Donald Manns

Donald Manns
June 06
Honey, Daddy, Dad and Son
I'm a 45 yr. young father of 2 beautiful kids, I am married to my best friend and biggest supporter, my beautiful wife. I enjoy the outdoors, sports, time with family and making people smile. I have been a drummer since I was 6 years old and it's always been a passion of mine. I am a Obama supporter and a democrat.


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NOVEMBER 25, 2011 3:46PM

My Father, The Stranger

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My wonderful wife and children My Dad was, in my eyes the Greatest Father on Earth since I can remember.  Aside from being an unbelievable provider for his family, he was everything else a kid could ever wish for.  My Dad worked for a company in Wayne, N.J. called Cyanamid.  They were t he original creator of the “cylum”, the plastic cylindrical device that was about 7 or 9 inches long and you cracked it so it would light up for times like when your car broke down or for trick or treating, they were great to have around the house or in your dash.  He was in charge of the “tax division” there for over 20 years.  We lived in a modest house in West Milford, N.J. for my kindergarten year and then moved 25 miles down the mountain to a small town right next to my Dad’s company called Pompton Lakes; this is where I went to school from first grade right up until graduation from Pompton Lakes High School in 1984. 


This house was huge to me as a 1st grader, at least much bigger than the last house.  The last house was a ranch, this one was a bi-level, I loved it, and it was right across the street from the middle school which had handball courts, basketball courts, a baseball field and the lake for fishing right next to the dirt bike trails.  My sister is 3 yrs. older than I am and her name is Donna, she was good to me for as much as a pain in the butt I was her whole life, like when she was in high school and I would be waiting for her boyfriend to come down the hallway and launch a blanket over his head as I screamed to scare the life out of him!!! He screamed like a girl, it was so funny, plus just stupid things like trying to secretly record her talking to a friend on the phone with my little recorder to me being a drummer, a very loud drummer since I was 6 and my parents fully supporting me practicing all the time and jamming with the band down in the rec-room.  I don’t get to talk to my sister very much as we are both so busy, that’s a lame excuse isn’t it? We should stay in contact more but that’s a whole other story.


My Mom was a stay at home Mom like most back in the 70’s when my sister and I were growing up, she was just unbelievable, and that’s an understatement, words can’t describe our relationship that I still cherish to this day, support from as long as I can remember, and through some tough times too, a divorce along with getting custody of my son, my life of alcoholism up until 7 yrs. ago when I quit drinking and other things that were very trying.  I love my mother and have the upmost respect for her along with my sis Donna.


Right from 1st grade I was involved in baseball, basketball, football, soccer and ice hockey which was my favorite.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, I was a very busy little boy always.  My Father, aside from his regular job had a small accounting business that he ran from a spare room downstairs that he made his office with its own private entrance; he did people’s taxes from this office.  No matter what though, I knew my Dad was going to be at my game, whichever sport it was, I was going to look at the bleachers and see my Dad ready to cheer on his son, no matter how much work he had he always found the time to make all of my games.  I really wish I could say that for my son whose games I missed sometimes.  I was in the pool/construction business through my son’s childhood and couldn’t make as many games as I would liked to and will always feel guilt for that.  By the time I went into the pool business for myself he was a teenager and some of his sport days were over, but I’m grateful for the games I made.


My Dad made all the games right up until I stopped playing sports which was my Junior year in high school, I started as a freshman on Varsity basketball but the new coach was now sitting me as a Junior to look to the future and play younger guys, this was due to our team being awful but at that time, I believed it was wrong for the guys who where dreaming about college scholarships.  I sometimes ask myself if my Dad’s estrangement has something to do with, how much “I let him down” when I stopped playing sports, he played Basketball at the college level for Rider College and did well, but I wasn’t going to sit no bench for anybody, remember I was 16 at this time in my life and I knew everything.  The fact that I was becoming much more active in the band, “Black Licorice”, playing gigs and was with my first love, sports didn’t seem so important to me anymore.  I really think this is one small part of my Father wanting nothing to do with me anymore, I don’t know.


