About two years ago, I wrote my dad a letter asking him to pay off my student loan. C* had been gone for awhile by that time, and my American bank account was almost empty. At the time, I still owed just over $5,000, and I knew that getting that debt out of the way would make my life much easier and give me one less of a multitude of things to worry about.
Considering the long and illustrious careers of my dad and his wife, $5,000 would have been nothing to them. I'm sure they wouldn't have even missed it. In fact, I bet they could afford to buy me a car or put a down payment on a house for me - two things that would greatly increase the quality of life for me and for Elliot - without much effort or sacrifice.
I wrote a letter because I was too chickenshit to ask on the phone. I got a letter back a few weeks later telling me that, since they are retired, they won't be giving me any money. They didn't even offer to pay off some of it. In the letter, which was short and stiffly worded and could have been written to a complete stranger, my dad wrote that noone ever helped him and that I could do it on my own. He also said that he knows I can have a good life and that I need to take it one step at a time. Um...ok. Thanks for all the great advice and general motivational platitudes.
Putting aside that dad has yet to give me any useful advice on being a single parent (I asked him once who looked after me and brother when we were very young and he replied "You were in daycare, I guess"), I take great exception to the statement that noone ever helped him. That is so not true, and it offends me to the core that he would write this. I know he thinks women are silly and stupid, but it just so happens that he would've been up an even bigger creek in his life had a whole army of women not stepped in to help him.
First, his mother - my grandma. A woman who always acted as a surrogate mother to me and who let him live in her house rent-free with his children, stepchildren, and wife number 3 and who took my brother and me for nearly the entirety of the three-month summer holidays until we were old enough to stay on our own. She is the only one I can remember from childhood who actually took an interest in me and seemed to actually enjoy planning outings and activities for us and spending time with and talking to us. She has a lot of faults, but I love my grandmother dearly. If he doesn't see and appreciate how much she helped him then he's blinder and more ignorant than I thought.
Second, my biomom's sister(s). My biomom has two sisters, and, after biomom left, I was told by my brother that at least one of the sisters stepped forward to watch us. My brother told me that when the time came for her to stop watching us, she felt like her own children were going away. That's how close she was to us at the time.
Third, his various wives. Dad has been married four times, in total, and, from what I hear, wives number 2 and 3 were pretty much psycho. I don't know if they did more harm than good, but I know they at least worked and presumably contributed to the family finances. Wife number 4 has been around since I was 7 and, while she caused mostly only headaches where interpersonal relations with the kids were concerned, she earned a decent salary as a bank manager and contributed well to overall family finances. Considering the supposition that money seems to be the only thing dad cares about, you would think he would consider this as someone helping him along the way. I mean, even my stepmother herself snarled at me one day that I wouldn't have a roof over my head or food in my mouth if it weren't for her. Though she was a nasty bitch for even saying it, she may have been right.
Fourth, my brother. My brother is 3 years and 8 months older than me. He was 4 when biomom left, and, after that time, he remembers changing my diapers and generally taking care of me. Grandma told me that Brian probably took more care of me than dad did. I asked her where dad was during all this time, and she said says she didn't know but that she stepped in so much not for my dad's sake but for the sake of us kids. I know my dad was working like a beast and going to college at night at the same time - a move that paid off very handsomely for him in the long run. Plus, it must take a lot of effort to meet, woo, marry, and divorce several different women in a short amount of time. He proved that he could work hard and dedicate himself to things that would presumably improve his financial and personal circumstances. My question is why he never put as much effort into being a loving and devoted father to us kids.
Lastly, he should be thanking my brother and me for being relatively hassle free and for looking after ourselves so much of the time without burning the house down. I swear, we were on our own so often that we could have gotten up to way more shit than we did. We got up to some hijinks, to be sure, but, all things considered, we were pretty good (that he knows of).
So, in conclusion, my dad had help from everyone under the sun when it came to being a single father. That he either doesn't remember this or doesn't value it enough to NOT say that he never had help from anyone speaks volumes in support of the person I know him to be.
To avoid being an ungrateful bastard myself, I want to express gratitude to C* for being a loving and devoted father to Elliot. Every week, he faithfully has Elliot two nights and pays child support. Without these things, my life would be much harder than it is, and Elliot would be much worse off for not having a father. I also want to express gratitude to all the wonderful women who have looked after my daughter so well while I'm at work and to my friend, Jane, who has helped me out in a pinch. Last, but not least, I owe the Scottish government a lot for the benefits I get which allow me to have a decent quality of life while working part time as a single parent. Without all this help, Elliot and I would surely not have a roof over our heads or food in our mouths.