Building Castles for My Son


Satrajpal Singh Rai
Guest Writer

All of us at one point or another have acquired some form of service for services rendered.

A waiter serving us a meal, or a gas attendant filling up the tank at the local petrol station.

We engage in the interactions between people and organizations daily, and we provide service and acquire service to the extent we possibly don’t even recognize what the word “to be served” may mean.

Being served can also come in other formats, like being served as in the tennis player serving the ball hard and fast across the net.

Another example of being served, as some of today’s youth state it, goes like this “you go served son,” implying you got hit, or it was brought to you.

There’s another meaning behind “being served” that comes to mind, and it is one I hadn’t ever encountered. Well,l not until it happened.

Eleven years ago my ex and I became parents to a lovely, healthy little boy. His appearance in our lives would forever change the landscape of where I am today, and it’s been a very hectic and uncomfortable journey.



Our son Kai arrived and almost immediately I noticed I had taken on many other roles as his father and provider. I took up three jobs and often worked 5-7 days a week so our little bundle of joy could have all that his parents may not have had as they were growing up. This was essential for me as a man and father, as I am old fashioned in the mindset the man works and MUST provide financially to the utmost of his abilities.

Days and weeks went by after our son arrived home, and I actively and eagerly participated in all facets of his care, everything from changing his first diaper to feedings to bathings to even taking the little guy out for his first outing at day 10 so I could get my hair cut and so my partner could rest at home as she rightfully deserved rest and relaxation after carrying our bundle of joy so lovingly over the course of the past nine months.

I undertook my role seriously. I recall many times sharing my feelings of love, appreciation and humility with my son’s mother, as she and I co-created, what is, in my opinion the most delicate and precious of gifts mankind has to offer.

We took in guests into our home shortly after Kai was brought home. People brought us lovely gifts such as a elaborate bouquet of edible fruit by his fraternal grandparents. What an amazing display of fruit. The service man who dropped it off thanked us in allowing him to be a part of our happiness. My son’s mother and I sat smiling on the couch as I thought to myself how much I looked forward to being able to soak in positive people’s actions and words with Kai being in my life.

Life had just begun, and it appeared to have infinite potential. It was long overdue for this gift to arrive, and I was so eager to accept its abundance.

The days turned into weeks and weeks into months and those into a few years. Along the way I noticed myself becoming more and more tired physically. I often worked and then made time to take care of my two aged parents who lived in a different town.

This took a tremendous toll on my body, mind. It showed in how I interacted with others, especially my spouse. I noticed I had slowly gained weight and was at my heaviest at 236 pounds. My health was deteriorating because I was drinking 6-8 beers daily and working 6/7 days a week. The minimal sleep was catching up to me. I drank as to get to sleep and it wasn’t any sort of replenishing sleep. It was me passing out as so I could wake up the next day and begin my work cycle over.

I did this for three years, I believed I didn’t have any other way to operate as a man. My upbringing reminds me of my duties to my family, to bring in money, to be the provider for my family, to be the man my father expected of me, to be the husband to my spouse and the father to my newborn son. At the same time manage to be a leader and the pillar of strength my spouse needed.

How wrong I was on so much of this. Oh how so wrong and naive I had been on presuming I was the man, the pillar, the rock, the foundation my spouse wanted and saw. In my mind I was trying my best as to get through the tough times and to be stable and present.

Signs came and I ignored them of a relationship dissolving and breaking apart, having to sleep on the couch or living room floor so my son could sleep in our bed so both could get their needed rest. I’d come home after work to no meals cooked for me and me so very tired from a long day’s work schedule. I reached for my ever increasing companion the bottle, for it alone appeared to fill my empty stomach and ease my mind on the simple frustrations.

I felt frustrated.



How deeply this hurt. There was sense of abandonment, resent, fear, anger, emptiness and curiosity: how the hell is this happening and why?  I used to sit many days across from my spouse whom I loved so dearly, and I would watch her nurse our son so lovingly and caringly. After things changed with my wife, I yearned for our old love and companionship, just like when we had first met. Instead I sat and watched a woman care for her child and say very little to her son’s father beyond, “There’s little formula and diapers left, can you grab some after work tomorrow?”

I stayed in this place of being for three years after Kai was born. Sleeping on the floor was my norm, and I did it with the premise “I will not be broken and this situation will get better, have faith.” Meanwhile I felt myself slowly slipping into the abyss of helplessness and despair.

I recall one day I was asked to leave. My brother in law was marrying and his new wife was to move into our home. I took this opportunity to remind myself I deserved better, and I discussed with my spouse how I would get an apartment nearby and that I wanted to be able to see our son and spend time with him. It seemed logical to me as It would help everyone with their concerns of a marriage that appeared broken and with little chance of succeeding.

There was no way I was going to abandon my son, no way he would have to do without me and no way I would be one of those men who just didn’t show up when his son needed a father. I chose this path very carefully. In fact it came to me I was already on that path.

With an apartment rented and $7,000 worth of furniture purchased and set for delivery in a few days I made an appearance an my son’s mothers home and we sat and chatted about the future and on how I could take more responsibility for my duties as a man, a father and provider. I felt I was that sort of man who didn’t believe in divorce and openly acknowledged my mistakes, my lack of being present due to work and even the choices of drinking to get to sleep. I felt it necessary for me to come clean and be open and share of the mistakes I had made and remind myself I was solely responsible for the way I felt and acted towards my son’s mother.

