A father's decision not to pass on his old sports car to his biological son was the last straw in a relationship that struggled for years.
The father-son falling out occurred, once and for all, in 2019.
But the dad still carried guilt one year later. In the back of his mind, he regretted old decisions and the way he acted while the relationship still had a chance.
And recently, that guilt was placed front and center once again with the arrival of a package in the mail.
To process the sudden swell of emotions, he—who will remain anonymous, as he deleted his username—shared the whole story to Reddit's "Today I F*cked Up (TIFU)" subReddit.
It's a thread where the ashamed are free to spill their guts.
"TIFU by giving my old sports car to my stepson (16), instead of my actual son (20) who wanted it since he was a child. This happened last year, but yesterday I got a grim reminder."
"Before we start off with this train wreck of a story, here is some background information."
"I've been a car mechanic since the age of 19 and I have my own garage/store since I was 28 years old."
"After my first marriage went to shambles, I remarried a few years later. Just like my current wife, she had a son from her first marriage. My stepson was around 4 years old back then and he sees me as his real father. His own father walked out on him."
"My son from my first marriage was living with his mom, but I saw him quite often. On his way back from school, he dropped by occasionally to say hello or look at the cars I had in the shop. My wife and ex-wife actually got along well, there was never any issues with my son staying over or staying for dinner, he lived with his mom though."
After sharing those complex social dynamics, he identified an important concrete element of the story and all the intangible associations it included.
"When I turned 17 my dad bought me a black Chevrolet Chevelle SS, through my entire live I've always taken care of that car. I loved that car to dead, 90% of that car is still consisting of it's original parts. As I'm a mechanic, I had no issues doing everything myself, this car was standing in front of my shop most of the time or in my garage at home. "
"My son loved this car as well. He always wanted to go along for rides and he knew everything about it. He even had a small model car that looked just like it."
Details shared, he moved on to his own behavior, so relevant to how things turned out.
"So, where did it go wrong you wonder? My ex-wife remarried as well 8 years ago, but they moved a few states away because her new husband got a new (and better paid) job offer. After that, I spoke to my son mostly on the telephone and saw him maybe once every 3-4 months for a long weekend or half a week."
"The phone calls became less frequent and he said he wanted to focus on his schoolwork. He was a teen and I couldn't blame him for that. Meanwhile, my stepson was already 10 at that time."
"When my son was 16 he went to university a few states away, I barely had time to speak to him or to see him, my business was doing bad at the time and my wife had also gotten really sick at the time with E. coli and got kidney failures. It was a tough time keeping everything together, but somehow we made it through all of it and my wife is doing far better now."
And then came the event that would tip things over the edge.
"Fast forward to April 2019. My stepson was turning 16 that month. My stepson always got on with my son, so he invited him. My son was busy at the time, but promised he would show up a few days later. After all that happened I didn't see him for almost 4 years, so I was glad he was coming over."
"Now here comes to part where I f*cked up badly. My stepson was a grade A student. Even when times where tough, he managed to get good grades at school and even got into the university where he wanted to study medicine. My wife and I where so proud of him."
"So I decided to give him my old Chevrolet Chevelle for his 16 birthday. He was pretty amazed by it and so were his friends. It's a car that to this day still makes an impact."
The fallout from that decision became evident immediately.
What began as his son's anger directed specifically toward the car situation quickly devolved into more general criticisms of his approach to fatherhood.
"It did so on my son as well, one that would cost my relationship with him."
"I texted him a picture of my stepson with the car on his 16 birthday party, not knowing what would happen next. My son texted me back with, 'Is this a joke?' "
"I didn't understand at the time and texted him back with, 'No, why?' "
"He called me not a few seconds later, yelling at me to tell him that it was a joke. He told me that I promised him the car when he was 10 years old, that if he did well in school I would give it to him."
All that criticism provoked a rush of defensive anger from the dad.
"The part that made me yell back at him through the phone was when he called me a 'lousy father that didn't care about his real son,' let me tell you things were said from both sides that weren't nice from that point on."
"My wife told me to calm down and to talk it out because there was some misunderstanding."
"I then did the most regrettable thing I've done and If I could take it back I would do it. I told my son in a fit of rage that, 'he didn't deserve the car' and that he could call me back if he changed his attitude. After I hung up the phone, I got into a fight with my wife, who stood up for my son."
"At that moment in time I didn't care, I was insulted for being called a bad father."
When he tried to apologize and patch things up with his son shortly after, he didn't get anywhere.
His son's silence led to a reckoning for dad.
"I tried to contact my son a few days afterwards, but I wouldn't get any response. I think he changed his phone number a day after the fight. I couldn't care any less at the time."
