This is how I felt yesterday, after I told my son to go ahead and order his lunch.
“Are you sure Dad said he was definitely coming?” I asked him.
He shrugged, a thousand emotions flickering in his deep eyes. He backed away from me, as his friends were beckoning him to come eat with them. “Yes. I mean, maybe. I don’t know.” And just like that he turned and ran off, joining his friends as they all ordered wings and sodas on a gorgeous summer afternoon, doing what kids should be doing: swimming, playing, laughing.
My daughter was different. She was hungry. “Let me call Dad,” she demanded. And as she tried to dial she remembered that she couldn’t, because Dad has me blocked. The look that crossed her face was even more brief, if I blinked I may have missed it. The deep sadness.
“So can I get lunch? He’s probably tied up at work?” she says.
PC again and again proves he’s a piece of shit, and nothing should surprise me, but one thing that was constant in the beginning was at least he sees the kids. He picks them up on the days he’s supposed to (albeit whenever the fuck he feels like with no warning) and calls them every day.
Until he stopped calling them daily because Trollup doesn’t call her kid daily and she and her ex have a nice friendly relationship. (Because I’m sure her lack of communication with her daughter is the glue that holds everything together.) Or was it because, as he stated, “we don’t want your drama” (because communicating about our children apparently equals drama)? Whatever his fucked up reason was, he did stop calling his children, rather abruptly, and offered no excuse. And when my son, who’s little soul is so intense and delicate, no matter how rude and surly he seems, broke down about it to Trollup, what was he told?
“Your mom is harassing us.”
Yeahhhhh. So that was that, and some time has passed and now its just the norm for my kids. Dad may or may not call. Usually not. But if he does call it will likely be on a day he is picking them up, to tell them to “be ready” since he is going to come early. So there’s that.
Until he stopped coming early. And for at least a week or two, I listened to my son panic as the clock grew closer and closer to 6pm. Where is Dad? Why hasn’t he called? He always comes early! I’m just going to try and Facetime him again.
And why wasn’t PC picking up early (which, annoying as it was to me, meant more time for my kids.) Because I had announced they could no longer leave before 5:15pm because of a work conflict. And PC, pissed I assume that he had to arrange his pick up time around me, elected instead to not come until 6 p.m. Twice, I watched him pull onto the street and sit in his car until precisely 6p.m., when he got out and walked to get his kids. Once, my daughter witnessed this too.
“Mom, why isn’t Dad coming over?”
“Um, maybe he’s on the phone. He’ll be over, get your shoes on.”
“Mom, maybe we should just walk over there instead? Maybe he wants us to walk over?” My sweet, precious 6 year old. Willing to cross a street with her brother because she wants to see her Dad that bad.
And so that, too, became a new norm. And once the 5:15pm commitment on my part ended, PC went right back to picking them up whenever the fuck he felt like it. And there is no part of me that believes that wasn’t a deliberate way to “stick it to me”. Except, for some reason, he cannot grasp how the ones being hurt are his children.
He was never involved before, only in presence, and only when he felt like it. He never attended any school functions…but this year he attended one end-of-the-year programs for one of our children. Why, you ask? Well because Trollup was attending for her kids. So of course, he came too. And my daughter, the child that I mother and raise and sprout daily new wrinkles for, ran to me bright-eyed and jubilant after. She squeezed me and then,
“Mom, Dad’s here! I have to go find him!” I nodded and she ran off to him, desperate in her need for a father. I locked eyes with a friend, someone else who’s children have a deadbeat father, and we didn’t need to exchange words as we watched her. We both felt it.
A week later, at my son’s end-of-school program. Watching him scan the audience, coming up empty. Hearing the forced nonchalance in his voice after school, “So, Mom. Did you see Dad at all? I thought he might come since he went to my sister’s.”
“No, buddy, I didn’t. But it was pretty crowded.”
“Yeah,” he mused, and I wondered if he decided in his mind to believe that his Dad was there and he just didn’t see him, or to believe what he probably knew: his Dad was never going to be there.
Still, despite all of this, there’s never been such a direct hit, such a blatant broken promise, as yesterday. PC called the children and offered to take them to lunch. I said okay and simply asked for a time (through my son) to which PC told him “Its a yes or no question.” So, no time given. But whatever. Its the pool, we’ll be there, so whatever time. And then the fucker didn’t show up.
Why did he do this? Hard to say. I suppose there could be a logical reason: tied up at work. But then, why not a simple text or call? (Oh yeah, because that would involve unblocking me.) My guess, because I know this person, and I know the ways of his alcoholic, narcissistic mind. Trollup was out of town. PC likely got extra drunk last night. He likely woke in the morning to smoke a cigarette, still drunk, and decided to call his kids. Lunch probably sounded like a great idea to him then, and later? When he went back to sleep and passed out again until noon? He likely forgot or changed his mind.
And in the interim, my children spent the first two hours of their pool day watching a clock with grumbling stomachs and asking me repeatedly, “Mom, when is Dad going to be here?”
So, congratualtions, PC. Congratualtions for raising the bar on your general dickishness to a new level of the quintessential deadbeat dad: the one who makes plans and promises and fails to follow through. I am told this is quite common. But for as much as I would prefer to never see PC again, the kids eyes still light up when he arrives. And he’s flickering that light out, one disappointment at a time.
Still, my kids shook that off. So smoothly, both of them. They ate, and there was no mention of Dad for the rest of the day. They didn’t ask anymore and I didn’t bring it up. They enjoyed a day that they don’t realize will be something they look back on nostalgically: summer, at the pool, with their friends. Tan little bodies, screams of delight, red eyes from the chlorine and hopped up on sugar. They have no idea that when they’re adults they will look back on those days with fondness and wistfulness. I let them stay longer than usual, until the afternoon sun dipped low and my daughter’s cheeks glowed with sunburn. I let them get candy from the snack window and said yes when I usually say no. I want them to remember that about this one June day in the 11th and 7th years of their childhood…not that their father gave them hope and then crushed it, once again.