The chat seemed to go well, and I set up a schedule of access with my son’s mother and provided her access to my work schedule along with commitments I would be make to be available to her and our son.

It was a Wednesday, I was in my new apartment, carving out a castle out of the monster box the couch came in.

This was for the lad. I had arranged for a visitation with his mum and him for the weekend.

I hadn’t ever made anything creative since I was a little boy back in primary school, and I was nervous on ensuring the castle’s mote would work properly. I had carved out small holes through which I placed string, attaching it to the ramp. When inside the castle, you could pull on the strings and the bridge rose and lowered. It took a few hours to master this, and I sat smiling and happy at my achievement. The cardboard castle came with a few cardboard swords that I had created for the lad and I to play with.

To top it all off, a cardboard crown was designed and color added to resemble jewels fit for the King of the castle. What a lovely day that was building this marvel of creation, and I couldn’t wait for Kai to come see it and for us to play within it. Memories of my father came to the forefront. Memories on how he didn’t like to play, on how busy he always was as he worked as a bus driver and then security guard. Memories how I seldom saw him. It didn’t matter any as I had the opportunity to fix the past now and create a new way of being for my family name and for me and my son. It didn’t matter all those nights I sat waiting for dad to arrive home so we could play marbles, or he could kick the soccer ball around with me, if even for a few minutes. Oh how I had yearned for them like that as a boy, but this time it was going to be much better.

In the midst of all the fun of creating I heard a knock on the door, I proceeded to get up slowly as my aging knees were aching from kneeling on the hard wood floor. I was cutting cardboard and gluing pieces of my masterpiece as so the world would witness a castle never before seen would make a little boy smile and laugh and perhaps even his mother would see how much I loved and cared for her son. It took me awhile to stand up and get to the door and in this time the person on the other side knocked a few more times.

Opening that door would forever be etched in my mind’s eye, and it would forever change me and the path I am on.

I opened the door, and noticed a man standing there in the hallway, I had never seen him before. I did not recognized him. He asked me if I was … and I replied “yes that’s me, I’m sorry it took me awhile to get to the door, I was building a castle for my son and I to play in when he comes over later this week.”

The man proceeded to extend his hand offering me a rather large stuffed beige envelope and proceeded to say “You’ve been served.”



Served what man, what’s this? 
“Please don’t hurt me sir, I’m just doing my job.”

Why would I hurt you bro, and what’s this all about?
“Have a look inside; it’s all there and you will understand. And I’m sorry…!”

To this day I haven’t ever been served in the manner that I had that day, so when men state they are in service, my mind brings forth images of that day I was served. I can’t help it. My back goes up and my anxiety and fears come rushing forth, along with images of a man standing in front of my home who is placing life altering documents into my hand. And doing so without any care other than doing his job.

I learned to protect myself more since then, actually I’ve learned to not again trust people around me.  I struggle daily to let the right people into my inner world, my home, my life, my workspace and most of all my heart.

I found a men’s team not too long after all this incident, and for the first time, and it took about a year and a half of constantly going back to meetings, I began slowly to trust again, to feel again, to believe that people in my life won’t blindside me or hurt me intentionally. I struggle, still, in allowing my men in fully because I’ve had to learn to trust myself. How can I learn to do that if I have been scarred and damaged so deeply.

It’s been a long hard road for me to get to where I am today. I am still working on trust, care, love, friendship, acceptance and most of all believing in people. I’ve never wanted to be the man who shut down his feelings, and I have had to learn how to manage my inner feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and disappointment, all of which directly relate to that one horrible day.

My men’s team helps me a lot as they create that space for me to open up and speak my truth no matter what I may be feeling inside. I am one of those privileged men whose found a circle of men who care and who I believe will not let me down or blindside me.

I have worked on my fears, thoughts and emotions to help me get out of that place of fear and be in a positive masculine place of acceptance of what is. What is, for me. is the fact that I encountered a traumatic experience for which I didn’t have the tools to deal with it at that time. What is, for me, is my falling into places of deep darkness and counter-productivity. What is, for me, is to care for myself.

Today, I am learning the embrace the phrase of being served or being in service. Two men I know – Marchione and Kennard – like to say “I am in service.” I trust these two magnanimous leaders as I do so many others in my men’s organization. I now bring this tone, presence to the legion of men, fathers of my extended circle who have also been served. I work tirelessly to be in service, and to show care, love, friendship and acceptance. And in doing so, perhaps allow another man to feel deeply and to believe he too is capable of redefining the terms, words and actions of traumatic events that exist omnipresent in his life.

My son, Kai, has asked me at times to tell him about the castle I had built for him that weekend long time ago. I speak of its creation with feelings of empowerment, pride, accomplishment and honor. I built that castle for him in the past, but I build it still today. It’s about the long journey, and it’s also time for me to let go of that one day, as it doesn’t serve me positively anymore.

I wish you all the best, in service, as one of your men.

1 thought on “Building Castles for My Son”

  1. Julius Williams

    I could feel your presence, pain and love in all you wrote.

    You summed it up perfectly at the end.

    New days can be few days, depending on your intentions.

    Much love, my brother

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