This is Not a Bill

Things change as you age. When you’re younger, your major purchase of the month is the new Spider-Man comic book.

But as you get older, you have rent to cover, a couple of utilities and your Netflix bill.

After that, things start getting more complicated. You have mortgages and health insurance to worry about.

And some of these things don’t straight up come to your house saying, You owe XX amount. No, that’d be too easy. There are variables. You owe XX amount, but we’re still deciding on what to charge you for 1-2-3.

Okay, so what is this? A discretionary amount? It’s like they’re saying, Your firm amount for services one and two are This, but service 3 is to yet be calculated. You will either be charged $4.00 and/or $400.00. This amount will be determined and reflected on your bank statement.

Whoa, what the hell is that? This amount or that amount?

And they also send you things like, This is NOT a bill. Okay, what is up with that? Especially when the envelope clearly stated, Enclosed is your bill.

This is like what magazines are starting to do—send you an invoice for something you haven’t ordered, with an invoice that has a box that you can check that says, Bill Me, but the envelope says, Invoice enclosed.

And you get like four of these This is not a bill letters sent to you, meticulously itemized for all the services rendered at the hospital listed. The return address is for a state that is not even your own. You ever notice that?

You get like five of these things, and you’re bracing for the actual bill. Will it ever come? You’re like trying to budget for this, too, setting aside a portion of this $4 or $400 variable. It’s like trying to save to pay off a mobster. How much do I owe? And will he break my legs if I guess wrong?

You start getting nervous about these notices when you get home.

Is my electric going to be cut off?

Will I have AC?

Will my other car still be sitting there or will it be repossessed?

Over a repeating $4.00 This is not a bill.

The Daughter You Didn’t Know I Had

* NOTE: This article was published merely months before my daughter looked me up, and now we have an awesome long-distance relationship!

This would be a surprise to many that know me, but I have a daughter.

This is a surprise, because I don’t talk about her. I don’t really have pictures of her. I don’t talk to her. I don’t see her. I don’t refer to her, because I’m embarrassed—I don’t want to be that guy, the absentee dad.

I do think of her often though, almost every day. She had just turned sixteen. So I imagine her driving in her car. I imagine her going on dates and dances. I imagine her in school plays, and maybe playing softball like her mom did years ago. I don’t know if she’s doing those things, but I imagine she’s having a good life. After all, don’t we all deserve a good life?

Sometimes, I feel like I shouldn’t have the good life I have. I’m married, own my own house, run several small businesses, and I make money doing what I enjoy. I have great pets, have decent health, and eat balanced meals my wife and I prepare. But do I deserve these good things? Perhaps. But in mind, I feel like I got a cake-walk.

I wasn’t the single mom, I’m not the sacrificial step-dad, I’m not the hurt grandparents. I wasn’t the one abandoned to pick up the pieces. I wasn’t the one trying to make ends meet to provide for a child.

My daughter was conceived with my ex-girlfriend after we went to the mall with her friends. It was essentially a one night stand with someone familiar. I liked her, and I enjoyed dating her, but I was pretty much a drunken asshole at the time.

I was fiscally irresponsible. I used people. I kept having my utilities cut off. I lost jobs. I was a loser. I was resentful that in my early twenties, I was going to have to settle down, trade in my wild ways, and provide for a family. I couldn’t do it.

We broke up after trying for a year. After that, I got even more wild, and lost yet another job.

I moved three-hundred miles away from my college town back to Chicago, my childhood hometown and place where I still had friends and resources. I got my old job at an ice cream shop and moved in with friends from my church. I had to get my shit together.

As soon as I moved, my daughter’s mother married someone new and he adopted my daughter, saying I abandoned her. This wasn’t really the case, as I had moved to get my life back on track so I can build a better life that would include her. I’ve sent cards throughout the years, and mailed letters to my ex pleading for some level of involvement. I never got one response.

While I hit some more bumps in the road, causing me to again realize that simply moving to a new location doesn’t necessarily mean that old demons stay put. Long story short, I had a wake-up call, and completed my transformation into adulthood.

My ex’s family still keeps in touch with my grandmother, where I hear secondhand how my daughter is doing, what she’s up to, and how good of a step-father my ex’s husband is. They have built a life together, and seem to be doing well. And it makes me feel horrible that I brought a child into this world, and not be the person I should have been at that time.

It also hurts that she knows about me, knows I had left, but probably doesn’t know my side of the story. She probably doesn’t care what my side of the story is. All she knows is, she was born and I left. She might know more, but as this piece started out with, I tend to imagine.

I do hope that someday she and I could reconcile on some level. She’ll probably have a lot of venting to do, but that’s okay. I can deal with that; I’ve earned that anger, I know. But I want her to know that I always wanted the best for her.

My biggest regret is not having had a child, but for thinking that I could do better by her by leaving town.

Originally published and relunctantly retitled in 2015 at: http://goodmenproject.com