Dad Stories: My Kid's Stepfather is the Devil (Sorta)
I mean, really, what a jerk. The guy married my ex-wife, of all things. Honestly, what a tool. Does he know what he's in for?! He does not. And who does he think he is living in the same house in which my beautiful daughter sometimes resides? The nerve!
He does not belong there. He is not her father. I am. There's no question whatsoever about that. My kid knows that. Me ex-wife knows that. This ... guy knows that. So, what a turd, encroaching on my dad territory when I'm not around to guard it. I'm beside myself — in shock that he'd have the gall to do such a thing!
And yet … I think he's pretty damn cool.
See, he's a friend of mind. Oh heaves, my brain is addled. I'm supposed to hate this guy for marrying my ex-wife and being with my daughter when I can't. And yet, I do not.
The guy is kind of great.
We tried out for The Amazing Race together recently, him and I. What a hoot — the ex-husband and the new husband, the father and the stepfather, trying out for a chance at fame and glory! What a grand adventure to have, two dudes thrown into life together because of my daughter. Without her, there'd be no reason to care what man my ex-wife ended up with.
So, we tried out, hoping to be able to ride rickshaws in Hanoi, eat mutton in the Scottish Highlands, dance in Rio. We awaited our fate in a dingy casino outside Seattle, hoping the filmed interview portion would catapult us through onto TV.
“Crazy,” he said to the camera, “but we actually kind of like each other.”
Alas, we didn't make it on the show. But we became better friends for trying out together.
From the get-go, my ex wanted us guys to meet each other, to become fast friends. That — her wanting of me to befriend boyfriends of hers — hadn't always worked out that well in the past.
Actually, it's never worked out that well. One ex-boyfriend of hers called me up late one night to say, “I have a gun. I know where you work.” Both statements were true.
But when I met the man who is now her husband, we clicked. We became friends. We talked jazz and hiking, baseball and beard-grooming. We went out for beer and talked about my ex-wife's eccentricities and about the joy that my daughter is.
Not that it's all been easy for me. It hasn't. (Nor for him, I imagine.) She is my daughter. She is my flesh, my blood. I deserve to be with her every minute of every day, to laugh with her, love her, watch her grow.
We divorced though, her mother and I, and I lost that right. He gained some of it.
He can now laugh with her when I can't. Love her. Watch her grow when I can't. That's a tough pill to swallow sometimes, knowing that he gets a window into my daughter's life, one that is sometimes closed to me. A tough pill knowing that he's creating new windows into my daughter's life that I don't even know exist.
Sometimes my ex puts pictures on the Internet of the three of us — me, my kid, her husband. She labels it, “Grace's two dads.”
God, that hurts. Hurts because, in the strictest sense, she only has one dad — me. Hurts because, honestly, it's true. He is her other dad, and a good one. He does drive her to school, pack her lunches, make her laugh, tell her stories, teach her, hug before bed, wake her in the morning.
And he's good at it. How can I say anything bad about any of that? My daughter is a better person because he's in her life and, well, maybe mine is, too. And maybe I can bury my pride and the grudges and all the rest and be better for it.
But he's still a jerk.
Jonathan Shipley is a freelance writer living in Fremont. He enjoys many things including losing to his daughter at most every board game ever created. Follow his father-daughter road trip this summer down the Lincoln Highway.