This post is in honor of Father’s Day over the weekend, my parent’s anniversary today (June 19th) and the Dad I have gained along the way.
19 years ago today, my mom remarried. It came about two years after my parents divorced and I was no where close to healing. I couldn’t seem to get out of the mud and move forward emotionally, I didn’t know how. Because of the place I was in, I couldn’t imagine and didn’t want my mom to be involved with anyone. I remember her calling me during my freshman year of college. She asked me what I thought about her beginning to date. That rocked my world! I hadn’t even entertained the idea and in no way did I want to share my mom with anyone!
Well, my mom did start dating and soon shared with me that she had met a wonderful man and would be getting married. I was 19 years old, broken, confused and selfish. All I could think about was how this was going to affect me and how much I didn’t like the idea one bit.
It seemed like everyone was so happy about this marriage. Countless people asked me how I felt about it as they smiled wide and expressed their happiness about it all. My tag line became, “If my mom is happy, then I am happy for her”. It felt cordial and compliant so that’s what I stuck with.
But just below the surface was bitterness, fear and hurt. Because of that, I didn’t try to get to know Mike. He was my “mom’s husband” and that was it.
When I look back now, I have so much compassion for all of our younger selves in the situation. This was new for everyone and we were navigating through the best we could. I also share empathy for the adults as now I am in a similar situation of a 2nd marriage, step parenting and bringing two families together. It’s seemed so one-dimensional as a young adult. Today it’s a completely different story as I am living the complex dynamics and doing my best one day at a time to get it “right” and fumbling along the way.
Slowly over time, Mike became more than my mom’s husband to me. His patience, kindness and loyalty won my heart and he became my “stepdad”. I softened and was able to come out of my pride and self-centered cloud at times to appreciate so many positive qualities about him. I began to see him for who he really was and I was liking what I was seeing. It was also a big gift to see my mom in a very different place in her life because of what she was experiencing through their marriage. I had never seen my mom smile or laugh like she did with Mike. I saw the importance of a companion for my mom as my brother and I got older and left home.
Fast forward a few years to me beginning to have children. Mike was “Papa” right from the get-go. He gave them love and attention and they were always excited to see what funny thing Papa was going to do next. Papa (also known as “Pops” or “Popsicle”) has spent many hours building snowmen, helping find lost items, attending school and sports functions and playing outside with his first three grandchildren. Experiencing their bonds has brought me so much joy and gratitude over the years.
Today I don’t call Mike “My Mom’s Husband” or “Stepdad”. Today I call him “Dad”. As I look back over the past 19 years, Mike has been a dad to me in every sense of the word. He has been there for me, made sacrifices for me and has brought a lot to my life. He has taught and guided me through his humble integrity and wisdom. He has modeled to me what trusting God looks like in tough situations, how to selflessly put others before myself, how to brush off the small stuff and to be grateful for what I have. Mike has been a friend and a father and I don’t want to imagine my life without him.