me enough to come to my birthday party?" This is the hurt I feel for him.

So, instead, while I promised Keith I would keep his family off of this website I am breaking that promise because of the events of this weekend. However, since I am still not able to put into words what I'm feeling I am going to pull some things from several e-mails Jess has written to me.

There has been some family tension for a little while and she wanted me to post something awhile ago but I wouldn't. I feel now is an appropriate time. Neither she, nor I, are trying to personally attack anyone so please, keep any and all comments positive or they will be pulled down.

I fully realize that this “family” issue does not concern me directly however everyone has chosen to publicly dispute it allowing me and anyone else to state my/their opinions. This is in fact my opinion, if you don’t want to hear it, if there is a chance it will make you mad or hurt your feelings, if it’s possible you will feel left wanting to say mean things than please quit reading. I will state first and foremost that is not my intention on any part; it’s obvious that is the last thing you need right now.

Shortly before Shane and I were married we met Keith and Julie. They came to us in exactly the right time of our lives. For me they made a dream come true and reintroduced me to my imagination.

It was my childhood dream to have a horse, because of money and space I was never able to get one. It wasn’t because my parents didn’t try, they did; even buying me horse lessons every other Saturday – I think that is when I began counting days and weeks. It brought much joy to my life but was not the same as walking out my back door to my best friend and confidant as I have heard many horse owners say - an undying trust flowing both ways.

It is now several years later, Shane and I have been married five short years and Keith and Julie are no longer married. While both still play roles in our lives that role is different and more vivid in the past; if that makes sense. The relationship has traveled down many windy roads where I eventually found myself two great girl-friends. One whom I talk to everyday and one who tells me she loves me every time we get off the phone or conclude an email as if she has known me my whole life.

As many divorced people do: they date, remarry, their lives move on while their children find themselves standing still trying so desperately to catch up to the happy place their parents while no longer together have found. This is their story….Julie has moved on. Keith is remarried to his new wife and her four daughters (aka: “the girls” – I will get a gold medal when I can finally get their names all straight) and three granddaughters; welcoming them open armed into his house and life. That is what you do when you marry someone with children…you marry their children too – even if they are grown.

It’s my opinion as a bystander the one’s who have picked up the tab for this huge and significant change has been the biological children: Jake and Molly. Their parent’s suffered a less than amicable divorce, mother goes one way, and father goes another – adopting four new children who call him “dad”. Meanwhile Jake and Molly are stuck in a time warp locking them back to wrapping their arms and hearts around the divorce. A huge task in itself. At first everything was fine and a lot of feelings and hurt where submerged to spare their parents more pain. Now it is all catching up and boiling over. Jake feels like he has lost the father son bonding and Molly feels like she has lost her daddy. Naturally one might blame the new family whether they are to blame or not. In the midst of all this they have pointed fingers; name called, and blamed each other on blogs and my space pages.

I say enough is enough…I know it hurts. In a crazy sense it hurt me too. I know Keith says we are always welcome but it is different and unfortunately we don’t know Keith and Karen as well as we did Keith and Julie. It’s all just different….change….(sigh)

Without further ado - here is my message….

It seems to me as an outsider knowing all involved and having read all blogs, posts, and My Space pages; that you all want the same thing – For Keith to be happy.

Let me start with “the girls”: I think it is great that you have found a “father” in Keith and that you finally get to see your mother happy again after what probably seems like an eternity. In all your new found happiness it may help all involved to fully put yourself in Molly and Jakes shoes. I think calling Keith “dad” is a decision between you and Keith; however if you know it makes Molly uncomfortable that should be taken into consideration. Did anyone ask her how she would feel about it prior to assuming all would be fine with it? I am not saying you need her permission but the thought of compassion and consideration goes a long way. I can’t speak for Molls but I would think that had someone explained all this to her prior to this time she would have been flattered and open to the thought of gaining sisters and sharing her daddy. Spending several paragraphs telling her that Keith is your dad and you will call him that despite her feelings probably isn’t helping anyone and is only furthermore rubbing salt in open wounds. I don’t know if there is a solution to this where both parties “win”. I don’t think you need Molly or Jake’s permission to call Keith dad but wouldn’t it be nice?! I know if I were Molly it would be a nice gift for me to give; maybe she just wanted that chance!?

