A Day Late and a Dollar Short – Just Like My Dads
Father’s Day is over, and I didn’t get this posted. But I realized it’s a metaphor for… … my own paternal situation.
My biological father Bill may have been – OK probably was – a deadbeat. He had a college education as a journalist and the good looks and charm to make it, even in competitive Los Angeles. But according to my mom Dorthy, he preferred going bowling to going to a job. She had to clean a rich woman’s house just to put food in the fridge. I don’t know if the part about Bill stopping by to visit her and stealing jewelry from the woman – who then blamed my mother and called the cops, who allowed my mom to call her father, who came to the house and broke Bill’s jaw, whereupon Bill confessed – was true. What I do know is that they divorced and she and I went to live with her father. Bill never paid child support. And years later, when she had moved me to her in-laws in Pennsylvania and then remarried, and I hadn’t seen my father for six years, Bill came home to his parents to die. He had cancer at 36, and he brought a hella lotta bowling trophies with him. Just not enough to put food on the table, I guess.
But I have a few sweet memories of him. After the divorce, he took me for occasional overnights. He’d pick me up on Saturday afternoon, often lifting me, squealing with excitement, out of my bath with a big towel. We went to the store where I was allowed to pick out breakfast rolls and a comic book. Then he took me to the bowling alley where I cheered mightily for him, no matter whether he had a strike or a gutter ball. He read me the comic book to put me to sleep, in the one bed in his single apartment, and re-read it in the morning while we ate our rolls. Then he took me to a park or a movie before returning me to my mom.
At 12, I didn’t realize immediately that he had come home to die. He talked about going back to school to become a teacher like his brother. We spent much of a summer at my grandparents’ cabin in the Pocono Mountains. He fished a lot. My favorite day was when he took me out with him in the row boat. He baited the hooks for me, and I finally did catch one trout. He caught many. We had a feast with our neighbors that night. He cleaned the trout (I couldn’t watch) and then pan-fried them in corn meal. It was one of the best meals I ever had. As his body shrank and death drew closer, I couldn’t watch that either. But the last words he spoke to me (croaked, really, as he could hardly talk) were “You’re so beautiful.” And I would always have those comic book mornings and that sun-dappled day in the boat.
My stepfather Jim was a high school teacher and basketball coach. My mom met him while we were living with her in-laws (before Bill moved there to get cancer treatment and then die). She settled into housewifery with Jim. They were trying to have another child, and there were several heartbreaking miscarriages and one soul-crushing death of a son the day after birth before my healthy sister was finally born. During those years, Jim paid only minimal attention to me. He never adopted me. To be honest, he was obsessed with sports and especially with his own teams, and then, after she came along, with my little sister. During the day, when he wasn’t working, he liked to take her out and about. At night, he could usually be found at the local Republican Club, hashing out his coaching strategies with an assortment of former players, assistant coaches and local geezers – which I think made for a pretty lonely marriage for my mother. Eventually she divorced him, too.
Here are the positives about my stepfather. He had a good work ethic, always kept a roof over our heads, and yes, food in the fridge (OK, there were the early Spam years, but they got better). With his late nights and depending on how much beer was consumed, I’m sure he often felt like calling in sick. But he almost never did. Just like Bill and the stolen jewelry, I never knew if the story that he punched out a friend who made a sexual comment about me when I was home from college was true, but I could imagine it. He was a strait-laced, traditional man, and even though he didn’t understand things like homosexuality, he stood up for a fellow teacher when the school board threatened to revoke his pension for having a gay relationship.
My best memories were much later, when he’d visit my home in Southern California. He finally treated me equal to my sister and talked to me as one would to the eldest child. On long walks with my dog, he spoke more personally than he ever had. The most meaningful thing he said to me was that he wished he had been a better husband and father. I’m old enough now to know how hard it is to live with mistakes that cannot be undone.
