Thursday, October 15, 2009

stepping up

There's a new movie out called The Stepfather. It's a thriller-slash-horror film about Mom's new man who is perfect in every way except that he just may have murdered his previous stepfamily. It's a remake of a 1987 film by the same name. In 1987 I had my very own evil stepfather. He and my mother met and got married within 2 years of my parent's divorce. His name was Daniel. My younger brother's name was Daniel, so people assumed he was his dad. This infuriated me. Daniel (jr) didn't mind. He seemed to understand that having a dad-type guy around on a daily basis when your own couldn't be was a pretty good deal. He gave us rides. He had a big family that immediately included us in all its big-family activities. He took us skiing. He worked with people with developmental disabilities and took them skiing. He was kind of clumsy and goofy in real-life, but on the ski slope he was pure grace, and would practically dance down that mountain, poles swinging with elegant efficiency, a permanent grin under his frost-crusted moustache.

He didn't have a mysterious lock-box full of body parts in the basement. He didn't molest anyone. He wasn't an alcoholic. He was kind and affectionate with our mother. I don't remember him raising as much as his voice to her, or to us, though I asked for it. He chewed with his mouth open and was a bit of a slob and sometimes lacked what might be considered common sense, like the time he left my 6-year-old brother and our stepcousins at a mall by themselves for hours. I forget the circumstances. It was probably a dumb call, but he had no prior experience with kids. He probably wanted kids of his own, but instead got a teenage girl with a rotten disposition who resented him for breathing (never mind chewing with his mouth open).

Dan and my mother split up while I was in college. It was a big loss for my little brother, and for myself, too. I'd recently realized what a great person Dan was -- and how poorly I'd treated him -- and we were getting along for once. (He'd been willing all along.) Years later we met for coffee and I apologized. He teared up and gave me a big hug. Evil man, I tell you.

This psycho stepparent stereotype has got to go. I had an extraordinary stepmother as well, and am so grateful for them both, especially now. I recall their kindness, humor and patience as I stumble along my own stepparenting path with my partner's 12-year-old son, in an only moderately evil manner.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr