The following is a very personal account of events in my life, first written in 2007-
It is also a tribute to a very special man.
It was 1969-
Man had landed on the surface of the moon and I had a new father in my life.
I guess playing the role as step-father seems daunting to any person about to face the challenge of so many new responsibilities, and mine was by far, no different.
Except for the fact he had never had any other children from any other relationships, you would never have known this man was not a father.
I met him on a Sunday. I was playing with my ‘winnie the pooh’ teapot set when he peeked his head in the door, and politely asked if he could join me.
This kind, gentle man obviously just one reason my mother must have chosen to marry him, especially after all she had been through.
But it hadn’t been that simple to begin. As a single mother in the sixties, bringing up two young girls alone and trying to hold down a job, my mother had become settled into the role of both mother and father, while her two young girls just assumed she was happy.
What would we know?
It was on one of our mother-daughter talks that mum broke the news of her intentions to marry, but in the same conversation, it was something we all had to agree on.
That 8 ½ year old girl with her yellow tea-set had made her mind up almost immediately!
And as the days approached the wedding, I remember how excited I was as I kept picturing myself, walking down the aisle, carrying the wedding rings!
My older sister had a harder time accepting this change to our life and for a long time to follow, found the struggle grew as she grew older.
For me, I was contented and seeing mum more often was the icing on the cake!
Having both parents working also allowed extra benefits and in no time at all, we were all packing our lives up and moving to a new town, to begin our new life, together.
I’d just begun high school and my mother and father now ran a local mixed business which we all took turns in helping behind the counter.
The early seventies was almost an unveiling of the person I was becoming and my sister seemed to have distanced herself even further apart from the family home. Mum had suffered years of illness, and there were times she was so sick I was afraid we were losing her. So often we were guarded by our relatives, most cases Nanna stepped in and that was usually protocol. But now we had dad to comfort us and to be there if she were to be rushed back to hospital This happened a few times but he handled each event with calm and control, always reassuring us of brighter days to come. I have no doubt he believed it, and for the flow of the next ten -fifteen years, as my parents set about their lives, watching me grow into a young woman, myself then setting up house and starting my own family, my father remained a loyal source for me to confide in.
With my own marriage in turmoil and mum’s health once more in jeopardy, my trips back home felt like a haven, a place where I belonged and felt safe.
I endured years of domestic violence at the hand of my husband, and on one cold rainy August night, it was my father who answered my rescue call.
The violence had already reached a dangerous level when mum and dad pulled up in my driveway. In the heat of the moment, the husband put his hands onto my mother……..the mild and softly spoken man who had sat holding a yellow plastic cup of tea, now visibly enraged, yelling for the husband to stop! My father shoved him away, but the husband had a history of boxing, (even the toughest opponent could be beaten to a pulp), and before I knew what had happened, my dear father now lay bleeding profusely from the nose, unconscious.
He had stepped in as a ‘man’, defending his wife, and his daughter and this was where it got him. Keeping a bedisde vigil that night at the hospital, felt long, cold and sad. I could barely speak the words that I should have said. This man had never stood up against any other man like that before. But this was his wife and daughter, and he did what he felt any other father would have done in his shoes.
That was many many years ago-we have all moved on since that terrible night.
Today, that dear sweet man still a huge part of my life, and that of my children and second husband. He has been with us since we laid dear sweet mum to rest, and will continue until it comes my turn to farewell him.
He will always be the man who is, my father.
By Debbie Stevens ©2007
The next chapter….three years on:
Life certainly creeps up on you and before you realise, so too the transformation through age-
Since losing mum, my own life took many new directions and often forced me into situations where I had to make personal sacrifices. The most recent came when dad collapsed in his home, the ambulance rushing him to hospital whereby he was immediately assessed and admitted.
We’d been living miles apart after dad decided he needed to return to the coast—-I remained with my family in Sydney.
This distance caused much heartache, but I had quietly hoped to find a happy-compromise, one that would be a suitable solution for all involved. Time ticked-by until the year 2010 and now my elderly father lay weak and malnutrition-ed. in a hospital bed—-it was all I needed to make the decision to move, again!
Six weeks passed, dad was released home and I quickly settled-in to my coastal house, only minutes away from dad’s house. My father suffers a few medical ailments including Emphysema, blocked arteries and low blood-pressure, just to name a few. I quickly learned through the staff at hospital, just how ill dad really was and set-about organising some services to assist him at home. I’d never seen my father looking so frail—-in six months, he had lost so much weight and really showing every day of his 83 years.
The picture sadly reminded me of mum’s last weeks, so I held back with tears, once again.
I’d been tormented by the “right” decision, but believe God has always had the controls, so I merely follow His lead—-sure, this has meant difficult choices and many sacrifices along the way, even as I type these words I have a dreadful sense of “absence”, missing my youngest boy who is into his first week of ‘school-holidays’, without me!
Not to become too miserable, I am quickly reminded of dad’s appreciation for my “cooking”, not that he has gained any weight [as yet], but comforted that he is trying.
Our lives are slowly falling into a nice pattern, I see the reassurance in his smile that has been missing for awhile and believe my presence has indeed, made a difference.
His legs are weaker and his steps are “less”, but he makes the effort to come inside….my father’s hands visibly “shake” so I wait until he’s safely-seated… “Will I put the kettle on dad?”he never says “no”, to a nice cup of tea.