My middle child recently had his 21st birthday. Although I won full joint custody and plain vanilla visitation back in 2002, I haven't seen him since 2003 due, in my opinion, to the thorough parental alienation syndrome ("PAS") that his Mother and her coterie inflicted upon him as a minor (some call PAS a form of child abuse). Until recently he lived two miles away but last fall his Mother disconnected the phone (I used to leave voice-mails for him at that number), sold the house and moved away. She refuses to give me Johnny's (or any of my children's) address. So it goes.
I sent Johnny a birthday card addressed to the old house inviting him to the Lost Dog Cafe for lunch on his birthday on me, took the day off from work, and sat at the restaurant that day like a grinning fool from noon to 1 pm, "enjoying" my solo meal of pizza for two. I had plenty of leftover pizza to eat cold the next morning.
I am sorry about this. Although all of my then-minor sons pointedly disdained my company from the outset, and absolutely refused (with her and her coterie's enabling) to cooperate in visitation since 2003, I have always been there for them ever since she filed for divorce in 2001. Now that he's over 21, I guess the next move for contact will have to come from Johnny. I could always change my mind on that, but you see, they accuse you of abandonment if you give up and of a desperate attempt at dominance, personality driven of course, if you persist. Nice to know ya, Johnny.
Before I go out for a run to clear my head of this Goodbye to Johnny post, I'm going to leave you with this slightly-edited (for clarity and privacy) piece I wrote as a parent on a prep school application that was submitted for Johnny in January of 2000. Moreover, I'm going to say one more time what's in my heart. I love you Johnny.
Important Aspects of Johnny's Life I Want You to Know About.
Johnny has dutifully done organized recreational sports since he was five, playing house soccer as many suburban kids do. He did well enough, making a Division One Select Soccer Team when he was ten, although I don't think he was in love with soccer. Too many 1-0 games. Johnny once drolly explained their prevalence to me, "You see Dad, when one team gets the ball to a guy in open space, everyone on the other team runs in front of their goal to defend."
His inner self was best revealed in house soccer. He was the guy his coach always put on defense on his high-octane team, while the other guys vied for time on the line. Although he actually had a good kick, he never scored, always passing the ball off to others to score. His proudest moment came when, as a fullback, he kicked away a sure goal on his own goal line which had gotten by his prone goalie. Johnny had anticipated the worst thing that might happen when the goalie went out to try to make a play, and he was in position to stop the score when the goalie missed and the ball was going in.
In Select Soccer, there was a game when his team was down by a goal late in the game and as a stopper, Johnny was pressing forward because his team needed a score. Someone took an errant shot and Johnny controlled the rebound twenty yards out. He looked at three or four strikers to pass the ball to, but they were all offsides. He thereupon took the shot himself, a rare occurrence for Johnny, and put the ball in the goal. Unfortunately a teammate rushed over as the ball was in the air and allowed the ball to graze his chest before it went in, even though the goalie was in no position to make the save, thereby invoking the off-sides rule. Although the tying goal was invalidated, Johnny had looked at all other options first, then did what was absolutely necessary and put the ball in, both a heady and a technically competent play.
Johnny played football in the fall of 1999 for the first time and he seemed to like it (although with Johnny it's hard to be sure). He clearly enjoyed the greater participation of every player on every play in football, and the higher scoring. Typically, Johnny was used in every unglamorous position that his team needed help in at that moment--defensive or offensive tackle, inside linebacker or nose guard. He never complained about not being tried at running back or receiver, and I think he took secret delight in the bruises that covered his forearms from the physical play on the line. Again his understated personality peeked through. He always stood by his coach's side whenever he was out of the game. The most prescient comment about Johnny was made by this coach at the season's end banquet. The coach said, obviously with fondness, "Johnny had a question for every play I ran, and an answer for every question I asked."
Fare thee well, son, and stay safe in these uncertain times.