When I was six years old I was sent away for the Christmas holidays to spend them with an aunt in another city. My mother was going through a very hard time after leaving my biological father. She had me and three boys and one more baby on the way. When you’re six years old it feels like you’re gone a lifetime when only one month had passed. I missed my family. I missed my home. I remember driving to our house one day so my mother could run in and pick something up and my bed, my very special bed that my father had made me, was sitting on the front lawn. I begged my mother to put it in the car. She told me we would come back for it. We never did. I still have a very vivid memory of that bed sitting on the front lawn. That was the last time I saw that little house on Hudson Street. And the third to last time that I ever saw my biological father. And I only saw him through the window as he waved goodbye. He was being left behind as well. My biological father wasn’t a good man. He was an addict and as addicts tend to do, caring for his family was not high on his list. He was prone to anger and very unreliable.
It was the best thing my mother ever did leaving him. Well actually the second best thing. The best thing she ever did was join her life and the life of myself and my three brothers and my unborn sibling with the man who would become my forever father.
When I returned to my family after being away over the Christmas holidays my mother was living in a small dump of an apartment. She was very good at creating comfortable home environments. She could take a few sheets from the second hand store and create curtains and a sofa cover and it would cheer everything up. Pictures on the walls, little treasures found for $.05 and $.10 apiece.
I went into the living room to find a little pile of Christmas presents wrapped up and waiting for me. Of course I had missed the family Christmas. I started to open my gifts but something told me to go into the hallway and look. I looked down the long dreary hallway to see a man’s head poking around the corner and quickly pulling back. I quickly pulled back into the living room. Then I peeked around the corner again and there was his head again. For only a second before he pulled back into the other room. Playing peekaboo with a six-year-old. He did this a number of times and was laughing what would become a very familiar laugh to me. He was trying to connect with me. He was the new man in my mothers life. I had no clue as to the significance of that moment. Meeting that man for the very first time in that way. Now looking back I see what a positive experience that was. To giggle and laugh and see this happy man. Who just wanted to connect with me. Where my biological father was always angry, my forever father was forever laughing.
We didn’t stay in that apartment for much longer after that. I would say just a few weeks. My mother, siblings and I and my forever laughing father moved into another apartment, a brighter happier looking place. Again my mother used her magic to turn that apartment into a comfortable and cheerful place.
My forever father turned it into a happy place with his laughter and his love for his new family.
This week my dad, the only real dad I know, the only real dad that I love, turned 77 years. And he is still laughing. Telling jokes. Teasing the grandchildren. Marvelling at the fact that he is now a great grandfather. And he still adores my mother.
She still makes him laugh. I love watching them make eye contact. My mother is a joker. And I guess that’s why they get along so well. She’s funny and he likes to laugh. I love watching them make each other blush. They have never lost the laughter. Nor their love for each other.
He saved my mother and my siblings and I. The unhappiness that we all felt at leaving a life that was not a good one behind was quickly forgotten in his happiness. And it all started with peekaboo.
Thanks Dad for being that guy that everyone needed. The man of our dreams. You are my hero.