That’s what daddies do

In 1988 when I was 21, my dad died in a car accident.  I had been married two years.   John and I had a baby, 6 month old Amanda.  My mom still had 7 children at home. It was a desolating, devastating shock.

Mom and RonThree years later in 1991 when my mom started dating her high school sweetheart, I was less than pleased.  It seemed too sudden.  I was still grieving my dad.  And Ron was different from my dad in a dozen jarring ways. (It would be years before I would realize their key, core similarities, the things that made my mother love them both.)

I resisted the idea of their relationship.  Tried to talk my mom out of it.  Ignored his overtures at friendship.  Was rude and unhappy in every way I could be while still maintaining a bare veneer of civility.

Six months later, I stood at their wedding, an 8-months-pregnant reluctant maid of honor, there only to honor my mother.

But Ron kept trying.

And trying.

Reaching out in a hundred big and little ways.

Ron and the girlsHe adored my children.

Invited us to dinner.

Fixed our cars.

Helped us add a bedroom on to our house.

Helped John pour cement for a shop.

Fixed our dryer and our washer and our cars.

Came for kids’ birthday parties and plays and choir concerts.

Invested in our lives, unfailingly and unflinchingly, even when it was inconvenient.

And if that wasn’t clear enough, he came right out and told me he loved me dozens of times, even during years and years when the words stuck in my throat and I wouldn’t – couldn’t- say it back.

Somehow him marrying my mom got all tangled up in the loss of my dad.  It felt like accepting him would somehow be releasing my father, letting him go for good.  And so I resisted.  And resisted. And resisted.

All my siblings, it seemed, took to him. Accepted him.  But still I resisted, awkwardly stuck in my private little tangle of grief over the loss of my father.

It got gradually better.  I got so I could tell Ron I loved him when he said it to me.  But for years there was this tiny core of resistance, stubbornly thinking that only one person could really be my dad.

Bitterly ironic, since here I was, neck-deep in mothering 6 children to whom I am a second mom, children whom I long to accept me simply as mom.

But emotions…oh, they are tricky things.

The other day the car that I was driving died at a gas station.  My husband was at work, so I called Ron.  To tell the truth, I thought to call him even before it came into my head to call my husband.  That’s how acclimated I am to his support, especially when it comes to car repair. He asked where I was and told me he’d be there soon.

My daughter had dance practice 2 blocks away, so I walked her to her practice.  I was wondering how I would get her home, and also how I would pick up my 4 other kids, who were practicing at another location 5 miles away.  But Ron was on the job, and I didn’t have to be anywhere for a couple hours, so I figured things would work out.

Sure enough, within half an hour Ron was there with his mechanic– and a minivan that he left for me to drive.  They took the dead car, and left me the keys to the replacement vehicle, a plush ride that was nicer than what I usually drive.  I went on my merry way in the borrowed car, my plans barely ruffled.

The next day Ron returned the car to us, repaired.  When he brought it back, I thanked him, very conscious that the previous day could have gone so much worse than it actually had.

He said, “That’s what daddies do.”  and “I love you.”

And I said “I love you” back.

And for the first time there was not an iota of hesitation or of resentment at the fact that he had called himself my daddy.

It only took me 17 years.

It only took him 17 years.

Stubborn cusses, both of us.


  1. Wonderful that you are able to share this!

  2. Do he and your mom get to read this? Its a beautiful memorial to him.

  3. Beautiful words again Mary!

  4. My dad died (took his own life) last April when I was 24. I’m the only one which is different from your situation, obviously, but it still sucks. This is a lovely post. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I hope he gets to read this too, Mary. Beautiful.

  6. Really lovely Mary. Love will win out, ever. And we all have those bits and pieces that are so hard to control and can’t be forced. But love never fails. This is lovely . Thank you for posting it! M

  7. Thank you for such a beautiful post this morning. I’ve often wondered what I would do if my mother ever remarried. I’m relieved to see that it isn’t all peaches and cream but it eventually works out if God wills it.

  8. beautiful

  9. very nice, mary. this brought a tear.

  10. Thanks for making me all sparkly eyed this morning! =) What a beautiful story!

  11. You made me cry.
    Thank you so much for sharing:)

  12. How lucky you are to have two daddies that love you.

  13. What a wonderful story! You warmed my heart this morning. I hope you share this with Ron; it will warm his heart too.

  14. Wow…that was beautiful. Thanks for sharing. I’m currently going through something similar with my boys – having recently remarried after being widowed for over 5 years. It gives me hope.

  15. Perfectly written, Mary!

  16. That is two entries in a row that you have made me tear up!

  17. Bethsmiles says:


  18. Tina in IN says:

    Thank you for sharing that Mary! My dad recently remarried, this last fall. Mom died 10 years ago. I still find myself guarding my heart. I am so glad that Dad has someone for him. I never wanted him alone, but sometimes I just miss mom. At the same time I am begining to have a good relationship with Terri and I really like that too. It is always hard loosing a parent. My mother lost hers and gained a step-mom. Their relationship was not always smooth, but they loved eachother. I am glad that you shared this. I am glad that I have the chance to have a “second” mom. And I am even happier that my dad has the chance to have another marriage and mate to spend his life with.

  19. Thank you, Mary.

  20. Oh, wow, Mary. This makes me cry. So sweet.
    Love, Rachel

  21. I was just about to start crying (I had been holding the tears back) when suddenly I started laughing….”stubborn cusses, both of us….”hahahaha

    oh man, that was wonderfully written! =)

  22. Rebecca,
    You’re not alone. I wrote you privately.

  23. Beautiful tribute to Ron. I to have a second parent. Another mother, who loves me and I her. I to resented the new union but in time we have grown. I am blessed by her!

  24. Wow, Mary. Thanks for writing that. Sometimes it’s hard to remember how amazingly blessed we are to have Ron in our lives. There’s so much more I could say, but “thank you” will have to do for now. 🙂 love you! Sophie

  25. What a wonderful heartfelt post. You both are very blessed, yet often takes a while to see….I’ve been in those shoes too 🙂

  26. When adopting old children (I was told by the social worker at AAI) it takes 8 months for each year at the age when they came into your home– for them to feel like totally like family. (Not sure if that is worded clearly.)

    So you were 24 when your mom remarried (21 when your dad died and 3 years later she remarried)–you are pretty close to being normal!!!!!

    It will be 3 years since my dad died this Easter. I would be no way be ready for a new dad yet. Of course, this isn’t as likely to happen as my mom just turned 80!

    Beautiful post!

  27. Lovely writing! Your stepdad sounds like the perfect example of 1Cor.13:4-8. We should all strive to be like that…especially with the “stubborn cusses” in our lives. Thanks for sharing.

  28. That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us.

  29. Mary, your Mom suggested I check out your blog today. Thank you! It made me realize- again- that Dad is truly a very special, giving person. Blessings! Kamie

  30. Aww, this made me tear up! 🙂 How blessed to have two incredible daddies in one lifetime.

  31. Weeping.

  32. The loss of a parent is so devastating. My dad died 3 years ago when I was 22 and even though my parents weren’t married (they never had been) – if my mom were to ever marry it’d probably be impossible for me to ever see him as a father figure in my life. It feels far too late for that… plus, since we live so far away from my family it’s unlikely he’d ever get the chance to really prove me wrong. Your story was very touching though and it seems so clear that this was a case where he deserved, and eventually earned, your love and respect. It takes a lot of love and faith, and he certainly sounds worthy of the title Daddy.

  33. Mary……..beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you for sharing with this. Sounds like your Mom sure can pick ’em!

  34. Mary, Thank you for sharing this. Your honesty is a blessing to so many of us. It reminds me to never give up on people that you truly love. I truly hope that Ron gets to read this. You are both blessed.

  35. Oh man you made me cry!
    Thanks for sharing that with us, I agree with the otheres that I hope Ron gets to read this as it would bring you too closer than you already are.

  36. Wow! I was pouring tears as I read this. Tricky how those emotions are. Thank-you for sharing this with us!

  37. My mom died 12 years ago this month. My dad remarried 8 years ago. Things have gotten better, but I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the point you have.

    Thank you for sharing this, Mary.

  38. What a great story!!! 🙂 He sounds like a great man. I’m sure your father was too. I’m sorry that you lost him at such a young age…I couldnt imagine.

  39. Thank you for this. Beautiful.

  40. The tears are still wet in my eyes… thanks for sharing. This gives me wonderful insight into what our adopted children may be feeling as they struggle to deal with their loss and adjust to having a “new” mom and dad. It encourages me to be “stubborn” in my efforts to win their sincere and heartfelt love.

  41. This was AMAZING! Thanks for sharing! What an amazing example to set for your children!

  42. Beautiful post. I was widowed 13 years ago and remarried 3 years later. My middle child (16) is still struggling, I hope it doesn’t take her 17 years.

  43. oh my..tears over here too…beautifully described…

  44. I know how hard this can be. My husband of almost 30 years died. He was a pastor, always there for the kids, more patient than me etc. We had 5 kids, and at the time of his death we had 5 grandkids. After he died, I mean before the funeral, my oldest son came up and talked to me (I was actually working on the program for the funeral, crying my eyes out!). What did son number one say? “Mom, I know you will remarry, we want you to, but just make sure he loves us kids and having a lot of money would help (added for humor!)”. I cried harder.

    Oldest daughter came to me and said “I know you will remarry, but I will never accept someone else. My daddy is my daddy” This was months later, not like son.

    5 years later I did remarry. Oldest daughter did all the planning with my then to be husband to surprise me (Yes, a surprise wedding not a surprise shower!). She adores my husband and has accepted him. We have been married for 4 years now and all the kids from both sides are so loving and supportive. We both know we are loved by the other’s birth children, but know that WE have 8 kids together. (19 grand kids too, that all love us both)

    I am so glad that the ice is broken for you all. It is so important. I cried through your post because I feel so fortunate and know that what happened in my family was the result of much prayer on my part and on the part of my late husband.

    Your family is so blessed and will be more so now that the ice is gone.

  45. I am a step-mother to 3 boys and I loved this story!

  46. this broke my heart a little. thank you for daring to share.

  47. I’m crying. What a sweet, sweet moment.

    You need to print that and put it in a folder and give it to him. 🙂

  48. Ok, seriously… that was such an amazing story. Thank you SO much for sharing it. “That’s what Daddies do” … LOVE THAT.


  49. What a blessing he is to you! That’s the picture of a daddy, right there.


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