Updated: Mar 1
Dave and John have been friends for years and would catch up for a beer every now and then after work, but life had got complicated for both of them. It had been almost 3 years since they last saw each other.
Dave decided to call John to suggest they meet up at The Rose & Crown pub after work this coming Friday as they had a lot of catching up to do. John agreed exclaiming “Yeah, a lot’s been going on mate, would be good to have a yarn over a beer or two, see you Friday”
Dave was already sitting at the bar sipping a beer when John walked in. Dave hardly recognised him. John looked haggard, he had sunken dark eyes, and he had lost so much weight. Dave thought John must have been seriously ill. “OMG mate, you look like you’ve been hit by a truck” Dave said shaking John’s hand and pulling him close to give him a hug. John said “Yeah, feels like it. I think it keeps reversing back over me to finish me off” John’s face was very hard, no spark, no smile, no emotion……almost lifeless. Dave asked the bartender for another beer for John as they both sat down on the bar stools.
“It’s been so long since I’ve seen you, John. I left you a few messages and was getting worried as didn’t hear back from you. Have you been in hiding or something? What’s been going on for you?” Dave could see the pain in John’s eyes as he sat patiently waiting for him to compose himself, collecting his thoughts on where to start. “My life has been ruined by the courts, by my ex-Jodie, and they haven’t let me see the kids in nearly 3 years. It’s ripped my heart out. My kids are my life, I have a right to see my own kids, god dammit” John thumped his fist down on the bar and the other patrons turn around to see what was going on. Dave put his arm around John saying
“Sorry mate, I know it’s tough, I went through it too, I hated having to prove I am a good father, but I did what it takes just so I could see them”
John shouts “You shouldn’t have to prove you are a good father Dave, they are your kids and my kids are my kids. Who has the right to tell us when we can see our own kids!” The barman walked over to John and said “Keep it down mate or you’ll have to leave”. John bristled and was about to lunge across the bar at the barman when Dave grabbed his arm and said “Come on mate, lets go over to the table in the corner so we can talk” They grabbed their beers and walked across the
room to the table where it was a bit more private.
“What happened John? Why wouldn’t they let you see your kids?” Dave asked.
“Well Jodie and I have always had a toxic relationship. Fought like cats and dogs we did, and one day she just up and left with the kids to her mum’s place” John explained “I tried to go and see her to work it out, but she wouldn’t listen, she wouldn’t let me in. We were shouting at each other through the door. I was trying to pry the door open so I could get to my kids as they were crying, but my mother-in-law was hugging them as though she was protecting them from an intruder. I’m their father, I just wanted my kids. The next thing you know the cops pull up and they are arresting me! Can you believe it?” John was shaking his head; he just couldn’t understand how it had come to that.
Dave looked at John and could feel for him but thought how scared the kids must have been. “What a horrible situation for you all, John, especially the kids”
John continued “So I got slapped with an apprehended violence order (AVO) so I couldn’t go near Jodie and the kids for one year. It nearly killed me. I had been with my kids their whole lives, every day. Provided for them, played soccer in the back yard, took them camping, only to be told I am not a fit father for them to be around me” John became choked up emotionally, fighting back the tears. He took a swig of his beer to push the emotions back down.
“It was driving me crazy not seeing my kids, day in, day out, I couldn’t get them out of my mind. I just had to see them, not talk to them, I just wanted to see their faces. I went to their school one afternoon, waiting for them by the fence so I could just see them for 5 minutes, 5 minutes that’s all I wanted. Jodie saw me and reported me to the police. They came around to my place advising I had breached the AVO and I was being summons to go to court again”
“Oh no, what happened?” Dave replied
“I was fined and told I could face prison if I breached the AVO again. The system sucks mate, I just wanted to see my own kids. What is wrong with that, they are MY kids, I have a right to see them” John said
“You can’t win mate, I had an AVO too but applied for supervised visits so I could see the kids for 2 hours a fortnight at a contact centre” Dave said
John raised his voice and said “there is no way I would accept that Dave, I want my kids 50/50, nothing more, nothing less. I would be livid if they told me I could only see my kids for 2 hours a fortnight supervised, SUPERVISED, I am their dad for crying out loud. I looked after them since they were born and their telling me they can’t trust me with my own kids” John was fuming, it was obviously eating him up been kept away from his kids.
