Today’s front page news…
(It’s long, despite snipping, but bear with me, and skip to the end if you get bored.)
He had a devoted wife and two loving children. Yet one day, this man turned his back on them all and vanished into thin air. Here, the woman he abandoned describes the heartbreaking legacy of her husband’s selfishness…
Joe is like any other 11-year- old boy… But behind his cheery smile and animated chatter lies a heart-wrenching sadness. For, when he was only six years old, his father Larry walked out of the family home for good. He left no forwarding address or telephone number and, some four years on, Joe’s 38-year-old mother is still trying to track down his exact whereabouts.
Larry’s departure in October 2002 from their home in Poole, Dorset, was catastrophic for his young family. Toni says: “We had a row but it didn’t seem particularly serious – I was cross because he was late home from work again and the kids had been waiting up for him. Then suddenly he turned to me and said: ‘Well, I’d better go then.’ He went upstairs and packed a few clothes into a tiny holdall and slammed the front door. I thought nothing of it. During a row he sometimes did that, but after driving round the block for half an hour to cool off he would come back.
“As the days passed, I began to feel sick. The children were asking constantly where Daddy was and I simply didn’t know what to tell them. Joe kept crying and Lucia, who was too young to understand what was going on, kept looking for him around the house. It broke my heart. To leave your marriage is one thing but to selfishly walk away for ever in just the clothes you are wearing, leaving those who love you with no proper explanation is so cruel. Worse, I can never understand how Larry could simply abandon the children, without so much as a card on their birthdays ever since. I thought he loved them. They certainly loved him, and were bereft.”…
[When Joe first arrived, Larry, always ambitious at work, had started working longer hours than ever....] “I was upset,” says Toni. “I felt a young baby needed his father and mother and it was the source of many arguments. Larry was so busy working that childcare arrangements were left to me. I was in the process of buying my own restaurant and had to fit in caring for Joe, taking him to my mum, Jennifer, when it all got too much.”
A year later, when Joe was two, Toni fell pregnant again. “This time it was an accident and Larry wasn’t happy,” remembers Toni. “He’d landed another job in a much larger company and become incredibly ambitious. He fretted about getting tied down. Lucia was born and Larry didn’t even make it to the hospital.”…
“It was left to me to look after the children, and trying to run a business with two small children in tow was incredibly stressful. Larry wanted them to have a nanny or go to a full-time nursery but I didn’t want that, so I tried to do it all. My mum would help as much as she could but sometimes I would take the children to meetings with me – I just didn’t want them brought up by strangers…. I was shattered. I felt like a lone parent – I was doing all the meals and most of the domestic chores. I took the children to school and playgroup and when they were ill, it was up to me to take time off.”
Eventually, in October 2002 matters came to a head… It was during this row that Larry stormed out for good. After a week, Toni acknowledged that her husband wasn’t coming back. “I was in a dreadful state,” she recalls. “I found myself in a nightmarish limbo where I didn’t know who to turn to or what was happening.”
Two weeks later, she received a solicitor’s letter. “It said Larry would contact me and the children when he found alternative accommodation. I was shocked. I was so desperate that I faxed a letter to the solicitor saying he could have the house and the children if only he would come back and explain what was happening. But then I received the worst letter of all. It said simply that Larry didn’t want the children.”… A few days later, Toni received another solicitor’s letter saying Larry wanted a divorce. When, a month later, she saw her own solicitor, there was more.
Toni says: “He told me that Larry had admitted adultery. It was a bolt from the blue. Because he’d been going out more before he left, I’d asked him if there was anyone else, but he always denied it. Now, I realised that on all those evenings and at every weekend when he was supposedly at the office working, he was seeing someone else.
By now Toni’s neglected business had gone into freefall. “I was living on credit cards and was forced to sell the house to pay the bills,” she says.
She and the children moved into a flat and Toni contacted the Child Support Agency to arrange maintenance payments from Larry. “But no one could find him,” she says. “It was as if he’d simply vanished.” After Toni and Larry divorced in 2003, Larry had changed his name. After 18 months, the CSA found him and he made some payments, but within about nine months they’d stopped.
“Life at home was very hard. I couldn’t replace Larry and the children desperately missed him. Even though he’d been out so much, it still felt as if there was an enormous hole in all our lives. All routine with the children went out of the window. Now, they never wanted to go to bed – it was as if without their dad’s kisses they couldn’t get to sleep – so I would let them fall asleep downstairs with me. None of us could bear to be at home, so I filled their days with trips and treats – we’d go to a restaurant after school and the zoo all day at weekends. My mum helped as much as she could, but it was a terrible time.”…
In a final twist, and in a last bid to track down Larry for the sake of her children, Toni’s new partner Michael recently rang Larry’s old company, posing as a friend. He was cheerily told by a colleague that Larry was on paternity leave, looking after his wife and their newborn baby boy. The news came as a savage blow to Toni. “I was gutted,” she admits, “After all, this baby is Joe and Lucia’s half-brother. I wonder if Larry ever thinks of them. To abandon Joe and Lucia and to go on to have another family as if nothing has happened is, to me, unforgiveable.”
Not much of a news story? A bit mundane?
Try the original version – courtesy of Daily Mail.