Onto Molly – You know I love you Molls; and your family. I will tell you what I told Heather – Keith and Julie were there for Shane and me at a time in our lives when we needed someone like them. They filled a gap and conquered a dream for me and for that I will forever be grateful. I love them both like parents. Can I call them mommy and daddy too? J Just a joke – breaking the tension! Moving right along….I often tell Heather when her and Jake get in a fight or she is frustrated with something – find the issue you really have and then fight for that. You all seem to be fighting about topics that make the real issue at hand worse. Again I am not trying to speak for you Molls but from where I am sitting it seems the issue is your dad, not Karen and not the girls. They may be a topic that worsens the issue. It is easier to be mad at them and blame them than it is your dad. Really though (and you don’t need to respond if you don’t want to) aren’t you mad that your dad doesn’t make time for you when you are home? That you don’t get to spend time alone with him while you are home? (Which the girls could help with I am sure) That he won’t return your calls and doesn’t make you feel like your feelings and thoughts are legitimate? Maybe if Karen knew how you felt she could help with this….I don’t know what the answer is Molly but keep trying. Keep calling, keep asking him to do things (maybe you have to specify just the two of you or just the three/four of you) don’t give up just yet. However make sure that in doing so you are not singling out or avoiding spending time with Karen and or the girls as they are a part of your dad’s life now. It is probably just as hard for them to change their ways of doing things when you come home and trying to accommodate you too, you may not see that or know it but I am sure at some level it is. Equal understanding would go a long way. I sympathize with you and I don’t envy the situation you are in one bit. I think they took a lot of things from you by not talking to you first and assuming it would not affect anyone: your bedroom, your house, your belongings and memories in a box, your dad etc. But now is the time when you decide to either be the bigger person, forgive them (even though they may not have know what they did – I truly believe when people know better they do better) and move past it or hold a grudge forever that could sadly hinder your relationship with your dad…and Molly he is YOUR daddy and always will be. He has enough love in his heart to go around. The only piece of constructive criticism I have for you is don’t let your feelings bottle up like you have. That is not fair to you or them. Maybe if you had told them all along the outcome would be different, you may never know, but you can change it for the future.

Hang in there Hon! Have pride knowing he is your dad and you are his baby girl. Find flattery in knowing the girls want what you have always had and compassion and understanding for what they have lost – a loss far greater. It could be a win, win situation for everyone involved. Remember – I am only a phone call away!!

And finally you Heather….
You are probably the best part I have found and taken from Keith and Julie. I only wish I had you in my life many years ago because there is no one I could imagine more than you standing by me as I marry my best friend. Just to think at first….well we won’t go there again! J

I know this has hurt you and Jake too. You have a beautiful son and through him the pain of this change has resurfaced. Yesterday - What a beautiful first birthday party for a handsome little man. I saw and know the pain you endured by not having his grandfather their. Count your blessing’s for those who made the effort and consider the rest to be the one’s who lost out. There are many of parents who would trade the shoes of a grandparent for even one day, one party, no matter what the past…mine being the first. Know that his grandmother and other grandparents can love him enough to make it up. You didn’t do this, you are not to blame, you and Jake can only do so much to assure love and memories for your son.

I will leave this for you Heather to do with it what you will. Post it on your blog or read it and discard it.



Thank you Jessica for always saying the right thing when I need to hear it. Thank you Molly for being another little sister to me and a WONDERFUL aunt to my son. Thank you Karen, Heidi, Niki, Tammy, Christy for accepting me and my family into your hearts as if we had been there all along.

I hope that somehow, some day all of this can be water under the bridge and Zack won't have to wonder why everyone can't all just get along because he will be able to look out into the audience during his school concert and see four grandparents and six aunts (Yes... Lindsay and Molly... you're coming back for this...) and all the uncles and cousins that love him and are cheering him on!!


Anonymous said...

Ok, I as well, am an innocent bystander. I don't know any of you! My only thoughts with this, and please know that I don't intend to be mean... are that with all the children, half children, whatever you want to call them... with all of you fighting, do you think this is what keith wants? Do you think that maybe part of the reason that he is distant to some is that he regrets the tension between the 2 families? And with his health (and i'm assuming he's the same one with the heart surgery) I think it would be good for all of the family to forgive and forget. Like everyone, my family had tension. While the kids fight, the parents try not to pick sides, so they get distant and let us work it all out. But no matter how drastic it is... when the family learns to love and live, and forgive and forget, it's possible the entire family will find a lot more peace!

Fellow Party Goer said...

Karen wasn’t there on Sunday was she? Why doesn’t she come with or without Keith? Maybe eventually when everyone else is going to “his” family functions because they love and support them he will quit being such a butthead (I use that word light heartedly) and start going himself!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this is how Keith would like your parents Heather to treat Jake. God knows Jake has done enough to constitute some less than desireable behavior....Yet they love you enough as their daughter to attend funtions with or without Jake.

It doesn't matter who or what stand in the way....when you love your children you help them and support them regardless.

OMH said...