Here’s the kicker: My two fathers were brothers. One may have wanted to do better, but he didn’t, and then he ran out of time. My stepfather tried harder, but unfortunately, he made one more mistake before he died. He was proud of the money he had saved in order to leave something to my sister and me. But when he became sick, he gave too much power to a pretty, but unscrupulous, woman. She claimed (through her lawyer) that he wanted her to have that money. At least I knew my stepfather well enough to know that it wasn’t true. He wasn’t perfect, but he loved his daughters.
My mom with her current and future husbands –
I would love to know what is going on in those heads!
80 thoughts on “A Day Late and a Dollar Short – Just Like My Dads”
Excellent read. So well written.
Thank you, Vena! I’m glad you appreciated it. 🙂
Amazing how with age and experience your perspective can change.
So true, Penny! Thanks for reading.
I remember the family dynamics very well. My Mom was always close to your father, and was just one of the family who gave your step-dad a hard time, I am assuming you know that, because they did, your Mom too. I thought they were very unfair, she was one of my favorite relatives and I likes your step-dad better than his brother too. Your Grandparents were wonderful, they never said anything about the situation but did understand very well what went on. I loved your grandparents and always thought they and Great Grandma were our best relatives.
Thanks for sharing that, Debi! It’s so interesting because it doesn’t all match what I saw. Yes, I can imagine much of the family was disapproving. But I have to say my grandmother was disapproving, too. She and my mom didn’t get along very well, and I think there was fault on both sides. My grandfather, of course, seemed to be a prince!
Sweet story, Lynda. You are such a wonderful writer.
Family. It always seems to be such a mixed bag, but as we get older, how potent even the scraps of our stories can be.
You sound very eloquent yourself! Thanks for reading.
I feel so sad after reading the story between your father and you. I don’t have a close relationship with my father. Maybe because he is not good at express emotions, or maybe because we didn’t spend much time together. He said he did not want to come to my wedding if I got married because he couldn’t stand someone else took me away from him.Deep in my heart, I always know that he loves me very much.however, by the time I realized that I have never spend real time with him, I have already come to America, away from home.
That is sad that you’re missing your father. I take it he is in your home country? Perhaps you could visit him and try to forge a new relationship.
Thank you for sharing your dads with us. Your story is very inspiring. I like how you describe your dads with negative and positive memories. The story reminds me of my father, who is always there for me. I believe that every father try their best to make us happy.
I have an interesting story about fathers as well. I am a love child. My mom was married to Donald first and had my brother, Dwight. They divorced, and my mom married Ben who was supposed to be my father. Unfortunately, Ben was not able to have children, so he gave my mom permission to sleep with another man to get pregnant because she wanted more children. She found Jason who was 18, but still in high school. He worked for Best Buy, and he did not have a lot going on in his life (also he was my brother’s friend). My mom got pregnant and thinking Jason would leave, she kept me. However, Jason did not leave, and I had an awkward childhood of my mom, my “dad,” and some random guy who claimed to be a family friend. I was often asked if Jason was my brother because he was so young and we looked so much alike. I always had a feeling I was Jason’s daughter but then I would shrug it off like I had a wild imagination. My mom told me the truth about my father in 2016 shortly after I was raped (2016 was not a good year for me). Ben also was dead as well. Every time a guy tells me their type is a girl with daddy issues, I always tell them that my daddy issues are so complex that you would get lost after two minutes of me talking lol.
Wow! I think that story beats mine! But try to think of it this way: we are unique. A guy should not hope for a girl with daddy issues, and a girl should not hope for a guy with daddy issues – talk about complicated psychopathy! But most of us have some – the key is to understand them and not let them control us.
Great story and you have a wonderful forgiving heart. The way you describe; how your biological father was absent, then came back to die but also rebuild his relationship with you is awesome. Its wonderful when you can take the negative part of the relationship and choose to move on with the positive side of things.
I also wanted to comment about your mother. Sounds like you have an amazing, hard working and dedicated mom =).
