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Listen to find strength and community on the MG journey on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. And we continue with our American stories. And now Robbie brings us the story of Jason Wolf.
He created the first online coupon site and was the first to seriously develop software that tracked web browsing using what are known as cookies. Jason is here to bring us the story of becoming the father that he never had himself. Here's Jason.
Here's Jason. You know, I think my very first memories were when I was living in Virginia. My dad worked in the CIA, so we lived in a place called Ruston, Virginia, which was like a new suburb of Washington, D.C. back then. I could remember having a bike and learning how to ride a bike with my dad, and I must have been maybe three or four. And I remember going down this little hill that he was pushing me down and, you know, basically being scared and then being happy that I learned how to ride a bike.
So, yeah, it was my earliest memory. That happened in my life that I remember that was like a pivotal thing. Probably when my mom and dad got separated. By then, it was 1975, so I was six or so. And I could remember my dad driving, he had a Volkswagen.
Sort of like a station wagon Volkswagen, loaded all of us up into this Volkswagen, drove up to Connecticut, and all of us, meaning my brother and sister and I, drove us up to Connecticut and dropped us off with my grandparents with my mom. My mom was acting strange, I didn't know what was going on. And then he left, and that was the beginning of their divorce. And shortly after that, my mom, turned out later, I found out my mom had mental illness, and so she was put into a sort of a mental institution for a couple years. So for a couple years after my dad dropped us off, my mom was, you know, going through and trying to get herself back together.
And yeah, that's probably the next milestone in my life. I could remember when my mother was, they were trying to get her to take her into this mental institution, whatever, she was put away for a couple years. And they somehow couldn't get her, she was elusive. And I could remember my sister and I going to this hospital, and they were getting her there under some other guise, some other trick to get her to show up. And so she shows up and my sister and I are sitting out there, by now I'm probably a little older, six or seven. And I remember the, they had my sister and I playing sort of games out inside this room, and I remember hearing some screaming. And I look over and here's my mother running towards me with a straight jacket on, because they were trying to put her into a straight jacket.
And that was like hugely pivotal and kind of crazy at that time. And from then, over the next course of a couple years, I mean, we lived with grandparents, I lived with an aunt for a little bit and then eventually moved in with an uncle. And my mom came out of the institution, tried to take us back, get back on her feet, living in sort of, you know, welfare life, not a lot of money, poor. I can remember a Christmas very vividly when I was around nine at this point, and just laying under a blanket with no heat in the house and getting a knock at the door. And at the door was, looked out the door, was a box with frozen turkey and some games for us. And, you know, we couldn't cook the turkey, we had no gas, we had no gas to light the stove. We were the poor people, we were what I called the raggies, you know, the raggies of town, the people that are real raggy and poor and stuff, that was us.
And so, yeah, I remember that. And then living with an uncle and then having to make a decision when I was about 10, whether I wanted to go to this new school that they discovered, that this nun that we were going to a church told my grandmother about down in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was a school for, at the time it was boys, boys school.
They were just converting over to add girls. And it was in the late 70s, 79 or so, and we went down, took the test, came back, my brother and I, my brother didn't pass the test, I did. And they asked me, I can remember standing at my uncle's house on the second floor, and they were asking me, do you want to go to this school or do you want to go with your aunt and uncle to go to California, because they were moving to California. And I decided to go to Milton Hershey School alone by myself, which was hugely, you know, that was a God moment. There was no real reason for me to choose to not go with my family, but I chose to not go with my family, to go down to Milton Hershey School.
And so on September 20th, 1980, it was a fall day, crisp out, football season, sunny. I'll remember just like yesterday, and I could feel the air even right now and being dropped off at Milton Hershey School. And my mother and my grandparents were there and inside this place called the Rotunda, which is a huge building at Milton Hershey School. And I can remember Mr. Long standing there with me.
He was the person that had the intake of children coming into Milton Hershey School. And I can remember standing with Mr. Long and looking at my parents or my mother. By now, I thought my dad was dead because my mom told us he was not alive.
So he never paid child support and we really thought he was dead. So seeing my mother cry and my grandparents standing there and then they walk away and I'm alone now. I didn't realize, but I'd be on my lawn for a long time thereafter and growing up in that school. I can remember not even a few months into it, maybe crying every night trying to put myself to sleep and starting to try to get used to the school at the time was a, you know, corporal punishment was not it was something that happened. It just happened right as part of discipline. And I can remember running away and I remember getting paddled.
