My mom divorced one when I was a year old. I saw him sporadically over my life. And he died when I was twenty-five.
The other, my stepdad, struggled to connect with me, and I to him.
He died one day before my 50th birthday.
As I flew into my potential-retirement-community with my husband to celebrate this milestone birthday, I stood in baggage at the airport and on my cell phone, I could only hear my sister crying. No words.
But I knew.
My dad had passed away.
The day of my 50th birthday in Asheville, North Carolina, I fielded texts and calls from close friends wishing me an awesome day. I replied…thanks….and by the way… my dad passed away yesterday.
Before my biological father died, I took him to dinner for his birthday. He ordered a cup of clam chowder…and couldn’t finish it. It was the saddest thing I’d ever seen.
I grew up that evening.
All my life I struggled with my weight, but I saw in a moment that when you have no desire to eat, that’s the end. It’s the end of a life of love and joy and experiencing.
It’s an end to sensual pleasure.
I was immensely saddened by it and knew we would never go to dinner together again. And we didn’t.
And then, every time I visited him, he would be rattling through checklists. He had seen me graduate high school and college, get a good job, marry. He’d taught me about the stock market…which led to my career. I seemed set. He believed I had arrived.
It was unnerving to experience this with my first dad. I wasn’t ready, at 25, to be the leader, the go-to person. I still wanted him (always wanted him) to be that person for me.
But it’s not quite how it worked out.
And then, I had sons. Sons my real father never knew. Sons my stepfather loved so much.
My sisters said it could never work – me, with sons – I was too much a girly-girl.
But, oh how it worked.
I could not be more grateful for these two strong, principled, thoughtful men I raised and looked out for.
And they, looking out for me.
My older son is leaving for Texas to live in a few short days. It’s been stressful. A lot to process, a lot of details to attend to. All good and hopeful. But a lot to attend to, none the less.
And then, just a few nights before his flight, after dinner with us, he lifted boxes of more to take from our home (to Texas)…and then he paused.
He asked…slowly…smiling…if I cried every day.
I said no, not at all. It just seemed to happen in conversation with him, when he visited.
He said I instigated it by asking him the deep questions. Probing.
And then he said….I was a good mom.
He paused, heavy box in his arms. Looked me in the eye.
I was transported to my father and clam chowder and check lists.
My son wanted to say some kind words to me. Words he needed to say. Things he wanted me to know.
And I so welcomed hearing, albeit - caught unawares. Unexpected.
Strong men in my life….real men in my life….looking out for, not me, but us.