"Today is my oldest son James' 42nd birthday and I would not dream of letting it pass without lovingly acknowledging it. Nor however, will I express anything less than the truth in my post. James lives in France with his wife and two children, Sam and Jessica. Both he and his wife have well paid jobs with their firm and enjoy a lifestyle that most people will never aspire to. And yet, had I the power to change his circumstances and approach to life, I would do so without the slightest hesitation.
Had I the power, I would make him a less material person and a more emotional one. I would make him less concerned with status and overall lifestyle. I would take away his proneness to repress his feelings and endow him with the ability to be expressive enough to say, 'I love you' to all the people he loves and to those he does not, tell them why he feels thus. I would like his love and respect, not particularly as a father, or a past husband to his mother, but as a man who did his level best to do what he thought right for his children since their birth to this day.
James and his brother Adam (entirely two different personalities), were children of a broken marriage that I had for 13 years with their mother. I did not choose to end that marriage, I did everything possible to keep it alive, but I failed to convince the children's mother likewise. Despite believing myself at the time (and since), to have been the better parent to our children, my Irish, Catholic background foolishly led me to conclude that the custody of children aged 3 and 5 years was better with their mother than their father. This was why I eventually dropped my objection to their mother's application for their custody, transferred the sole ownership of our paid-for three-bedroomed modern house to her and undertook to pay off any joint loans and provide ongoing child maintenance.
The separation settlement I made enabled our two children to continue living in the same house and going to the same school after parental separation; it minimised their level of disruption and provided their ongoing financial security without my presence in the home. I have no regrets whatsoever about financially settling everything on her and keeping nothing except my books.That decision was the best decision any husband could possibly have made, but the decision not to fight for custody of our two children (whatever the emotional cost at the time), was the worse decision this father ever made in his life. It is the one decision I most regret, and my judgement was so wrong in its making.
However seemingly amicable the separation of man and wife appears to be when marriage fails, wherever children are born to that union there is a heavy price to pay. I refer not to money outlaid in divorce settlements or ongoing maintenance for the children's upbringing, but to the little minds of children which are so often twisted and distorted by the lies of either parent in dispute and denial. In situations where marital breakup and divorce is expensive, protracted and highly charged with anger, misspent emotions and bitterness that aggravates access to children, the situation becomes much worse and the consequences ever greater. Children born to such unions are undoubtedly left emotional scarred for the rest of their lives.
Before my son James went away to university, despite him having some emotional reservation to identify with my second wife, he did get on with the children to my second union as the photo with him and my youngest son William shows.
Since obtaining his degree however, he has gradually grown farther and farther away from me in his concern and affection. Had I been a bad dad to him, I could better understand this distance, but the truth is quite the reverse. His remoteness and emotional detachment started with the receiving of his degree in London to which I was not informed or invited, but still attended in the background. It carried on at his wedding which took place out in Switzerland and which I attended with my second wife and children to that marriage. Not only did he fail to mention me once in his groom speech, instead heaping fulsome praise upon his father in law, but he even set up the hotel sleeping arrangements so that I shared a bedroom with his brother Adam and not my second wife, Fiona. Since his wedding, the greatest frequency of contact I have had with him and my only grandchildren has been one visit a year and two phone calls a year. I have sometimes received a birthday card and I have never received a Father's Day card from him. Since I developed a terminal illness four years ago, he has visited once and I have seen my only two grandchildren once, who were accompanied and supervised by my ex-wife's cohabitee whom they call 'granddad.'
I do not know if you read my postings James, but if you do, please believe that I recount this situation we share, more in disappointment than anger. I do not speak the words I say today to hurt you in any measure or because of my failure to understand you. I know that the separation of me and your mother hurt you then and left you bewildered and feeling that dad had abandoned you. Parental separation undoubtedly led to a high level of self reliance and a propensity not to trust others as easily in adult life as you did as a child; along with a determination to succeed in your job that keeps you more emotionally distant as a person than is healthy.
My words today are voiced with my most sincere desire that they may help you reassess your stance on life and in particular towards me, your father. I wish you a very happy birthday, son and it is my everlasting hope that before I die that you make your peace with your father, yourself and your past. I love you son. Dad x" William Forde April 20th, 2016.