Dave replied “I just did what I had to do John to see my kids”
John grimaced and said “Well, that truck of life that I said just keeps reversing over me, well it hit me again. It was my son’s birthday and I wanted to give him a present. I bought him a mobile phone so he could call me whenever he wanted to. I posted it to his place with a birthday card and wham I get hit with an AVO breach again. I couldn’t believe it. It’s my kid’s birthday, how can it be a crime to send your kid a birthday present. I didn’t see him, I didn’t go to their house, but I still got hit with a breach. When I went to court, I was convicted and got locked up for 3 months. System is so corrupt Dave, I’m telling yah mate, all I want to do is see my kids! So, what happened with you Dave?” John asked
“Well John, we split up a couple of years ago. Pressure at work was getting to me, trying to meet unattainable targets, long hours, so I ended up turning to alcohol every night to cope. I would drink until I passed out and woke in the morning to do it all over again. It was like ground hog day. This went on for months and months. Sally couldn’t cope with my drinking and left with the kids too. I had an AVO against me to stop me seeing the kids as she was worried about my drinking if the kids were in my care” Dave said
“Geez mate, that’s a bit rough. You were doing it tough so your missus up and left,” said John
“I suppose life just got too hard for all of us John. I had to accept responsibility that my behaviour had caused the marriage breakdown and my mental breakdown. I lost my job; I lost my home and most importantly I lost my family. So, I wanted to do what it took to get my life back on track John”
“Nah the system sucks mate and your ex shouldn’t have stopped you seeing your own kids,” said John
“John, I felt like I had been hit by a truck too but I sure wasn’t going to let it keep reversing back over me. I got up knowing I needed to change, to get my life back in order so I could see my kids. I did a parenting after separation course, started to see a psychologist, and joined alcoholics anonymous. It nearly killed me too as I would feel ill after seeing my kids every fortnight for just 2 hours. I would just make it out of the contact centre, vomit, then jump into my car and cry all the way home. It was the worst time of my life. Gradually I got stronger and stronger getting used to the 2 hour supervised visits. Eventually I would leave the contact centre happy, hugging the kids and looking forward to seeing them again in a fortnight. This went on for 6 months then I went back to court to request unsupervised visits. Due to the progress and positive changes in my life I was given every second weekend with one overnight stay at my home with a condition of no drinking 12 hours before and during the custody time. I was ecstatic, John”
“Yeah, but you shouldn’t have had to prove you were a good father, you should’ve had your kids from the start.” said John
“You don’t get it John. We can’t change the system; we have to do what’s required to gain access to our kids the legal way! I have my kids now John, I’m happy, I got a new job and in time will apply for 50/50 custody but I am putting my kids first. Whatever works for them, I’ll accept what time I get with them and ensure I enjoy it and not waste it resenting the past”
“I get it alright, you let the corrupt system win! I’ve had enough, I’m going home.” John got up and pushed his chair hard against the wall and stormed out of the pub.
Dave knew John’s temper would have been his own worst enemy all along. He finished his drink and went home.
Six months had passed. Dave hadn’t heard from John and didn’t bother contacting him as he felt he had let himself become a victim of his own demise.
It was a Friday night and the phone rang. Dave picked it up and John said “Hi Dave, you were right” Dave answered “Hi John, hope you are OK mate”. John said “Couldn’t be better. I thought about what you said that day. You were right. I signed up for a parenting after separation course, an anger management course and have been seeing a psychologist for 3 months”
“Wow, that’s fantastic John” Dave said
“The best news is, I went to court today requesting access to see my kids and was granted 2 hours supervised per fortnight. I took it Dave. I am going to do it the right way. I want to see my kids no matter how much time I get. My kids need to know I love them and would see them even if it was for just 5 minutes as they mean the world to me. Thank you, Dave,”
“Well done mate, I am so happy for you.” replied Dave
“Maybe we should catch up for a beer to celebrate?” said John
“Absolutely John, but make mine a coffee”
They both laughed and knew life was going to be so much better for them both and for their kids.
Author - Cheryl Duffy