By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
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On a recent afternoon, he sits in his lawyer's office and talks about the three children he once thought were his. He says he misses taking them to the park and hearing them call him Dad. The girls were just toddlers when he left, and even though he wasn't much of a "girly" guy, he misses playing dolls with the older one. When he was granted rights to see them early this year, his lawyer advised him against visiting the girls if he was going to contest paternity. It might re-establish their bond and hurt his case. It was a tough decision, but his bitterness at his wife's betrayal and the financial hardship of supporting two non-biological children swayed him. He would see only his son.
In January, father and son were reunited at a Chuck E. Cheese. It was awkward at first, but after a few rounds of skeeball, the 8-year-old loosened up and seemed to have fun.
They see each other every weekend now, visiting Antonio's mother and going to the movies. The boy's 7-year-old sister, meanwhile, is heartbroken. She doesn't understand why the man she still remembers as her father visits her brother but not her. During a recent visit with his son, Antonio called his estranged wife to say he would be late dropping the boy off, and she told him the girl had been crying all day. Her mother put her on the phone. "She wanted me to buy her a toy, pick her up," Antonio says, his face somber and resigned. "I told her, 'Not right now.'"
For now, Antonio hopes that one day, the hearings and the waiting and the legal fees will come to an end. And as he strives to return to some semblance of normal life, he tries to remember the truth, and not to think about the little girl's tears or wonder how things might have been different.
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