When my son was born in 1991, he was a mini-me, we named him, Donald, Donald George Manns Jr.  He, to this day is still my mini-me but only about 3” taller standing at 6’4”!!! My son's younger years was really the last time my Dad visited, I mean other than about 6 years ago when he came to visit me in the hospital when I had pneumonia.  He and my Mom divorced when I was about 22   yrs. old.  That hit me hard due to the fact of my Mom, who was an angel would be alone and thinking to myself, how the hell could he do this to my Mom!!!  Especially the way he did it, after all these years of being with Mom, he leaves her a letter on the kitchen table saying he’s moved out and wants a divorce.  I was so angry with my Father, not for the fact of divorcing my Mom, but for the way in which he did it, like a coward!!! I never really confronted my Father on this, I know he had to think and realize I was upset with him, but it seemed like my Mom was going to be O.K.  She’s a hell of a strong independent woman.  So we really never brought up our differences on the divorce subject.


My Dad got remarried not to long after the divorce and I attended, out of respect for my Father and his bride to be, even though I already knew her from “Serendipity School of Modeling” where she took some photos of me and the band for our promotional package, she was also a tax client of my dad's, this didn’t make me happy because of course my first thoughts were that they were having an affair while my Dad and Mom where still married, but I didn’t want to ruin what little relationship my Dad and I had at this time so I just kept my mouth shut, my thoughts to myself and was very nice and respectful to his new wife, Sue.  My son Donald Jr. was about 7 or so when Dad remarried.  My Dad visited us in Florida once and every time he and Sue would come from the Motel to the house they would leave after only about an hour long visit because Sue would complain of a stomach ache or a headache or whatever and they would leave.  After awhile the visits just stopped, the phone calls where nearing an end and I couldn’t understand why, why doesn't my father want to watch his grandson grow up, why doesn't he want to see me as well?  Every time I would call, if I was lucky enough that he answered the phone I got to talk to him, it would be short and usually about sports because we didn’t know enough about each other to talk about anything else, it was sports or the weather and real short.  If the Witch Sue answered she would usually cover for my dad and say, “he’s not here Donald but I’ll tell him you called”, yea right, he’s sitting right there waving to her to get her attention so she tells me he’s not there.  Sad but true.


Since I’ve been remarried and had a daughter named Kelsey, she is now 11 and my son Donald Jr. is 21 yrs. old.  Yet my father remains unheard from, he missed all 11 years of Kelsey’s life, I mean he’s met her but she doesn't know who he is, she doesn’t even remember what he looks like, and my son’s last contact with him was probably when he visited me in the hospital 6 yrs. ago, maybe even not, it might have been as long as 10 years since he saw or talked to my son, it’s just so screwed up, it makes me want to cry to think of the great times he has missed and the worst thing is, I don’t know what the hell I’ve done.  My sister, who now lives in San Bruno, CA. says they barely talk but at least they still talk, she and my Mom tell me it’s nothing I did or it has nothing to do with me, but I still struggle to understand why??? What is he running or hiding from, I don’t want his money, he’s not rich but I’m just stating, I don’t want anything from him except for him to be my Dad, and a Father in law to my lovely wife, and a Grandfather to his grandchildren.  It’s amazing, but very true when I say that a day does not pass when I don’t think of my Dad.  There’s so many things that remind me of a time from the past with him or just things that make me think of him, like the ocean, he always loved the ocean, my Dad and I would ride waves for hours at the Jersey shore so every time I’m at the Ocean or think of the ocean I think of him.  The thing that gets me too is how damn proud of me he would be if he just knew what was going on in my life!!! It’s scary that the next time I’ll probably see my Dad will be at his funeral, and I still won’t know what the hell I did!


To me it’s like my Father is dead, that sounds terrible but when I talk about him, which isn’t very often except for with my wife, I talk as if he’s already gone.  If any of my OS friends have any suggestions of advice of how I can better my situation with my Dad who I still love very much, please feel free to do so, I would appreciate it. 




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Be as good a father as he was and hope like hell that you never fall in love with a woman like his present wife. You do know that she's behind his estrangement from you, don't you?

