I’ve started and deleted this post more times than I care to count. Even more than a month after the fact, it all seems so surreal. The phone calls that day were continuous, but short. Everyone was filled with this blinding and instantly paralyzing disbelief. Shocked into silence the days following were a blur. I felt a pain I have never felt before, and the cutesy names people now give stepparents does nothing to ease the pain of losing one. In fact, I rarely ever call this man my stepdad unless a new acquaintance needs differentiation between by biological dad and my stepdad, because they haven’t yet learned their geographical location.
As I’ve written before, my stepdad raised me along side my mother since I was seven years old. I woke up to him nearly everyday of my childhood. He’s the reason we had the Christmas tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve and all the rest at exactly midnight Christmas morning. He loved Christmas and just couldn’t wait for us to wake up the next day to see us open our gifts.
My stepdad taught me how to drive. He taught me how to bait a hook, and shoot a crossbow. He taught me how to stand up for myself, even if the opinion I shared was unpopular or would make someone else upset. He taught me to never be afraid to have an adventure. In a sea of voices telling me not to move, not to change jobs, or not to be so assuredly me, he was always the voice that was loudest telling me to explore, all while assuring me that if I failed, he would “figure it out” to get me home or back on my feet when needed. My very sense of what fathers and husbands are supposed to be like, came directly by the example he set. So while the term “bonus dad” is a trendy term for stepdads, mine was neither a “bonus” or a “step,” he was my dad.
The night he died was the worst night of my life. I had honestly never considered the possibility of him dying. In my eyes he was like a superman. He was bigger than life, and would always be around, because we needed him, if for no other reason than that. He wouldn’t just leave us, so him passing away just wasn’t a possibility in my head. As I type out that sentence I realize how silly it sounds, but it is my truth.
On my way home to be with my family, I was angry. I was angry that he bought that motorcycle. I was angry there were people smiling and laughing. I was angry there were people on the road with me. Everyone else’s lives were getting to go on, while mine, my children, my family’s were forever altered in a way that no one else could visibly see. It didn’t seem fair, but it was his words that would see me through that long eight hour drive. “Life isn’t fair, Jay” and “Everyone dies.” I also heard his famous line “we’ll figure it out, Jay, don’t worry.”
I was voluntold to write his obituary because I am the “writer” of the family. I thought it would be more difficult, but in all honesty, I had written about him since the first time he altered my life; when he entered it. While going through his paperwork looking for insurance information, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had kept everything I had ever written in a folder, right next to his military discharge paperwork. Everything. Even the badly misspelled early word processing thoughts of my fourth grade self.
Writing about him was comforting, and something I could control about the situation, so I obliged, but his obituary would not be the last thing I would write about him. I couldn’t let that be it. I don’t know how many more times I’ll write about the person that influenced me beyond measurable terms, but I don’t foresee it ending anytime soon. It soothes my soul, and I’m sure the universe shines a little brighter when he reads what I wrote from where he sits now.
P.S. William, the Patriots lost to the Steelers 😛 (We love you!)