Many fathers wonder if the things we did to raise our kids was enough. We wonder if those times we lost our temper damaged them in some way. Some of us wonder if our kids ever wish they had different parents.
Do my kids resent me for being sick their whole life?
We do the best job we can with what life gives us. Most times, we have no money to give the kids everything they want. Sometimes we spend all our time trying to support the family financially, and we don’t have any time left over to spend with them. I know, before I got so sick I couldn’t work, I was rarely home and didn’t have the impact a good father should have on my kids formative years. Sure, I showed up for birthdays and Christmas, but when the kids needed help with their homework, or just wanted someone to talk to, I was absent.
We fathers have to make sacrifices. I sacrificed my time, so my first wife could raise our three boys, and dammit if she didn’t do a great job. But how much better would it have been if I could have had an impact on the day-to-day lives of Jason, Joseph, and Jordan?
Jason came along while I was still a very young man. I married at 18, and he popped out shortly after. I didn’t know how to raise a child, or even what a father’s role was. I learned some things from my dad, but most things I tried in the first part of Jason’s years were a shot in the dark.
I was an assistant manager at Burger King, and being on salary, I worked a hell of a lot of hours. Fast food puts pressure on salaried managers to pick up all the slack, so labor costs stay low. It was more money than I’d ever made, but it wasn’t enough to justify all the hours they force you to work.
I was never home. I wasn’t there when Jason woke up, or when he went to bed. I didn’t play with him or change his diapers. Most of the time, when I was home, I was sleeping, or in such a bad mood I didn’t want anyone to bother me.
Even if I was working all the time, I could’ve been present in the moment for Jason and my wife, Linda. But, I was young and incredibly stupid. I was just starting to understand I had an illness that wasn’t going away anytime soon.
I paid attention to the wrong things. Instead of my wife, I was trying to find love in places a married man shouldn’t. I was putting my time and effort in making money so I could buy things we didn’t need, instead of making sure Jason and my wife were happy and fulfilled.
I was doing everything wrong in the beginning.
Joseph came along a few years later, and by this time, I was set in my role as a part-time father and full-time employee. Linda wasn’t getting any happier, and I was miserable trying to live life in two different worlds. In one, I was a husband and father. In the other, I acted as if I was single and lived as if there was no tomorrow
Joseph’s birth did serve to bring us closer together, even if only for a short time. I did spend more time tending to him — I changed diapers and fed him on occasion. But my attitude was terrible. I felt like because Linda didn’t work, she should do everything. If I wasn’t working, I was doing everything except what a husband and father should be doing.
I was lazy. I was angry. I was a big old asshole.
I did the minimum required of anything that had to do with my family. Even when I was spending time with them, my mind was elsewhere.
After a few years, it got to a point where I split with Linda and moved to a different city.
I rarely saw the kids at first.
But during that breakup, I started to realize something. I was free to sleep with who I wanted and party whenever I choose to.
I could do whatever I wanted. But I didn’t. I missed Joseph and Jason, and I missed Linda. I missed being a family.
I tried to spend more and more time with the kids. They even came and stayed with me a week, and for the first time, I was the one responsible for everything. It was hard, but I loved every single minute. I cherished every single little moment I was with them.
I grew tired of my new life. I hated the drugs and booze. I was trying to live a life that was no longer mine, and the effort it took to live such a big lie took its toll. After crashing mentally and ending up naked — locked in my closet with Glock 19 in my mouth — I decided it was time to make some huge changes.
I knew I wanted to be closer to the boys, so I moved back to Tucson and into their lives again. One of the benefits of being close to them was that I saw their mother more often. Things had changed between us. Even though I betrayed her and left the family, she loved me in her way, and I loved her.
We got back together, and a short time later, Jordan came along.
By the time Jordan was born, I was a different man. I was still figuring it all out, but I was more present. I spent time with the family when I wasn’t working. I tried my best to make a future for them.
I gave up fast food and went to college. After college, even though the mental issues I’d lived with my entire life started threatening to swamp me, I started getting better jobs and moving up in the world.
