This Fathers’ Day is bittersweet for me. As a girl with two dads – one biological and one stepdad – Fathers’ Day has often been a balancing act. Whenever it became difficult, I reminded myself that I was fortunate to have the problem of two dads to honor.
My relationship with my biological father has often been strained, with long periods of time not speaking with him. While my parents divorced when I was a young three year old girl, and thus I have few memories of that time, the negative fallout over the years has been a struggle. As I have grown older and pieced more things together, I have realized that my mom had incredible courage to leave my biological dad and forge a better path ahead for us both.
I have strived to find a healthy way to have my biological father in my life during my adult years, and through many ups and downs – trying to figure out frequency of contact that would keep things positive and not destructive, celebrating when I thought I had a successful visit with my dad, apologizing for things I should not have apologized for, calling my father on Christmas Eve/Day to wish him a Merry Christmas during the past two years and then crying because he berated me on the phone, sitting silently by while he spoke ill of my family, trekking up to far Northeast Iowa multiple years to visit him when he never once left his farm to visit me or even meet me anywhere as an adult – I have determined that in an emotionally abusive relationship, there is no healthy balance. And so, with the turn of the calendar to 2019, I was done. I could no longer carry all of this on my shoulders.
Of course I will always love my biological father. That goes without saying, even if I cannot have a healthy relationship with him. He has good traits that were passed on to me, and I wish it was possible to have him in my life. At this point, it is not.
But wait, I led with the sad part of the story. The happy part is on its way!
After my mom divorced my biological dad, she met a wonderful guy named Dave and married him. At that point, Dave was my dad too. He never treated me as anything less than his daughter. Same with his family: I was their niece, granddaughter, cousin, etc. My stepdad even attempted to adopt me, but my biological father said that would never happen. So rather than go through a big battle, my last name remained Gesing. But to my stepdad’s family, I was a Schulz anyway. I didn’t need a document saying it.
As I have grown older, I have come to appreciate just how much strength and love it took for my stepdad – whom I call Dad – Dave to not only accept me, but to love me wholeheartedly, as part of a package deal when he married my mom. And when they had two kids, Sarah and Mitch, they were immediately my full sister and brother. We are all close, and I love it.
Dave was the dad who was there for it all: my first day of kindergarten, when I lost my first tooth, reassuring me when I was terrified to start driving (Crazy, right?! It’s true!), rebuilding my first car – a sweet red 1990 Plymouth Sundance with a sunroof, smiling proudly when I was named valedictorian at my high school graduation, helping me through the process of buying my first new car, patiently listening to my political rants, giving me a hard time so I laugh when perhaps I am taking things a little too seriously, and the list goes on.
So, on this Fathers’ Day, I say thank you to my dad Dave and all of the dads who chose their daughters and sons. Your positive impact in our lives cannot be measured.