“Never Trust Memories”

My first adventure overseas was driven by my conversation with a 93-year-old man I met during a Christmas party. You will see me referencing him many times in my blogs if you follow me.


It was an annual neighbourhood gathering in which each house took turns hosting. I dreaded going, for it was just a gathering of people whom I barely knew. The conversations were about work and kids, and of course, other people; and not particularly good in spirit about the latter. “Did you hear so and so about XYZ?”

I would like to recall a quote here by Eleanor Roosevelt. It goes:

“Great minds talk about ideas’

Average Minds talk about events


Small minds talk about people”

Not wanting to engage in this, I poured myself a drink and tried to hide myself in the crowd. That’s when I saw him, an older gentleman sitting alone in the corner by himself. Curiosity, part of my trait as an HSP, got the better of me and I went over and introduced myself. He invited me to sit down and we began an extremely pleasant conversation. He told me he was the father of the woman hosting the party, and that he had flown over from England to spend his last Christmas with her. It was then he turned and looked at me with a tear in his eye and said “Son, when I die, I want ‘I WISH I WOULD HAVE’ written on my gravestone”.

Those five words hit me like a boulder falling from the sky! Not wanting to misunderstand, I asked him what he meant by that. He went on to say how he had worked his whole life to support his family and, in the end, his family didn’t even know who he was. He talked about so many things he dreamed of doing in life and didn’t get to do any of it, and now he was 93 years old and it was too late. I could feel the regret emanating from him like a raging river.

The Awakening

As I left that party alone, I walked down the street in that cold winter night with snow drifting down, thinking to myself, “I will not be a ‘I WISH I WOULD HAVE’ guy.” This is where life for me changed as I started to take inventory of my responsibilities as well as my aspirations. I realized quickly that I was in a failed marriage full of mental abuse, and that my children didn’t know nor care to know anything about who I truly was. Hell, I didn’t even know who I was as I had been trying to live up to the exaggerated expectations of not just society, but my wife’s.

It would years later that I would learn that I had this HSP trait, but back then I was so confused. I felt like I was wearing a costume and that somewhere underneath it was the man I truly was. I also learned years later that in my younger days, I trusted women far too much. Men, I had already learned not to trust as a result of my older brother, but women, I put them high on a pedestal. My mother was the example of love, trust, and support which lead me to believe that all women were like that. I eventually realized just how wrong I was. Don’t get me wrong, I know now that there are good people out there, but no one should be given blind trust, it must be earned.

Figure 2. We HSPs do love our time alone to process what’s going on around us

I decided I needed to escape the emotional abuse but I also had to keep up with the responsibility of taking care of my children. I was working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in order to maintain the lifestyle they had built. This left me very little time for myself, but back then, I believed that it was selfish to focus even a little on myself. Once I heard those words, I Wish I Would Have, everything changed in my belief structure. I then recalled Ike (See Meeting Ike), and I started questioning again the power of belief. Specifically, my own beliefs and where they came from. The more I sat alone thinking about it all, the more I realized my world was falling apart, and that was a good thing. Being trapped in a world that cages you, is not a life, it’s an existence. My challenge was to figure out how I could support my kids financially while I did something about my own happiness and goals. It was clear to me that they didn’t want to be around me, and I understood that. For the most part of their life, I was always off working. Fulfilling the financial needs of my kids and getting away from my mentally abusive wife was something I knew I just had to do.

The Logistics of Life

I also had to get away from the mental abuse I was experiencing at work, but how? Sometimes we have to believe in ourselves regardless of what society or our families expect from us. And yes, it may come with severe consequences. I decided to quit my job and started trying to find another one overseas. This would solve some of my problems, but create new ones I never dreamed possible. Problems I would have to learn to accept, but I knew I couldn’t keep going on the way I was.

Two weeks later I received two job offers, one in Afghanistan, the other one in Madagascar. There was a war going on in Afghanistan and the job was to be embedded in a military unit acting as an “Electrical Specialist,” which I am. I instantly envisioned walking behind a team of soldiers and suddenly coming across a box on the side of the road with wires hanging out and the leader of the unit yelling “Hey electrical specialist, come check this out!” Obviously, I knew that things won’t exactly be like that in reality, but my intuition told me, maybe this one is not for me.

