Heads up. This is a “life” post. Don’t worry… we’ll return to healthy eating, fitness, my current cycling adventures, food, and other interesting topics soon….
This past Sunday we celebrated Fathers Day in the U.S. It’s a day celebrated each year on the third Sunday in June to honor the men in our lives.
I’m blessed to be surrounded by some pretty awesome men in my life, from my inner circle, to those I interact with out in the world.
The man in the picture is my dad. It’s obviously, not, a current photo of me. My mom dated it ’98 on the back. I found it digging through some old photos that she had. Honestly, I have no memory of that picture being taken.
I was a young mom and according to the year my boys would’ve been between 4-10 years old.
No laughing at my mom jeans and bangs.
Christmas has always been a fun, celebratory event in our family. My parents delighted in it and loved giving way more than anything they’d receive. Not only did they always bless us with a fun Christmas, they’d also find a needy family or two to help out. My mom always wanted those families to experience Christmas like she gave to her family.
My dad was the handwriting for “Santa” for way longer than my kids probably bought into it. He loved doing that, it was his job he knew he was expected to do each year. He’d get the name tags ( ask again how to spell everyone’s name haha) and get to work on his project.
Maybe I should pause here to mention… he’s technically… my “step” dad.
I never use that term unless, for some reason I have to clarify something in my life and using the “step” part helps to do that.
My feelings…on referring to anyone as “step” something? I don’t like it.
To me it says… keep your distance, I don’t want you to close, you aren’t worthy enough to not have the “step” attached to it, you aren’t as good as the original etc etc
Now don’t crucify me if you don’t agree. I know all situations are different for people but for the sake of (me) in my family, I have always tried to just include everyone as a part without making them feel separated out.
So, he’s technically my “step” dad. He came into my life when I was 19, almost 20, and about to be married.
I had passed the point of needing a dad. I had two men in my life who had that job and both had walked out on me and my family.
My birth dad left my family when I was 8 for another woman.
My mom later remarried and this man “adopted” us. When I was 17 he walked out.
When this new guy ( step dad #2 ) came around, I was a bit jaded to male figures in my life at that point as “dad”.
Hear me out on this… I’ve made my peace a long time ago with it all. I’ve not allowed it to define me or make me bitter or angry. I’ve not carried it along with me as baggage. I’ve not held onto hurts that I can take out and pet when I’m feeling sorry for myself. Like all things in life, I believe it has strengthened and defined me as a woman. It is what it is, I can be bitter or I can deal with it and move on and that’s what I’ve done.
Oh of course, years ago, I did ask all the questions. I did ponder the “whys” of it. I did wonder why two men didn’t wanna stick around in my life.
I asked all the hard questions. I got answers for some things, some I didn’t.
And I let it go. Nothing would change what was.
My “step” dad.
He married my mom the year after I was married.
He never tried to set himself up as my dad. As an adult, I called him by his first name from day one.
His personality was a bit gruff, rough and stoic. He didn’t often reveal a lot about himself. He had his own quirky things that we all came to jokingly love and tease about.
Rough and not sometimes “polished”, he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He would help you if you had any need.
As the years went by and he was still around, he just did those things dads would do.
If I had car problems, I called and he’d come rescue me. If I needed help with anything, he was willing to do what he could.
When my husband was in school and things were tight I can remember him and my mom dragging bags of groceries in telling us “they had been at the store and just thought we might need a couple things”
When we started having babies, he always wanted us to have what we needed. He loved picking things out for them.
He bragged on me to anyone who would listen. Even now, with his memory slipping away, one of his caretakers told me one day when I stopped…. “Oh, you’re the runner. I’ve heard all about you”
Life just settled into routine and the years went by…
He was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimers a few years before my mom passed away.
They celebrated 30 years of marriage shortly before her death ( 2 years ago) then the mantle of “Caretaker” fell on my shoulders.
It has not been easy watching this disease take a horrible toll on him. It is heartbreaking when he asks if it’s ok to use things in his house… or if it’s REALLY his house.
I have to remind him to eat, tell him he needs to take off his shirt before he puts on another one otherwise he will have “layers”, and try and convince him it’s not winter, but summer and he doesn’t need to wear heavy coats.
Looking at photos this passed weekend, he saw some of my mom, and when asked who she was he said… “your mother”…. yet… was unable to come up with her name.
He has days when he’s almost like himself and those are nice. I’ve just gone through “hell week” as this past week was awful with him being angry, temperamental and very uncooperative.
Those days are draining. They make me feel helpless. Tired. Overwhelmed.
I sometimes don’t know which way to go and what to do. I feel a heavy level of responsibility to make sure his needs are met in the best way possible.
He doesn’t always know it, but I’m what he’s got. I’m his advocate.. standing in the gap and fighting for him….Some days I feel so inadequate.
That’s often what you feel like as a parent isn’t it?
Somehow, our roles have been reversed. I try and give him the freedom and dignity as the grown man he is, while remembering mentally, I’m dealing with someone more childlike and have to guide and protect for his best interests.
So, we celebrated Fathers Day yesterday.
He may or may not have totally gotten what the entire day was about.
He may or may not have read and understood the cards or the writing on them. He may not be able to retrieve the memories in the photos that were shared with him or the names of people. They could be lurking in his mind like ghosts of yesterday or play out like stories from another life in his mind.
32 years have gone by since he entered my life. Those years have contained all the things that make up our lives…. from the normal mundane, to the fun and exciting, the sorrows, and joys, laughter and tears… he’s been there.
So yeah, I dropped the “step” thing a very long time ago. At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, it’s simply about being family, isn’t it?
And family is anyone, I believe, who we bring into our lives to embrace and accept as such.