So often we don’t get everything we need from our relationships, parents and otherwise. But harboring anger doesn’t do anybody any good! Thanks for your comments.
I find this post very touching and nostalgic, thank you for sharing such poignant memories of your childhood and your parent(s). I often wonder how the generation before us viewed being emotionally in touch with oneself and expression of those emotions to others. They seem to have been much more stoic and closed-off than we Gen-Xers are and even more so when comparing them to the Millenials. Tough situations to overcome but they seem to have done their jobs in raising you and your sister right… I was surprised to find out the kicker of your fathers being brothers. I didn’t see that coming and it make your story quite unforgettable. I hope your mother was able to find love again and happy to hear that you and your stepfather came to terms in his later years. I look forward to reading more on your blog!
Yes, it is interesting to contemplate how things were for previous generations! Not to mention future ones! It’s true my father situation was unusual, and I too was happy to come to terms with my stepfather. Unfortunately, my mother’s final years did not end well due to a mental illness.
Although your father wasnt able to give you the attention you needed, you showed girl power and gave yourself enough confidence to be successful!
There is a concept called re-parenting yourself. I don’t think it’s as good as the real thing – but sometimes it’s all we’ve got!
Did you ever find it weird that both of your fathers were brothers? Reading this article, it makes me reflect on my relationship not only with my father but also my mother. I do not feel very close to them and there is always a barrier between us because of the parent-child dynamic relationship. It seems so hard to get past that. I wish one day I can figure out a way to improve my relationships with my parents. Thank you for allowing me to realize that!
Yes, I did know it was weird. And when I was younger my parents wanted me to keep it a secret. I told a couple friends anyway, and once I was grown I decided that I didn’t want to be secretive, I wanted to be very open about my life. You’re still young, so I think there is time for your parents to realize that you are an adult and treat you that way. That opens the door for a closer relationship. And here’s a thought: In the spirit of openness, you could even tell them that you’d like a closer relationship, and what you think it might take.
I can relate on how perspective changes when you get older. My parents came to America when I was 5 years old, I don’t really remember much as baby but my grandparents and aunts and uncles always took care of me. My siblings and I came to America when i was 10, and our family reunited. But my Uncles, who is my dad’s brothers always took care of us and Aunts who were my mom’s sisters took care of us as well. Could it be because of cultural different? Cause when I came to America I see a lot of deadbeats and single mothers more.
I do think that there are cultural differences in which extended family play more of a role than they do here.
Thank you for sharing I think we all have misconceptions about what we consider a perfect family but the truth is their is no such thing as a perfect family.In fact most families have their problems no family is perfect and neither is any father.
You’re welcome! I enjoy sharing the truth of my experience. We all have skeletons in the closet.
I found this Story as a really excellent read. It’s very crazy how as you get older you realize more that just the picture that you see. None the less this is a great read and I am glad you had got that actual daughter time with your step father.
I am glad I got that time also!
SO well written. I can say this reminded me of my biological dad, though i never met him, i knew he was a deadbeat also. My mother was a single mother until she met my stepfather and again, became divorced after having a child with my stepfather. At least i know I’m not the only one who was going through something similar.
You are so not the only one!
I cannot relate to your story, but I do know people who I am close to that can relate to your story and I’ve seen the emotions and stress it puts them through. Although it’s a very unfortunate situation to be in and I could never imagine how I would be able to handle it emotionally. I know it helps mold people and it has made you very strong and gritty individual.
Thank you. I’m glad you haven’t had to go through this. But you’re right – it’s made me stronger for sure.
This was an amazing story that made me think about my father. Life is short and you never know how long someones got. Thats its always good to cherish the little moments.
You will think about both your parents throughout your life, good and bad. You’re right that it’s important to cherish those special moments.
Wow, it’s never easy to see someone go through a divorce, I am glad you were able to make great memories despite that. Life goes by in an instant, I lost someone very close to me, and I wish I could only be there to share more memories with him and tell him how much I really felt about him. The moments we shared will always stay together.
