Sunday, June 21, 2015

"What a Father Does"

I was asked once if I had any childhood memories that I looked back on as defining moments. So I've spent some time lately reflecting. As it turns out, there are several but I'll try to stay focused. Ritalin don't fail me now...

I've got a pretty good memory; better than average as I understand it. I can draw floor plans for places I've lived as far back as 40 years ago or list Christmas presents clear back til then. Some people would attribute it to electroshock therapy but I think it's because I've tempted fate so many times throughout my life that I probably have a record for "near death experiences". I'm still waiting to hear back from Guiness on that. 
So I've gotta narrow it down for myself. Would I consider any of the monumentally stupid things I've done that "defining moment"? To sort through that list could take the better part of a decade. Now that I think about it, I'm surprised I'm still alive. Wait...let me check my pulse. I'll be right back. 

Ok. Good news. I'm not clinically dead. Bad news. I therefore have no excuse for why I'm still in bed then. Oh, I was writing. That's right. Ok. A childhood memory. Defining moment maybe. Let's see...hhmm... Wait! I know!! A memory that has stuck with me for decades. Sometimes resurfaces at seemingly random moments. 
It's not one of those moments that wins "feel good moment of the year" but I suppose they can't all be great. This one requires a little bit of set up so let's address that first. Cue the wavy background and "flashback" music. Let's go for a trip down memory lane. 

As we've established, I  was a pretty unruly kid. I was living with a "mother" who was gone for days at a time and would eventually come home drunk or jacked up on one drug or another. Though I'm not out to make excuses for the fact I was a hellion, I feel it's helpful to explain I had no guidance. 
Eventually my dad was made aware of the problem and he insisted I be allowed to go live with him rather than the "home for troubled boys" that I was facing. I was all for it as I hadn't seen him in years because he had been stationed in Europe. 
He got temporary custody of me and arrangements were made for him to get permanent custody. I think the temporary custody was to allow a trial run and make sure I hadn't grown into an axe murderer. He did have a wife and kid to consider. Who could blame him for being cautious after the tales he'd heard. 

And that's when it happened. The memory that still sticks with me. My dad had his attorney draw up the paperwork and we went back down to Tampa so she could sign custody over to him. He was excited, I was excited. It was going to be a good day. Or so we thought. 
As she touched the pen to the paper she hesitated. She raised the pen and looked at my dad and said, "I'm gonna need $3,000 before I can sign this."

Bear in mind, folks, that this was my birth mother. She smiled at me and my father as she rattled off a price like an auctioneer. At the age of 12 I'd been told how much I was worth. This was in 1984 but, even back then, this wasn't even enough to buy a car. 
How was that a defining moment, you ask? Was I devastated? Well, of course, it was devastating at the time. But it was motivational as well. Educational even. And from that day forth, knowing how little my own birth mother valued me, I strive to improve myself in every way. She may have thought I wasn't worth much but I watched my dad swallow his pride to raise the money as quickly as he could. He told me he didn't care about money; he just wanted ME. Because he's a father. Not just a good one but a great one and that's what fathers do. 

So what I learned from that was that some people may not value you much but, to the people who truly love you, you're priceless. I've lost sight of this on occasion and allowed people I was in a relationship with or married to to treat me like an afterthought. So I encourage you to make sure you remember that you are priceless to somebody. Don't let anyone devalue you.