Writers Workshop: The Good Dad

1.) Father’s Day is coming! Share something you’ve learned from your husband about parenting. What makes him good at what he does?

What I can say about my husband’s parenting? It is ALWAYS done in kindness and fairness. He is not quick to anger. He does not yell out demands. He’d rather hug than hit. Give than take. And when the chips are down…..he will be there for you. He doesn’t waver in what he believes in. And he teaches our kids that respect and politeness are not just traits of a nice person, but a way to live.

My husband also taught me a lot about step-parenting. I get to SEE my childhood lived out through his relationship with my daughter. She was older when she met him (14), but it didn’t seem to make a difference in their relationship. She was very protective of him from the first time she met him (and still is). She didn’t want me to tease nice Jason, or be mean to nice Jason. We have a love meter (pre-marriage counseling days) on the fridge that she always checks to make sure it’s not on empty, and if so, WHAT am I doing to poor Jason??? Seriously, this is MY biological kid.

I was a little surprised by a teen’s bond to their stepfather, but as I watched over the four years, I can see how their relationships mirrors the one I had with my step dad (minus the good teen years).

I didn’t appreciate all the things my dad (step) did for me (until I was older). But SHE really gets it and appreciates it. Blows me away.

He took her practice driving – many times – while she was training for her license. He took her school clothes shopping, when I had to work and couldn’t take her. He helped her with MATH, no worse, pre-calc, algebra II, and other yuck stuff – too many times to keep track of.

He bought her a new bedroom set letting her pick it out, so when we moved in with him she had her “own” space. He, also, let her paint the walls in her own space a watermelon pink. He took her to get her license when the time came. He waited in line at the crazy DMV place, watched nervously as she parallel parked, and he celebrated with her when she earned her license and passed.

This year for her graduation and birthday, we used his frequent flyer miles for a trip to California. I used my hotel points for the hotel, and even though money has been non-existent, we squeezed out some spending money for food. That was a great gift for her…made possible by him.

When her car was totaled by a reckless driver earlier this year, she went without for three months. We are 10 miles from the school. I took her to school every day (on my way to work – no biggie). But he LEFT his busy important job (I’m being serious), as he is an IT manager at UTA, to get her from school and take her home – EVERY DAY (for three months). Then, he took her car shopping when she got the insurance money on her wrecked car. They ended up buying a brand new car that will last her through college and beyond. He financed the small amount insurance wouldn’t cover, so she could make the ridiculously low payments on what’s left (which will help her learn budgeting and responsibility). Trusting an eighteen year old – wow.

Through allllll that, do you know how much credit he gets for being her father and taking care of her? Keeping in mind he is just a STEP dad and not a real dad? Yeah. Not much.

Do you know how much he complains? Yeah. Never.

That is the job of a step-parent. You love. You provide. You give and give and give, whether you get it back, or not doesn’t matter. They are YOUR children too and you just love them with all your heart.

That is what he taught me about parenting. It is a self-less job. It a job you take on even if you don’t give birth to that child. It is one that brings great joy, despite any of the circumstances.

Sydney with her dad (left), me, and her step dad (right) at graduation

Sydney – just like me growing up – has a wonderful “real” dad too. Like me, she gets to experience the love and kindness of two wonderful fathers that care and love her with all their heart. I am so happy for her and how that turned out in her life.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Miracle Digest:One year later…. A Father’s Love

One year ago today, I kissed my Dad on the cheek as I bent over, hugged his neck and said “I love you.” I gave him one last squeeze and said good-bye. Little did I know, this was the last time I would ever see him alive. The last words I would ever speak to him. The last moment my hands would ever touch his warm body.

Oh, if I had just known….I would have spent more time visiting. I would have stayed longer, hugged harder, made sure he knew how much he meant to me. And didn’t I notice he looked a little tired? His face a little gaunt? His color just a bit off? Didn’t I know? Shouldn’t I have known?

I didn’t and, just like that, he was gone. He died the Thursday after I saw him. He had a massive clot in his heart – as hard as they tried, the paramedics, and the hospital ER staff could not save him.

As shocking as it was to happen so suddenly, in the end, can’t I honestly say, “WOW” . Look what God did. He let me say good-bye to the one man in the world that I absolutely trusted and loved with all my heart. The ONE man I could go to for support of any kind – financial, emotional, developmental. He was it for me. My Rock. My Dad.

One year later my heart and soul still mourn for him. I still miss him. I still ache. I still nurse that void in my soul. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish he were here.

However, that man was not my blood-related father. He was my step dad. God hates divorce, but he sure can use his mighty power and turn the tatters of divorce into a lifelong blessing to a child. That is what he did for me.

He gifted me the love of a man that did not create me. A man that did not have the pleasure of watching me grow in my mom’s belly, nor hold me in his arms when I was born, nor see my first real food meal, or even my first baby steps.

No, this man missed all that, because he didn’t come into my life until I was 4-years-old. But I never knew I wasn’t his. I never knew he missed anything. He never held his love back. He never worried that he wasn’t my biological Dad. He loved me because that is what his heart told him to do and he did it for all he was worth.

