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Stepfather and daughter relaxing on bench viewing the ocean

My Father And I

I thank my stepfather and mother for raising me. Up until I was 12, it was only mother and me. Then one day at dinnertime she announced “a friend is coming over later.” That sounded mysterious enough to occupy my quizzing mind for the duration of dinner and up to the moment when the doorbell rang.

I will never forget him, my stepfather, who I consider “my father” nearly as long as I’ve known him.

He’s the man who influenced me most.

This isn’t to say he was a perfect dad. He had faults just like any human being. It’s not too hard to understand why my mom eventually left him.

He barely, if at all, shared his feelings preferring to barricade inside himself instead of opening up. He conversed plainly, without epithets, superlatives or long sentences. He had a healthy sense of humor for telling funny jokes, mostly of the sarcastic variety.

I guess it can be very hard to be a partner of such a person.

But for me these weren’t my issues. I had my own friends and school to relate to.  When I suddenly had a stepfather, who is very kind, sensitive and smart, I didn’t need much more than that.  

Right away, I decided his head and face looked like Bart Simpson’s and without hesitation announced it to my mom. picture of Bart Simpson leaning on his skateboardShe thought it hilarious to reveal this comparison to him. Apparently, he liked the parallel; however, I was totally embarrassed by it and agonized I had hurt his feelings.

He has always had this robust look, especially in the summer: shorts, sandals and a cap. His legs seemed particularly strong, while his footballer’s sheens made the deepest impression on me.

I was so skinny in school they used to call me “salted cod” because of my flat chest and stick legs.

When talking to my friends, one in particular would always moan about her stepdad. I couldn’t relate to it. For me, to finally have a dad was a life altering experience; I had always wanted a father.

We have bonded immediately and looking back now I see how much I’ve learned from him: to keep myself in a safe headspace, to drive a car and geometry.

I was taking so much from him, that at certain point my mom started remarking I am just like him, and not only in a good way.

During the summers the three of us – Sam (my stepdad), my mom and I would stuff his old Skoda up with all the necessaries of successful camping: portable fridge, sheet, beach chairs, grill, umbrella, tent, sleeping bags and other bits and bobs, and take a long drive to the east coast for a few days. When I got older, my boyfriend would join us on these trips.

My stepdad is a man of habits, like most adults I suppose. He absolutely loved his computer. In the days before iPads, this technologically advanced man would spend all of his time surfing the internet or playing Solitaire on the blinking screen of 90’s IBM. By then he was already unemployed and the troubles had begun.

A few years before his retirement he had an accident. In a factory, a machine slit his finger tip on the right hand; the cut was deep to the bone. He stayed home to recover.

The factory delayed his benefits payment and his case had gone to court. In the meantime, mom was getting angrier and overloaded with work, while I wasn’t home to dilute the atmosphere.

The blasted finger wouldn’t heal. Compensations from the factory were paid reluctantly, dripping pennies each installment. Dad tried different jobs, but he was an engineer at heart, now with a broken spirit.

I remember coming home from studies or travels and instantly going to their bedroom to see him, knowing that’s where he’d be; his back to the door, his face lit up by the blinking blue screen, as he is spreading Solitaire minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, month after month.

The card game was the first thing he’d taught me on the computer, the second one was Minesweeper. It taught me about strategy and patience.

Now days, my mom is already healed from her illness and my stepdad’s finger-tip’s nerve senses again, but the two unfortunately aren’t a couple any more. My husband and I, both think the spark is still there, only dimmed by the mundane routine of unemployed life on his and thyroid problems on hers.

Maybe it’s only a wishful thinking on my side. For me, it doesn’t matter they aren’t together, couples do split up, but parental ties remain intact, and he is my parent. Both of us are not big phone fans.

That is why whenever I come home, I go and visit that bench on the beach, overlooking the pale blue horizon where the sea and the sky meet. That’s where he comes to sit every day. We don’t talk much; only look at it, hand in hand, my father and I.    

About The Author

Author Neta Shlain was born in the Ukraine and raised in Israel. The mother of two she now calls the UK home where she works as a writer and artist. You can see some of her work at Blue Efrat.

Do you have a story of a stepdad you want to share? We would love to read it. Your stories help and encourage other stepdads as well as those men considering becoming one. Please follow this guidance in preparing your submissions and send them to info@supportforstepdads.com. Thank you.

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