We moved, first to California, then to Massachusetts, and with each step, climbed to a higher tax bracket. We bought a house and started living a life that we’d only dreamed of before. I was able to buy everything the boys ever wanted, and because I was still away working most of the time, I hoped it was enough.
Even if my illness was out of control, I was more of a father and husband than I ever was before. Even if I spent 100+ hours a week working and commuting, I still found quality time to spend with the people I loved.
No, everything wasn’t perfect, but we had each other, and that’s all that mattered.
Everything comes crashing down
Our lives were hanging by a thread because every day, my mental illness grew to horrific proportions. I was harming myself — I was suicidal, I was depressed, and I was anxious. Voices were telling me to end it all.
The only thing keeping me together was stubbornness and the fear that if something happened to me, my family wouldn’t survive.
The last straw was showing up at work one day and leaving an hour later with my walking papers. The job that paid for my extravagant lifestyle was gone, and because the dot-com boom was over, no other companies would hire me.
I tried to kill myself and spent two weeks in a mental hospital.
Slowly but surely, we lost everything. We were bankrupt and couldn’t afford to live where we were anymore. The bank took the house, and we sold everything else to pay for our trip back to Arizona. My parents still lived there, and we crawled back with our tails between our legs.
We had a car and a few possessions, but no money and no hope. We found a place to live that we couldn’t afford, and if it hadn’t been for my mom and dad, we wouldn’t have that. I got a job in a call center, but my illness wouldn’t be ignored.
Instead of killing myself, I asked my parents to take me to the hospital.
In the hospital, along with getting a new diagnosis of depressive-type schizoaffective disorder, the doctors advised me to sign up for Social Security disability. It was difficult and took some time, but I was able to support my family while I tried to recover.
Life had changed, and it would never go back to the way it was. I couldn’t work and spent my days trying to survive — that is, when I wasn’t sleeping. I tried to stay close to the family, but I was sick, and every day was a battle not to take a knife and slice my wrists.
Linda got the worst of it, and after trying her best to hold the family together, gave up and asked me to leave for good. I don’t know if it was our dark past, my mental illness, or that she couldn’t handle living another day in a loveless marriage. It was most likely a combination of everything.
She’d found someone to love her, and I didn’t blame her. She did what she thought was right, and after all the shitty things I’d done to her, I deserved everything I got.
After over 15 years, our marriage was over.
But there were a few silver linings. My kids stayed with me quite a bit, and to tell the truth, the only reason I survived that time in my life was because of my three beautiful boys. Jason and Joseph were in High School and already had their own lives, but they took time out for me whenever they could.
I tried to keep their lives as normal as possible, but I know they were affected by the divorce and my mental illness. Their lives were not in any way normal, but they survived. They even thrived.
Jordan became my best buddy, and we had a few cool road trips together. He was also at my apartment a lot of the time, and I was thankful because, if left alone, I don’t know what I would’ve done to myself.
Time passed. Jason went into the Army and shipped to Afghanistan. At first, I wrote to him all the time. Real letters. Snail mail. But my mind had broken, and I had a difficult time even taking care of myself. The letters stopped. While other parents were sending their kids special food and cartons of cigarettes, Jason got nothing. It must have been terrible being in a war and thinking that your father didn’t care about you.
Joseph got married to the devil’s spawn, even though I knew he loved her. Love is blind, but he eventually opened his eyes. I saw him often. He would come by the house to hang out, and I would go to his house on occasion.
Jordan was still my buddy. He stayed with me some of the time. I took him to school and picked him up, and on the weekends we had Xbox marathons. We were close.
But I was sick, and I was lonely. I tired of having no one to love me and help take care of me. I was missing a huge part of my life, and I got so tired of it, that I did something drastic.
Changing my life
The boys were getting older, and they needed me less. I was alone, depressed — for all intents and purposes a shut-in. I was existing, not living. I was taking up space and oxygen.
I needed to do something with my life.
I spent a whole lot of time on the internet, and it was there that I met Flora. She was young (at first I thought too young), vibrant, full of life, and had a smile that melted my insides. She lived in the Philippines. Her night was my day, but we somehow still talked for hours at a time — every single day.
