Why am I telling my story again? Simple, I want to communicate how I ended up where I am. I also want to share the amazing story of how my family has endured our history and what the future looks like for my family.
My dad grew up near Plymouth, IN. I know at some point he ended up in South Bend, IN where he graduated from high school in 1964. He held a track and field record that stood for quite some time. He was married shortly after high school to his first wife. They had two daughters, Amy and Jenny. Growing up I knew them as ‘my sisters’. Amy and Jenny are part of my life, but I never really put the puzzle pieces together until later on in my life. Our relationship might not be your normal brother/ sisters relationship, but I have always seen them as a part of my family. I don’t know why, where or how the divorce took place, but my dad divorced his first wife.
At some point, he married my mom, his second wife. They had four children together, Marie, Mike, Marc (me), and Stephanie. Marie and Mike know more about my dad than I do. Shortly after I was born, it hit the fan. I was born January 14th, 1981. Stephanie was born April 6th, 1982. There were already tension and affairs, among other issues in my mom and dad’s marriage. I don’t even know when the divorce was finalized. Needless to say, I really have few memories of my dad. Most of those memories are not pleasant. (Heres a tip dads…do your best to create more good memories with your children than negative ones. You will have a stronger relationship because of the positive effort.)
My mom and dad divorced because of the affair. My guess is that there was probably a shotgun wedding and my dad and his third wife have been married ever since. They have one son together that I know of. His name is Karl. Unlike my relationship with Amy and Jenny, my relationship with Karl is non-existent. That’s not his fault. It’s a result of events that took place after he was born.
Growing up the thought of an actual relationship with my dad was like riding a dragon, or unicorn. Donald Miller describes it the best way in his book, “To Own a Dragon”. I stopped dreaming of riding a unicorn over rainbows around the same time I gave up on the thought of a relationship with my dad. I had seen great relationships between father and son on TV. Bill Cosby and Theo had a great relationship Dr. Jason Seaver and Mike Seaver on Growing Pains. That was the relationship I really wanted, though. Mike ended up living in an apartment above the garage. I quickly realized though that I would never have a relationship like those depicted on the TV prime time shows. I also quickly realized I’d never take a trip over a rainbow while riding a unicorn! Those two dreams were just too far fetched.
Before I graduated from high school in 1999, my immediate siblings and I confronted my dad about some family issues. This resulted in a broken relationship between my dad and the four of us since that afternoon. He continually lives in lies that he has told himself for decades and that has resulted in us basically not having any communication. He knows I’m married and probably knows we have sons. He’s never met my wife or his grandsons. He doesn’t really know what we are up to in our lives.
The last time I saw him, we were in the Wal-Mart in Plymouth, IN in 2006. I noticed him and his wife. I let Heather and the boys walk on and went over to where my dad and his wife were standing. I said ‘Hey dad, it’s me Marc….your son.’ He stared right at me. No response. The thought went through my mind, “maybe I’ve got the wrong guy….” So I said, ‘You’re Richard Ulrich, correct?”. His response was simply, ‘yes’. Ok, good, at least he’s the right guy, I thought. “Dad, it’s me, Marc your son…’ He looked at his wife, mumbled something and walked on. That’s it. I stood there, a 25-year-old man. crying my eyes out and shouting ‘Dad it’s me!’ I walked away from that moment knowing there probably wouldn’t be a relationship with my dad ever again.
Why share all that?
I carry his last name. The Ulrich name will live on, but not because of what my dad has invested into my life, my brother’s life or even into our children’s lives. It will carry on with any sense of positivity because of what my mom’s parents and other relatives instilled into my mom and what she instilled in us. She did an amazing job raising four kids by herself with little to no support from my dad. As I write these words, I’m reminded that I still need to honor my father and mother. I do my best to share this story and still honor him.
I know almost nothing about my dad’s parents. From what I know, I don’t think they are pleased with my dad’s life decisions. I do think they would be grateful and amazed at the story of how my mom raised us and how my siblings are raising their kids now.
How are you raising your family? Invest, spend time, have fun, create some great memories, understand what your kids are going through and believe in your kids. Don’t disconnect with them, set them up for success! I can’t wait to see how my sons live out their own lives. I hope and pray that they will have a solid foundation while standing on their parents’ shoulders to do amazing things that I never even dreamed of! What about you?