I gently took him by the hand and lead him from the passenger side of the U-Haul truck. He was trying to have fun with the idea of him coming with me, the kind of playful defiance you find on any eight-year-old when they are trying to figure out the world but adults won’t tell them everything. But I could see the reality slowing dawning on him, he was holding back tears as best an eight-year-old could. We passed through the fence and he suddenly wrapped his arms around my middle.
“Why can’t you come live with, me, mommy and grandma?” He pleaded again for what had to be the 20th time. I gently returned his hug. What was I supposed to say? The image of him as a baby looking up at me in curious wonder, him lifting himself up on his tiny legs to bound across the room toward his mother for the first time, him running at top speed in his first Halloween, the Flash, while his friend got upset because he did not have a costume yet, to our first movie together where he sat in a lotus position on the theater seat candy and drink all organized to eat in his own special way as the movie started all flashed through my mind. I had to hold back my own tears, it wouldn’t help for him to see it.
“I’m sorry.” I said softly, “When you get on the computer you can always find me online. I promise.”
I let him linger for a few minutes then gently pulled him from me. His face was a slowly building mask of misery, he couldn’t hold the tears back but you could see it was just a slight push away from completely breaking down. I slowly lead him to the door to the first floor, a quick walk down to the basement areas I’ve occupied and worked in since he’s known me. He let me take him through the first alcove to the main hall leading to stairs directly in front and the large outer room that was once decorated with posters from movies, comics, TV and anime with the occasional action figure pinned between them. The place was completely bare now. My computer equipment that sat on the same desk in the middle of the far wall was gone, all my books and comics, light saber and sonic screwdriver was gone. The artwork he proudly made that used to hang over my head was gone. It was just an empty space filled with the sparse debris of moving out.
I got to one knee and lifted his head to face me. “I will try to find a way to keep in contact with you. I can’t promise because that would be a lie and I’ll never lie to you.”
“But why do you have to go?” He ask miserably. “Why can’t you stay with me, grandma and mommy?”
He knew I was not his father, he had already came to the first point where he began to ask questions and I explained it to him as best I could every time. I’m sure his mother did as well. The reality is that I was the only man he knew in his life, and I was at least a father figure. He wasn’t my first godchild. Growing up in the 1980’s when teenage and young pregnancy went from scandalous a common occurrence, a few friends had named me godfather for various reasons. This was a little different in that I lived with his mother in a house we maintain together as friends for more than nine years before I got married and used it as an office. We had a tacit agreement that only best friends could have. I’ve met the few men she dated seriously including his father. My friends would joke “That’s your son” before I reminded them that saying this in front of him as he was growing up was not a wise thing to do because he’s eventually ask and you had to tell the truth.
I did not want to leave this place but I was given no choice. The way it was done was as if I had no say nor did I matter. Other friends and family who get mad for me will cry “She was never your friends.” That’s not the truth. The fact is she was my friend, and I almost gave into the idea that we were some kind of family. That’s why it cut harder when they betray you.
You can’t tell an eight-year-old that. They would never understand it fully. Their world was still black and white, the shades of gray would come as they meet people. He was a loving and caring person. You can’t tell them that you are just as upset that you won’t be there when middle and high school slaps the shades of gray into them, that it’s okay to stay a person who cares and loves because school will over one day and these people will mostly not matter. You can’t say, “You mother treated me as if our friendship did not matter, only she and her mother’s self-serving purpose. Something I have never done or would ever do to your mother because I don’t just saying we’re friends of pretend to be family, I actually do it. And that part did not matter to her.” He’s eight, so all I could repeat was;
“Why?” His misery was more pronounce now, the tears were twin floods from a broken damn. I hugged him close again and by now his body was shaking to every cry he poured out. I did it so I could both comfort him as best I could and so he wouldn’t see my tears.
“I’m sorry, midget face. It’s adult stuff.”
“STOP SAYING THAT!” It wasn’t quite a shout as it was words floating out in a miserable wail. His arms morphed into a python’s squeeze around my neck. Sadness was pouring off him in waves you could taste and breath. I wanted to stay there until I found something that could make him feel better – that would make me feel better.
However, U-Haul trucks were timed things, the two nephews who were being paid to help were waiting, the two friends who would drive the truck and their car to get me back after we returned the truck had their own lives to get back to and I had to take stuff that was once spread throughout the entire floor of a house including three rooms, two closets and a kitchen and pack it into two small rooms my sisters had available because it would never fit into me and my wife’s apartment. I had to go and get these things taken care of. It was my last day at the house I lived and worked I for almost eleven years. My friendship with his mother ended the night she came down and announced that she was simply selling the house and that was that. She never said “fuck you” but if she did it would have fit right in to the way she was talking. Our friendship was pretty much over with that speech. I had a few month to come to terms with that.
There’s never any time to come to terms with parting from a child who you might not be the sperm donor to but loved you unconditionally and became a extremely special person in your life. His mother was too clinical and a growing germophobe who through everything in the world was out the kill her and would impart that lovely habit to her son. His grandmother is a joyless bitter old woman who throws people under the bus because. . .reasons. When my Godson took those city white test children always have to take after third grade and the teacher told me he had the highest math score of the whole third grade, I bought him a big cookie and a milkshake to celebrate. I was picking him up from school and taking him to his grandmother’s house because I had work to do and could not be there to watch him. As soon as we walked through the door I told this woman the good news. “You grandson got the highest math score of the whole third grade. He was trying to be a nonchalant about it but his little chest got a bit puffed up when I said it. She looked at me tilting her head and said with a seriously grave tone, “How?” Watching the pride deflate from my godson because he completely understood that his own grandmother did not believe in he ability made me consider giving up on my stance never to hit women. I helped him change, wash up and told him I’d pick him up and take him home later if he wanted.
