You never forget receiving shocking news, and the details of the day often stick with you as clearly as the news itself. I distinctly remember standing in the park, watching my boyfriend (now husband) play baseball. My walkie-talkie sized Nokia rang and a funny number showed up. I answered it and listened intently at the biggest surprise of my life.
My husband’s best friend saw me from the dugout and mouthed, “What’s wrong?” I just shook my head. He later said he thought someone had died by my pale and expressionless face. In all honesty, I don’t think a death would have been as shocking as finding out my dad was married.
I had just gotten used to my mom dating after my parent’s divorce. And while I actually had grown to like my soon-to-be step-dad, it took a lot of time. I admit to acting like a total brat for a while, perhaps because I did not want to see my mom get hurt again. Something about being the oldest always made me feel this unnecessary responsibility to take care of both my parents and my sister. Now I felt as if I needed to protect my dad, but couldn’t.
He was calling from the Philippines where he had just gotten married to a women he met online. I listened intently as each detail seemed more unbelievable. My sister and I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks, but he was retired and liked to travel so we assumed he was visiting relatives out West. I also knew he had talked to a few women online (another shock at first), but had no idea it was this serious.
I would like to say that when he made it back to the States everything calmed down inside me and we all lived happily ever after. But that would be a bald-faced lie. It took me a while to get up the courage to meet my new step-mom, and I had to casually start coming around again until we actually formed a relationship.
In my mind, my dad went about his new marriage all-wrong. I didn’t like it at first when my mom started dating, but my step-dad came by our house after their first date. They were the same age and dated about a year before getting married. I also thought it was cute and innocent that they met at one of my high school football games while she was filming in the press box and he was the press box referee.
My new step-mom was closer to my age than my dad’s, and we had never even heard of her until they came home married. Even though I now realize that my sister’s and my opinion didn’t matter, at the time I felt like my dad didn’t care about us. I felt like we were not important enough to have met his girlfriend.
They eventually had a child, and for a while it was hard to see my dad doing fun things with this little girl knowing that he was always working when I was young. I would alternate between trying to talk to him and then getting mad and staying away for another year. This went on for too long, and I became a bitter person. Then one night something just “clicked.”
To say the Lord works in mysterious ways is an understatement, because what broke me was an Adam Sandler movie. My husband and I were watching the movie Click, one of his more serious comedies that had an actual plot. Sandler’s character has a magic remote that can fast forward and rewind parts of his life. He ends out getting promotions and ahead in his career, unfortunately by fast-forwarding family time.
Then his dad dies. He rewinds back to the last time he saw his dad and plays it over and over again, just to hear his dad’s last words. He was rude to his dad that day and regretted it forever. Tears ran down my face as I thought, What if my dad died tomorrow? I told my husband that I had to talk to my dad. So the next time I was in my hometown, I found him and poured my heart out.
I spotted him at a high school football game and asked him to go talk in private. We walked in the dark and then stopped under a light to talk. I immediately started crying when I explained how sorry I was for judging him. As long as he was happy, it should not matter how he got there. I wanted to get to know my step-mom and my little sister.
Luckily my little sister was only a few years old, so she may not ever remember life without me. She is funny and a joy to watch grow up. My step-mom is also a nice person, whom I never would have met had I not gotten over my spoiled bratness. Now my son has three sets of grandparents who love him, and both my parents seem genuinely happy. I have good relationships with all of my parents and am glad they ignored me when I tried to “protect” them.
I am proud to say I came full circle from that high school baseball game when I got my shocking news to the high school football game when I truly forgave my father. If I had a magic remote I would rewind to all the times I was a brat to my parents and do it all differently. But real life doesn’t let you go back, only forward. That’s why it’s important to make sure every scene counts in your personal movie.
*Originally written for Kids Life Magazine.