Today is a good day. Yes, it’s Tax Day. That’s not why it’s a good day. It’s a good day because it’s Dad of Mine’s birthday.
I met him months before my baby sister was born when his family came to visit our little church in Boise. His daughter, Paige, became one of my best friends. His wife was pregnant and so was my momma, merely three months apart. Our families became close friends. I spent a good portion of my summer weekends with their family. When we moved to California, and they to Oregon it was heartbreaking. I remember praying that I’d see them again. My prayers were answered when I moved to Oregon in 1991.
I was shocked when I heard that Paige’s parents were divorcing. I knew him to be a loyal and faithful man, who loved his wife, at least in my eyes. One day I dropped off my sister to see Paige’s sister. While there her dad starts talking to me, “How’s your mother?” I told her she was good. He told me how he always thought my momma to be a good woman. That my father was a bum and he didn’t take good care of her. That if she ever left my dad, he’d be interested in taking good care of her. I was completely floored. Shocked. Then angered. He was talking about MY momma. And despite the fact that I knew my father was worthless and had abused her most of their marriage, I was still holding out for the miracle. The one that would make him change and I’d have the happily ever after I always wanted.
So…can you imagine how upset I was to discover that I was the VERY last person to know what was happening with my momma? I thought things were going amazing between my parents. I thought the reason my momma was so happy (I couldn’t remember her ever being happy) was because things were going good. I had NO idea what was happening…until my siblings all told me. And I vehemently denied it all. I told them they were nuts. Even Paige and her sister confirmed it and I told them they were lying. My momma and her dad were…basically…having an affair. I was crushed and angry. When I asked her the truth she told me. And she let me tell her what I thought and how angry I was. And this is why my momma is freaking amazing. She loves me no matter what I say or do or think or feel.
But I was angry. And I was angry at Paige’s dad. I tried to be understanding. But I was left with my father. We moved him next door to us in our duplex. Every day I had to hear about how horrible my mother was and all the ways he was going to kill my momma and Paige’s dad. I was responsible for parenting my baby sister, because he wasn’t capable of parenting her and he didn’t want her with my momma. I struggled because my momma had a restraining order against my father and I didn’t know how to deal with that. And I was still so angry at Paige’s dad. But that bugged me. Because I KNEW that he wasn’t all the horrible things my father said. I KNEW he really loved all of us, and he just wanted to take care of my momma. And in my heart, I knew my momma deserved SO much more than being abused all the time. I couldn’t be angry at the one person who deserved my anger…so I put it all on the man that I viewed was ripping my family apart.
My father left town with my brother and I was able to start processing the changes. Then a week before my sister’s graduation, my momma and Paige’s dad were married. Suddenly, my best friend and I were sisters. I gained 4 siblings, nieces and nephews. My momma gained a husband. But I refused to believe I gained anything by her marrying HIM. I was a pill at the wedding. I look at the wedding and I see a sulking child, not the 27 year old I was. But THAT’S why my stepdad is freaking amazing.
He told me he’d never try to replace my father. He told me that he loved all of us. He loved our momma and he’d take care of her. And although I was angry, I knew he wasn’t lying about that. I knew he’d take care of my momma and love her. And really, that’s what I wanted most for her.
So, we began a journey. Trying to meld two families together. I let my kids call him Grandpa. I called him by his name. Whenever Paige and I talked I’d call them the parents. I refrained from calling him dad. I just couldn’t do it. And he was good with that. He never quit loving me.
I watched this man treat my momma with respect. I watched him go to work at night and then drive her to work in the morning, not because he had to, but because he wanted to . I watched him buy a small trailer and fix it up, so my momma had a place to call her own. I watched him take her to England, to Australia, to see her mom whenever she wanted. I watched him embrace my momma’s grandchildren as his own. I watched that the most. Because I knew that I trusted him with my girls more than my own father…and I didn’t know what to do with that.
Somewhere along the way he began calling me “Daughter of Mine”. I began to call him “Dad of Mine”. It was enough. I felt conflicted about acknowledging that he was more a dad, more a grandfather, more a husband than my own father could ever be. But I started to make peace with what was and embrace the man that loved my momma.
Then the day arrived. My father was arrested. I wanted only my momma. Dad of mine drove over and picked me up. He told me he was sorry. He told me he’d be here for all of us through this. He told me he loved me. And that moment I realized WHY he was married to my momma. Dad of Mine was a rock for me. He loved me without pushing me. He was willing to drive my momma to me, no matter what time of the day. If we needed something, he’d be there. He began to show me that he could be a dad, if I’d let him.
Today’s his birthday. I am working on just calling him Dad. It’s awkward, but I think over time I’ll get there. I love this man who loves my momma…me…my siblings…our children. I love this man who can be quite stubborn about what he knows, even when his daughters are rolling their eyes at him. And yes, we’re over 40 and still rolling our eyes. But we all know that if the world drops beneath our feet he will be there as soon as his car can get him there. We know that he loves us, even when he doesn’t agree with us or we with him. We know what it’s like to have a dad…because he is our dad.
So, Happy Birthday Dad of Mine! Thank you for being my dad and my children’s grandpa and my momma’s true love. We love you!