Don't dismiss a father's love

Wiley A. Hall 3rd

November 12, 1991|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

Frustrated, disheartened and just plain lonely, the 30-year-old Rosedale businessman sat down last week and wrote a letter to his three daughters.

The young man's father -- the little girls' grandfather -- sent me a copy.

"Dear Girls," the letter begins, "I just wanted to write you a few words to let you know I constantly think of you. Daddy loves and misses all of you very much. My sun rose and my moon set in your lives. . ."

The letter is two pages long and is followed by a poem.

"I don't believe you have the courage to print it," said the grandfather angrily.

"It's not a question of courage," I protested.

"Then print the letter," said the grandfather.

"It's not that simple," I protested again.

"You don't have the courage," he said. "Nobody has the courage."

He's only half right. I'll print the letter, but with trepidation.

"I carry your pretty little faces in my mind and heart all the time," the letter continues.

"I don't exactly know how to write to you how I feel because Daddy is very empty without you girls. Please remember all the good times we had -- fishing, riding horses, and swimming, watching football, reading the funnies, and rocking you to sleep. While at this point in your lives things may seem really sad to you, remember good thoughts and remember that one day soon we will be able to do these things again."

The 30-year-old Rosedale man and his wife have been separated since February and now find themselves embroiled in an angry, bitter divorce. The courts eventually will sort all of that out and I don't envy them the job.

But in the meantime, the father has not seen his three daughters -- ages 3, 5, and 7 years old -- for any length of time for nearly two months and he misses them. He has found, to his absolute despair, that no one is willing to enforce a father's right to see his children absent a court order.

"It doesn't matter if he loves and misses his children," said the grandfather, who was so angry that his voice quavered. "It doesn't matter if his children love and miss him. It's as if fatherhood itself doesn't matter. The mother calls all the shots and there's no one to hold her responsible."

Think about this for a moment. How often do you hear that fatherhood does matter, outside of a father's obligation to pay child support and alimony?

How often in the public commentary is it even acknowledged that a father might conceivably love his children?

Granted, our society has been hard on single mothers -- but why do we so often seem incapable of defending the rights of one group without trampling on the rights of the other?

The scales have tilted so far that indeed, it feels as though it takes a literal act of courage to print a letter from a father to his daughters that says nothing more explosive than, "I love you."

"Amber, remember the first time Daddy took you to ride a horse and you called it a doggy?" the father continues in his letter.

"You were my first and I know this is harder for you because you are the oldest. Please be strong and help your little sisters. Daddy is very proud of you.

"Ashly, I used to rock you and cling to you every night. I know you remember. . . You used to scream in the morning when Daddy went to work and you were always missing me when I was working away. Never forget how precious you are to me and please don't stop loving me the way you did.

"Amanda, you are my baby and the biggest and cutest memory I hold of you is down the ocean when mommy and me bought you that 'My Name is No No' shirt. You are such a sweet, beautiful baby girl. I think of how you kept telling us that your name was not 'No No'. . ."

The father ends with an appeal to his estranged wife to permit his daughters to see the letter. He doesn't know if she will or not. He doesn't even know if she will let him be with them before the court determines custody in December. She has all of the power.

And if no one else has the courage to say this out loud, let me be the first: This kind of situation is very, very hard and very very unfair to men because contrary to popular opinion most fathers do indeed love their children.

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