Tonight, I want to continue the conversation about being a stepdad by sharing a bit about Danny. Last night, I shared about Chick and how he stepped into our lives at around the age of five, only to not be there several years later.
Between the ages of seven and eleven, we spent a lot of time at our grandparents while mother struggled to make ends meet. There were the occasional boyfriends who came into our lives, but no one really was there for very long, until Danny.
Danny was younger than my mother, was medium height, stocky, had a charming smile, and was funny. They had known each other when they were younger, but never got together. After several months of dating, they were married, and Danny moved in. Over the next eight years, until I moved to Tulsa to attend college, Danny was there every day as my stepfather.
My first impression of him was his car, of all things. He drove a Ford Mustang hatchback. The photo today reminded me of that car. Hatchbacks were the craze at the time (we all remember the Pacer). It was a fun car, but not really made for the family. Never-the -less, it worked.
What I can say about Danny, at that time, is that he was a risk taker. He enjoyed watching boxing (Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammed Ali), loved hot foods (mother’s hot pepper salad), spending time with the family at the lake, rabbit hunting, and was a very hard worker.
In fact, the one thing I credit Danny for the most in my life is my work ethic. From day one after moving in, he insisted that I take on the roles of lawn care, snow removal, garbage disposal, and dog care. Yes, he also brought to our family a wonderful little beagle named Mac, who became my responsibility.
Early in their marriage, he owned a drywall business and was doing quite well; until the recession that is. He brought me along for several summers from five in the morning until six at night. It was tough, but it paid well and taught me the rewards of hard work.
During that time, he and mother had several children together giving me two wonderful new sisters (I have three sisters in all) who I love very much to this day.
Early on, life was great. Then, the recession happened, and Danny turned to his addictions that he fought for years. He had been a bit of a ‘hell raiser’ at one time in his life, but after marrying mother, he committed to change. He even took us to a great church for about a year (which I loved because of a cute girl that I couldn’t stop staring at…).
Over the years, he lost his battle with the demons that plagued him until he and my mother went separate ways after ten years of marriage. I won’t share details as we can all imagine, but, I will say that he was a man who carried a lot of pain and it was that pain that was never resolved. He did remarry later and tried to keep his life right. Sadly, he passed a few years ago of dementia.
As a stepfather, he always considered me like his own son. He helped with my band activities, taught me work ethics, respect for parents and authority, bought my first car, and taught me how to drive. He was always proud of me.
It’s hard to look back at some things, but I will say one thing about Danny, that is that he tried. He was far from perfect (what parent is perfect for that matter) and made many poor choices. But, I always felt that he loved me.
All the pain and memories are in the past today through forgiveness and grace. I’ve learned that parenting isn’t easy and brings with it unique challenges with each child. I’ve also learned, through my own failures, to love and forgive those who have had that responsibility for me.
For some people, it’s harder than others to look back and forgive. I know the pains of the past can resurface and we can blame our current issues on others who made poor choices, but at the end of the day, what really matters, is our own heart condition.
So, tonight, here’s to letting go and remembering the good. Here’s to Danny for teaching me to work hard, respect others, care for my home, that first car I’ll never forget, and, most of all, for my two wonderful sisters who I love very much…