Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Ted

I would like to wish all the fathers a happy Father's Day today, and to tell those who haven't done so already to call their dads and wish them a happy Father's Day.

I want to dedicate this post to my stepfather, whom I have always considered to be my "real" dad even though I haven't called him that.

Not since I was a little kid did he carry that title. My brother and I both called him "dad" until we slipped up one day in front of weekend dad and called our stepdad "dad." Our biological father is an angry man--always has been, and when he heard that, that was the end of that. So our stepdad went back to "Ted," and thus he's been that since.

When I was younger, I didn't like Ted much. I saw him as a usurper, but I also understood that my mother loved him and he wasn't going anywhere. That didn't keep me or my brother from absorbing the hateful lies our dad told us, and every time we came home from a visit with Dad, my mom and Ted would have to reprogram us. It did not escape my notice, however, that they did not say anything bad about our dad. Contrast that with how our dad would call our mom a "bitch" (and still does) and is still bitter about the divorce that was nearly SEVENTEEN years ago.

Eventually I got older and began to realize that my real dad wasn't necessarily the one that provided the sperm. My dad's anger issues and alcoholism (both things he's very defensive about, yet refuses to acknowledge) have always caused a rift between us, and between him and my brother. But Ted has always been there when I needed. He was there when I decided not to speak to my real dad for months because I couldn't take the constant fighting, the frustration of speaking to an incessantly drunk man that is verbally abusive to his own children (oh, but it's just "jokes"). And yet Ted was the one encouraging me to speak to him, because he is my dad.

The love I have for my dad is obligatory. This is not the case with Ted. He's been there emotionally for me. I've never felt uncomfortable talking to him about anything even that thing that daughters aren't really supposed to talk about with their fathers. With my dad, I often keep things from him because I'm afraid he'll ridicule me, or the topic makes me uncomfortable. When I was in a bad relationship in high school and it bothered Ted to no end to see me so unhappy, he only encouraged me to do what was best for me; my dad, however, only saw that my boyfriend was black, and encouraged me to dump him on that alone.

I think my favorite memories are the ones from when I was really young. Like when Ted used to "fly" me to bed, lifting me up and telling me to put my arms out. He'd fly me through the whole house before finally landing me on my bed to tuck me in. I would get out of bed and run back to the living room just to make him do it all again.

Or when my brother and I would wait until the commercials came on in the middle of whatever show we were watching, and then pounce on Ted to wrestle for those few minutes before the show would come back on. The best part was it would drive Mom crazy.

Or when Mom or Ted would grab my treasured raggedy stuffed cat, Smokey, and throw him down the hall shouting "Smokey go pee!" where he would land ungracefully on the bathroom floor, sliding into the bathtub. This was my least favorite as a kid, but it's funny as hell now that I'm a grown up (and yes, I still have Smokey).

When I got older, I appreciated Ted more. We haven't always gotten along, but that's to be expected. I miss going to the bar with him and my mom (sometimes just me and him at three in the afternoon after he got home from work). I miss camping, and laughing my ass off at Ted's campfire antics. I think the simplest thing is just sitting at the kitchen table talking about what is going on with me, and what he plans to do next with the house or yard, or what car he's thinking of buying to fix up and sell. Phone conversations are okay, but they don't compare with actual presence.

I have long understood that I have something better than a dad or a real dad or whatever. I have a Ted, and I wouldn't trade him for anything. I've often heard people sympathize with my having a bad relationship with my real father, and I've always responded with, "Well, it's not a big deal, because I've still got Ted--and he makes up for everything that my dad doesn't do." In a way, that kind of sucks, because no one ever asked Ted to take on responsibilities that should have fallen to my dad, but I think that's what makes him awesome--no one asked him to do all the things he's done for me and my brother, and yet he does.

I always laugh when I think of what made my mom decide to get married to Ted--when he offered to help clean up when my still-in-diapers brother decided to make artwork with the "ew from [his] diaper" without my mother asking him to.

So, happy Father's Day Ted. I love you.

And now, I call upon you, my readers, to share your Teds. Show them some love in the comments.


Betty Colussi said...

Its so very hard to describe the turmoil a mothers heart is in when she looks at her childrens faces and 'divorce' seems like the only answer. How will it affect my children? Will it bring them a better life? Could this decision make them never want to marry when they get older? Or is living in an angry house with people screaming / verbal abuse and booze better for them some how? I hated it in my own childhood. What makes me think I can end that cycle and show my kids a better way of life?When you finally make the decision and you realize you have split weekends and holidays and struggle every minute with 'did I do the right thing'? Then you turn around and you realize you have been blessed with a man that stepped into an 'interview' and not really a date. And he understands you are a package deal. Hoping daily you are helping your kids to live with divorce and not hate the man they now have as a step dad. One day you turn around and realize your children have grown into adults. They have graduated high school or college and are focused on goals and planning their future. You only have so much time until they get out of your reach and they are free to make their own decisions. You find you have moved a thousand miles away but you are only a phone call or plane ride away. Did I do enough? I know I did. Because God chose ME to be their mother! And I thank HIM everyday for that! And for giving me strength as together we stepped into the scary world of 'divorce'...

Renee said...

What a beautiful and moving tribute. The men in our lives who go that extra step deserve the recognition.

Anonymous said...

Sherry that was beautiful I am still crying! I know Renee' has always felt like that, but when her dad passed away she felt some guilt from it. My kids were through so much, the divorce and then their dad passing, if I could take their hurt away I would! I know I will never put Christopher through a divorce, or ever do the step kid thing again (We are all not as lucky as Ted and Ray, to get good step kids) I love you my little neice!!!

Intransigentia said...

My parents split up after my brother and I were grown. Ten years later, my mom met a man who was everythign to her my dad never was: they have similar interests, do things together that they enjoy, treat one another like equals, genuinely enjoy spending time together - you get the idea.

My brother and I have welcomed him into the family, but always thought of him as just "Mom's boyfriend". The other day at an extended family gathering, he introduced himself to someone as "Intransigentia's stepdad". It had never occurred to me that he thought of me that way, and the idea has filled my heart with warm fuzzies. Thanks for finally picking a keeper, Mom!