I’m glad you have those memories of your loved one, at least.
You’re a better woman than I would’ve been. I don’t really forgive people who play favorites.
I hear you!
Some people find it hard to feel the same love for a stepchild as a blood child. And I think I knew that even as a kid. But you know what I think? At the very least, they damn sure should try not to show it! My stepfather finally ‘got it,’ but not until I (the stepchild he got when I was about 8) was over 40 years old.
But at least he finally got it. There is something to be said about that.
You’re a better woman than me; I don’t know how you found the strength to forgive someone that was absent and showcased favoritism. I wouldn’t know what to do.
It was hard. And my stepdad and I were estranged for about 9 years. But time helps. And I knew our separation made my sister unhappy, so I was motivated to forgive.
I was happy to read that even though he was not the best dad you can still say all the great things about him!
Most people are a mixture of good and bad! One of the lessons of life is to figure out which is greater…
I don’t have a great relationship with my dad either, your story made me feel like I’m not as alone as I thought, Take Care!
I’m sorry to hear that, but boy, you are not alone.
This reading was very tough. I can’t imagine going through something like that. I do have a friend who is going through something like this. For example, their parents broke up. After the break-up, the mother started dating the dad’s sister. Then both the mother and the aunt (who were dating) forced the dad into not being able to see my friend. My friend also isn’t allowed to meet or have any communication with their half-brother (since the dad remarried). My friend currently lives with his mother and aunt in his grandma’s mobile home, which currently has approximately eight people. He is forced to live in a closet. The mother and aunt also don’t associate themselves with him and have abandoned him.
How sad for children to be so torn apart by adults’ childish jealousies!
This is probably one of my favorite blog posts that you’ve written! Such a touching story. You have a big heart, and it’s very inspiring. I don’t really have a good relationship with my father either, so many of the things you’ve written in this post really touched my heart.
I feel sad after I read your story, I can feel that both of your fathers love you, even though they did not show it. I did not have a great relationship with my dad before because I thought he did not know what I wanted, he always gave me what he wanted, and forced me to do what he thought was good to me, so I tried to communicate to him. Now I have a great relationship with my dad because we know each other very right now. Thus I think communication is really important. Moreover, we should not feel shy or shame to communicate with our dad and mom, they get older and older, one day they will leave us, so we do not have a lot of chances to talk with them.
That is such an excellent point about how one day they will be gone. Yes, I wish I could redo some of my time with all my parents.
Wow what a plot twist at the end. I greatly enjoyed reading this piece. It’s heartbreaking but at the same time it’s good to see that despite all the “bad” you have still have a very good image of your late father and good memories.
Yes, thanks! I’m really glad, too.
I really enjoyed reading this, as I have also felt like I didn’t take advantage of certain moments that I had with my grandpa. Much like your stepfather, I wish I would have done more to let him know how much I appreciated him. It is very difficult knowing that you can’t go back and do certain things differently.
It certainly is, so all the more reason to show appreciation NOW.
This is such a beautiful story. There are many good memories within this post. I had a huge smile as a read all through out the end. Great Post Professor Hogan.
– Omar Mercado Soto
This is such an amazing story! Reading this got me teary! You have a wonderful forgiving heart. I know it is very difficult to live without biological father. I am impressed by the way that you can leave the negative part of the relationship and choose to move on with positivities. I learned a lot from you!
I’m so glad you learned something from my sharing!
Amazing read, family stories always touch the reader differently in my opinion.
Yes, we always have our own take on our family. Thanks for reading, Mark!
Wow what a fascinating life story… I find it hard to be a step mom myself but we really don’t see the kids they don’t come over because of there mom. my girls also have a step father but I make sure that he doesn’t treat my girls any different from his kids because I sure don’t. My girls have a step mother also through their father and they get treated different from the half sibling from their father and I tell them to speak up and they don’t ..I guess they have to wait till they get old, but it never to late to speak up. Anyways it sounds that both brothers finally knew that they can both trust in you and tell you how they really felt. I’m glad that he finally realized what he had done to you. As for the money you should of fought for your right and your sisters rights to it you deserved to have that and more.
