Hi my name is Kelly McArdle, below is a note that I post for my daughter on her birthday.
13 years ago yesterday my life changed dramatically. Although I spent the first few months trying to distance myself from my emotions one day while I was out running I accepted that I was a father. I wanted to be Reilly Jane McArdle’s daddy. For the next few months after that my daughter’s mother and I had an agreement on visits and as Reilly grew we would mediate new conditions. Reilly was still young and I was VERY scared of her, I had no problem having visits at their house. But I started getting suspicious of the guidelines they (Mom & Grandma) were having my visits under. I wanted to take Reilly to see my family and they only consented if mom or grandma was present. I hired a lawyer to find out what my rights were. My lawyer immediately contacted me concerned that there was already a default judgement in place and I had only a few days to appeal it (Reilly’s Grandma is a family attorney). Although my lawyer filed the paperwork in time she filed it incorrectly and the order stuck. In this default judgement I had been stripped of all of my parental rights for Reilly and I had been painted as abusive, violent, and an absentee father. Nothing was further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I was no angel and I’ve left a laundry list of hurt people in my wake, but since that day I was out running there was a space of 10 years where Reilly was the the last thing I thought about before I slept and the first when I woke up. My visits were limited to two hours a week and were supervised by an officer of the court. It was the beginning of a dark two-year slide that I almost let beat me; I look at the time I had to spend away from my daughter as penance for the people I’ve hurt in my life (Reilly’s mother included). Although I’ve programmed myself to eliminate those pesky memories, I was never safe from my dreams… Reilly would always be there and I would always lose her in the morning.
I don’t want to paint myself as a victim because Reilly is the victim and this is all my fault. I made the decision to walk away and much later I made the decision to not fight the adoption. But I did so because I came from a broken home, I was a stranger to my daughter, and my life was spinning out of control. In many ways I had become the person that the court deemed unfit to be Reilly’s daddy. I’m writing this because besides the few friends I still have from that time most of my family and friends have no idea what happened. I can never go back and fight the adoption or take back that phone call (when i walked away). But I can finally accept and admit that I wasn’t fit to be Reilly’s father. But those days are long gone and I’m writing this publicly in hopes that someone reads it and realizes she is loved and missed by many more family members than just her father, although he misses you most.
Every night my wife includes Reilly in the kids bedtime prayers, she has cousins that search for her on the internet, and she has a father with another laundry list of regrets. Reilly, I hope that there was never a time in your life that you doubted your worth because of me, for that alone i can never earn your love back. But your brothers and sister are the very best of me (as you are) and we will always be here for you.