Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fatherly Influences

I have been sitting on this for some time-dealing with it, thinking of it, sorting it all out in my head, trying to decide if I would blog about it. And, now after months of tossing it back and forth, I have decided that I will, indeed write about it.

This "it" that I am referring to is my step-father, for blogging purposes I will refer to him as C. I guess C is really a "who" not an "it".

I believe my step-father walked into my life when I was around five or six. He was a kind guy. He met my mother while she was out on the town one evening. He was in his late twenties (a couple of years older than my mom), had no children, and was single and attractive. He came from a nice christian family who seemed to be a wonderful group of people, stable, nurturing, successful by all rights.

My mother, though she probably would tell this story differently than I, was not quite sure about C for the long term. But, he was kind and liked her. She did like him and desperately wanted help parenting me and had been a single mother since my father and she had severed ties when I was still an infant. She was only sixteen when I was born. Really, it must have been quite hard on my mother. She put herself through school, rented a small mobile home for her and I, and worked nights at a local fish house. She finished school at a local technical school and started a career in computers. She wanted a good life for me- for us.

Mom was eagerly welcomed into C's family. C didn't bring home girls very often and his parents were very excited and liked my mom. So, there you have it- the perfect recipe for a new family, a fresh start for all of us, and especially a better life for my mother and I. We hadn't had much money; living was usually paycheck to paycheck. With C, we had the promise of a better future. I had the opportunity to live in a better neighborhood, go to a nicer school, have nicer stuff. We all did. But, in the darkness, behind closed doors, hidden was the reason that my mother was unsure about him.

He was a recreational drug user. I believe that his family knew, perhaps turned their heads; maybe, they dismissed it as a passing fad of young, single guyhood. Either way, it was a habit that was a problem. My mom joined in and together they kept this secret. It was more than experimental, it was C and my mom doing it, it was more than a passing fad, it was more than pot.

They got married when I was ten. The illusion continued- the happy family, no issues, no problems. I was very well-behaved. I got good grades in school and mainly only had an issue with C (at times). C was not exactly parent material, at first. He and I struggled to see eye to eye. He was crabby to me and I was very sensitive, especially when he was mad at me. He said he always felt like it was me and my mom against him when there was a family disagreement. He harped on my mother about my weight that had gone from 91 pounds in jr. high school to about 135 as I hit puberty and the active lifestyle I once had faded to studying for school and hanging out with friends. By the way, during this time I only grew about 3 inches taller. I think C was really disappointed in me, but I was really not what I would call fat. Just a bit chunky, I guess. My mom always yelled back asking C what she was supposed to do about it (my weight). Yes, they did have actually yelling fights over my weight. You would have thought that I was much more overweight than I really was.

Then, one day, C found out that he had a child (a girl) that he had not known about who was by then thirteen. Everything between C and I changed. I think that when he met her, he realized that it is not always the blood that makes a child yours. From that day on, C was nicer to me. We mended our disagreements and became quite close. Years came and went and C became a wonderful father figure in my life (with the exception of the weight issue and the secret).

I remember as a young child my parents told their friends that it was OK to smoke pot in front of me. "Oh, she's fine". I was. I was fine, but I was not stupid or blind. For big parties several people would disappear into my parent's bedroom for hours. My mother and C did that same thing just about every Friday and Saturday night. It became old hat. Some of my friends discovered that my parents smoked pot. I never corrected them and never told them that I knew it was much more. I grew tired of hiding it.

In high school I guess quite a few friends of mine knew. A lot of them thought it was cool and happily told me that their parents also did. Yeah for us! I guess. The whole thing was just not me. It wasn't my style and had nothing to do with who I wanted to be. I think the thing that bothered me most was not worrying that they would end up dead, although I did. But most of all, I didn't like the dishonesty. It was a mask they would wear- a big show they would put on. Too bad my parents weren't as concerned about solving their secret issues as they were about my chunky bum.

Life went on, I got married, moved away, went to college about an hour and a half away, got divorced, etc. One day, C had planned a big surprise birthday party for my mom and I drove back home to attend. Mom was turning forty. I could tell something was up with her. But, I wasn't sure what. Within a couple of months I knew. She was totally losing it. I guess maybe she didn't "lose it" exactly. She says she just reassessed her life, thought back through the years, and realized that she was not living the life that she wanted. She didn't like the secret. She no longer enjoyed putting on the show and felt like a fake- especially when she went to church. She wanted a better relationship with God and wanted to be a better person, shedding the secret and leaving the sins of her past behind. Within the year, she left C after seventeen years of marriage and quit her job of twenty plus years.

Around the same time, I wondered why my mom left C. He was so supportive, so caring and loving with her. He complimented her and understood my mother and her own personal quirks- the kind of quirks that everyone has that are unique about them. Everyone has them. But C got my mom. Why would she leave that when you can't find real love around every corner?

It wasn't for me to judge; I just tried to be supportive to them both. C's family totally bailed on my mom (and me for that matter). Although they knew C's secret issues, they thought that my mother shouldn't have married him if she didn't approve. And, furthermore, they believed that she should have tried to work it out more than they felt she did. They did not know the whole story, and did not know that C refused to give up his habit time and time again. He showed my mother where his priorities were- and if it were to come to a choice between her and his habit, well, habits die harder than marriages.

C's family still to this day detests my mom. They basically kicked me out of the family; although, still, they deny that they treat me any differently than any of the other grandchildren. Ha! What a joke. I have had no contact with them that was not elicited by myself in ten years. I put myself through college, I got remarried, I have had three children. No cards, no calls, no nothing unless it has been on my dime (so to speak).

Now, I look back years and years later and still have not talked to C about the secret. Not much anyway. It has been now ten years since my mom and he split. C knows that I know his secret and that I knew many many years ago; but, he tells me that it is not currently how he lives. I really do hope that he has changed. I like to believe that he has. I do though, have a hard time believing him. He likes holding that secret.

We talk about once a month or so. Not as frequently as I would like. My plate is full here. He could always call me- but rarely does. I still consider him to be my father and am sad that I live on the other side of the country. He has not met two of my children and only knows Rick from one or two short visits. That makes me sad.

One thing though: I love this man (C) despite his faults. He was kind and loving to my mother and I. He provided a stable home with everything nice a middle-income family could have. We had a nice home, a boat, nice cars, and an overall good life. C was after all, more a father to me than my biological father (who has infrequently popped in and out of my life on his terms). C was my dad when my real dad was not. He wanted me when no one else did. And, he loved my mom and accepted me because he loved her. I am so very thankful for him.

Really, when it comes down to it, it is C that has to live with his secret more than anyone else. He has to look himself in the mirror. Maybe one day he will look and be ashamed and change. Maybe one day he will see all that he has sacrificed for the secret. Hell, maybe not. Either way, he was a very good dad when he didn't have to be.

1 comment:

Mom Mayhem says: said...

Wow-Very touching! I know that must be hard for you. I've known people like that who hid in their "secret spot" and smoked pot-In front of their kids even had their kids join in. I also wanted to get away from people like that and have moved on. I hope things work out for you and C. You are right C will have to deal with it sometime.