I can literally count on one hand, the number of people that I admire. One of those people is my father. This is not really a surprise statement for a son to make. But to me, and to my dad, it is not something that had been planned.
I grew up in a split home, my parents divorced when I was three. It was a stereotypical divorce, nasty, and controversial child custody battle. To add to this tension, visitations were very infrequent, every other weekend as mandated by the courts. According to my mother, he could visit any time during the week that he wanted, but it never happened. And so it became fodder as I grew up hating him. It culminated with my high school graduation, which he chose not to attend. It had become the final straw as I warned him, there could be no excuse if he missed my graduation.
My whole senior year in high school, a dear friend of mine had always encouraged me to make amends with him, to not be so hard on him. I could not possibly be aware of all the circumstances that might be behind his decisions. After the empty seat at my graduation, as far as I was concerned it was done.
A couple of years passed by, when I was invited to a special occasion. After years together, my dad decided to marry my stepmother. I was invited to the wedding, and accepted again at the urging of another friend. Later that evening, my father reached out to me, with the most heartfelt apology I may ever have received in my life. He expressed that he could not make up for the past that he was not there for, but wanted the opportunity to be a part of my life now. This was a huge moment to us as it definitely was the beginning of a new relationship, and a new perspective of the man I would once again call “dad”.
As many children of divorce can attest to, when we get raised by one parent, there is a tendency to only be able to hear one side of the story. It was no exception for me. It would be emphasized by other family members as well. But in all the years that my dad and I made amends, never, NEVER has he ever made any comment about my mother. To this day, even at age 46, I still have no idea what led to my parents get divorced. Wendy does not understand this, but I really do not want to know. It can only harm what I have left. It would have no impact on Wendy or our daughters. Better left alone. The fact is, we had the opportunity to change our relationship, and it was one of the best decisions in my life.
A tragedy would occur just days before Christmas many years ago. Following an argument, my stepmother walked out of the house, my father following behind her by several steps. I was not there when it happened, but I could view the accident of the car careening into my stepmother as she crossed the darkened street. My sister-in-law called me later that evening to tell me the news. Her injuries were severe and life threatening. She faced months of medical support and care and rehab until one day, should would eventually be released either home, or into a home. Part punitive, guilt, and commitment to “better or worse, sickness and health”, my father chose to care for my stepmother in his home.
Decades have passed. They still live together in their small and modest house. Several years ago, my father had a very severe heart attack while at work, putting my stepmother’s care at risk. He survived yet another crisis and was back caring for her again. Just as my father, I am currently in my second marriage. I too have faced several severe crisis in my life. But it is my father that I admire most for his dedication and commitment to my stepmother. In spite of the odds and the challenges, he has been there for her every day and every night. He does so lovingly, never, NEVER complaining about it. We speak several times a week, usually by his phone call to me, to check up on me and see that I am okay because of everything I deal with health-wise. He wants to spend time with his grandchildren and does a great job as “pop pop”, something I never had the chance to experience from him as a parent. For all the people who have made discoveries, achieved levels of personal rewards, leaders of government, it is my dad that is one of the most courageous, dedicated, admirable people anyone would ever be blessed to meet.