My sister and I did fight, but it turned out that my dad giving his friend full power of attorney meant we couldn’t touch her. So we just had to accept it and move on. I tell myself that we have a happier life than her. She is a nervous person and to some extent must be living life always looking over her shoulder. Because I bet she has done this to others.
Your story is so amazing! My boyfriend and I are reading this and it your life sounds like a movie. Your mom was a strong woman for pulling through for both you and your sister.
Wow, a movie! I wonder what actress would play me? 😉 Glad you’re enjoying the stories.
Very interesting life story I found that I have similarities to Bill for once I had a job before I left it to attend school and I was making good money way more than my current job for my age, but while working I would always wonder if I should return to school at my home town and one day I just called in and talk to the manager that I was leaving in order to return to school and try and finish some degree because if I stay here I will always wonder what if I went back to school and for Jim he sounds like my father who is not similar to me also.
It’s never too late to go back, and more education is always a good thing! Thanks for reading.
Such a riveting post. It seems like the more we age, the more we may realize how imperfect our parental figures are. I have had so many hot and cold moments with my father; I know he loves me and wants to do right by me, yet what I get is an ability to communicate and empathize. Perhaps generational gaps between us and our parents are actually that big. We don’t truly understand everything they went through, nor do they understand what we are currently going through, until we’re all either old or dead. As my father’s son, one thing I can do is learn from his mistakes so that I don’t make them myself.
I love your last sentence. Too many of us repeat our parents’ mistakes because that’s what we know. But if we can reach a greater awareness to overcome that tendency, we will also produce happier children.
Great read and love the photo you shared. My parents divorced when I was very young. Although I lived through and saw the reasons why, I still did not understand. I lived with mixed emotions for many years until I realized I would only be able to enjoy my own life if I forgave.
To a child, divorce is very confusing. So imagine having your uncle become your stepfather! Apparently there was all kinds of family drama that I was unaware of. But as you say, as an adult forgiving is very important.
Interesting story. It was a big surprise that your stepfather was your fathers brother.
I know, that’s an unusual family situation, right?
This post was sweet to read. I love hearing about how your fathers were there for you even in the littlest of ways. My father was never around for be there for my mother or me. I’ve always yearned for that affection and never had it. The most touching part was when your father realized he could of been a better father and husband. Also, it’s cool how they were brothers.
Well, I don’t mean to disappoint you, but I was kind of talking about how my fathers were NOT there for me. But it was gratifying when my stepfather admitted that he could have done better (and by then he was doing better). I’m sorry your father was not there for you. 🙁 It’s sad how many people have that story.
I am sorry to hear that both your biological father and stepfather poorly handled the role as a dad. The upside about this post is that you continue to remember the good old days with your father Bill. I believe that is the best way to keep him in remembrance.
Thank you! And I remember good about my stepdad, too. As he got older he said he wished he had been a better husband and father.
What a wonderful story, I really like how you found the positive aspects of life with your fathers and turned them into special memories
I don’t always turn lemons into lemonade – but sometimes! 🙂
This by far was my favorite post. Beautifully written and so much insight. I love the picture of the 3 of them, its as if none of them know what’s to come. Very sad, very happy, and very great story.
Thank you! I know, that picture cracks me up. 🙂
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this. I love how through all the pain you are able to see the good in your fathers. I was able to relate to many of those feelings with my own father. What a shocker at the end! I would have never guessed they were brothers and I kept thinking how sweet it was for your mother’s husband to allow her ex and daughter’s father to move in when sick. It makes so much more sense now!
Yeah, my family situation is pretty unusual. So my sister is actually my half sister and half cousin LOL. I’m glad this touched your own feelings about your father.
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