My sister and I received a touching email from our dad this morning. He reminded us that today marked the twenty-sixth anniversary of when he married my mother. He was able to condense his intense love for her, her difficult nature, and his gratefulness to still be a part of our lives in one beautifully succinct message.
I teared up a bit remembering how happy she was to marry Rob that August day in 1987. She had waited a long time to find someone who treated her with respect – after wading through three prior marriages to men who just didn’t realize the precious package they had in my mother. She was independent. She was strong. She was difficult. She was more than a handful. But she had to be. She loved intensely but systematically chose the wrong men. She had been a victim of long-term abuse during her adolescence and, of course, it spilled over into her adult life and how she approached relationships. When she met Rob, I know it all changed for her. And, despite her difficult nature, Rob was a worthy opponent. He loved her with the same intensity.
I had just turned 19 when they married but I had considered Rob to be an important part of my life since I was 12. He was in his early 30’s when he met my mom. He’d never been married nor did he have any children. But he did more with me in the years between meeting me and marrying my mom than my biological father ever did my entire life.
Rob encouraged me. He bought me books. He took me flying in his biplane. He taught me how to row. He made sure I got to go to France with my classmates when I was 15. He got my mom a car so she could hand hers down to me. He gave me my first camera, which completely changed my life. And, he encouraged me to go to college. I didn’t want to. If it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have gone.
One memory that always sticks with me is the time that I was invited to a high school dance. I’d never really been out with a boy before, let alone get dressed up or get picked up in a car. I was scared to death. I didn’t really know this boy very well and being as super socially awkward as I was, I thought I was going to hyperventilate and die before I could actually get picked up for the dance. I fussed with my hair for hours and wore one of my mom’s dressy suits. As I exited the bathroom from my primping, Rob was the first to see me. He gasped and said, “Oh. You’re beautiful.” And it was sincere. And foreign. I’d not heard that before from someone who wasn’t biologically obligated to say so. I blushed intensely and tried to stuff down my initial instinct to deny what he’d said. I deserved this. I was pretty. And it felt good to hear it.
So, when Rob married my mom in 1987, it was a happy day for me, too. I might have been an adult, but I finally got my dad. Interestingly enough, the night before my parents got married, my college BFF and I went to Ohio State’s campus to bar hop (it was legal for me to drink 3.2 beer in 1987 even though I was only 19… that law changed to 21 less than a month after my 19th birthday.) Anyway, I parked at the Wendy’s on High Street instead of searching for street side parking on campus. After a late night of whooping it up, we returned to Wendy’s to find the car missing. I’d been towed. Apparently, lots of people used Wendy’s parking lot for purposes other than to pick up a “Single cheese with everything.” They didn’t put up with loiterers. So, I was forced to contact my soon-to-be step dad (who lived just a few miles away) to come rescue us and ante up the cash to get my car out of jail. Looking back on it all, it would have served him well to pay more attention to this rescue, as he’s had to rescue me many times over the course of the last 26 years (Thanks, Pop.)
He applauded my graduation from Ohio University. He embraced me and cried when I was diagnosed with cancer. He encouraged my move to Colorado. He supported my desire to take his last name as my own. He gave me away at my first wedding. He was shocked when I announced my pregnancy (I never thought that I’d have children, so it was a surprise for everyone.) And he was totally in love with the neat little man we all know as Benjamin.
And as my mom slipped into dementia and suffered multiple health issues, he continued his dedication. It was hard. I fully recognize that. Taking on the three of us as your family has had to be hard, Pop. Mom was a pain in the ass. I was (and continue to be) a pain in the ass. Fortunately, Cassi is fairly self-sufficient, so she’s like the prize in the cracker jack box. You gotta get through the sticky, gooey mess to get to the good stuff. 😉
He was distraught when mom died. We held her hands as she passed away but I can’t even begin to imagine his emotions as her combative presence silently exited our realm. It was peaceful and heartbreaking all at the same time. Unfortunately, my world was ever-so-complicated with Ben’s relapse and travel to NYC for treatment. I had nothing to offer from a support standpoint.
And, for a brief moment, I thought he might be glad to move on from us – the women who had caused him great distress but loved him intensely. I hope you know that, Pop. Mom loved you an immeasurable amount. And so do I. Without you, I’d be much less.
I love where you are at this point in your life, Pop. I love that you’ve found love and married a wonderful woman to spend the rest of your life with. I love how much you care for Ben and Madeline. And I love how much you love me.
I love you so much.