I was going to save this post for Father’s Day, but the thoughts have been swimming around in my head for the past few days, so… let’s talk dads.
Or, I guess not dads in the biological sense. But in the “step-parent that isn’t married to your mom” sense. We’ll call him the Kurt Russel to my Kate Hudson. Because “boyfriend” sounds stupid when the two people are over 50. And have been together for a while.
I think I have felt this way for a long time now, but I didn’t really acknowledge it until a Tuesday afternoon in March when I was on the phone with said K. Russel and he was explaining to me the benefits of a Roth IRA & how to go about setting one up. While he was explaining, I was paying attention, but at the same time, I had a sort of peripheral realization that this used to be something I went to my dad for.
My father situation has always been somewhat strained. It used to be something I would keep to myself and filed away under pretend it’s not a thing. When I was younger I thought I was stealthy, blaming my dad’s “bad moods” on my own behavior when my friends were over and questioning why he was angry. In reality, I was just a naive kid, blindly hoping that things would change, and therefore I would never have to openly admit that my dad was an alcoholic. Well, fast forward one point five decades, two involuntary detoxes, one traumatic brain injury, a broken arm & another detox.. he’s still drinking. Less now, as he was more supervised by family after his fall in 2010 until about midway through 2014, which made it harder for him to do so. But he’s slowly snuck back into his old groove, & history has taught me to never get my hopes up too high in this department, regardless of how well he says he’s able to “handle it.”
Though I knew all of this, it was still hard for me to recognize KR for what he was becoming. No matter how much my dad would annoy me, nor how much of my own energy I’d waste – essentially having to beg my own father to love his family enough give up drinking – it still felt wrong, and unforgivable. Feeling fatherly feelings for a man whose DNA I didn’t share. Every time I would start to think of a way to thank KR for all he has been for my mom and my brother over the years, and for me more recently because I’ve finally let him, I would start to feel guilt. Guilt picturing how my dad may feel when he finds out the broken circle of our family had, in some ways, resealed itself with him left on the outside of it. Guilt wondering, when my dad was no longer around, if I would feel like a horrible daughter, acknowledging someone else as a “bonus” father while my actual dad was right there on the sidelines. Guilt for considering having two men walk me down the aisle when I was raised by one. And then some more guilt when, ultimately, I didn’t.
I think I felt this way because I’ve never really seen my dad the way they paint addicts on TV or in movies. Some empty monster with a train wreck of a life. I saw him as a person. There wasn’t a fight we could get into that I wouldn’t move on from. He was just my dad and that was the way he was. Stubbornly clinging to the point he would be trying to make, always having to have the last word — which wasn’t at all unlike myself. I knew he had a drinking problem, obviously, but I could only see the what ifs, what he could have been, an as a man trapped in a deep hole, not sure how to climb out, but also too proud to call out for help. As a man with something buried so deep in his subconscious that even he didn’t know why he needed to constantly drown it with vodka. Sure, sometimes (a lot of times) I’d feel angry, wondering why my family felt like a normal mom with two kids, but a crabby husband and a lot of yelling at night. But if you took all of my childhood emotions and averaged them, they would easily come out to sympathy. And because of that, it was hard to stomach the idea of possibly replacing my dad emotionally, and in my heart. And during holidays, when I would stop by and see my dad, but always end up with my mom and KR for the celebrations.
However, now that I am 26, almost 27, I think I’ve come to terms with my feelings, and I’ve realized a few things.
That there is no right or wrong way to feel.
That KR wasn’t necessarily replacing my dad, but merely picking up where he left off.
That people are in your life for a reason, and it’s not wrong for you to recognize two men serving the role that society says is typically served by one. Parental figures are not “blood-relation only,” and whether or not my dad would have hurt feelings is not enough of a reason to short a very decent man the recognition in my life that he deserves.
Anthony very simply put it all into perspective one day when I was voicing my feelings on the issue with a reference from the movie “Click,” easily one of my favorites from Adam Sandler. There was a scene a little more than halfway through where Adam Sandler’s wife had remarried, and the daughter, ironically named Samantha had a line that was so plain, yet so obvious. Just not to me;
“I have two fathers now.”
So this year, for the first time in my life, I’m sending two Father’s Day cards.
One for my dad. And one for “Kurt Russel.”