I have not written a post in quite some time. It’s not that I have not wanted to. We have a family crisis going on that has prevented me from writing. Well, that’s not quite true. It has not prevented me, but it has zapped the creativity from my brain. It’s hard to sit down and write when a grown ass adult child suddenly leaves everyone and everything. Not just leaves but completely cuts communication off, and heads down a destructive path, not accepting one bit of responsibility for the chaos he created. There have been casualties in the form of a new baby girl and an innocent two and a half year old girl, not to mention my daughter-in-law. The sane people, of which I am still currently a member (my psychiatrist can attest to this in case there are Debbie Doubters) have been busy protecting, defending and safeguarding the victims from further bushwhacking. Turns out that Bushwhacker Prevention takes up a lot of time, but it is something I can now add to my resume! Score!
With Father’s Day fast approaching, instead of feeling disgust, I surprisingly got inspired, and so I have sat down to tell you a tale. A heartwarming, feel good tale. Just by thinking about it and then transcribing my thoughts, I can feel my already stellar blood pressure come down even a few more notches. So let me begin and PLEASE, at the end of my story, please tell me your thoughts and opinions. They are always welcome, and if you think my tale is good enough to share, then please do so………………….
“In my book there are no stepdad’s, just dads that took awhile to find your family”. I’m not one for sentimental quotes but this one resonates with me on a personal level for many reasons, which will be become apparent as you read….
For you long time readers, you know all about my biological father. For the rest of you read this, this and most certainly this. Good, you’re all caught up, but we’re not talking about that bastard today.
I have a stepfather named Tony that is infinitely gobs better than the man described in those posts. He became my stepfather long after I actually needed a dad in my life, but he was a knight in shining armor for my mother, so there’s that. All four of us sisters were thrilled he reunited with my mother when she was newly divorced and only 50 years old, five years younger than I am at this moment. Tony was 54. Did you catch the word reunited buried among all the math I was showing off?
My mum had traveled to England in the early months of 1989 to attend her fathers funeral. I honestly cannot remember why I did not fly out as well as I loved Grampy intensely, but it was most likely a money situation. I had just gotten married in June of 1988 and my newly minted husband and I were not making barrels of money. Heck, we were’t even making soup can containers of money. My mum would not have been in a situation where she could have flown me out as well. While there, she ran into Tony who was married to her cousin, Margaret. WAS is the key word here. Margaret had died a few years earlier from cancer.
My mum and Tony did have a history…a past…..
In England, back in the day, turning 21 was a BIG deal. You got a “key” to the house, which was probably quite handy, symbolism aside. Perhaps it is still a big deal there. I don’t know. I’m a fitness instructor, not an historian.
Anyway, my mother had a big party and her date was………..NO, not Tony. I bet you thought you knew where that was going!!
Her date was my biological father, whom she had married the month before, in January of 1960. Tony was there though. He remembers quite clearly what a loudmouthed man my dad was. My father had that effect on people. You tend to remember foul speaking, hard drinking louts. Some of the best ones really stand out. My father was the best of the best louts! Tony also remembered my mother as being beautiful, soft spoken, happy and mesmerizing. His words, not mine.
My mother turned 21 on February 6th, 1960. On February 7th, 1961, I was born. I was not consulted about this arrangement and if allowed to weigh in, I would have declined the birth invitation for another time and another place.** Hahahahaha. Just kidding.
** Or am I?
So, my mother did not have the ideal marriage and suffered through most of it for twenty-eight years, before coming to her senses and getting a divorce just ahead of my marriage in June of 1988. She walked me down the aisle and it was perfect, other than the fact that my father did call me that morning to drive home the fact that the reason he was not attending my wedding was because I had chosen my mother to walk me down the aisle. I cheerily told him that was absolutely A OK with me, as I was trying to keep my wedding day a happy one (call me CRAAAAZY) and really only wanted joyful memories. If he wanted to opt out, I was all over that decision! Cheerio!
Fast forward to the start of 1989, and off she flew to England to bury her father and to have a nice visit with her mum. Tony came to my grandfathers funeral and that is where they met up again. It was instant attraction, which apparently can happen at a funeral. I know it was instant attraction, and not because my mother ever confided in me. She wouldn’t have. We had a relationship where I was always telling her that what she was doing was WRONG and I was always telling her what to do to fix it. In my defense, that’s the byproduct of being the oldest child in a socially impaired family.
I knew about the instant attraction because when my mum died in April of 2015, my sister Wendy found a stash of love letters written by both mum and Tony detailing the early days of their romance when they were separated by an ocean. (I found a journal written by my mum as well, which I will refer to later on in this story. This writing trick, as I’m demonstrating, is called really bad foreshadowing) Wendy had started to read one of these letters when she realized what it actually was and quickly folded it up and informed me of what she had found.
