Monday, February 7, 2011

It is universal

I relate the stories that come through my office, the cases I've litigated, the successes and tragedies my clients have lived through.  Those stories are universal, they are experienced by everyone on some level, at some time. But the family law stories are not confined to my practice...

Yesterday I was at the gym, a place I visit far too infrequently, when I overheard a conversation between two gentlemen of moderate age.  Before you think I was eavesdropping, guys in a gym don't tend to share secrets as they pump iron, rather what they discuss they broadcast in semi-boisterous tones without regard, or sometimes with regard, for whether the nearby weight-lifters can listen in on the conversations.  It doesn't matter whether it is politics, sex (a frequent subject) or, pertinent to my story tonight, family.

What really captured my attention was that they were talking about their sons.  Having three myself, the subject is near and dear to my heart. Their sons were now grown.  The men had both been divorced when their sons were young.  The men related how they had gone through great difficulty with their sons, but with the passing of time, things were made right.

The first man was talking, "my wife and I split up when my boy was seven.  My wife was in a bad way at the time.  I got custody. Things were rocky, hard to manage, we got by I think mostly because I ran such a tight ship, tried to make it like clockwork. I think that kept me from going crazy in those days."

After awhile, my ex pretty much got her life back together.  She finally stayed in one place for longer than six months and found a job.  My boy and I were arguing more, he didn't like my rules, like, 'do your homework,' 'clean your room,' 'be back home by 9:00' kind of stuff.  So, when he was old enough, he decided to move to his mom's.  Broke my heart.  I mean, I shouldn't have minded so much since I'd had him for seven years but it broke my heart.  And he decided right after a big argument about whether he could stay out all night with a bunch of friends, including his little girl friend.  I said no.  His mom said she didn't see a problem with it and there you go, next thing you know, my boy's living with his mom. 

"We went through a few months where I couldn't look at him, it pissed me off so much.  Then it got better, he started coming over every now and then.  I kept up with him to see how he was doing in school.  Of course his grades were tanking, but then he was in ninth grade.  Anyway, two years pass, its the summer before he's a junior and he calls me up, asks me if we could have dinner together.  At dinner he says, 'I need to be a success, and I'm just not going to be a success at mom's house.  It's too disorganized.'  You could have floored me.  I felt like I was grinning all over my face.  He moved back in about two weeks before school started.  His mom thought that was probably best, too."

Then the other man shared, "my son's momma would fuss and cuss every time it was my weekend.  She'd come up with some excuse to keep him from me like, 'he's gotta study today' or 'he's gotta mow the lawn' or some such #&*%!."  (Talk runs like that at the gym.) "Got to where I couldn't break through, I couldn't keep her back long enough to see him when I was supposed to.

"Then he became a teenager and it got even worse.  He got all angry, sullen, accusing me of ditching his momma when it was she that filed for divorce.  Got to where he wouldn't even talk to me anymore, said he was too busy.  I never really lost track of him, I just barely saw him.  It became usual to where a few months would pass when I wouldn't see him.  That became the way it was.  So he drifted away from me.

"But now he's 22, a young man.  He's got a good girlfriend.  He's finished school.  And he wants to hang out with me.  Can you beat that?  He wants to hang out with me.  He was over the other day, I had my dad there too, and my son says to my dad, Grandpa, you raised a pretty good son.  I got so choked up I gave him another beer."

Time passes, wounds heal, wisdom grows.  At least it can.

Families are a fundamental reality, they are universal and their stories, our stories, are universal.  Good or bad they are a treasure for they are the stuff from which our riches are made.  There's a blog that's getting underway, The Twisted Family at  It is about blended, no twisted, families, our families.  Real people.  Real stories.  Our stories.  Check it out.

Full disclosure: my wife writes it.  Look out, she might write about our family from time to time. Enjoy.

Michael Manely


  1. Hey Michael,
    You said you wanted comment so I thought I would. I know it is nice to hear you made someone think! I like the stories from the gym. It seem when the chips were down these men didn't give up and were there waiting when the tide turned. So many times I want things now, then I turn away from that dream if I don't get it. It seems they kept open hearts and kept a place for their absent son's and balance was returned. It is also interesting because you get to hear their thoughts and feelings. I get to hear this a lot from my gender but I don't get to overhear how men think through things. It is different but good to hear!

    Thanks for your writing!

  2. I really enjoy this blog, very interesting and informative. Great perspectives.