I remember these things that I wasn't used to and it was scary and I cried and I didn't want to be there. But I learned to adapt and to change, to figure things out. Eventually I did. And eventually I excelled. I became, played three sports, football, baseball and wrestling. Some of them I was a captain on, some of the teams I excelled in. My grades were always good.
I was in the top group of our class, probably in the top, you know, handful of kids. And then, you know, went on to college. But before going on to college, I remember sitting at graduation day, next pivotal moment, was just sitting there and, you know, with a suitcase of clothes and 100 bucks, because they gave you a check at the time of $100, I think mine was less than 100 because I owed the school something for something that I did.
I don't even know. And I couldn't cash the check because I didn't have a bank account. And I had a suitcase with the brand new clothes, you know, three pairs of socks, 10 pair underwear, something like that, a bunch of pants, you know.
And I'm sitting there with this big suitcase of clothes, this check I can't cash. And my grandfather had a stroke, so he was, on the last months of his life, my mother was always, you know, dysfunctional. I wasn't really sure what I was going to do, you know. So I went up to Connecticut, and I stayed with my grandmother to help her to take care of my grandfather until he died.
And he passed away within a couple months. And I didn't go to college. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. And so I got involved in, like, a lot of things that somebody who has no family, really, who has no direction, no male mentorship, Christ not in my life to any large measure. And so I got involved in things that were illegal.
I go into my house, and all the locks are changed. I was only married for two years. I didn't know the person I was getting married to. I only knew her for four months before I got married.
And I married her because she was pregnant. And you've been listening to Jason Wolf tell the story of his life and what a story it is. When we come back, more of the life story of Jason Wolf here on Our American Stories.
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC It's back to everything season on the Today Show. MUSIC And we're back with Our American Stories and with the story of Jason Wolf. Jason's childhood was anything but easy. His mother was institutionalized, his father leaving and later dying, or at least that's what young Jason was told. Down the road, Jason had a son and got married. Unfortunately, that ended after a few years, and Jason found himself in the middle of a divorce.
Here's Jason to tell us the rest of the story. MUSIC So during that divorce and after that divorce, it was a time for me, I think, to when God started knocking on my door and saying, hey, all this stuff you've got to do, you've got to be starting to change the way that you live and put God first. Even though going through divorce wasn't fun, it was, you know, financially it was a mess. It was because I sold a company during the time that I was married, it became a marital asset, and that was a big problem. But I started to go to church more.
I was invited into a men's group, and I started the journey to change my life, to bring me as a man more towards Christ in a real way, as opposed to just saying that I'm a Christian. When I got divorced, it was easy for, you know, the lawyers to say, hey, you know, let's just kind of settle this disagreement. And I'm signing papers, honestly, I didn't realize this, Robbie, saying that I have, I didn't know what the lingo meant at the time. I didn't know what primary custody meant compared to just custody. I didn't know what legal custody meant.
All I just knew was like, you have the kid or you don't. I quickly figured it out because I didn't have equal physical and legal custody. I had sort of visitation rights. I think that's terrible for dads at the time, and that's how it was for me. And I had to then try to argue with the court that I could be an equal father and I wanted to be equally in Morris's life.
And his mom tried to stop that. And so for years, from 2006 all the way up to 2011, we fought for equal custody. And eventually in 2000, I think it was 11 or 10, the governor at the time, Rendell, Pennsylvania, was leaving office and he put a change to the law or the thing about parental equal custody.
At the time, I had to prove that I was an equal father, like I was proved that I was, instead of just automatically giving equal custody to both parents and then disproving that the other person couldn't be a parent. And so when he did that, it allowed me to have 50-50 custody. It was a wonderful thing.
And I think that's how it always should have been, but it wasn't at the time. So, yeah, it took years for me to fight for him to just be in his life. You know, and he was a big part of my life.
We spent, I didn't get remarried until 2017. So for 10 years, it was just Morris and I and my dog Toby, our dog Toby. And, you know, I spent a lot of time with him.
I focused on Morris. I did his homework with him. I was involved in the school. I was involved with his doctors. I was an equally involved father, as it should be.
