If you read my previous article, “So My Son Doesn’t Skate”, you know that my son had no interest in skateboarding, and with the help of my father, I came to terms with this fact.
Now, to understand the time-line of the first article, and where we are now, I originally wrote “So My Son Doesn’t Skate” a few years ago for the now-defunct “Keeleyvision” site. When I originally wrote that piece my son was 11, he is now 13 and a lot has changed.
The main thing that has changed is that my long lost daughter found me, and then she moved to Phoenix from Detroit to live with us. I have covered my relationship with my daughter, or lack thereof, several times on several websites. But, I have no idea how much cross-site traffic any of these stories gets. Given the fact that I don’t really talk to too many people these days (that’s another story altogether), I will recap…
23 years ago I met what I thought was a “hippy chick” in the Westland Mall (in Michigan) while skating these brick planters. Westland Mall, a dilapidated mall in a third ring suburb of Detroit MI, was not a destination for anyone except local skateboarders and scene kids. That night we had a one-night-stand where I broke a condom (always pull out!!!). The “hippie chick” and I hung out a few more times after that, but, I quickly realized she wasn’t a hippy chick at all. She was really a “Boot-girl”, a Nazi skinhead who was just going through a sun dress phase. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t work out.
About 6 months after the one night stand she called me and told me she was pregnant. At first I was like: “OK, what do you want me to do?” I was fully ready to accept responsibility, and do the right thing. Unfortunately, between constant and unfounded anger toward me and the fact that several other guys were claiming to be the father, I stopped talking to her altogether.
To be clear, I didn’t stop taking her phone calls. I didn’t avoid her. I just stopped responding to her constant insults and screaming fits. I would sit on the phone listening to her tell me how much of a bad person I was, how stupid I was, and occasionally how it was wrong for the races to intermingle (yes, it was that weird and wrong). I would sit their silently until she wore herself out, then she stopped calling me completely.
Cut to five years later: I receive a letter from the Friend of the Court for Washtenaw County, MI. I opened it in my truck while sitting next to Mel, then girlfriend, future and current wife. I took the DNA test and I was the father. To this day, I can still hear the collective sigh of relief from many of my male friends and acquaintances in the Detroit skateboarding and punk rock scene. Yes, it was that bad, honestly, I’m down-playing it.
I now had a 4-year-old daughter, Ema. There was a short but ugly fight for visitation. The mother wanted to punish me for not believing her when she told me I was the father even though I wasn’t the only person she claimed/accused of being the father. But, that’s what crazy people do, and having a crazy mother, I fought as much as I could without causing a cataclysmic event for the kid. She would have to deal with her mother on a day-to-day basis after all.
At the time, I was hopeful. My family life had never been better. I was in a great relationship with my soon to be, wife. The relationship with my father and step-mother had never been better. Shit, even my mother seemed to be less of a compulsively lying crazy cunt, for a bit.
From four to five years old, I got to see my daughter every other weekend. I look at back at this as a happy time, but looking back at it I have the forced perspective of a father wanting to see his kid.
In reality, it was a shit-show. My daughter’s mother was always late to drop her off or pick her up, no small issue for Mel and Myself, given that we had to drive 3.5 hours each way to spend time with her. To make matters worse, my daughter’s mother forced us to also take her other daughter with us on every visit. At the time, we looked at it as a small price to pay to see my kid, but in reality it we were not only being taken advantage of, we were consistently being abused by my daughter’s older half-sister. Although we treated her half-sister every bit as well as my daughter, included her in everything, treated her as our own, she had very real emotional and phycological problems.
To highlight how bad it was with my daughter’s older half-sister: one day I ate one of her anti-psychotic meds, a pill she needed to take 4 times a day to keep her from hurting herself or others.
Now, it’s no secret that I have dabbled in every drug that has ever been bought in an alley, anywhere. My liver is the stuff of legend in party circles around the globe, but this drug was too much for me. 20 minutes after taking one of the pills this 8-year-old girl needed to take for her to approximate normalcy, I was immobile on the kitchen floor with my future mother-in-law having to talk me down from climbing the walls and pulling my hair out.
