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A Father's Gift - Part 3

The desertion was a heart stopping shock, although the theme of the novel was climaxing to this culmination. Still I was agape. This was the type of thing that sold novels and subsequent movies. This was definitely not life as I expected it.

Seven years had produced two bright eyed baby girls and sundry scenes of silence. The babies couldn't create love. Granted, they were loved, and deeply. I know their mother held their hearts close to hers and I was as certain as sunshine that I matched that proclivity.

I was trading labor for family security when what was not meant to be arrived. By then, the baby girls had been stolen. This epiphany was aided by a county sheriff. He interrupted my means of providing support for my family by presenting me, without any hint of emotion, with papers that spoke to me. The papers told me that my wife, Molly, wished to inform me that I no longer had a family to support, at least not one with which I would be sharing a habitat.

The maternal right was enough to snare them, remove them to a place far away from me. It was all planned to be done in my absence.

The plans must have been extensive and must have been formulated well before the action. My wife escaped to Virginia from our home in Connecticut with the help of her brother, his fiancée, her sister and her fiancé. I really don't know who else, if anyone, helped with this cowardly deception. It didn't really matter.

Jessica was four years old and Jackie was only a year old. I had just begun to know them. I knew them as the little girls who ran to greet me at the door each and every time I returned from work. I knew them as the light at the end of the work day. I knew them as two very small people who validated my existence with the excitement they expressed at seeing me. But I was just beginning to know them as people.

Devastation engulfed me. It was so obvious, yet I never saw it. Conversation between Molly and me focused on words necessary to be informative, sort of like when the cop asks, “Can I see your license and registration please?”

However, strangely enough, Molly showed affection and even displayed sensuality the night before she ran like a thief, absconding my heart. I wondered why she suddenly became affectionate. The naiveté whose company I constantly kept at that time told me that things were merely improving.

I needed my girls and I know they needed me.

Two days had passed before I finally conjured the courage to go back into my home. I entered into surreal emptiness. Most of the furniture was gone. The bed in which, just three days earlier, I gained a glimmer of hope, was gone. But most emotionally impaling of all, my daughters were gone. When I opened the door, no one greeted me.

The car was still there, vapors of petroleum inhabiting the fuel tank. There was a note under one of the wiper blades that read, “See you in court!” Court? I'd never even been to court before, not even for a traffic violation. Court? She'll see me in court?

I paused for a moment and thought to myself, “Shouldn't a statement such as, 'let's go see a counselor' or 'I don't like you anymore' have preceded 'I'll see you in court?'”

Reality just sort of chuckled at that thought. That's right, people have to be speaking to one another in order to awaken those words. Blindness wears so many masks.

I turned to the scales of justice. They told me that possession is nine tenths of the law.

“Gain possession of your girls if you want to have any chance at all of being the custodial parent.”

I turned to you for help. You agreed with the scales. It was unthinkable that, without even making an attempt to salvage my family or even telling me that it was unsalvageable, this woman would just leave me with an empty house. The sparse furnishings that she did leave behind could never replace Jessica and Jackie. You told me in your typical, self-confident, loud voice what you would do if a woman ever did that to you. You assured me that retrieving the girls would be accomplished.

The plan was prepared. I was grateful for your help and admired your courage. A father helping a father in need. You would propel us the four hundred miles to regain my girls. We arrived. I rapped on the front door and, when Molly's mother opened it, I quickly picked up Jessica.

I said to you, “Get Jackie, Dad, let's go!”

Alas, I was deceived. What I heard from your mouth were lies that I found monstrous.

“Put her down and let's get the hell out of here,” were your words.

You promised me, then let me down. I was startled by your cowardice. I put Jessica down and we began our return home.

Disappointment wasn't the only gift you imparted to me on that day. It was much more than another four hundred mile journey.

No. Disappointment wasn't enough. I heard, almost non stop during the journey, how I could have gotten you arrested. I put your job in jeopardy. The words you used to impart your sudden change of heart were as harsh as the shock itself.

For most of the eight hour trip, you laid my sins out in front of me. I had not done anything to earn your love or support, the support I thought you offered - no - the support you did offer. You had agreed that it was the right and the only thing to do. It's what you would have done. You told me that, once you retrieved your children, you would have “kicked the bitch's ass.” I believed you because I saw you do it before. No woman would ever do that to you and get away with it.

Suddenly, I was a seed that should never have been planted. I should have married my own kind. An Italian girl would have been my own kind. An Italian girl would have been the only kind. She would have had respect for me, just as your wife respected you. I eventually came to realize it was a “respect” that veiled the terror with which you “kept her in line” and kept her “stupid’”.

How could I allow you to take this risk? On and on it went. My sins, my faults.

Where was the support? Where was the admirable courage? Where was the fathers' bond? They were lies, ghosts and apparitions.

Like your love for me, they were artificial, forced and lacking in substance.

Has that changed?

No.

I am, even to this day, the cross you've always hated to bear.

COPYRIGHT 2005 by Michael Bonanno

Reproduction of "A Father's Gift" or any part therein,
is prohibited with the exeption of "fair use" circumstances.

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