July 28, 2014. 3 years, 1 month, and 3 days. Or 1130 days, if you prefer. I’d rather just refer to it as a long freaking time. That is how long it has been since my son saw his paternal grandfather. I know this because that is also the last time my father-in-law saw my husband (his son) and myself, as well. We had travelled 4+ hours by car to spend a few days with him and his wife. That was the last visit my son (now 4 years old) had with them.
Now, I could exaggerate and elaborately spin this fact into a sob-story about how my father-in-law fell ill, or endured some tragic fate, having no control over disappearing from the lives of the two people that mean the most to me. However, that is not the reality at all, far from it actually.
So why has it been so long since our last visit? Good question. I wish I had an answer. Well, I suppose one reason is because we have finally given up trying to force a relationship with someone who doesn’t bring anything positive into our lives, for the sake of our son. I can count on one hand the number of times they have seen him since he was born in the Spring of 2013, and almost every one of those visits was instigated by us, not them.
My husband and I have been together for fourteen years, married for twelve of those. Now, don’t get me wrong, my father-in-law had never been a leading character in my husband’s life but he played a small supporting role in the more than a decade that we have been together. Since I am not one to mince words and I hate being fake, let’s be real here. That was a polite way of me saying he was always a shitty father. That part is nothing new.
A deadbeat really but not in the usual sense of the word. “Deadbeat” is typically reserved for the fathers that have no money, or job, or ability and desire to financially support their child. My father-in law had/has an abundance of all those things. It was the inclination to spend time with his son (or his other children) and common sense he was (and apparently still is) lacking.
My husband and I suspected that once our son was born, the only grandchild that will carry on my father-in-law’s surname (which, apparently, if you are a dude is a big deal) would have prompted him to play a more prominent role in our and our new son’s lives. Alas, we couldn’t have been more wrong.
Once a deadbeat, always a deadbeat, it seems. As harsh as that may come across, I am honestly so tired of watching my father-in-law disappoint his own child, the man I love, time and time again. If I’m being completely honest here, you could say it is actually a relief that my husband is finally done with him now once and for all.
It is sad though, it really is. We tried. We tried and we tried, and then we tried some more. I used to make such a conscious effort to have a relationship with my father-in-law and his wife. Even before we had a child, I would reach out to them and try and mend the rift that my father-in-law created when he abandoned my husband as a child.
Then finally, after our son arrived and my priorities changed, I gave up making an effort. I realized it wasn’t doing any good, and he really hadn’t changed, not wanting to be any more involved in his grandson’s life than he did his own son’s. That’s when I got really angry.
So, I stopped nagging my husband to call his Dad. I stopped sending photographs, which were never acknowledged nor appreciated, of our beautiful little boy who was growing up before our eyes. I stopped emailing videos of first steps and first words and other exciting new “tricks” my son was quickly mastering. I stopped caring if they knew how amazing it was to watch our little miracle baby grow into a little boy.
As sad as it was to me that my son’s fraternal grandfather was not interested in his life, I was relieved that my father-in-law would not have the opportunity to repeatedly hurt and disappoint our son like he had my husband.
If anything, I feel pity for him.
My son is not missing out on anything by not having his fraternal grandfather in his life. He is loved and adored by all who loved and cared for him (regardless of whether they are blood related or not). If anyone is missing out on anything, it is my father in law who is on the losing side.
By ignoring my husband and our son, he is missing out on so many wonderful things. He has missed out on Birthdays and Christmases. He has missed out on first haircuts and trips to the zoo. He has missed out on being hugged by soft, sweet little arms and covered in messy, enthusiastic, sloppy kisses. He has missed out on seeing my son learn how to climb stairs and kick a ball, get dressed by himself and complete a puzzle all on his own.
He has missed seeing my husband, his own son, grow into an amazingly supportive, caring and devoted father. He has missed watching his eyes light up when he plays with our son or his face fall when he catches a glimpse of him stumbling on the play bridge at the park.
I could go on and on about what he has missed and will continue to miss. What I have come to realize though is that what really matters most isn’t whether or not my son has a relationship with his paternal grandfather. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t get so much as even a birthday card in the mail or a present from him under the tree at Christmas. What matters most is that my son knows he is loved and adored by all that are in his life.
Most of all, I want him to know that his existence helped heal the hole in my husband’s heart from the years of uncertainty, neglect and invisibility he endured with his own father. Having a son of his own reinforced my husband’s desire to become a better man that his own father, to make every effort to show our son he is loved and valued. I want him to see that while you cannot choose who your family is, you can choose who you let hurt you, and still grow up surrounded by love despite it. ❤