Spare a little pity for her though. I think she knows she isn't half the woman your mother was. I think your dad knows it too but, being an honourable man, since he has made a commitment to her he will not break it. He made that error with your mom and he won't make it again - even though it may be justified this time.

Stand tall. There is nothing more you can do sometimes.

I so much identify with this piece. Great writing, by the way. My father aqnd I were also strangers, at the emotional level. He was a famous author, and people idealized him, but no one knows the inside story unless you are close to the people involved. Yet, I wish that we had developed a relationship, big time. Unfortunately, he died pretty young, 57 from pancreatitis (alcoholism). Great that you have stopped drinking, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones...
My Dad died 44 years ago, and I still miss him terribly. Not a day has gone by.., well, you know. This thing with your dad, I haven't talked with my kids in 3 years and don't know why. Life is short my man, we both need to fix this.
Very honest, open piece. I never get why parents do that distancing thing once they remarry. Yes, its usually the spouse (though could you imagine living with yourself, keeping your spouse away from their children?) But where's the courage of the father? In short, it cant be blamed solely on Sue.

I'd ask him. The older I get, when it comes to my family and their dysfunction, I'm happier and breathe easier when I speak my mind. Its VERY hard because there are so many unspoken rules, but I do my best to break through. Don't want to die not knowing or at least not trying to find out.

But you weren't asking for advice; you were writing a piece. Got carried away!
Having been married to a man with a father who sounds very similar to yours and who did a similar thing (left his wife when his 3 kids were in their late teens/early twenties) then completely turned his back on them, I know the kind of pain this causes. I say I know because I lived with it but I can't say I understand. (That probably says something not so good about me.) He didn't chase him or even talk about him much but I could see the pain on his face every time he'd call him and try to get together for just an hour - lunch, a beer, hitting golf balls. Nothing frequent or time consuming. The guy would always agree then call an hour before and cancel. He had no interest in his son's life, nor his grandchildren, nor anything else about him. Keith would try and tell him something and he didn't ask questions, just said "that's great." I'd ask him why he couldn't just write him off and put him out of his life but he said it was his business not mine. True.

If you were to ask me I'd say the same thing. "Forget him. You've done all you can. Stop beating your head against the wall." But I don't like getting hurt, either. I once asked Keith, how can you set yourself up time and again knowing you're going to get hurt? Are you a masochist? I never tried to put myself in his shoes; I never tried to think about how things would be if the situation were reversed and it were my parent.

But if you were to ask Keith, he'd say: "Don't do it for him; do it for yourself. Call him on his birthday and Father's Day. Don't have expectations, don't make demands. Just tell him you love him. Tell him you'll always love him no matter what and the good times are all you remember."

Unfortunately, the reverse happened with Keith and his father; his dad saw his own son at his funeral. And while I watched all the blubbering people hug him when they found out he was Keith's father and say things like "you must have been so proud of him!" all I could think of was, "if you only knew how much better you knew Keith than his own father did, if only you knew how he basically threw him away, you wouldn't be hugging him and shaking his hand."

