My son Matthew (11) is always in the middle of things. He is the middle child, he is arbitrator for most arguments that his brothers (Chad and Ross) engage in, and he is not afraid to give you his opinion. He is 'Matthew in the Middle'.

On Wednesday June 4th, Matthew graduated from elementary school; and again he finds himself in the middle. Not by choice this time, but put there by my ex-wife in an effort to cause me pain and immense suffering; but hidden under the guise of legality. As a result of the temporary Criminal Protective Order that was issued at the hearing (the same one she used when she lied to get me arrested on May 19th), I was not allowed to attend the graduation. I had asked the court for special permission on May 27th at my bail hearing, and that permission was fervently denied by both the judge and the DA Mark Berg. I was told I could go, but if I got within 150 yards of her she could have me arrested. I decided that it simply wasn't worth the risk, although I did briefly consider dressing up in the spirit of 'Mrs. Doubtfire' and blending into the crowd. Problem is I don't have the makeup kit to change my race and blend in.

My best friend and roommate Kevin volunteered to go in my place and represent me. We went to great lengths to even set up Skype on his tablet so that I could see the ceremony live and talk to Matthew after the graduation was over. When he arrived, he told me that there were 'uniformed LAPD' on duty scanning the crowd, and that it was clear they were looking for me. Kevin sent me pictures along the way, and each one I viewed stirred my soul more and more; I realized that I was missing a significant portion of my son's life journey--and it felt as helpless as watching a nightmare unfold in a bad dream with no way out. I was glued to the pain emotionally, because I could not separate the joy of seeing this event from the pain of not 'being there in person'. I found myself feeling like an outlier. I was a spectator in a life that I helped to create. I asked myself; "How could this be allowed to happen?"

After the ceremony, Kevin walked up to the group to ask Matthew to speak to me on Skype. His mom stepped in and said, "Get away from us, I have a court order and you cannot be here because you are connected to Andre. We don't want anything to do with you." Kevin was shocked and in disbelief, and I heard him tell her "You are real piece of work". He simply walked away, and as I heard Matthew's voice fade and Kevin's footsteps become more pronounced I knew that it was over; that I even a hint of joy that I had hoped for had been stolen from me and my son. I sobbed then, and as I pen this I am sobbing now over the loss of that day, that hour, that moment. It is a vast emptiness and divide that is painful to the touch, as I have lost a milestone twinkling in his life; AS WE HAVE LOST A MILESTONE MOMENT TOGETHER. I also hoped that he had not even felt a hint of the pain I was feeling--but after studying the situation I knew my hopes to protect him were un-realistic.

As I sat at my desk in my classroom and looked at his photograph, I panned beyond the smile (a smile that I have adored since the first moment I laid eyes on him)-- and I noticed an emptiness in his eyes that no smile could hide. It was the same emptiness I saw in his eyes when they all moved out back in September. His eyes told the story of the pain that his lips not dare utter. He too would have to fold up these feelings and store them until later--- Perhaps until a time when he would feel 'safe' to express himself.

Right before I picked him up that following Friday, I had made a promise to myself (on the advice of one my students) that I would not dwell on the sheer emotional brutality, heinous and despicable behavior of his mother--that had caused so much un-necessary suffering and that had altered the course of our family history. I would only discuss it with him when he was ready. Later that night in my kitchen as he made his dessert he started telling me about graduation; the event, the details and how he saw Uncle Kevin. I felt the pain seeping in as he described what I had missed. He turned to me as if to say, "I wish you could have been there." But what came out was simply, "I really missed you dad."

I just stared at him in wonderment for a few seconds, pondering the years that we have grown together--and thinking of how many versions of my little man have stood in this exact spot (from toddler to now)--and knowing that all the love and attention (I have given him over the years before all this) can never be erased. That 'knowingness' brought me some sense of relief. Just then he called to me again, "Dad?" And his voice brought me back to the moment. "Yes son, I hear you... I missed you too. I love you squirrel....I'm so sorry I couldn't be there and I promise you one thing; that will never happen again. I wanted to be there, I just cannot afford to go back to jail."

"It's ok. I know dad," he said. Just then I grabbed him and hugged him so tight, hoping to make things right for us in that moment--but I knew in my heart that this was simply a 'poor replica' of the congratulatory hug that we had been robbed of.

On Sunday I took my boys to Gamestop, and as he picked out his games in order to spend his $25 on a gift card he had (from his birthday back in April) he looked at me and said, "Is it okay if I get one extra game, and you know-- that can be the graduation present that you were gonna give me on Wednesday at the graduation of you were there." It dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to get him a card or a gift, as I had tried to emotionally unplug myself from the festivities that I had missed out on. "Of course man,that's the least I can do," I said. His face lit up with joy, and for an instant we both knew that this would be our 'small celebration' together--right here in Gamestop. So I embraced the opportunity for what it was, and bought him the extra game of his choice.

Just then my oldest son Chad was giving his younger brother Ross a hard time about the game he was choosing, and in that instant Matthew darted over towards the display they were looking at and began to play peacemaker between his siblings and took up for his younger brother. "Things are looking up," I thought to myself. He is after all--"My Matthew in the middle."

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