Madagascar: A Calling

As for Madagascar, I didn’t even think it was a real country! I thought it was a kids’ cartoon. As I looked into it, it sounded perfect. 12 weeks on with 2 weeks off, great pay, and jungles in a tropical climate. But more importantly, it was the farthest I could go from this place my family called home. I quickly accepted, not giving it another thought. Now some might think, how could I do that, how could I just leave my family like that? But for me, a family is where you’re loved, respected, and appreciated. I truly believe I was nothing more than a wallet to these people. Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys, it’s just they never returned the love, at least not in a way I felt it was genuine.

Figure 3. Madagascar has one of the most unique biodiversity on this planet with more than 80% of flora and fauna that can ONLY be found there

I am certain that they believe everything they ever received came from their mother, never giving a thought about where I was or what I had to endure to provide them with the security they had. Sure, it is easy to say, “yeah, but you were never there for them,” and I would be the first to agree. I wanted to be there for them, so very much, but their mother had other demands. So I went from a loving caring dad, to that guy that shows up once in a while. I would work 24 days then have a 14-hr drive to get home, driving through the night after working those 24 days at 10 to 12 hours per day. I would drive through the night, winter, and summer so I could be there in the morning to take my boys to school. Then I would go home, sleep for a few hours, get up and go pick them up, trying to spend as much time as I could with them. This would mean Friday Night, Saturday, and Sunday. Then Monday morning, I would get up at 3:00 am, and say my goodbyes as I headed back to the 14-hours-a-day work, crying most of the way.

The Escape

When one fights to hold back their emotions for so long, something else takes place of those emotions. You soon forget how to have any as the subconscious learns to hold back all emotions, it doesn’t know how to pick and choose. For HSPs, emotions are everything, but society has some harsh rules. Specifically, when it comes to men, showing emotions is a sign of weakness. Argue if you wish, but it’s a fact. In March of 2010, I headed to Madagascar, and life for me was never the same again.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for sending this on to me, Barb. Randys’s story is an excellent commentary on how seriously our culture has failed so many people. The theory of the nuclear family has proven itself to be a total failure. Joe was an exception to the rule that Randy lived by in his marriage. Joe was always there for the boys while I was the main income earner who provided a modest but comfortable lifestyle for us. Joe never let the kids forget that as he took over the grocery shopping, cooking, and building our Daycare Centre, always with enthusiasm for everything. Often he did the building late into the evenings when I could be home with the boys. He taught the boys how to do their laundry, make their lunches, clean up after supper (we had no dishwasher). He taught them how to work together to share the load. He was part of our paper route (Capital News) in the days when there was still such a thing. Our paper route was divided into 4 parts, one for each of us and was 3 days per week. It paid $100/month, and at the end of the year we took the $1,200.00 and drove to Disneyland! Joe told us often how much he loved us, and we told him the same! He was never afraid to cry, and neither are they. He taught them to respect their mother, but to remember all women are not equal (remember his first family?). He told them when they needed to smarten up, and when he was proud of them, and that he expected them to be more successful in their lives than he (we) had been in ours. Joe was an exceptional human being and both boys are good men who often remark that they are the men they are because of Joe. Randy got caught in the downward spiral of valuing money for the kids rather than time spent with the kids. It is a trap many men who are high salary (wage) earners of his generation fell into. Michelle was complicit in this but cannot be held totally responsible. Somewhere along the way, one or both of them needed to give their heads a shake and come to some kind of agreement on what they valued most as a family. Randy was raised by parents who had not always had more than average incomes but who kept to their values. In other words, they modelled how to be a ‘family’ and how to work in harmony for their common goal. Somewhere, somehow, Randy and Michelle got lost along the way. A very sad, but not uncommon story of Randy’s generation who suddenly had huge earning power, but also huge demands on their personal lives in terms of time with family lost, gone forever. We all make mistakes, poor choices along the way. But it’s never too late. I hope Randy reaches out to the boys and is honest with them about how he sees the past and confesses to them any regrets he has regarding some of his decisions.

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