Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I'm feeling bad about that last post, and worried that you might think my stepdad is some kind of monster. He really isn't.  But he was pretty angry, a lot, when I was a kid, and sometimes bordered on violent.  I am the only one in my family who talks about this, and sometimes I wonder if my memories are fabricated or exaggerated, but I don't think so.  I've tried to talk with both my mom and my dad at various times, and neither can do it.  My mom gets a faraway look in her eyes and changes the subject, and I intentionally tried to schedule a breakfast with just my dad once, in my twenties, and he wouldn't go.  I think he knew what it was about, and didn't want to go there.  That was probably a good thing.  And my brother was four and a half years younger, and my dad's preferred.  So his experience was pretty different from mine.

I'm alone in trying to figure out what happened and what was real, in other words.

My dad (he's my stepdad, but mostly raised me, so I refer to him as dad) had huge hands, and he was quite physical with them.  He was also really, really strong...we all used to joke about him not knowing his own strength.  And he sometimes hurt me, as a kid.  He spanked (I think most parents back then did) but also sometimes worse.  I spent a lot of time feeling hurt and angry about this in my teenage years and growing up into my twenties.

But now I have a slightly different perspective, I guess.  I try to think about what was going on with him and our family when I was a kid.  It can't have been easy for my parents, for a long time.  He married my mom out of another marriage, and they divorced really soon after marrying, then remarried.  We all had to move around the country a lot as he followed work.  I was a mouthy kid, maybe precocious or even bratty, and I was another man's daughter.  Then the move to Saudi Arabia, and my mom's breakdown, having a new baby, my brother.  Then him losing jobs, and all of us ending up back at his folks' house.  Probably not the vision he had in mind moving forward.

And on top of all that, he had alimony and child support on three kids from a previous marriage to pay. So I suppose I get it a little better now that he might have been losing his shit now and then.  Because I have stress in my life, but guaranteed nothing like that shit.  And I lose my temper a lot.  If I had that kind of sky-high level of stress that he must have had, I'd probably be swinging at some things too.

Becoming a parent in my own right has given me that little bit of perspective, which is good.

And then I want to remember, too, all the times he was very gentle and supportive of me.  He has always been proud of me and my brother, I know that.  I remember a time in high school when I came home devastated with a broken heart, and he listened so sweetly and kindly, and spoke wisely and lovingly, and it healed me right up.  There were other times like that, too, lots of them.  Once I screwed up on my taxes really badly in graduate school and he just redid them for me and then gave me a couple thousand dollars to pay the taxes, from money he had just gotten when his uncle died.  He definitely didn't have to do it, but he did it without pausing. Fixed it just like that.  He loves his grandkids like nothing else.  And he has taken care of my mom through all of her difficulties, while he had his own life-threatening battle with cancer to deal with.

So all in all, he's a pretty damned stand-up guy, in a lot of ways.  I just wanted to make sure the record showed it.

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