Father's Day Confusion

I called my grandfather "dad" and my parents were divorced when I was one, so I never called my biological father anything, and my mother started dating my eventual step-father when I was two but didn't get married to him until I was in the 8th grade. So going to the Hallmark Store to pick a Father's Day card has always given me heart palpatations, and I usually avoided it. Even when I did try to buy a card, the grandfather cards didn't say "Thanks, Dad" and the biological father cards didn't say "Thanks, Name-That-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned," and the other guy wasn't really related for many years and when he finally was, the Step-Father cards were practically non-existent. Those that were had such flowery sentiments I simply could not purchase them.

As time passed, so did the grandfather - the one I have always considered "Dad" in my heart. I know he wasn't perfect, but I kind of idolized him as a child. In fact, I was so blind to his shining armor status, I didn't realize he had no teeth until I was in my teens. Duh! Who doesn't notice a thing like that? Didn't the fact that he sawed all the corn off the cob before eating it give me a clue? No. I just thought that's how he liked to eat it! Oh, and when I was very small, I only ate chicken. If it wasn't chicken, I wasn't going to take a chance. So, when my grandmother put a slab of pork chop on my dinner plate, I looked at "Dad" and said, "This doesn't look like chicken to me." He replied, matter-of-factly, "It's chicken from another state."

That made sense to me. It was DAD speaking and I totally believed him, so I ate it.

And he was a teaser, and not always so nice. I did recognize that, too, but not until I was an adult and dealt with the therapy aspects of life. Like the times he said "Did you go to Omar the Tent Maker for that dress?" or when he wrapped a can of peas for me at Christmas (because I had always dreamed of having a canopy bed). When I put it all together, it's no wonder I have issues with body image and believing/trusting people! Still, he did anything for me, including giving up alcohol when I was born, so I'm not bashing him.

Well, back to the "Father's Day" topic - which, for me, I haven't left because it is a jumble of confusion in my mind and heart. The biological father - we'll call him "Clarence," which was actually his first name - was a race car driver. When my mother and my "someday" step-father would take me to the racetrack as a kid, my mother would point to the red #3 car as it zoomed past our infield parking spot and say "There goes Clarence." Wait. What? Where? He went past at like 180 m.p.h. We never actually went and talked to him, so he was the literal fly-by-night father. I can count on two hands the number of times in my life that I actually spoke to him - and since I'm not a spring chicken, that's saying something. He went on to have another family and was with them all up to the day he died (a few years ago). I was informed of his death about two days before his memorial service - he had actually died a month earlier! Gee, thanks for the head's up, family! I went to the service and was surprised to see that the board of photos that one of my half-siblings had put together included a picture of my mother. I didn't see one of me. That was rather odd. People knew me, and knew of me, but nobody really counted me as family, really.

When I was in the 8th grade, my mother married her boyfriend of 13 years at the courthouse. I was a witness. Now, he was a country-fed farm-raised guy who was also a teaser. In fact, in his arm behind his back in the wedding pictures, he's holding a hammer. But, he was pretty funny at the time (hey, I was 13 - it was funny!). He was the one I remember loading all my screaming girlfriends into the back of his pickup and taking us to see the Osmonds singing in concert. He even held the end of our gigantic poster that read "We love Allen, Merrill, Jay, Donny..." I don't even remember all the names on that poster. But to see this 6'2" farmer sitting amidst the screaming tweenagers at that arena was really special.

Still, life wasn't totally cheerful in those days and there were many years of angst and not speaking and no contact between me and my mother and stepfather. That's another story. Suffice it to say that it was many years before I could buy a father's day card - and when I did, it couldn't be the mushy and over-the-top "father of the year" kind.

In the past 15 years or so, I would say that my stepfather earned a few extra points on the "Dad" end of things. He really loved having a grandchild - my daughter was someone he would do anything for - and he and I had a "meeting of the minds" of sorts (without speaking, of course) when his father passed.

Sadly, last year, my stepfather - his name was Charlie, by the way - passed away unexpectedly. It was a lengthy, heart-wrenching time and it was very sad. I loaded all his favorite music on my iPhone and played it for him - old radio shows of the Lone Ranger, songs by George Jones and Johnny Cash, gospel hymns by someone-or-other. Who knows if he heard it - he was on life support. I hope he did, because it was way better than a Hallmark card.

Father's Day is a day of celebration - and to all of you with fathers in your life, enjoy the day. For those with fathers who were creeps or no-shows, thank someone else for standing in and being a "dad" figure, if you had one. For everyone else, well, it's one of those days we have to suck-it-up and be grateful we are alive, thanks to some father out there - and our heavenly Father.

Meanwhile, I think I'll listen to some George Jones.




My stepfather, on his beloved John Deere tractor
My stepfather, on his beloved John Deere tractor | Source

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Comments 3 comments

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shampa sadhya 4 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

Your write-up contains tragic note and no words can comfort you. I would say that it pained while I read but yes, it's a day of celebration and the way you ended your article is superb. Your thoughts are nice because usually people with bitter experience becomes harsh on some relationships. Your positive approach is the high point of the article. Voted up, though it contains pain but beautiful in approach.


Cuzin Steve 4 years ago

I think of Uncle Charlie every time I see a snowplow, and in Colorado that is often. Well written Debe.


Mom 4 years ago

will try to type some words in between the tears this true story was worded and written by a very good writer Great work Debbie Love you

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