And I loved it. I love to be involved in his life. He's older now, 15, 16, kids change.
He doesn't want to listen to me as much as he did before, but that's OK. Since then, I did get remarried and we have fostered and we have adopted. So we have two girls now that we've adopted. Danielle, who's five, and Merigold, who is eight. We got them when they were three and six.
And so we love them. We have two new girls and we have a boy right now, too. We foster. His name is Jeremiah. And Jeremiah, we hope, eventually will be our son. And so our family went from just Morris and I and our dog to Susan, my wonderful wife. Danielle, Merigold, Morris, Jeremiah, the dogs, and my wife loves animals.
We have a donkey and a goat, two goats and a pony. So, yeah, things have expanded. That's good. All these struggles, all these challenges that I had, I learned later in life that, you know, it was God banging on my heart. My heart was getting broken over and over and over. And it was because God wanted to get into my heart. My heart was hard.
And so I think these struggles have made my heart softer. And a softer, gentler heart was needed when Jason had to face the man he'd grown up thinking was dead. The man who left his family when he was six. His own father. And so I found out my dad was alive in 1992. I was 22 years old, 21 years old. I was in college and found out he was alive. We sent letters to my grandmother who wouldn't tell us where he was.
And then she would send the letters to my father. And he, lo and behold, wasn't dead. Found out he lived in New Zealand.
He had a whole different life. And I ended up going down and meeting him probably when I was 23. I spent about a month with him. Got to know him a little bit.
And over the course of a couple of years, I knew him a little bit more. But I wasn't with Christ yet. And so what I decided to do was to say to my dad, Listen, I don't forgive you unless you apologize. You need to apologize to my mom.
You need to apologize to my grandmother. Because I am the judge. I didn't leave it up to God. I left it up to myself.
I'm going to dictate the situation. So he did. He sent a letter to my mom and my grandmother. And now my grandmother and my mother knows where he lives. And so now all of a sudden it's a lawsuit. It's my mom suing my dad. Because he never paid child support. Now my dad's wanted and in the United States couldn't come back here. And if he did, he'd go to jail. And he had a judgment against him of $418,000. And back child support and interest and everything else.
Penalties, whatever. So he couldn't come back. And it was because of me that that happened. And because of my thought that I needed to tell somebody what to do. Or I needed to be the judge of somebody else that caused him that pain.
So I felt bad about that. And so when I sold the last company in 2016, I hired a lawyer. And I found the documents down in Virginia. The divorce documents between my mom and my dad.
Found the amount that they had leaned against my dad. And I went up to Connecticut and met with my mom and convinced her to allow me to pay her on behalf of my father. So I would pay her. I'd buy her house at the time.
The house was probably worth $100,000. I gave her $200,000. I gave her a commitment of $2,000 a month over the rest of her life. And gave her some other stuff in exchange for her releasing my father of the debt that he owed her.
And she did. And so it was a proud moment for me to be able to tell my dad, Hey listen, I settled your debt to my mom. And I was able to live that out because of my faith. Now my father all his years was not very close to the Lord. I don't even think, I think he was probably an atheist or agnostic at best. And in the last several years, he married somebody, Rebecca, who was a Christian. And now my dad, at like 75 years old, is going to church. And he's in a small group at church.
You can't make this stuff up, I'm telling you. And so it's been a really great journey for me with my dad. And you know, I forgave him. I forgave him in the right way. I didn't forgive him because of me telling him what to do.
I forgave him because Christ forgave me. And I think that's been special for me. And what a remarkable piece of storytelling. Thanks to Robbie for producing the piece. And a special thanks also to Jason Wolf for sharing his story. My goodness, being abandoned by his father, the mental illness of his mother, being alone all that time, then the divorce, then the fight to get equal custody of his son.
And he found his dad at the age of 22, tried to reconcile, forgave him incorrectly the first time, incorrectly the second, and it changed everything. The story of Jason Wolf. The story of so many men and women struggling to find peace and healing in this world, here on Our American Stories. Now is the time to flex your footprint. With T-Mobile for Business and the nation's largest 5G network, inspiration can strike from virtually anywhere. So whether you're in the office, on the road, or on your PT not quite O, you'll be ready for the next big thing.
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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-08 04:29:41 / 2023-09-08 04:38:32 / 9