WOW - so many thoughts are going through my head right now. I can empathize with each person as I read through this story. I just wanted to remind you the Zack won't be hurt by what he doesn't know, unless someone points out that "Grandpa" isn't at any of your parties. Instead of allowing it to hurt maybe make a point of having Grandpa and his new family come over for just a small get together to celebrate the birthday or meet at a restaraunt and build good memories for Zack. I do not know all the details - but I do know that when Zack is looking at pictures of his first birthday when he's older if he thinks Grandpa wasn't there it would be great for the memory or pictures of "Oh yeah we did this with him instead" to immediately pop into his head also.

Nothing like more "unsolicited advice" right......

Anonymous said...

I think that is a great suggestion OMH! In this case I don't think Heather and Jake should have to go out of their way to have parties for each person who has a conflicting issue. Eventually if this behavior continues Zack will notice it on his own especially when Grandpa lives so close.

If you ask me the total package is unacceptable as an adults behavior let alone a grandparent.

Kudos to Julie and three of Karen's girls for going, helping, and being excellent attendee's!!

Anonymous said...

This may be a rhetorical question, but does anyone know why keith and karen didn't come? is there possibly a good explanation for it?

Jessica said...

It is my understanding...Keith did not attend because he thought it would be awkward with Julie (his ex-wife) there.
I assume Karen didn't go because Keith didn't go.

Heather said...

Keith did not attend the party because he said it would be uncomfortable for him to be there with his ex-wife.

That's the part that is most upsetting to me. He was worried about himself and not focused on the point of the day which was Zack's birthday... NOT him.

I'm sure it made Julie uncomfortable to be there knowing he might show up but she was there anyway.

OMH is right, we will try to make new memories with Keith and hopefully he will realize that he is the one missing out. :-)

Anonymous said...

Pretty Much...I think that my dad made a silly choice on not going to Zack's party! My mom was going either way...if he was there or not! She told me you only have so many grandchildren and to make memories with each and everyone of them! I had two parties for Jackson's first for my mom's side and then one at dad's house! I will never do it again! Too much work along with being pregnant! If we are ever home for one of the boy's birthday's we will have ONE party and if you come GREAT and if not then it is your lose!! I think it was uncomfortable for some people that were there but the day wasn't about them and they got over it and enjoyed watching Zack eat his cake and open presents! I appreciate all the "girls" that went and the Hamilton family that went, along with my mom! There was no fights, just happieness! And Zack deserves to have one hell of a FIRST birthday party!! I wish we could have been there! Anyway...maybe dad will come around sometime soon to the idea of celebrating with everyone (including mom) and will enjoy his family! Until then he will have to come to terms with it all and join in the fun!

(please to anyone that reads this and feels like passing it on...I am not bashing anyone. I feel like everyone has to make choices in life and sometimes we don't make the right ones! Maybe dad just isn't over the grieving of the bitter divorce yet)

And to Jess! You know I love you and my boyfriend Shane! You gave me a lot to think about! I have some soul searching I have to do and find me some balls...because I apparently don't have any...WEIRD, I know! But once I do I will speak my mind to the right people and listen to any constructive critism with OPEN ARMS! Thanks again and We love you guys!

Anywho...LOVE TO ALL...Kisses to MY Zack and slaps on the TUSH to Heather and JAKEY POOH! Muah!

Anonymous said...

As an outsider, I don't think you can be too hard on Keith for his reason's for not attending. I'm sure he thought it would just be better for all involved to spare the tension of being there with an ex, especially since it seems like all feelings from the divorce are not resolved. Where matters of family feuds are involved, sometimes it is better for all for someone to just remove themselves from the situation. I echo OMH, that at the age of 1 Zack is not going to know Papa wasn't there unless you point it out...

As time goes by and old wounds are healed I'm sure he'll come around and start coming to more things.
If you really are THIS HURT by it, you should let Keith & Karen know how you feel. I'm sure they have no idea it was this important to you or they probably would have sucked it up and made an effort to at least come for a little while.

Heather - You might also want to check your perspective on it. You state that you want Zack to have 4 grandparents in the crowd. Shouldn't it really be 5?

Heather said...

Anonymous, I'm sorry for the misprint. I would never leave his Nana out. I wrote that post in a hurry and I just counted biological grandparents. (Sorry if it offended.)

As for talking to Keith. He KNOWS it was important to us. Jake talked to him TWICE before the party and told him how important it was that he come. How much we wanted him there and how much it wasn't about him but about helping Zack celebrate.

He promised Jake he would make an appearance and then didn't call or talk to either of us when he changed his mind. Just didn't show up.

I think that's where some of the hurt comes from.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone talked to Keith after the party? From Heather's reply it's obvious he knew that it would hurt everyone... but for me, when I'm not doing something I knew I should be doing, I don't feel SO bad for it at the time, but mostly after the fact is when most of the guilt kicks in.