But we put up with it, happily. My dad put up with it, my step mom put up with it, Mel’s parents put up with it, and Mel put up with it.
They put up with every condescending thing my daughter’s mother said to them, and there was many.
Every scumbag and junky she showed up with.
Every bold face lie…
We all put up with it so we could spend time with Ema.
When Ema was five and a half years old I stopped getting to see her. One day when her mother came to pick her up (we could not drop her off because her mother didn’t want her living conditions to be used as a basis of a custody hearing) I committed the ultimate sin:
Her mother showed up to pick her up and she was in a rage. She had gone through the McDonalds drive-through (for her and her boyfriend of the moment, mind you, not the kids) and she had scraped her door against one of the big metal poles that keep people from smashing into the order-speaker. Now, mind you, the mistake was all mine. I made the mistake of considering the fact that I had paid for the car, I believed I could enjoy a moment of humor and honesty. I said: “yeah, that’s why they painted them bright yellow”. Like I said, this was a huge mistake on my part. I spoke to her the way any sane person would talk to any other sane person….I was not talking to a sane person…
She exploded in anger saying: “that’s what they said” then called me every name she could think of finishing it off with “you will never see Ema again!!”
Introspect I should have fought back. I should have gotten a lawyer, my dad would have paid for it. But, I had lived through a real dogfight of a custody battle when my parents split up. I remember the damage, the lying in bed at night crying, the feeling like it was my fault; and I couldn’t do that to my kid.
If you want to call me a dead-beat, a quitter, a coward, go ahead. I deserve it.
I have called myself all of that so many times over the years, and I completely agree. I failed as a man, I failed as a father…
So, a couple of years ago, in close proximity to the writing of “So My Son Doesn’t Skate”, I got a call from my (at the time) 21-year-old daughter while I was skating a local ramp session. At first, though I’m embarrassed to admit it now. I thought she was just looking for money and I was very “stand-offish” in our original interaction via phone. I had played the “I need money” game with her mother countless times. I have been thrown in jail when I couldn’t pay. I watched my wife and son suffer when we had fallen on hard times, all the while having to pay “her” while she kept me from seeing my little girl. All the while wanting to protect my wife and son from a girl I did not know, who had been raised by someone who had wantonly caused all of us so much and pain and suffering. I thought the worst.
Soon I learned that Ema, had been following me via social media (one of the reasons I leave my social media accounts set to public, the other being that it keeps me completely honest). She had been following me for years. Every photo, every adventure, just waiting for the right time to reconnect with her father.
We welcomed her with open arms, moved her in, and let her find her way in our family.
How does this relate to a story about my son not being into skateboarding? Well for her, skateboarding was always cool. She grew up around people who looked up to me skateboarding. Most of her homies growing up had seen the photos of me taking on the big rainbow-rail at modern. They had seen the cover photo Crailslide on Concrete Disciples. They had watched my “last resort” video part. They had seen my “Dirt Foot” part. I had set their boards up when they were kids when I worked at the skateshop. She had been seeing and hearing skateboarding stories about her dad her entire life.
My son had lived all of it. Skateboarding really meant nothing to him. It was just shit that happened. It was just dad being dad.To Ema it was a history she could cling to. An image of a father she never knew, but hoped to someday.
Seeing my daughter’s love of skateboarding sparked a fire in my son. He started taking my board and going to the park with her.
Eventually, this past Christmas, all he wanted was a new complete.
Shortly later, he was asking for a ramp.
Now he asks to go to the skate park with me, but it will never compare to a session with his sister.
Thank you, Ema.
Not only did you showing up back in our lives give me back my daughter, but you brought your younger brother into our skateboarding world.
As I write this I can hear my son cracking foot-high ollies on the sidewalk in front of my office. My daughter is at Union Hills Skatepark, a full “59” local.
Life is good… Life is very good.