He was going to be living with that woman now while his mother figured out where to live, if she doesn’t have someplace in mind. Grandmother or not I was of the opinion that Hansel and Gretel would have a better time at the witches house. They might love him but they lacked joy. And kids needed a mixture of discipline and joy. There was nothing I could do. He wasn’t my son. I couldn’t fight for custody and dealing with his mother would not be a good thing for anyone concerned. I couldn’t lie to him. I remember being a child and being lied and knowing I was being lied to and having the feeling of betrayal even as I grew up. Especially when I grew up and realized how bad the lie was. He did not deserve lies.
“I’m sorry, I have to go.” I said softly.
“NO!” he armed impossibly tightened around me, his sobs became choked cries. I let him hold on a little longer. His misery was not in sync with mine. There nothing either of us could do and it sucked in every way you looked at it. Time was up. Life had to go on. And I really did have to go.
I peeled him off as gently as I can. “I’m sorry, I’m really, really sorry. But I have to go.” I kissed him on his forehead and ruffled his hair as I’d done a thousand times in his life. “When you go on your computer you can search for me and find me. If you’re mother let’s you, you can call me anytime you want. I know this sucks, I don’t want to leave you as much as you don’t want me to go. But there’s nothing I can do about this and I have to take my stuff to the new place. I’ll try my best to see you again but I can’t promise. It would a lie if I promise and I’ll never lie to you, ever. Do you understand.”
Despite steady cries he slowly nodded his head.
“Come here.” I hugged him one more time. “I love you kid. I love you with all my heart. You’re the coolest little boy on the planet and I will miss you terribly. There’s nothing else I’m going to miss more than you, not this house, not your mom or grandma. But I’m sorry, I really have to go now.”
It’s amazing how a child can be crying for a long time but still find a higher octave. I pulled away from him, gave his a final kiss on the forehead. I was doing my best to hold back my own tears. But at this point I don’t think he notice. He finally let go and I slowly moved towards the door as he moved towards the upstairs leading out of the space I lived where his mother and grandmother were upstairs waiting for their closing money. I want to run to him and hug him again, but I couldn’t. I let him get to the top, his cried an audible siren or pain that rippled though my entire body. As I closed the door I let my own tears out, staying back from the outside door to give myself a chance to pull it together. I did not know if I’d ever see him again. He wasn’t my son but probably the one kid that came the closest. I’m at an age where I wasn’t sure if I had children. My wife already had her son and wasn’t looking for another. Once upon a time this did not seem to matter to me. But as I pulled the door close and my godson’s sobs were still tangible but muffled sounds buffered by the thick wood, the misery of that hit me hard.
Would I ever see him again? If I didn’t would he forget me the way children do as they grow up and their own lives begins to take over. Could I ever really forgive his mother? Could I leave a child who need so some joy to the mercy of such joyless people? Did I have a choice? Was all of this my fault? You can never understand what it means to have your heart broken until the very moment you feel it happening.
The IMO Part
There are three parts to starting a business. The first part is where you’re excited about the idea, seeing where things can go, what the possibilities can be. The 2nd part is the long swampy middle where everything goes wrong, all the failures are stacked up as testimony to everyone who told you not to do it feeling right and wise. This is the part where most people give up or fail, because it’s not pretty, there is no overnight success like the program you purchased seemed promise. This is the real make or break point of starting your own business. Then there’s the last part and every single person who sustained through the middle part gets to. The success part. That success does not always translate to millions, but it always translates to far more financial security then most people will ever have.
When me and my so-called best friend began our ventures, it was separate. She lost her job and decided it wasn’t worth finding another. She went from one program to another, two of which I even supported even though she gave up on it and moved into something else. When I decided it was time to do it I, unlike her, was given a time limit. We agreed that if nothing happened in two years I simply find a job. Even in the worse economies finding a job is not that hard for me. I can’t give you real explanation as to why. But six month before the deadline she came downstairs and simply said that my two years was up and she’s was selling the house. As a caveat she said if I found a job I could use her new place too. She had reasons, but I did not hear them. She did, nor does not, feel she was doing anything malicious. While my name was not on the property I lived in that house for 9 years, paid on the bills and repairs for that house, helped upgrade that house, had a metric ton of good memories in that house. So the only thing I heard was “I don’t believe in you, and there’s nothing you can do or say.”
I’m not a sexist to the extreme of a lot of guys. However at the moment I realized how unfair that was. She put selling the building on the fact that I gave up a job that barely paid me. Despite my using a huge chunk of my profits from my business to keep the lights on and the Internet working, she acted as if that did not matter. You hear men complain that they could never do what some women do – especially give up a job or career to go and make it on their own. I’m sure that happens to women too, I’ve heard the stories about this millions of times. I’ve only witnessed this side of it. And now I was experiencing it. It was okay for her to do this, she had the building in her name so she obviously saw it as a fall back. She called us “family” but gave me no say in the decision making process about what was to happen with a place that essentially was my home – even with my new wife and her smaller apartment. Worse of all she was taking away the boy I was helping to raise and to shape.
I hope she does well in her real estate business. I don’t do forgiveness, not on that scale. I’ve watch people forgive this sort of thing and have it happen to them in some way, shape or form again. It some ways it did happen before but in a very different way and it boiled down to she was not prepared to take the middle part of doing a business. Now that she has a lump of money from the house she has something to sustain it, but money is fleeting without the will to keep making it. The worse part was the boy and seeing what happens, the lack of regard for it. To this day I feel the tightness of him holding on to me trying to be in denial as best as a child could. Denial is better than reality no matter what age. It will not stop me from moving forward with my business, but it will be one of those pains I will always feel for the rest of my life.
An eight-year-old boy was the victim of someone who could not hold on during that hard middle part. It’s something you never think about until it happens.