Let Fathers Be Fathers

This experience is frightening for me. Our son has to go through a diagnostic evaluation to see if he has a learning disability. He was fine until he reached middle school then his grades begin to drop. The more things he had to do on his own he just didn’t seem to be able to get organize for his school work. I thought it was because his grandmother passed away. Quincy and his grandmother were so close. She practically raised him from a baby. His mother, Catherine, worked two jobs and her mother offered to help us out. JoAnn, Catherine’s mother, was a diabetic. I always felt my wife should quit one of her jobs so we could spend more time with Quincy. I didn’t mind making the sacrifice to work the extra hours. I wanted at least one parent to be with Quincy so he wouldn’t feel he was so alone. She was forced to quit one of the jobs after her mother died. I don’t know if she resented coming home.

I worked for the railroad. It was a fairly decent pay when I put in the extra long hours. Milton, a long time co-worker and my best friend had a son diagnosed with autism. He shared many stories about his son. Milton’s stories frightened me because they always seemed to be so closely connected to my life. It appeared that Milton and his ex-wife had problems regarding their son being autistic. Later I learn Milton’s ex-wife had trouble with any women coming around her son or dating Milton.

Milton had gained full custody of his son. He was very proactive in his son’s life. Milton had started an autism support group. He had invited me several times. It always made me feel as if Milton was so many steps ahead of me. He continued to ask me to come and participate in the Autism group. Some parts of me wanted to attend but the other half of me was afraid. For some reason I could see part of my life being like Miltons. It felt like the movie Face Off.

Catherine and I had trouble in our marriage. She blamed herself for not being there when her mother passed away. We had problems before her mother ever came to stay. Her mother’s presence helped relieve a great amount of stress in our household.

JoANN was so patient and kind with Quincy. She was Quincy’s rock. Catherine and I were so tired after working so many hours. It left us no room to deal with Quincy’s problems. It didn’t allow him the ability to process when he became angry and frustrated. JoAnn would always tell Catherine, Let Fathers be Fathers and Deal With It. Let the boy’s father deal with his behavior. Catherine was quick-tempered and lacked patience. It would make Quincy’s behavior become very explosive.

More and more Quincy’s behavior started changing and he begin to sleep a lot. I became greatly concerned because I thought Quincy was slipping into a state of depression. Catherine said Quincy just wanted attention and he was just lazy and she didn’t have the time to be bother with his foolishness. Where did that response come from? When I ask her about her statement, she glared at me with her lip twisted and stormed out of the room. I guess that was my answer. We had began to argue more frequently.

I was all for the evaluation but Catherine would get upset every time I would try to talk about it. We were getting closer to our evaluation date. Catherine had almost totally shutdown. The moments of silence were killing me and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Every time I would try to discuss how we could help Quincy she would bring up her father and how he would deal with the situation. Catherine was very close to her father. At the age of 17, her father died on his way to work of a stroke. She always compared me to her dad. At first I didn’t mind. I kind of thought it was an honor until I talked to JoAnn. Before Catherine’s mother died we had this conversation about JoAnn’s husband. He wasn’t the man my wife made him out to be.

In the heat of the moment I tried to get Catherine to talk. When she mentioned her dad my head spun around like I was the star in the Exorcist. The next thing I knew I had revealed what Catherine’s mother had told me about her dad. At that moment I realized from the look on my wife’s face she never knew. My heart-felt as if it was going to come through my chest. I would never say or do anything to hurt Catherine. It was all over. Catherine ran into the bedroom and started grabbing her clothes out of the closet. I was trying to prevent her from leaving and I don’t remember what happened after that. I have tried to relive that moment in the bedroom a thousands times. The only thing I do remember is I was trying to guard my face. When I looked down, my shirt was bloody. From the mirror in the bedroom I could see scratches all over my body. I called Milton to see if he could pick Quincy up from school. He never asked for any explanation.

Everything was going through my mind. Did she call the police? When were the police going to arrive? Whatever happened in that bedroom, Catherine never came back. The police never showed up. Who said that men don’t cry. I cried for days and days. I love my wife but we always seem to communicate through other people. That did not help our marriage at all. Months had passed and finally I got a call from one of Catherine’s long time friends from New York. Beverly told me Catherine was granting me full custody of Quincy. Before I could ask about Catherine, I was listening to the dial-tone. Just when I thought I had pulled myself together the crying came back. Here was my son asking all these questions and I had no answers. Quincy and I had to move on.

Quincy did get evaluated and he was diagnosed with NLD Syndrome. I have full custody of Quincy now. He often asks me if he was the cause of his mother leaving. He wonders will she ever come back. I wonder the same. Catherine and I never really communicated what was on our minds and in our hearts. We were both too young to have children. I am seeking professional help. There is so much I need to work through. I don’t want to be an angry parent. This isn’t just about my life. I need to be sure I don’t damage Quincy’s life. He has a lot to deal with. I will be right there for him. I have a lot to learn about NLD Syndrome. Milton is helping me to set up a support group and build a website. Yes, I am afraid but I will keep my promise to Quincy’s grandmother. Let Fathers be Fathers and continue to advocate for their children’s needs. Let Fathers be Fathers and understand the social and emotional part of their children’s life. Let Fathers Be Fathers and show the love, support, and embrace their child’s weakness just as they would rally around their strengths. JoAnn is probably looking down on me and Quincy today. As JoAnn would say, Let Fathers be Fathers and Deal With It.

DEDICATION: This story is dedicated to a young man who had to deal with it. He has done an exceptional job and is very supportive of his family and children. He would make any mother proud of how he is handling his life and the lives of family and friends he has touched. This one is for you, Willie Watson.

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