Five children were crushed when their father disappeared on a business trip two decades ago. All of this time, they believed he had died. It must have been excruciating for them to not know what had happened to him. But then, suddenly, in 2007, the man returned. He wasn't dead after all. He was just gay.
Eric Myers popped back up in his children's lives after being gone for most of theirs -- but unfortunately this wasn't an occasion for celebration. It turns out he hadn't mysteriously died in San Francisco after all. He'd merely run off with his gay lover. Not surprisingly, the kids aren't exactly heralding their gay dad's return.
Myers knew he was gay from the time he was 6 years old -- but he felt this was wrong. So he became an Evangelical Christian, got married, and had five children -- all hoping this would somehow make him "straight." By the time he was 34, however, he knew he could no longer continue with the charade, so he disappeared.
That's right. Didn't have a talk with his wife. Didn't say goodbye to his kids. Never even made one phone call. Disappeared.
I can only imagine what the family went through as they searched for him and mourned and grieved and finally went on with their lives as best they could. "I cannot say anything to deny that it is the most selfish thing in the world," says Eric. And he would be right about that.
His youngest daughter, who was 11 when her dad went missing, turned to alcohol to self-soothe. "I think it's safe to say I took it the hardest," Kirsten Myers Ruggiano told ABC News. "I remember screaming that I wanted him back."
Myers moved to Palm Springs, California, and met a man. He changed his identity. Meanwhile, he was declared legally dead and his family was able to cash in a $800,000 life insurance policy.
Then, one day, Myers just decided to come back. He says:
There was never any plan to come back, just like there was never any plan to leave, and it just happened.
While his parents and siblings instantly forgave him, it hasn't been like that with his children. They haven't even spoken to him. And that is totally understandable. The kids were given financial security in the form of trust funds set up after the insurance payout -- but with his return, the insurance company wants the money back with interest. So he just keeps causing even more turmoil.
It's unclear why Myers returned, but it sounds more like he wanted to reconnect with his parents and siblings -- on his terms and when he was ready -- than with his kids. His family made it easy for him, his children didn't.
I can see where Myers may have hated himself and his homosexuality and all of the lies he'd told and situations he'd created out of his own lies and somehow thought that the children would be better off without him -- but I simply cannot believe that went on for 16 years, the amount of time that Myers was gone. I think he had his fun, had his carefree, selfish years without the burden of raising five kids, and when he got older and began to desire a family again, he realized he needed to return. I think it was for him, not them.
I could be wrong since I don't know Myers. I don't know everything he's gone through. But I do have a good idea of what the kids have gone through, having gone through something similar myself. Bottom line, there's never a good reason to abandon your children. And especially not in a way that makes them believe you're dead.
Says Myers daughter, Kirsten, now a mom herself:
I know how much I loved my children. And if he loved me even half as much as I loved them, there would be no situation where he would ever think that it was okay to leave me.
She's right. It is never okay to leave your kids, unless you are putting them in danger. Being confused and in pain -- which no doubt Myers was -- is no excuse not to own up to your responsibilities to your children.
One day, Kirsten may decide to forgive, more for herself than him. But it's up to her when, where, and how. Myers has had it his way his entire life. Now it should be about his kids -- what they want.
Should his kids forgive him?
Image via ABC News