It was infatuation, but at the time, it felt like love. It was enough that I asked her to marry me a short time after. Through our discussions, we found out that we needed each other. She needed saving as much as I did.
Maybe it wasn’t the best reason to get married or the greatest circumstances, but we were going to do it. I decided, instead of going through the huge stack of paperwork it would have taken for her to come to America, I would go to the Philippines. I needed a new place to start over, and halfway around the world was just the ticket.
I’d miss my boys the most. By this time, Jason was in Colorado; Joseph was working and happy in Tucson, in love for good. Jordan hoped to go to college. They had their lives, and although I saw them once in a while, I felt like a burden. I knew they would miss me, but this was something I had to do.
I arrived in the Philippines in September of 2011 and married in October. I’d like to say life was perfect, but in the beginning, it was far from it.
I was still a very mentally ill man. I still am. Flora had to figure out how to deal with me, which was hard because she’s never dealt with someone like me before. Despite the struggles, Flora got pregnant, and Zoey was born in August of 2012.
Life was rocky. The powers that be had canceled my SSDI a few months before, but I went to the Philippines anyway. I thought it would be easy for me to get a job, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. I did find a job teaching English, but despite what the U.S. government said, I was still sick, and couldn’t work.
When flora was six months pregnant, I flew back to Arizona to get my Social Security back. It took more than a year, and because of it, I missed Zoey’s birth and the first year of her life.
I cried every night from the day Zoey was born to the day I stepped on the plane a flew back to my beloved Philippines. When I arrived at the airport, Zoey was in my arms, and she hasn’t left six years later.
We’ve been as close as two people can be since the moment we laid eyes on each other.
I promised myself I would do everything in my power to give Zoey a happy life. That meant I had to be the best father to Zoey and husband to Flora I could be. Except for a few trips back to the States, I haven’t been away from the two of them at all.
I’ve had my issues. Even when I’m so sick I can‘t get out of bed — I am first a father and husband. Even when I attempted suicide five years ago, the only thing I could think of was my family.
Zoey, Flora, and I are as close as can be. I can finally say I am who I want to be in life. I’ve found my place, and it only took me 50 years.
I still miss my boys. I’ve tried to stay in close contact with them, but the distance is difficult. Over the past eight years, we’ve grown further and further apart. I don’t get to talk to them enough. I’ll drop a “hello” on Facebook every so often to see if they still think about me. Father’s day was lonely as only one of them wished me a happy day.
I hope they know they are the best thing ever to happen to me. When I look back on my past, the only thing I’m proud of is the men they turned out to be. Even if I was working, sick, or out of the country most of the time, I did the best I could do. Even if I’m 8500 miles away, I still love them with all my heart and think of them every day.
I spend all my time now making sure Zoey and Flora are happy and fulfilled. Things have been going so well that eight months ago, we got a surprise.
In the next week or so, Joey Lee Weiland will be born. My fourth boy will come in the 50th year of my life. A lot of people have expressed concern for my family. They wonder if a severely mentally ill 50-year-old should be a father again.
Yes, I get depressed, anxious, and have psychotic episodes, but I’m doing better than I ever have been. I’m stable and a damn good father and husband. I’m working again. I write full-time on Medium and do a little freelancing. But my focus is not my work. My focus is my family.
My family gets the best part of my attention. I’m a father in the purest sense of the word to Zoey, and I will be for Joey as well. I am present, I am loving, and I am the best version of myself.
I’ve taken a life that most others would have thrown away and made something out of it. I’ve turned a miserable existence into a fulfilling life. I’m what I’ve always wanted to be. I am a father, a husband, a son, a writer, an entrepreneur, an advocate, and an activist. I look out for the little guy and lend a helping hand to people in need.
I am happy.
Yes, I’d love to have a better relationship with my boys. Even if I’m on the other side of the world, they’re still important. I’m patient, and I know one day they will realize that I’m important too. When they do, I’ll be here to give them all the love they can handle.
Until then, I am here for Zoey, Joey, and Flora.
I am a father and husband, and I am proud.
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