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. Very nicely done! I lost my father when i was sixteen and still miss him very much. I can understand why you reacted as you did to your stepfather. I am glad that you are finally comfortable with him. He sounds like an incredible person.

  2. Thanks for your honesty in sharing this, Mary. It is a poignant reminder not to take Daddy for granted.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing. Your honesty rings true with so many of us. Glad the story has a lovely ending. God Bless!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing that! I’m in the midst of the same situation, trying to figure out how to be a step mother, and how to keep from over-stepping my bounds… it’s nice to know that I just need to keep trying, it’ll happen!

  5. This is beautiful, Mary. Just so sweet and honest and lovely. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Oh, Mary! That was simply beautiful.

  7. What a great post.

  8. Beautiful and honest. Thanks for sharing this.
    My stepdad did not raise me either, but the last thing he said to me was that my car looked out of alignment (he was right). Four days later, my mom found him dead from a heart attack.
    He was still looking out for his big “kids” right up to the end and I no doubt took him a bit for granted but I think he knew I loved him.
    He’s been gone a year now and we all miss him so much.
    Sometimes we don’t know what we have until it is gone.
    Hug your parents tight no matter how they came into your life.

  9. This morning, I came here via Rocks In My Dryer, and I’m so glad I did. Thank you for sharing your story!

    My parents divorced when I was 18, after 23 years of marriage. It was a very ugly divorce, and the years that followed were very tense and stressfull.

    My dad remarried a little over a year later, and my stepmom is 180 degrees different than my mom, which I have now learned is a breath of fresh air for my dad and for me.

    About 3 years ago, my mom made the decision to not be a part of my life or our family’s life any more. She’s still alive, she’s just not there. I’ve not seen her in 3 years or spoke to her in 2.

    In that time, without the stress and drama, I’ve allowed my relationship with my stepmom to grow. This year will be their 10th anniversary, and I still have a guarded heart, but I understand that she does really care about me, and it is an awesome relief and comfort to know that I do have such a positive female presence in my life, something I wouldn’t have had if it were not for the pain and the tears and the frustration that came first.

  10. I will never forget this post.

    And, you have inspired me to finally write about losing my own father. It’s been 5 years this April.

  11. Thanks for sharing such a sweet and intimate story.
    My mom died when I was ten, but my dad never remarried….never even dated. Now that I’m older and have kids of my own, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a step-mom…. I sometimes wish he’d find someone -for him to have a companion, I worry about him feeling lonely.

  12. Sophie sent me, and I’m glad she did. What a beautiful story. So like our heavenly father in that he waits patiently tells us he loves us and shows that love actively all the while waiting for the day when we can do the same.

  13. Love it! Wow.

  14. that was a wonderful post!! thank you for sharing =)

  15. that’s ridiculously sweet <3

  16. Oh, what a different place the world would be if we all worked so hard to win each other’s love.

    Like others have said this inspires me to work that much harder to love my children (especially my adopted ones).

  17. My parents divorced when I was so young that I don’t remember them ever being together. My dad remarried first to a wonderful woman who I was happy to call my step-mom. But I never lived with them, only visited on the typical every-other-weekend-basis until I was old enough to decide when I wanted to go.

    My mom met Tom when I was in 8th grade. Tom had to deal with me during those awkward ‘tween’ years (they weren’t called that back then!). He asked my permission to marry my mom when I was a junior in high school and I was glad to give it! I have felt a lot of guilt over calling them ‘my parents’ or calling him ‘dad,’ but in a lot of ways he was there for me when my dad wasn’t, couldn’t be. My husband and I even ended up naming our son for Tom!

    I’m sorry that you lost your dad in such a tragic way, but am so glad that you have found a way to love and accept Ron for who he is and who he wants to be. I’m sure your dad would be proud and happy for you and your mother!

  18. You have touched the hearts of so many with this post, including me.
    Thank you.

  19. Thanks for posting this. I remarried when my daughter was 9. Since I’d been a divorced mom since she was one year old, it was quite an adjustment, but over the years, my husband has been a real daddy to her. Now we have a total of three daughters, and when he does something for one of them, he will occasionally say, “That’s what daddies do.” That’s why your post’s title caught my attention right away. Thanks again.

  20. I just blogged a link to your post.

  21. Mary –

    (()) Thank you for sharing this. Beautiful.

  22. Freddy Daddy says:

    I’m the step-daddy and my step kids are both very nice to me, but my youngest is the least nice. Her own father never paid a dime for her education, consistently disappointed her when she expected him to come pick her up for a visit, was ‘too busy’ for her and still doesn’t ever spend a nickel on her.
    I am still waiting to be called “Dad” by her. Oh, well, forget that, I spose.

  23. Gorgeous writing.

  24. A truly beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.

  25. late to reading this, but bawling my eyes out…what a wonderful post and picture of God’s heart toward us…

  26. scottklamert says:

    Wow that was tough to read! I don’t think it’s any easier whatever your age. I turned 50 this year. I lost my Mom in 2001 and my Dad this past March. They say the greatest pain is losing a child. I can’t imagine how that must hurt. I’m glad it all worked out and specially glad your children have a loving Grandpa. God bless.

  27. I still have a lump in my throat from reading this, you know, but I’m happy it all turned out all right. It’s unfair how we get stuck on things sometimes, when someone with a bit of suitable knowledge could unclog our emotions and set us free.

    Give Ron a hug from me too, OK?


  1. […] mom has 8 kids born to her, and 3 more that she welcomed as adults when she married Ron after my first dad died. We don’t all end up in the same place at the same time too often. […]