An Open Letter to My Favorite Step Dad,
I just wanted you to know how happy I am that I did the work that enabled you to show up in my life… in our lives. And I wanted to give you a little insight into the incredible heaving of the universe that needed to happen to pave the way for us to find you.
“I have to beat this because THAT LITTLE BOY needs a daddy,” Jonathan said as we crossed paths in the hallway. Nathan was six and could be seen busily creating something at his craft table in the kitchen. Jonathan stopped with me just long enough to share this conviction. I’ll never forget it… we stood right beside the front door of our home. And the symbolism of this was not lost on me.
About three weeks later, on Father’s Day eve, June 16, 2012, my husband succumbed to his stomach cancer.
I was 43, with a six-and-a-half-year-old son Nathan and a ten-year-old daughter Evelyn. And just like that, the earth began moving beneath our feet. It was my job to ensure we were not swallowed whole.
A long time ago, I learned that facing into an oncoming storm is the only way to get through it. And so I embraced the powerful, angry, gut-wrenching force that is grief. Intellectually, I knew there was another chapter in my life and like it or not, I would, one day, end up on its shore.
Perhaps there was foreshadowing earlier in my life. Some time when the kids were younger, I remember thinking that of all the futures that could have come about for me, that mine was tied to this man, these children, and this home. And that this was my family and all other possibilities of adventures and circumstances were, tied to these people. And I marveled at this thought. And to be honest, it felt limiting in a way. It simply meant that if I wanted to hike Kilimanjaro, I might have to do it by myself.
It was January of the following year that Nathan reminded me of his heart. “Mom,” he said. “I want a step-dad.”
“Well, where do you think we can get one of those? The Market Basket?” I asked. (The Market Basket is practically the town hub here in semi-rural New Hampshire.)
“I know!” he exclaimed. “We’ll have a contest. We’ll have a cook-off, a craft-off and we’ll see who can feed Gino (good cat) and Foster (trusty dog) the fastest.”
His plan made for a great movie script, but it wasn’t all that practical in real life.
And then he said words I will never forget. “I just want someone to be my best friend and never leave me.” And there is/was… an opening, a hole, a space. Nathan’s heart had a place in it for you.
Being an artist, I have a visual mind. And so, I turned to the great catalog of men in the Cloud (cue match.com) to see what was available and to try on different futures as I waited to be ready to actually date. Why? Because there was another chapter in my life and I wanted a partner. And I could see that my boy (and girl) needed a dad. Let’s face it, meeting someone at Market Basket who had both his marbles and his teeth was low on the probability factor.
When we did meet, there was that spine chilling message from beyond that drew a big fat red arrow over your head and said, “This is the guy.” And the stars lined up and pointed in your direction.
In the last five years, we have all, all four of us, grown immensely and grown together. It has not always been easy, but great growth never is. And now, the fruit of our labor is on full display and I am so very delighted and grateful. And happy. Who knew that the tow-headed boy of six who liked to paint and play with his big sister, would grow into a young man that passionately shares your exact interests? It’s like it was planned.
Some people couldn’t understand how or why I started dating a year after being widowed. But what they fail to understand is that I was just carrying out the wishes of Jonathan and Nathan. These two people I love dearly wanted me to take care of myself and my family. And I knew this all along. Five nights before Jonathan passed away, he said to me, “This hasn’t worked out the way we planned. I don’t want you to be alone. I will pick someone out for you.”
We are never alone in this life. And those family members who have gone before us? They never stop loving us...they simply are doing it from the other side. And from time to time, if you ask or if you are open to seeing, they will send you signs.