Give stepparents a chance
Father's Day is over but I am still thinking about the man my mother says she picked for me.
That seemed like a strange thing for her to say when she decided to marry the man who became my stepfather.
It was stranger still, considering I loved my own father as much as life itself. I thought he was the sun, the moon and the most fun of any father on the planet.
While their divorce was tough on me, I wasn't upset when she said she was marrying again. From the time she was a kid to the years she was married to my father, she had a tough life. If she could partner with someone who made life easier for her, I was all for it.
But I must say it didn't make sense to me when she turned to me a few days before her wedding to Ziggy and said: "I'm doing this for you. I picked him with my kids in mind."
I was 14 at the time. That's a confusing enough time for a kid. I never asked my mother exactly what she meant by that. I discovered it for myself.
Ziggy was always quiet and good to my brother and me. He took us for pizza as a family every Friday night and tried hard to make us one happy family.
I never said it out loud, but I knew in my heart there was only one thing wrong with that picture. My father, the man I called "my real father" wasn't in the picture. He was hundreds of miles away with a new family of his own.
That first Christmas with Ziggy, he bought my little brother a great truck. He bought me a brown raincoat.
Again, I didn't say it out loud, but I wondered what kind of man would give a young girl a brown raincoat for Christmas. Truth be told, it was as ugly on as it was on the hanger.
But in the years ahead, I slowly but surely learned, Ziggy could be counted on to give me the kind of gifts money can't buy.
He gave me the comfort of a peaceful home. And he gave me support for everything I wanted to do.
My Mom was a tough sell when I wanted to do something like drive my friends roller skating in Ziggy's new car. But Ziggy was always in my corner, believing in me and wanting me to be happy.
It was my own father who stressed to me how lucky I was to have Ziggy in my life. "He's a good man, and he's good to you," Dad kept reminding me.
My Dad also stressed I was luckier than most kids because I had two dads who loved me, not one. I repeated what he said to everyone, telling them I was lucky to have the love of two special men.
But to tell the truth, while I never doubted that Ziggy was good to me, I didn't think he loved me. Wasn't love reserved for "real fathers?"
When I was 19, I fell victim to a serious case of meningitis caused by a mosquito bite. When the ambulance attendants were carrying me on stretcher down the second floor steps, I happened to see Ziggy's tears. The gentle giant couldn't stop crying.
Even in my fever-induced state, what became clear to me was that Ziggy did, indeed, love me. I understood then what my mother meant when she said she was picking him for her children.
He was everything she thought he would be, and a whole lot more. When my mother got Alzheimer's and had to go in a nursing home, Ziggy drove an hour every single day to spend time with her. The tender way he stroked her face said a lot about his love and his faithfulness.
Even after my mother passed away, I stayed close with Ziggy, loving him more every year.
But here's the message I want to give today: I never would have had that close relationship with my stepfather if I hadn't given him a chance.
Good relationships start with giving someone a chance.
All too often, it doesn't happen, especially in stepparent-stepchild situations.
Once again this week I listened to a stepparent rant against stepkids. In this case, it was a stepmother saying she's "sick and tired of the way her husband caters to his kids."
Guess I should tell you those "kids" were two adult daughters who travel hundreds of miles once a year to spend a week with their father and his wife.
The wife kept going on about how she was put upon because the daughters expected her to cook for them.
"But it was only for a week. That's not so bad, is it?" I queried.
She said I didn't understand. While the girls were growing up, she had to "put up with them" during visits and vacations. This vacation was just more of the same.
Nothing I said was about to change her attitude.
Plenty of children of all ages are hurt by stepparents who resent them.
And kids who want nothing to do with them reject plenty of stepparents who do try.
But the lifelong close relationship I shared with my stepfather is proof positive that a little bit of understanding on both sides can offer a rewarding lifetime experience.