"Three weeks later my ex-wife called, furious as hell. My son had apparently graduated from University and I was (in hindsight) not invited by my son. My ex-wife found it strange that I wasn't there."
"My son told her there and then what happened and that he wanted to invite me on the day he would come to visit for his graduation. The worst thing is, he was graduating as an automotive service technician and was apparently one of the best in his class. I then realized that I was indeed, a bad father."
"In those 4 years of not seeing him and all the stress around me I didn't even bother to ask what he was studying. My ex-wife told me that he was heartbroken and felt like he was unwanted, unlike my stepson. She started crying on the phone, saying he just wanted to be a mechanic just like you."
"He apparently wanted to move back and work with me in my shop and take over when I was going to retire. My entire world crumbled in front of me, I felt and still feel so incredibly stupid for saying those things to him."
His later attempts to contact his son—more urgent than ever after his moral realizations—again were unsuccessful.
"My ex-wife wouldn't give me his new number and address, seeing he wanted no contact with me ever again. She also told me to never reach out to her ever again."
"It's been more then a year now, I've had a few fights about it with my wife. My stepson gave the car back and settled for something else, if it meant that my son would come back."
"I've tried getting into contact with him for the last 11 month's. Until a few months ago the last thing I found out that he was probably working for some big car manufacturer, but they didn't want give out any information about the people working there."
A year later, those raw emotions were suddenly reignited.
"Yesterday I got a package from him, unexpectedly. It didn't come with a letter or return address on it, but I knew it was from him."
"It was a box with his old Chevrolet toy car, an old picture ripped up of him and me on the hood of the car and a videotape. I watched the videotape, he was probably seven years old at the time, in the video I was fixing a car. I cried halfway through this, because I then knew why he mailed me the tape."
"I said to him while he was filming it that if he wanted it, and kept up his grades, that the shop could be his one day, including my Chevy."
The upsetting story invited a broad range of comments.
Many straddle the line between pity and judgment.
"This made me cry. Your poor poor son. You failed him in so many ways." -- InfinitelyContentAF
"This is absolutely devastating and has ruined my entire week." -- couldhaveprevented
"I don't even know how to respond to this, this is the biggest f*ck up I have ever read. Sounds like that promise was one of the things that guided his childhood, something that guided his decisions through his life, and you broke it."
"I'm sorry to hear about this situation with your son." -- DemonLinus
"This is some real heartbreaking TV drama." -- diamondsam2
"You reap what you sow." -- whystler
Plenty of comments made a point to note that the car in question was far from the main issue in the situation.
"You didn't f*ck up by giving your stepson the car you promised your son. You f*cked up by not being the bigger person in a relationship with a duty of care (which you failed to fulfill miserably)."
"I'm not trying to insult you, but I'm also not going to sugarcoat anything to make you feel better. Live with the consequences of what you've done." -- indiblue825
"4 years of not seeing him is inexcusable. F*ck the car."
"Do you know what I'm dealing with as a parent who had my son's mom not show up for years?"
"You didn't just f*ck up today partner, you've fucked up for a very long time. Chances of you fixing this in this lifetime are slim." -- xynix_ie
"That broken promise was the nail in the coffin. You stopped being his dad years ago, probably without even realizing it. But that promise was his last hope of getting back his dad and you killed it."
"My father did something similar and I will never forgive him and I don't see why your son should forgive you. Sorry." -- 14ris14
"It's like that Cat's in the Cradle song. First, the dad never has time for the son, and then the son never has any time for the dad."
"The screwup wasn't giving away the car to the wrong person (though giving such a nice old car to a 16yr old is it's own kind of screwup), it was in not seeing more of your son over the years. He graduated school, and you never had asked what his major was? How low was he on your priorities list?"
"The car isn't the problem, the car is the straw that broke the camel's back." -- wknight8111
Apparently, the onslaught of comments like this, and worse, became tough to swallow for the original poster.
While many were positive and extended a sympathetic hand, he noted how severe some of the responses became.
The update, nevertheless, ended with another expression of complete guilt.
"Deleting this account. I know a lot of you people are angry. Believe me I know the feeling, I hate myself as well. I came here to share a story of how I f*cked up badly, hoping some people maybe would learn of it."
"But the nasty messages and death threats I'm receiving in my inbox from other car enthusiasts and other upset people are really not worth it."
"From one worthless father to any father or future one, please learn from my mistake."
The catharsis was clearly an outpouring of emotion for this father, but he is in no place to feel better just yet.
*If you enjoyed this article, you can read more like it by clicking on the TIFU link below.*
The book How to Get Your Son Back: 7 Steps to Reconnect and Repair Your Relationship is available here.