I’m sitting in a booth at a local coffee shop, shoveling soup in my mouth before going to a dentist appointment that is almost certainly ending with a cavity filling. Over the strains of a Coldplay song, I hear a dad playing with his young son. He has obviously just picked up his son from school, and the two are intently cataloguing the boy’s selection of play cars.
Intuitively, I can tell that Dad doesn’t live full time with Kiddo. I pick up on the newness of the conversation, the excitement of playtime and the specialness of this coffee shop date. It is funny how the world works- walking to the coffee shop, I was consumed with the fact that Father’s Day is this weekend. When your dad dies at 15, the holiday takes on a whole new meaning. When you have a great stepdad, there is a whole other layer on top of that emotion.
I’ve spent a long time- 15 years – feeling a deep unease in early June. Heavy heart strolling through Hallmark, looking for a card (stepdad cards are like finding a unicorn in a jungle). Seeing the television ads, a reminder of what I'm missing. It is something that will always be hard, there is nothing that will change there.
But this year, I’ve decided that “hard” will not be the emotion I lead with. Instead of looking to the loss, the gaping hole in my family tree, this year I’m looking to all the amazing dads in my life. I’m so undeniably lucky to have an incredible stepdad, who I’ve been lucky to have in my life for more than half of my thirty years. He has been an indelible part of my family, supporting me through all the ups and downs of my crazy life. I’d be nowhere if it weren’t for him. I have a great father in-law who values family so highly and has welcomed me into the family fold with love. I have family, both blood and chosen, who are guideposts in my life. I’m also at a stage in life where my friends are becoming incredible parents—seeing them enter this new role in life makes your heart explode, no matter who you are.
So to keep with the family tree theme, I guess I just have a lot more leaves on my tree. This year, I am choosing to see that and know that I’m surrounded by an incredible tribe. Lead with love, and let that buoy up my heavy heart.