The Goddess Speaks
Dad is more than a word
When my mom died last year, I had a difficult time writing the eulogy for her service. In the eulogy I detailed the facts of her life, including when she gave birth to me and my brother, when she married my stepdad, etc. It was a straightforward personal history, I thought.
After the service, some people said they didn't realize that my stepdad wasn't my "real" dad and some family members wondered why I had to mention that he was my stepdad. After all, my "real" dad and mother divorced when I was about a year old and my stepdad has been in my life for more than 25 years.
Maybe it's Disney's "Cinderella" that gave stepparents a bad name. I don't know. All I know is that a dad is a dad, step or not.
Anyone can make a baby. If not the traditional way then through medical procedures. But I think it is the years after the baby is born that makes a dad.
The man that my mother brought into our lives when I was a pre-teen has shown me what it takes to be a dad, and through their relationship I also learned what a husband is.
In the beginning, my stepdad was a quiet man of few words. My mom told me to call him dad, but I couldn't.
"Tell dad dinner is ready," my mom would say.
"Dinner is ready," is what I would tell him.
My mom tried other ways to get me to call him dad, but it never worked. He, on the other hand, never pushed. He just stayed in the background, like he does now. My brother and I know that he's there to lend a helping hand when we need it, there to wish us a happy birthday or celebrate other special occasions, and there to call for a ride when our cars break down.
It took me about a year to finally call him dad. I wish I could say it was because he did something earth shattering that caused me to realize that he embodied the word "dad" but, no, nothing had changed. Relatives were over for dinner and I was in the kitchen getting something to drink and asked if anyone else wanted something. Not everyone answered so I started asking them individually, the last being my dad.
"Dad, do you want something to drink?"
"No, maybe later," he replied.
I don't know what made me call him dad, but by then I already knew that he was the personification of a father figure.
IN 1997, on Mother's Day, my mom informed the family that she had cancer. My dad broke down and cried as she spoke. That was the only time I saw him cry about my mom's illness, until she died.
The nine years before my mom's death were spent at doctors' offices, trips to the mainland for medical care, research into special diets, etc. My dad never complained. He ate the foods my mom had to eat and tried to make her life as normal as possible.
Looking back, I realize how accustomed I am to having a dad who is strong, patient, kind and understanding. I grew up assuming this is what all dads are because I've seen the same characteristics in my uncles, grandfather and great-grandfather. But, as an adult, I've learned that just because a person made a baby and therefore is called a dad, doesn't mean that he automatically fits the standard definition. So, for those who are still leery of the word "stepdad," try focusing on the last three letters instead of the first four.
Michelle Ramos is the features production manager for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
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