Dave was really struggling not seeing his kids everyday, especially on the weekends when he was at a loose end. During the week he consumed himself working long hours trying to escape the reality that awaited him at home. The silence was deafening when he would unlock the front door and enter the empty house. No cooking aromas, laughing children or barking dog excited to see him at the end of the day. It was as though the house was an empty shell, similar to how he felt. He would switch on the kitchen light, open a tin of soup and heat it up as a simple token of sustenance just to keep up his existence. He missed his wife’s cooking, the family sitting around the table talking about their day and little Jack complaining about having to eat his greens. He loved his family and loved his home. It use to give him a warm sense of security, safety and comfort and he use to rush home as soon as he could straight after work to immerse himself in the family love he enjoyed so much.
Two years ago this all changed. Dave came home and everyone was gone, moved out with a letter on the kitchen bench from his wife Sally saying she wasn’t happy any more and felt it was for the best. Dave thought “The best for who?” He was totally blindsided, shocked, he really couldn’t believe it. The night before they were all sat around the table laughing and eating spaghetti bolognaise with Jack getting in a right mess.
Since that night Dave only sees his kids every second weekend which seems a lifetime between visits. He has really struggled to come to terms with the family breakdown and often questions where he went wrong, replaying events in his mind looking for clues as to how it all ended. He tortures himself wondering what he could have done to prevent it. His self-worth has plummeted as he concludes he wasn’t good enough to make his wife happy. He worked hard, they were financially secure and had a lovely family, so he didn’t understand what was missing. Dave didn’t feel he had an opportunity to fix what ever was wrong and felt helpless to ever get his family back again. Life was never going to be the same.
On the weekends when Dave was alone, he tried to fill his time with getting back to nature to find peace and serenity. It was Saturday and the weather was going to be a scorcher, so Dave jumped into the car to head to the beach where he would have a long walk and a swim to wash off the work week. The traffic was getting pretty heavy as everyone else seemed to have the same idea. Dave turned into the carpark at his favourite beach and found the last spot. He grabbed his towel and wondered down to the beach kiosk to grab a take away coffee and started strolling along the beach. He was soaking up the sun, splashing his feet in the water keeping him cool and watching the swimmers catching a wave to ride in to shore. Dave decided to sit down on his towel and watch the beach life whilst finishing his coffee.
A young dad came along with his son, similar age to Jack and started to play in the water, chasing the water as it was sucked back out to sea then turning and running as fast as they could as the wave started to crash back into shore. It became a game, chasing the wave out then being chased by the wave back in. The young boy was laughing and squealing having so much fun as they both tried not to get their legs wet. This went on for awhile and Dave looked on fondly wishing Jack was here to play in the water with him. He missed Jack’s laugh and squeals when they would play in the pool in the back yard at home, with misty the dog running up and down the length of the pool barking at them to join in the fun. A loud squeal snapped Dave out of his daydream as a wave caught the young boy and roughly push him over. The Dad rushed over to help the boy up who was coughing and spluttering dripping wet. The dad picked up the boy and gave him a hug. Eagerly the boy wanted to get down and do it all over again. With his pants and t-shirt totally wet he chased the wave out and turned looking back to watch the wave come rushing after him. He was giggling with a great big smile on his face shouting “come on Dad!” The Dad pretended to outrun the wave but deliberately let the wave catch him and he threw himself into the water shouting out “oh no Billy, it got me”. Billy was laughing so hard he started to snort as he tried to catch his breath. Billy ran to his Dad who scooped him up and swung him around in the water like a plane, dive bombing the water like a hungry seagull.
Dave looked on and felt sad that he wasn’t here with Jack doing the same thing, instead sitting here alone watching life play out before him which he wasn’t able to participate in. It seemed every time he saw a Dad with kids a great sadness would bestow Dave making him feel lost and lonely. He never seemed to be able to shake it off for hours after as it sent him into a spiral of feeling loss, regret, and helplessness.
He got up from the sand and started to walk on as he felt he couldn’t watch the “happy family” scene any longer as it was too painful. He chose a section of the beach to leave his towel and dived into the ocean for a swim in the hope to clear his head and refresh his senses. The cool water took his breath away. He swam vigorously to warm up but also to use up some of that excess adrenaline created by his anxiety. He stayed in the water for a good twenty minutes before he felt totally exhausted. got out and dried himself off to head home. As he walked back up the beach towards the carpark, he saw an older man, possibly a grandfather standing by the rail watching the beach activities. As Dave stopped at the tap to wash the sand off his feet, the old man asked Dave if he had enjoyed his swim. Dave solemnly replied “yeah, but would have been better if I had my kids here to enjoy it too”. The old man said “Why can’t you?” and Dave said “I only get the kids every second weekend”. The old man responded “So, like I said why can’t you?”. Dave looked at the old man for what seemed like an eternity. He then replied “You are right! I can. Thanks mate, have a good day”
Dave hurried back to his car, feeling uplifted, something in him had shifted. He realised he had always been looking at what he didn’t have, instead of making the opportunities to have what he wanted. As soon as Dave got home, he called his kids and excitedly asked them about their day and said he had found a great place to take them next weekend when they came over. He said it would be a surprise but bring their swimming costumes. The kids yelled “yay” anticipating the fun they were going to have with Dad next weekend.
The following Saturday Dave drove the kids to the beach and the surf was up crashing onto the shore. Dave said "come on kids lets chase some waves!" The kids started running towards the shore with Dave following behind. Dave ran straight past them as they got to the shoreline yelling "arggghh" as he chased the waves out with the kids laughing and joining in. Dave turned around as the wave started to build for its return to shore and started running away from the wave shouting "look out kids it’s coming". The kids started to squeal and run as fast as they could hoping not to get caught. They did this for at least an hour and as they got tired a wave caught them sending them crashing into the water. They all burst out laughing and splashing around exhausted trying to get back up.
They had such a fun day and even on the way home in the car Jack shouted “that was the best day ever Dad”. Dave looked in the rear vision mirror looking at Jack and smiled saying “it sure was buddy”
Author - Cheryl Duffy
Cheryl Duffy, Mediator, Divorce Coach & Author of The Divorce Tango