Just to assure all of you that my sister and I are not nosy Nellie’s, all four of us: Wendy, Sarah, Lindsey and I, went through all my mums property the day after the funeral as my step dad did not want anything around to remind him of her. It was too painful…as an aside, we knew that what he was asking was WRONG, so we deliberately kept some of her things. This turned out to be an intelligent decision, as he soon changed his mind and wanted reminders of “his Ann” around him.
There were about a dozen letters in all, so without reading them at the time, I placed them in our KEEP pile and later put them in a keepsake box I purchased for my stepdad. I did eventually read them though. I could not resist. I’m not sorry about it.
They were intense and filled with passion. Not porn passion. The letters were sophisticated and artfully written. I dare say the complete opposite of what we might expect from Kim Kardashian. It was clear that they both were completely besotted with each other and that made me happy. It gave me a glimpse into the very private world that my mum and stepdad inhabited. In hindsight, I never felt I was invading their privacy. My motives for reading the letters was not to be a voyeur, but to seek a better understanding…..to put a more human face to the suffering my stepdad was going through. I reread those letters two weeks later when my step dad was rushed to the hospital with an almost completely blocked carotid artery. I needed to read them again to hold onto the feelings that they shared, as I was afraid that my stepdad would die as well.
My stepfather recovered physically, but emotionally he will never be the same. This is a man who has buried two women that he loved. He is now 81, and last year he chose to travel back to England to be closer to his biological children, Lindsey and Martin. That travel story is worthy of a completely separate blog post and is one I will write someday as it is, in turn, comical yet terrifying. He lives in a care home close to where my sister Lindsey lives where he is happy to watch television, to read his beloved books and to just be by himself for the most part. The staff really love him and take great care of him. He is reluctant to mix with the other OLD people, but this is a man who is used to solitude having spent many years as a submariner with the British Royal Navy.
I sent him a Fathers Day card two weeks ago, as I’m never completely sure how reliable the Canadian Postal Service is and I’m not all that sure about the British Service either. I got a phone call from him on June 15th at 6:00 pm, so 11:00 pm his time in England. He called to say thank you for the card that he had received that very day. He is from an era where a text or FB message saying thank you would be completely out of the question because it is rude. I like his era.
We had a lovely chat, though it was really up to me to lead the conversation, which is not unexpected. He is like that with my other siblings as well. He got rather teary and mentioned that he would like to come for a visit as he missed all of us. This can never happen. He is much too frail to make that trip, and based on his trip to England from Canada last year, I’m sure he is on the no fly list. I’m not kidding.
Between rolling my eyes at his suggestion and, at the same time saying that perhaps it would be better if we came to visit him, it occurred to me that I had NEVER had a conversation like this with my own biological father. I had never heard my own father tell me that he would like to visit me and that he missed me. While the real love affair was between my step dad and my mum, it turns out that we all got a pretty terrific father out of the situation ourselves. All of us have great memories of Tony and my mum. He was a doting grandfather to all three of my sister Wendy’s children, to both of my sister Sarah’s children and to both of my step children, though as it turns out one of those step children could have paid a bit more attention to his goodness, but I digress, and I’m harshing my good mood. More importantly, however, my stepdad was able to make the last part of my mums life happy, and that’s what a REAL man does.
My mum was diagnosed with CKD when she was 61 years old and it was pretty much a shit storm health wise for her after that. Kidney failure, lengthy hospital stays, kidney transplant, extended hospital stays and aortic stenosis. If my mother had not finally just divorced my bio father’s ass, then I can tell you with absolute certainty that he would have left her when all this happened to her. My stepdad? Did not leave her side. EVER. LITERALLY. I’m telling you that this man ignored every visiting hours rule ever made up by a faceless bureaucrat locked away in a musty basement office. I honestly don’t know what my sisters and I would have done without him. He just completely stepped up to the plate and made sure my mum always knew he was there.
All this after just eleven years of being together with no major issues that came up to test them maritally. The next fifteen years would be chock-a-block full of nasty physical, emotional and mental challenges but not once did Tony’s love for my mother fail. Not once did he turn away from her. Not once did he say “enough” and walk away. Not once was it too hard for him. Hard is what my stepdad thrived on. He was a rock to my mum and for that I will be forever grateful. I juxtapose this with many marriages today where one person just up and leaves because they are selfish bastards.
I am going to leave you with words from my own mother, taken from that journal I so ineptly, as a storyteller, foreshadowed. It is from November of 2006. My mum had received a kidney transplant in February of 2005 that went pear shaped. These are her thoughts on that ordeal….
“I had a kidney transplanted at about 4:00 am on 21 February, 2005. Five and a half months later I left the hospital. I have had a long recovery and lots of ups and downs, but I am alive and kicking and grateful to be nearly back to normal. I will endeavor to continue this journal now and it is my intention to stay well and to enjoy my life. I will never be able to adequately repay my husband for all his loving care. Without him I would not have survived. I don’t know what I did to deserve Tony but he is the best of the best. He knows when I am down and just holds me in his arms and lets me cry and talk. I would not want to live without him, and I will love him to the day I die”.
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