Difficult to watch and impossible to deal with, the situation came to an end for me last month. I said goodbye to the father and his son.
It wasn't my idea to leave the consulting job I was told my services were no longer required but I was ready to go, because I wasn't being effective. In fact I was flat out frustrated as I would make suggestions for their business and watch father and son verbally battle it out as to what changes to make.
Often times, I thought the verbal abuse between them would get physical and come to blows. Many times it came close. They are night vs. day and I don't ever see that changing.
For months as I watched father and son do battle, I would often think of my own son and the turmoil we went through. While we fought and struggled and often times couldn't stand one another, eventually we discovered common ground. We found we weren't all that different. It's a journey I'll never forget.
He came to live with me in May of 1999. Divorced for over five years and living on my own and liking it just fine, I didn't know how I would like having a 14-year-old teenager around. Also at the time, at least in my mind, I considered him difficult.
The reality is he was a lot like me when I was his age: Rebellious, headstrong, not a fan of authority and not interested in school. I saw myself when I looked at him and maybe that's why we butted heads so often. I didn't want him to make my mistakes.
During our first few years together, there were some good times, but the bad ones stick out in my mind more.
Problems that would come up made me feel unsettled and not knowing what to do.
I remember the shoving matches, the "fuck you" words thrown back and forth. I remember the nights not knowing for sure where he was and the relief I would feel when he finally walked through the door. I remember driving down streets looking for him and saying out loud to myself over and over "I can't handle this!"
But I did handle it. Throughout those first few years, I finally discovered something in myself: Patience. I also became aware I was going to have to pick my battles and that I wasn't always right. Also sometimes the truth is in the middle.
I let my son make mistakes. I let him learn the hard way. I listened more and talked less. I often times looked the other way even when I shouldn't have. A lot of times during this period, keeping my mouth shut was the hardest thing I've ever done.
As the years went by, the battles became few and far between. During those last few years that we lived together, I don't think there was a harsh word between us. We were more like good friends that supported one another. The battles between us were done.
Last fall, my son, now a young adult, moved out on his own. He's going to college and has a good co-op job. He visits me every week and we enjoy shooting the shit with one another and hanging out. I couldn't be more proud of him.
Did I do something right as a parent? I shouldn't go there and I hate to bring up an old corny song title that ran through my head during those years when my son and I were adjusting to one another but I will anyway: "Love Will Keep Us Together." Truly, love can conquer amazing things.
That's my journey with my son one I wouldn't change for a million dollars. The path that my friends the father and his son - have taken is a different one. Somehow their journey has turned out badly.
I don't ever see the two of them having a beer together or hanging out. I can't see them laughing or cutting up with each other. I can't imagine them breaking down in the heat of a battle and telling each other "I love you" like my son and I have done more than once. I don't think either one of them would care if the other dropped dead.
There were times when I wanted to shake the two of them and tell them to treat each other with respect. Often times I wanted to try and get the two of them to hug. Frustrated often, I felt like yelling and screaming trying to force them to say they loved one another. I wanted to tell them to tear down that ridiculous wall that somehow is between them.
I didn't do any of this and won't now. Maybe the reality is their relationship is none of my business. I'll just leave them alone.
When I think of them, I'll feel sorry for what they don't have and for what went wrong. Then I'll think of my son, will feel all that love we have between us and will be thankful for what went right.