“Let me start by saying, as a parent, I understand. I understand the reason you chose the Army life. You enlisted at the age of 17, right before my mom found out I was coming into the picture. You married her shortly after. Toxic choice. We all know it was. It’s okay though. I don’t remember you and her together. You divorced before I was two, and Mamaw and Grandaddy came from Kentucky to Arizona to get me while my mom stayed and packed her things. I stayed with my grandparents until I was 17.
You married my stepmom when I was three. I wasn’t at your wedding. I was maliciously sent to Chicago with your mother, by my mother, just to get back at you. I can’t imagine how that felt for you, but I’m sure it was painful. You were constantly gone on tours and living wherever the military sent you, so you didn’t see me much anyways. For me to miss your wedding… man, I can’t imagine.
I didn’t see you very much when I was growing up. Maybe once a year. Twice if the cards fell perfectly. Remember that time you came to my grandma’s and literally kidnapped me? Dragging me down the hill, me kicking and screaming, you trying to hush me by telling me my grandpa was in the car? I was four, and my three-year-old sister watched it all unfold. This is one of my earliest memories. Tragic.
However, I was always around her family. They are amazing and have never made me feel anything less than part of the family. I was three when I was dropped in and they are all I’ve ever known. My stepmother’s mother is someone I would consider the closest family relative relationship I have. God, I love that woman.
You and her didn’t have any more children until I was a teenager. Barely a teenager. She was born the day after my 13th birthday. But, I spent a lot of my time a little jealous of her because of the love and stability she had. Her parents married. Her family willing to travel across the country to be there for her. Her every need met. All while I sat in my own living situation, a smoke and roach infested home, listening to my grandparents worry about money, bills being paid, and eventually filing bankruptcy to save everything.
My grandparents tried their best, and God rest their souls, they were so selfless. But life kept coming, and they couldn’t keep up. They did everything they could.
She was the first person that said to me, ‘I know you’re jealous of her.’ I was maybe 14. Jealous of her stability, absolutely. Why was this relevant to point out? Ya’ll knew my living situation but did nothing to solve it. It’s fine. My grandparents from her are the most selfless people I know, and often helped my other grandparents in any way they could, since there were six children under their roof. Don’t get me started on my mom.
Every time I came to you for help, you directed me to her. She would always tell me, ‘We are your parents. We’re here to help you.’ But if I needed help with a bill, it was always, ‘I can’t help you. We just bought a camper and are trying to build hog barns.’ Yeah, thanks for the follow through on the, ‘Here to help you’ bit. Her own parents have even called her the Wicked Stepmother.
You and I had a falling out, around Halloween of 2016, over my decision to stay home with my son. I am married and in a stable family. It was well within my means to do that, regardless of what you thought. But we went around and around for about an hour.
All of the truths for me came out. I hated you growing up. You were absent. You didn’t say nice things about my mom. I didn’t understand why you were never around. I do now, but that doesn’t change the way I felt about you all of those years. But, you were quick to point out all the things you did for me. Like, giving me her family. Giving me a tiny bit of financial help in college, which I think you knew didn’t help my situation. Working two full-time jobs (one day, one night) and going to school in between. Everyone knows your financial situation. You boast about it proudly, but not enough to help your oldest daughter, I suppose. Or maybe she didn’t let you.
I’m guessing she wanted to come to your rescue just four days before Christmas. Do you know what she said to me?
‘If you can’t respect me and your Dad, don’t come to MY family’s Christmas celebrations.’
Pump the brakes there, crazy lady. Your family? Since when aren’t they mine? I’m pretty sure I told her it wasn’t her place to uninvite me to those Christmas celebrations, but she took it upon herself anyways.
She jumped up.
‘I don’t understand why you are being like this. I love you just as much as my own children.’
Ouch. Poor choice of words lady. You and I have never had the best relationship, but I thought all of that changed when we planned my wedding together. When we were pregnant at the same time, both with boys due four months apart. But, maybe I was wrong. I was furious, and that statement truly hurt me. It got heated quickly. Both of us were firm in our words. It was all fine and dandy until she put her finger in my face and my six-month-old was in my lap. I told her to leave.
‘Well go get on welfare like the rest of your family.’
You nasty woman. When all you can do is throw insults at a person, rather than the problem at hand, you know it’s bad.
I don’t know what your goal was that day, but I’m sure it wasn’t achieved. We didn’t go to those celebrations, but we had our own. All of my grandparents came to our house to celebrate with our son. We cooked, opened gifts, and had a great time.
I wonder if they resent you for that. We moved away six weeks later. A good ways away. Six hours to be exact. We don’t come back for the holidays. Not so much because of that, but because we want to do our celebrations with people we know love us.
I never asked anyone to choose sides for us, but nobody was willing to listen to my events of those days. All of the relationships are strained. It makes me extremely sad for a few of my family members on that side.
I still haven’t really talked to you. It’s been three years and we’ve maybe chatted 20 minutes over that time span. I had a miscarriage and all you said was, ‘That’s a tough one.’ I could cuss.
My kids don’t know you. But that seems to be a pattern in this family. Since your other two don’t know your mother. Karma? Maybe.
This time of the year always takes me back to that season. My first year of marriage, having a six-month-old son, and not even being able to celebrate those two huge milestones with my family because of her.
I’m bitter, but I forgive you. I like to think you weren’t always this way. I like to think it has been hard for you to stay out of my life. But, the past shows me it is probably pretty easy for you. My kids have a great family up here in the city. One we chose, and they chose us too.
My kids will never wonder their worth. I can promise you that. And if you’re parenting has taught me anything, it’s I never want to be anything like you.
Merry Christmas Dad. Don’t f*** it up with the other two.”
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