Some things can't be fixed or understood. It takes two. But if you have a strong enough constitution, can handle the pain and know things may never change, then take Keith's advice, not mine. Just call him. Tell him you were thinking about him. See what happens. And good luck, whatever you decide to do. I sincerely wish you and your father the best.
I fear from reading this, that this too will become my Father. My Mother passed away and the woman who I call 'the Black Widow' swooped in...she has buried many husbands and collected the money. She has turned him against a large portion of my sisters and brothers... All I can say is what so many say, you can only change your behavior, not the behavior of others.
Hi Donald, Thank you for sharing your life on Salon. Your pain is evident. I haven't read all the posts below, so I'm not sure if someone has written this yet ... but my advice would be to talk to you dad. Take him to dinner or better yet, a ballpark (where no one is playing) and have a heart-to-heart with him. I'm sure it's nothing you've done to him, but maybe he'll open up his heart (like you did here) and share with you his life and let you in. Hugz, Charleen
Donald, thanks for making me a favorite...I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with your Dad. I did not have the estrangement from my Dad that you do. I know that were he alive now he would be taking my sons fishing, for walks, etc. That's the way he was. It was just that drinking thing, that other life he had. No drinker wants to share that and as one addict (recovering) friend of mine said "All addicts are liars." They have to be. Maybe there's something about your Dad you don't know...? Since you still have strong feelings for him, be proactive and push the issue, that's my advice. You may get just so far and hsave to be satisfied with that...at any rate, you'll find out. A very wise writer once said there's something worse than knowing and that is, not knowing. All the best...Rob
Sky is right. Stand tall. rated.
I really appreciate all the feedback and caring advice, Keep 'em coming! It's truly amazing how many people on this site really care about others and want to help others, it's nice to know this is a tight community. Thank you
Your post is heartbreaking and honest and lovely, and I hope that you can get past this pain, whether it's through eventual acceptance of it or through reuniting with your father. My own father and I didn't speak to each other for a brief time because he didn't approve of my choice of husband (it's an interracial marriage), but thankfully we spoke again a few times before he died on his 53rd birthday. I have so many regrets about our relationship, but most of them are about what I didn't say while he was alive. So that's my only advice: if there's anything -- ANYthing -- you want to say to your father, say it now. And it's lovely that you seem to have turned out to be a wonderful, caring father yourself.
It's her. I have a stepmonster, too.
My oldest daughter had a step-monster too. She was responsible. My daughter was 15-months-old when he left. She was almost five when I remarried. Her father was inconsistent with his visits and then moving far away. Years would pass between contacts. He and his wife said it was my fault. My daughter resented the twins I had almost two years later. Ours was a rough tween and teen years. Not long ago she was very angry with me. She told me she was seeing her father again. From the tone of her voice, I was supposed to be upset by that (34 years later) and I told her it was wonderful. I was happy he was trying to have a relationship with her. She got angry and told me she had learned things about me that made her not want to be related to me. Several, several weeks later, she has apologized and "forgiven" me.

This is not nearly your situation, but I can see clearly the pain it causes from your side.

My dad was the greatest too!! I wish he had lived longer for the kids to see a real dad with his older daughter; I miss him every day! It was my mother and me that had the rocky ride. It was mostly the work of my much older sibs, I am sure, but mother refused to see me the last six weeks of her life. I am sure it was the sibs because they allowed my youngest daughter only 15 minute visits. They were verbally abusive while she was there and watched her like a hawk for those 15 minutes before escorting her to the door.

Dysfunction is insidious, but as long as those of us on the receiving end control our reactions to their overt actions, we remain healthier. I do know now, a little over a year later, that I should have fought harder. Though she and I had covered what we needed to say to each other, the pain remains. I can't tell you what to do, but I would persist to have contact. He may be longing for you to call first.

I, too, reiterate what Sky said, "Stand tall!"
Ouch, Donald. Just ouch. Hang in there.
I suspect, like so many others, that 'she' is the issue here. Hoping you can reach past her to the very sad and loving spot I'm sure you still occupy in your father's heart! R
Congratulations on the EP. Sorry my comment was so long; I get carried away. But in reading what others have said, including Miguela and sky who says this, "You do know that she's behind his estrangement from you, don't you?" I have to disagree. Even my husband would have disagreed, although his sisters and mother wouldn't have. It is NOT HER. That absolves him of any responsibility for what he did, gives you someone else to focus your anger on, and makes it easier to pine for him. He chose her; she didn't wave a magic wand and cast a spell. Maybe she is awful (Keith's father's second wife was.) But that says something damning about him, for choosing that, not her. Please don't delude yourself.

Any man who lets a woman keep him from his children and dictate his moves and his life is no man, in my opinion.
Maybe visit him and ask that you want time alone with him, not with the second wife. If you can, demand it. Or write a letter if you think that will evoke a response. It sounds like the second wife has a lot to do with his distancing himself from you and your family, that's why I suggest getting him away from her, if only for coffee or lunch.
This is a very honest and open piece. I know it was not easy to write. I can offer you no advice but I can tell you this. Thank God that the relationship you had with your Dad in your youth was good and that he was a good provider. It could have been worse. My father was a mean, physically abusive drunk, yet I still loved him.