Everyone has a dad, but does everyone have a Joe?
When I was five or something, my mom married Joe.
Before they married, I treated him like any five year old who recently watched her mom go through a bad divorce would.
My mom had to actually sit me down and tell me that I could either shape up or shut up and there was no room for negotiation.
Eventually, I figured it out. I let Joe be Joe and slowly but surely, he became my dad.
A few years passed, mom and Joe separated and we moved back to Minnesota.
I took it pretty hard, being 1000 miles away from my dad, that I even had to be brought to a child psychologist.
In 1996, we moved back to Pennsylvania, and back to Joe.
Life went back to normal. I lived most of the time with Joe and his girlfriend Terry, because my mom rented a single bedroom apartment. But they were only a block apart and it was seriously the most ideal situation I could ask for.
But as time went on, circumstances changed, life got complicated and I said goodbye to the best father I had ever known.
I hadn’t talked to Joe since the late 90’s. Because of mutual stubbornness and unreasonable anger, he missed my high school graduation, my wedding, my nursing school graduation and the birth of Claire and Luca. And I missed his marriage to one of the most awesome women in the world, Terry.
One day, as I sat on the deck with my mom, she jokingly said to me, “I wonder if Joe’s on Facebook.”
“Let me look….there he is.”
“Dare you to friend him.”
Weeks went by and nothing. I kind of forgot about it until I got a Facebook message from him basically asking me if I was joking or if this was serious. I got a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. He hates me. My father hates me.
Except, after 10 years of not talking to him, I only referred to him as Joe. As an ex-step father. It was the norm of my life, you see. Four dads. One biological, three step dads and two of them were considered to be ex-step fathers.
Turns out he was just scared, just like I was. Would it be worth to reopen something when it was just easier to live in denial?
I didn’t even really know what to feel. But we emailed back and forth for a few weeks and finally agreed to meet at a Starbucks.
Fast forward to today. He’s been to every family function possible. He babysat Claire and Luca every Friday before Mae was born when I had to work. He was there when Mae was only a few hours old. He makes me apple pie with beer soaked apples. We go kayaking. He bought me the coolest Penguins jersey that says “Nurse Pain” on the back. And when he came back from Zambia, he brought me some dirt, as I requested.
In July, Matt, the kids, Carly, Ben, Joe, Terry and I are going to the Outer Banks for vacation.
I’ve never understood why some things happen in life. Good, bad or indifferent. But life has also taught me so many things about forgiveness and do overs. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you were wrong and more importantly, there’s nothing wrong with saying you were wronged.
Whatever may have happened between us all those years ago have been virtually erased from memory. And when we were both given a second chance to be in each others’ lives, there was nothing better than that. I am so very happy to have Joe back in my life, as is Carly, I’m sure.
When I first saw Joe again, I think he had expected me to call him dad. Part of me wishes I had, but after 10 years of absence, I didn’t know better.
The kids know him as Joe and love him very much. My kids are very blessed to have so many different kinds of grandparents in their lives. And as life continues on, we’ll figure out what the heck it all means. Life is confusing, but if you just let it roll, it’s much more enjoyable.
I mean, it didn’t come with a owner’s manual any how.
Truth be told, I’d be afraid at what it would say.
Father’s Day, as you can imagine has been a confusing one for me in the past. But now it’s pretty clear. I thank five guys for being in my life. My grandpa, Joe, Larry, my father in law and my husband. Some of the best dads around.
And I’d like to think I’m pretty lucky.