• A Father with a Heart of Stone

    He never really wanted his son, and Mike Rinder took it out on him with a cold and self-centered attitude throughout his life
    Mike Rinder
    Benjamin Rinder at Barnsdall Park, Los Angeles, 1987
    Benjamin Rinder at Barnsdall Park, Los Angeles, 1987; inset: Mike Rinder

    My pregnancy with my son Ben was not totally expected, but I was elated about it. When I told Mike I was pregnant, his first response was to ask me if I was planning to get rid of it. When I said, “No!” he was really pissed. I could not grasp or understand his cold reaction. I could tell that he wasn’t going to outright tell me he didn’t want it (he didn’t want to say what he was really thinking) but he acted as if this were a piece of annoying news—the same way he acted when his car wouldn’t start.

    From this point, without stating those words, he was saying, “Over to you”—as if it were “my thing” and he was wiping his hands of it.

    Benjamin Rinder on a family outing, Los Angeles Zoo, 1988
    Benjamin Rinder on a family outing, Los Angeles Zoo, 1988

    This attitude with our son prevailed through Ben’s early life. Mike didn’t have much interest in him and mostly criticized him, his clothes, the way he looked and the fact that Ben was “too nice”—translated as “not like Mike.” Mike expected Ben to be like him, meaning fitting to what Mike was, as a child and in his adult life: insolent and out to get what he could for himself in the easiest way possible.

    Through these years, Mike often asked our son outright, “Why aren’t you more like me?” He would seriously needle him that he should toughen up and “be like me!” Ben was a totally normal kid and there was nothing wrong with his actions.

    Mike would continually reproach me for “doting” on Benjamin. That is, giving him affection and care and loving him and being happy and positive. Mike didn’t want Ben to “turn out like” me (Cathy) and told me so many times. He also told this to Ben directly, in front of me, to make less of me and simply mess with Ben’s mind. He told Ben routinely that I was a “wuss” and he would turn into one if he listened to me.

    Mike resented that I treated Ben like a human being and did not take up his faults or put him down. For example, one time I took the kids clothes shopping with Mike. I told Ben he could pick whatever he liked. Mike interjected himself, going around and picking clothes he felt Ben should wear to fit the part he (Mike) had in mind for him. This was very upsetting to Benjamin because, as he told Mike, he hated those kinds of clothes. Mike told Benjamin he was a “wuss” for this and that I must have been influencing him and he was “just like your mom” (as if this were bad). Benjamin just went silent and picked nothing, not speaking for hours.

    Mike’s…response was to tell his 5-year-old son that there was nothing really wrong with the bullying he was receiving, he was just ‘not being man enough to take it.’

    Another example: Ben had gotten upset at being bullied in kindergarten and told us about it. Mike’s unbelievable response was to tell his 5-year-old son that there was nothing really wrong with the bullying he was receiving, he was just “not being man enough to take it.” Mike Rinder wanted our son to feel unloved and somehow this is what would “make him a man! Not a pussy!”—a favorite saying of Mike’s, to both Ben and me.

    Mike often brought up to Ben that he didn’t like the way he styled his hair, when there was nothing wrong with it. This made Ben self-conscious. Mike asserted the way he felt it should be—plastered down with a part. In Mike’s eyes, this is how his son’s hair should be. Ben hated it and protested. He would cry when Mike would take him to get his hair cut how Mike wanted it.

    Benjamin Rinder, Southern California, 1993
    Benjamin Rinder, Southern California, 1993

    I will never forget how many times Mike put on a “loving father” act only to not carry through. Once he told both Ben and our daughter, Taryn, that he loved them so much he was going to take them on a special trip to Universal Studios for a day—just him and the kids. Ben was about 8 and Taryn 13. The day came, the kids were excited as hell and off they went.

    At about 6 p.m. I got a phone call from Taryn. Mike had dropped them off at Universal Studios and then left. He told the kids that when they were done, they were to sit on the steps in a specific area and he would return. Taryn and Ben had been sitting on the steps for hours and didn’t know what to do. They had been alone the whole day, were extremely upset and could not believe that their dad just left them there. It wasn’t until it was getting dark that Mike came and picked them up. That was the last time I let Mike take the kids alone, as he could not be trusted to care for them.

