Reminiscing about a blended family's positive experience.
She was five years old when we met, her little sister, two. Their mother, who I loved dearly is a year older than me. I was 22 at the time her Mom and I married. I honestly have to say there were some awkward moments early on in our instant family. Thirty plus years has passed since that first meeting. Mom and I are still married, but this story is about her.
Back then, like today, she has a relationship with her biological father. I knew she was old enough at five to know I was not her Daddy. I never let her call me dad or daddy, Though she tried. I didn't want her to get confused about the roles these two men played in her life. Nor, did I want the relationship with her father to be blurred with our relationship. I felt strongly she needed to know I was someone different. So, she referred to me by name and for a time that was good enough.
Over the years I was unbelievably blessed to meet this little person. Blessed in ways greater than a real father could be. I mean, in reality she never had to like me, or accept me, I was the guy that took her mom from her dad. In the eyes of a five year old all the adult things can't be seen. I did not steal her mom. They were separated for over a year before we met. But, to a child, I don't think that matters.
No, the blessings came in small doses. When I fixed up an old bicycle we found at a garage sale and taught her to ride. When at plays, concerts, ball games and other events she would smile when she seen me and her Mom in the crowd. One day after school, she was in the fourth or fifth grade. While showing me her homework, she said, “Pop, look at this.” I didn't say anything. I am sure I had a split second reaction on my face, at first I didn’t realize she spoke to me. I played it cool and carried on like nothing had happened. She didn't ask permission to use the moniker. She just looked at me with eyes, daring me to contradict her. She smiled when she handed me the papers. Since that day, I have not heard her refer to me any other way. She always introduces me, “This is my Pop.” No further explanations. No use of the word step. I became her “Pop”. I was adopted! The distinction was clear. We both knew I was not her Dad, yet we also knew a bond had formed.
I was there the evening she come home with a broken heart. She cried on my shoulder, I wish I would have saved that tear soaked shirt. I was there when she changed her first flat. Well, I changed the flat, she helped. But, I have heard she has changed one or two on her own.
On Father's Day, the cards changed. They now have a line through the word "Father" and “POP” is written above in her her distinctive hand. Don't get me wrong. This is about her, not me. I will admit I have become a proud Pop.
When she was in college. Her boyfriend invited me to lunch one day. He asked for my permission (my permission?) to "ask for hand in marriage". He has become an outstanding son-in-law and father in his own right.
Her Dad and I are civil when in the same room. However, her Pop walked her down the aisle (me giving away the bride?). Her family has grown and the kids call me Grandpa. She won't let me tell them no. We have long agreed I was right not letting her call me daddy. I am happy to be called Pop. She drew this line, her children will know me as Grandpa.
I am not sure I can say I love her as a daughter. I never fathered a daughter. I never treated her as anything less than my own child. But, I think our relationship is different. She never had to like me, she chose to. We never had to love each other, we grew to. Today, I could not be more proud of the woman she has become.