Carl had a hard life. He contracted Polio when he was young boy. It was right at the beginning of the vaccinations. I am not sure why, but he wasn’t vaccinated, and he contracted the crippling polio at age six. No longer could he run or jump like a normal boy. His left leg lost all mobility. In the first twenty years of his life, he would have over fifty surgeries, but they couldn’t correct his atrophied leg. He was crippled for life.

He had crutches and a full-length metal brace. He lived most of his life on crutches, until his later years, when his shoulders gave out, then was confined to a wheelchair. You wouldn’t have known it from how he lived. He was very smart. He never let his disablement get him down. He graduated college with a computer science degree, then went on to get his Masters. He had a special knack for technology – he was way ahead of his time.

Computer science wasn’t offered at the local college in the late 1970’s. He convinced them to put it in their program. He pioneered the entire Office Technology Department. What an achievement – to be struck down so young, but persevere and change so many young lives.

A new computer lab was dedicated in his honor several months after he died. A scholarship was established in his name. His works, still, moves through the heart of the Business Education. Today, his legacy is alive in the scholars he taught and his graduates succeeding  in their own workplace.

When Carl met my mom, he was teaching at the college, as he did his entire lifetime. She was a student and a beauty. He was a handicapped computer geek. She saw, not his legs or brains, but his heart. He saw her soul, not the looker with a lot of baggage (two divorces and four children). They accepted each other as they were. They loved what, and who, they were with no intent to ever change the other.

I still don’t understand how a single, supremely intelligent man could decide to take on my mother and the chaos (and expense) of four children, but he did. I still marvel at that –  every day – what a brave, brave man.

I remember meeting him and going to his apartment for the first time. It was fun. I do not remember wondering why he was on crutches or what was wrong with him. As a child you don’t wonder those things. Later, I would see him meet many children and not one ever wondered why he had crutches, was in a wheelchair, had a big sliver brace on his leg, or couldn’t walk or run. Not one.

It was curious, but that was all. His disability taught me to accept people as they are. No matter their flaws or disadvantages. We are all the same. I truly believe that is why I want to serve others. It’s because of his service and acceptance.

As a young child, I would sit in his lap and play for hours. We would also watch TV. I became a Star Trek fan watching old episodes with him. As I became an obnoxious teenager, of course, I rebelled. “You’re not my DAD. I don’t have to do what you say!”, but I did. He made me obey. He made me do the right things. He made me adhere to my groundings, not talk back to my mother, and do my chores.

That mean, mean man. He taught me respect. He raised me to be attentive and mindful. Only now do I know how impossibly hard that must have been for him. How it must have hurt him that he wasn’t my dad, as I so bluntly pointed out. He taught me to be a good person and to be selfless because he was so selfless himself.

When I got married in Las Vegas he was there. He couldn’t walk me down the aisle because of his crutches (he could have but I didn’t want to put him in that spot), he was my husband’s best man. *thank you Sonny, I can look back on that and KNOW how much that meant to him*

At the end of the ceremony, he had tears streaming down his face. I looked at him and the love he had for me radiated from deep in his heart outward. His baby had grown up and gotten married. That was so very precious to me.

Carl became “Poppy” when my baby Sydney was born. He rode with my mom for six hours to come to Texas, the day after she was born, so that he could hold her. He couldn’t wait even though it was hard riding in the car for that long with defective legs.

As my daughter grew, she would sit in his lap, like I did as child, and play and play and play. A crippled man couldn’t run, wrestle, or play hide and seek, but somehow all children were completely content and comfortable sitting in his lap playing dominoes. Amazing. Sydney made up for what he missed with me as a baby. She was so very special to him – all his grandchildren were.

Then I rebelled again, but this time not with him, but against life itself. He never said a negative word to me during my divorce and subsequent “out of my mind” years. He quietly stood beside me in support- no matter what mistakes I made. He suffered my pain one-hundred percent, held me up, regardless of how disappointed he must have been. He was there every fall. He pulled me out when I hit rock bottom. He listened. He cared. He changed my life by being so unchanging himself.

When I finally got my life back on track, he was in a wheelchair full-time. I ran my first half marathon. I drove to his house immediately after, and proudly, I displayed my medal to him. He took it all in with such pride. His eyes lit up and his happiness overflowed. My success was his success. It was like he ran that half marathon himself. He did. He really did.

I am overwhelmed by the love this man had for my mother and her children. I am overwhelmed that he spent his life caring for us and tending to our every wound, cry, and need – when he didn’t really have to. It wasn’t easy. It was never easy, not for a normal healthy man, and certainly not for a disabled man. But he did it. He never complained. Not once. Oh, how he taught me humbleness and utter sacrifice of self.

Dear Poppy Carl, in heaven, I thank God for putting you in my life. For turning an ugly thing such as divorce into the beauty of love – lifelong, undying, unforgettable love. My heart swells three times it’s size for having known you. May your legs be strong and healthy. May your heart be unblemished and whole. May all the rewards, you so richly deserve, be granted to you in heaven.

May you know the love you had for us a hundred times more. God knows we needed you. I guess you needed us too. Thank you for your never failing courage and strength. Thank you for showing us, no limitation can hinder, nothing can stop us from soaring. Thank you for being the best step dad a girl could ever dream of. A Father, I could love.

Rest in peace my dear sweet Dad. Rest in Peace.

May 14, 1944-Aug 1, 2008