Father from Afar

by Dean Hughson

boy calling on mobile cell phone
© giuseppe porzani -Fotolia.com All rights reserved.

When the children were small, their father would tussle their hair before
he left on a business trip and would tell them “Dad will be back soon.”
knowing that no matter where he went in the world, whether Japan, China, or
Europe that the trip back was only 12-18 hours maximum. One of the
problems of being in business was indeed the trips but to keep the
lifestyle that the family was living he had to work hard. Memberships in
country clubs, new cars, trips, and upscale houses don’t come cheap and
can’t be maintained with an 8-5 job.

Later would come a move to a better climate (Scottsdale) and less time on
the road. The children were going to school, events, and dad was working
from a home office so he could be depended upon to drive carpool or to go
to a school event. The children would still remember though that at one
time he had been a traveler 50% of the time but dad now was mostly sitting
around the swimming pool or on the telephone when they were at school.
Then a divorce occurred. The businessman didn’t see it coming. He kissed
his wife of 13 years, took his bag and got on the flight to Tokyo.

That morning, right after sending him off on his business trip, his wife went to a fancy
attorney’s office and signed the papers for a divorce action. In
addition she signed papers which were filed with the court asking for
temporary orders for sole custody, all checking and savings accounts to be
locked up, and possession of the house. She signed the papers for the
husband to be met at the airport to be served. She then went and
transferred $40,000 from the savings account into her own new account to
weather the divorce time before the courts ordered the split up of assets.

All of this was unbeknownst to the husband/father who was just arriving in
Tokyo. When he called home, no one answered. He thought it strange but went
to sleep. He tried again the next day and still no answer. Finally he
called his mother-in-law and she told him that his wife had decided to
divorce him and didn’t want to talk to him. She finally did talk to him but
only to tell him to leave her alone.

Two days later, after 4 days of no sleep, his business trip was over and he
flew home to see what was happening. Being a suburbanite husband/father he
had no idea what divorce was about, but he would soon find out. When he got
off of the plane in Phoenix a man in a red coat walked up. The
father-husband thought that America West was giving him an award but in
reality he was getting served divorce papers. He called his bank, who admitted that they knew this was happening but had neglected to
inform him. They said they were now required by law to keep the money from both parties to the divorce. Later he was to learn that this wasn’t true but by then he didn’t care.

Home he went but nothing he could do could stop the divorce so it went on. He
can still remember the day when he tussled his kids hair and drove off, never
to return as a resident of the family home again …their little eyes and
faces reflecting my pain and theirs and somehow he said “Don’t worry-Dad
will be there for you.”

Then he moved for business 1300 miles away to run a company. His kids flew
to see him every month and he to them also. He learned to talk on the
telephone and kiss them goodnight. He learned to make our life together in a
hotel room or a rental car, with McDonalds as our refrigerator.
With 4 years of custody battle (his ex was trying to get sole custody) he
learned to put a happy face on when he was with the kids,after having
endured 3 or 4 hours in a courtroom hearing himself described as a man who
didn’t love his children by the ex’s attorney or professional witness. He
learned how to appear happy when his heart was heavy with the knowledge he
might lose access to them.

Now 7 years later his kids are older teenagers. His oldest is starting
college this year and they still have some distance from each other but it
is better—he prays they have a chance to get closer as she is starting her
life on her own. He doesn’t see the kids as much–they have
boyfriends/girlfriends/school/activities/parties but they all try and that
is what life is about.

For you see, I am the father from afar. Not by choice but by circumstance.
Fathers from afar must learn how to hear what is not said, feel what is not
seen, and say what should be said. Fathers from afar must learn to take
verbal hits from those he loves because they don’t always understand why he
is afar. But like a person in a wheel chair, we must live with our
handicaps and get on with life. I have loved my kids from afar most times
and up close sometimes but always in my heart and that is what counts in
life for me.