    Another example of Mike’s treatment of his own children: Mike knew our son got carsick. One day, Mike was rushing to get down a snow-covered mountain and was driving too fast. The kids were freaking out. I was trying to get Mike to follow the speed limit. Benjamin asked Mike to stop because he felt sick, but Mike refused. Benjamin started to throw up and was sick all over the back seat of the car. Mike then yelled at him in anger for getting sick. That is the kind of father he was.

    From early on Ben felt that Mike didn’t give a s—t about him. As he got older, he wanted to be done with Mike’s emotional abuse.

    Over the years, Ben became less and less interested in being with Mike as he just ended up feeling small and unworthy. He told me years ago that he was unable to handle Mike berating the way he looked; Mike would tell him that he was too small physically and should be a certain way. From early on Ben felt that Mike didn’t give a s—t about him. As he got older, he wanted to be done with Mike’s emotional abuse.

    We lived in California and when Ben was of legal age he started working in Clearwater, Florida. But Mike still found a way to needle him. When Mike was in town, he would “summon” Ben, demanding that he come see him while Mike held court. Ben did not like it. But, being good-natured and looking for the best in people, he hoped Mike would have a change of heart. Mike never changed. In the end, Ben decided, “I am not doing this anymore. No.” And he started refusing to come, sending back a message of, paraphrased: “I am not coming. If you really want to see me, and you really love me, you’d come find me and give me a hug.”

    It’s a horrible feeling—you’re a kid and you have to live with the thought that “My God, my father doesn’t even love me.”

    Our son was diagnosed with a…malignant melanoma….​I flew to Denver to tell [Mike].… However, when asked if he would like to speak to me the answer was a flat ‘No.’

    A few months after Mike walked out on us and never came back, our son, at the age of 24, was diagnosed with a rare form of malignant melanoma. Ben needed all the help and attention I could give him and that is what I did. He was seriously ill and the treatments were not a walk in the park—in some cases, they were potentially devastating as the cancer was in his face. In 2009, when his surgeries and treatments were mostly done, I flew to Denver, where Mike lived, to tell him what our son had gone through. However, when asked if he would like to speak to me the answer was a flat “No.” Mike responded to my visit by joking about it with his friends on the Internet. He literally would not let me tell him. Mike also never responded to the letter I wrote to inform him about his son. I could only think that Mike truly has a heart of stone.

    Benjamin Rinder, Clearwater, Florida, ca. 2005
    Benjamin Rinder, Clearwater, Florida, ca. 2005

    So, I spoke up. I told everyone I could, and Mike certainly didn’t like that once he got wind of it. He was irate over this, but he never contacted me, never contacted anyone to try and see his son, never even wrote a letter to find out how Ben was.

    It was dead silence—that is, until word got around of Mike’s cold attitude toward his own children. True to form, Mike suddenly showed up at Ben’s place of work with three cronies with video equipment. Ben was in the final stages of recovery from the intense cancer treatment he had gone through. Mike “demanded” to see his son, clearly staging an “event” to show he wasn’t the uncaring man events to date showed him to be. The police were called and went and saw Ben themselves, telling him that his father was outside and asking if he would like to see him. Ben told the police, “No,” he didn’t want to see his father. The police relayed this to Mike. Mike seemed unperturbed by this and happily reported it to the media. Mike was putting on a clown show to save face and didn’t actually give a hoot for Ben, only for his own reputation.

    Ben was so upset about this…​What father tries to use his son’s devastating illness to forward his own agenda?

    Ben was so upset about this, I can’t express the shock and emotion—and right during the time when he was starting to recover and beginning to do well. Now what father does that? What father tries to use his son’s devastating illness to forward his own agenda? Answer: Mike Rinder.

    Mike Rinder’s mother, not long before she passed, arrived to Clearwater for a visit. Ben spent time with her and was overjoyed. He said his grandmother had told him that she hadn’t heard from Mike in over a year either, just like Ben hadn’t. She said to Ben, at least she and Ben loved each other.

    Shortly after this, Ben told me he wasn’t going to waste his life over the fact he had a father who was so hateful toward him, when the rest of his family was loving and caring.

    Ben is now cancer-free and is a fully trained professional in his field. He is happy and living his own life. Mike continues to lie about and make nothing of Ben and his sister Taryn in an attempt to cover the truth. But the truth is the truth and Mike knows this. And he knows Ben and I know. His false and defamatory actions are disgusting.

    Benjamin and Cathy Rinder on vacation, New York, 2012
    Benjamin and Cathy Rinder on vacation, New York, 2012