It may be a good idea, in a very tactful way, to have dinner or something with Keith and Karen, bring the pictures from the party, and flat out say that you pray that when he's older and looks at those pictures that Zack doesn't realize he wasn't there. Tell them that you're not disappointed at them for yourself, but that if Zack ever does ask, that Keith and Karen will be the ones that will have to explain it to him, not you. Hopefully that will sting enough to make him make an appearance next time?

Jessica said...

I think there are some anonymous people and some "outside" people who don't understand.
Keith knew it was important to Jake and Heather for him to come but he didn't. End of story. Guilt after the fact means nothing unless he uses that guilt to make a change for the future.
It does not matter what his reasons where or who he was trying to spare this is his grandson people!! You only get one chance.
Without draggin up to much or getting into to much this is not the first time Keith has "let Jake, Heather and/or Zack down". While that may not have been his intention that is how they ended up feeling. I think this was the straw that broke the camels back so to speak.
I got to thinking too....seems ironic to me that Julie came anyway, without her boyfriend, not sure if that was an intentional decision or if he just couldn't make it but I think that was a nice move to make as to not stir the waters. Julie knew Keith would probably be there but she came anyway. She knew that if he came he would be there with his wife and her four daughters and their three grandchildren...YET SHE CAME ANYWAY!! Same with the three girls that came, they knew Julie would be there but they came anyway. Because it was not about Keith or Julie or the past or the harbored was about ZACK.

That is what parents and grandparents do....they love you unconditionally, no matter what or who stands in their way.

Anonymous said...

I just want to point out that Keith's reasonings for not coming had nothing to do with his love for his grandson. Anyone who knows him knows he loves Zach more then anything.

Zach will remember and believe what he is told about that day. If he is told that "Papa didn't come because he doesn't love you", then he will believe that. But if he is told "Papa didn't come because he can't be around your grandma, it's complicated, but that is why we do special things with Papa", then he will believe that.

Keith has legitimate reasons to not want to spend time with or be around his ex-wife, and while his ex-wife may feel uncomfortable around him she does not have any reason to not want to be around him. With his recent heart attack he should not be putting himself in situations where he will be upset or under great stress.
And although I understand why Heather and Jake are upset, I don't feel that Keith made the wrong decision.

He realizes that he missed out on a very special day for his grandson, he loves Zach and would have loved to be there, but he removed himself from a situation that would have not only been "uncomfortable", but strenuous on his health.

Why can't everyone just focus on the positive...Zach is 1 years old, he's becoming such a wonderful little person and it is so much fun to watch him grow up. He will have special memories with all of the people who are special in his life, and he will grow up knowing that all of those special people love him.

Anonymous said...

Just a question... Jessica is right, some of us are outsiders and don't know the entire background of the situation. If Keith would've been the one who showed up and Julie didn't, or if Keith showed up without Karen or vise versa, would we still be having this discussion?

Jessica said...

I can't speak for Heather but I can go out on a limb and say I think the feelings would be equally as hurt if Julie had not shown and Keith did.
It is about Zack and about family that is why it hurts when family didn't come.

Heather said...

#1) I would NEVER, EVER tell my son that Papa wasn't there because he doesn't love him. That point is NOT in question. Keith loves his children and his grandchildren very much. I just think that he needs to understand that he's hurting them by making these decisions to not be there at their events. All I was saying was that Zack will not know why Keith was not there, just that he wasn't and it will be our job to try to explain that it's NOT because he doesn't love him but because he made a choice to not be there. (An explination that I don't even think we should have to make.)

#2) I had the SAME discussion with Julie that Jake had with Keith. When I talked to her last on Saturday she was under the impression that Keith would be there (because that's what we were told) and she came anyway. Knowing there would be Keith's new family and then just her. So, YES... if the situation would have been reversed we would still be having this discussion.

#3) This party was HUGE!! It was made clear to all person's involved that I was only doing ONE because it was so much work. There is no reason Keith couldn't have come and been on the other side of the room and not even spoken to or looked at Julie. In the future there might be two parties because they will be smaller and it will be harder to avoid them being close to one another. However, if Zack has a school concert there is only going to be one. Is Keith going to miss all of those too?

4)Finally, I think discussion on this topic has been WONDERFUL and you all have been very grown up and civil. However, I think it's gone far enough and now it's time to move on. If you have further questions or want to e-mail me feel free. The link is over on the right.

Jessica said...

PS: I did not mean to imply Keith does not love his grandson...I know he does. It is my opinion...I think there is going to come a day when Keith will have to swallow his own hurt and pain for his grandson's happiness. I hope by the time Zack is old enough this is water under the bridge.
I know where Keith is coming from...I was there...I saw their divorce and the pain on both sides. However, they made children and their children made children which means they will forever be co parents and co grandparents.
Somewhere, somehow, sometime...this will have to subside for the sake of their children and grandchildren.