This weekend marks the seventh Father's Day since the last time Michael Shannon saw his sons Adam and Jason, let alone celebrated with them.
The boys, now 11 and 7, were kidnapped in August 2001 by their mother and Egyptian grandmother, who fled to Cairo after what was supposed to be a brief unsupervised visit.
They've remained there ever since, despite substantial U.S. criminal and civil court victories for Shannon, who has full custody of both children.
The distraught dad hasn't abandoned hope that he'll be reunited with his boys one day. Nor has he given up the fight. But his more immediate goal is simpler.
"I haven't seen a single photo of them — nothing," Shannon, 47, told FOXNews.com, which was the first to report his story. "I would like to just have a photograph."
The computer consultant said he has become numb as the years have passed with no sign that he's any closer to getting his sons back.
"I died on Aug. 26, 2001," he said. "Time just erases all your emotions, everything but guilt. I don't really feel anything. I guess you just plod through the days."
There may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Shannon's lawyer, Stephen Cullen, is trying to arrange a meeting for father and sons in Cyprus, which is both Muslim and Christian and has signed the Hague Convention treaty designed to prevent the wrongful abduction of children.
"American children are stuck in other countries all over the world," Cullen said. "This is the most horrendous, awful case I've ever handled. This woman is engaging in parental terrorism. That's the only way to describe it."
Part of the problem is that no Muslim country, including Egypt, recognizes the Hague treaty. And Egypt has not honored any of the court decisions handed down in the Shannon case in the United States.
In April, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a decision by a trial judge and jury to make interference with custody and visitation, including child abduction, a civil offense in addition to a criminal offense. Previously, it only fell into the criminal category.
"This kind of thing happens too often," said Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Ronald Silkworth, who presided over the civil trial. "Certainly to abscond with someone's child ... how can anyone think that's anything less than outrageous?"
Shannon was awarded $3 million in damages to be paid by his ex-wife, Nermeen Khalifa, 39, and the children's maternal grandmother, Afaf Khalifa, 65. The boys' grandfather Osama Khalifa is an influential, wealthy businessman in Cairo.
Shannon doesn't believe he'll see one penny of the money, but he said at the very least, it's a symbolic milestone.
The Maryland criminal courts had already sided with Shannon in 2003, when Afaf Khalifa was found guilty of international child kidnapping and other charges. The grandmother was sentenced to 10 years behind bars. Her jail time was later reduced to only three years, of which she served 17 months before she was deported back to Egypt.
She and her daughter Nermeen, both wanted on international kidnapping and other charges, have warrants out for their arrest should they set foot in the United States.
Calls seeking comment from Nermeen Khalifa in Cairo, her sister Dahlia Khalifa in Washington and the family's U.S. attorney, William C. Brennan, in Maryland were not returned.
The U.S. State Department has done little to help, according to Shannon. Every six months he writes to ask for a "welfare and wellness check" to make sure his sons are OK.
"Each year, it's denied," he said.
Ann McGahuey at the U.S. State Department's Office of Children's Issues, who Shannon was told is handling his case, could not be reached for comment.
Shannon said his ex-wife — who lost custody of their sons because of alcohol addiction and child abuse, according to court records — still calls him from Cairo and tells him how miserable she is there. She has told him his sons look like him, with light-brown hair and fair skin.
Not long ago, she handed the phone to Jason, who was only 8 months old when she took him, though Shannon said he wasn't sure it actually was his son on the line.
"He was speaking baby talk the last time I saw him," he said. "I didn't tell him who I was."
Adam, he said, now refuses to speak to him at all.
When the boy first arrived in Egypt as a 4-year-old, he would cry and ask his dad when he was coming to bring him home, according to Shannon. Later, Adam told his father he hated him and wished his house would be knocked down by bulldozers. Shannon said he could hear someone else in the background whispering the words in the child's ear.
He doesn't know anymore what Adam remembers or believes.
"Is he just saying what he thinks Nermeen and Afaf want him to say, or has be been seriously brainwashed?" the father wondered. "Their minds have been dead for years. I don't know what's in their place now."
He is still wracked with guilt over breaking the promise he made to Adam that he'd always protect him. But he stays optimistic that one day, both boys — who are American citizens — will learn what really happened and come back to him.
"They will always be foreigners living in that country," he said. "They can't go to public schools; they can't vote. So there's always hope."