I’ve never written about this before, and I’ve hardly even spoken about it before now. I missed last week’s post because I’ve been working on this one, and it’s a little longer than usual. It’s deeply personal, and I hope that you can enjoy and maybe learn something from this little piece of my short history. Unrelatedly, there’s also a special announcement regarding World Book Day this Sunday, April 23rd.
I’ve had two dads in my life. My biological father, John, and my mother got a divorce when I was very young. I don’t remember that time well, but I recognize now that it affected me in ways that for a long time I denied or was ignorant to. It left a wanting that I’ve somewhat come to terms with. Later, when I was around 8, I think, my mom met Ron — the man that would become my step-father and my other dad. These two men, vastly different and yet somehow similar, formed the basis for my conflict patterns and life road, but neither of them was what I can consider a great role model. They were both good dads, in their own ways, but I would consider them to be unconventional role models. They taught me to chase my dreams, to never stop, to not relent, to love and respect, but mostly they did it by showing me their missteps instead of their victories.
John wanted to be a minister. He graduated from Bible school, and he loved Jesus and loved people. Unfortunately, his dream got away from him. He got involved with some common bad habits. He drank a little too much, too often. Smoked a little too much, too often. He was married several times and had kids with multiple women. My mother wasn’t his first wife, but she was his last. They got a divorce for a lot of reasons, most of which I haven’t attempted to know or understand. I don’t care to. Sometimes the puzzle pieces just don’t fall together. All I do know is that when they got a divorce, John still tried to be a dad. He wasn’t perfect. No one is.
When his brother got sick, however, John moved to Arkansas to be with him. His brother had heart disease, and within several years of my dad living there his brother had passed away. My dad smoked and drank more than ever — something we’ve had candid talks about since. He was in a dark place, and it almost took his life. He ended up in the hospital with emphysema. On top of that, he had to have a heart operation, with a defibrillator and pacemaker installed. He was in bad shape, living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, making what money he could at a tire shop. It was a far cry from being a minister. Now in his 50’s, my dad moved in with his parents again, which to some would sound like a step back. But it wasn’t. For John, it was his redemption. His parents are avid churchgoers, and with them at his side, John helped to found a church in Mississippi. It was a long road, a difficult and scary road, but my dad overcame. After all the heartbreak, sickness, and addiction battles, he in many ways still achieved his dream. Today he lives in Florida, and we talk more than we have in years. On my 21st birthday he texted me and said, “Just because u can drink now dont do it.”
Ron came into my life while John was in Arkansas, and at first he seemed everything John wasn’t. He was tall, somewhat wealthy, rocked a killer mustache while John had a mullet. Ron was older, and he already had two steel heart valves from medical issues he suffered with in his 40’s. Ron and my mom fell in love in a slowly-quick kind of way. It was a hard time for my family, and he seemed to be a hero. Ron had been a millionaire twice in his life, and had lost it both times. He was already in or nearing his 60’s, and after he and my mom married and he began to get older, he became more and more money hungry. It wasn’t that he was sacrificing everything for money, but when we hit hard times, he wasn’t exactly used to it. The company he and my mom worked at — a company he’d taken a demotion at to be with my mom — committed bankruptcy and went out of business, and it hit us hard. My family immediately fell from triple-digit yearly income to near-poverty. My parents took what jobs they could, and Ron never stopped fighting for his fortune.
In the flurry of our financial trapdoor, Ron got involved with a gold company, was framed for stealing, and quit when they found out he was innocent and never gave any sort of apology or compensation for forced time off. While he was there, however, he met a businessman that will remained unnamed — but this man was essentially the devil. He strung Ron along with the promise of a million-plus dollar payout. Ron slaved for this new company for over a year and got a mere four mediocre paychecks. Eventually, it started to cost him his marriage to my mom. They were getting torn apart. The businessman and Ron’s poor discernment were at fault. The family decided (Ron included) that we would move back to Colorado, where one of my brothers was attending college and where that same brother and I were born. When the time came, Ron stayed behind. We didn’t see him again for months. I won’t go into the gritty details, but it was a very hard time for the family. I can’t speak for everyone’s emotions, but I became seethingly angry with him when he finally did return. I’d just begun to make new friends again, friends I adored, and when Ron arrived we found out the altitude in Colorado was too high for his heart issues and that we’d have to move again. Ron ended up quitting his job with the devilish businessman, and I remember him crying over the loss while I couldn’t understand it. I judged him for so long, suffered with so much anger and resentment, until I realized why it was so painful. He’d lost his dream. He’d chased his dream with fervor and lost it.
After those few hard years followed some time of healing for the family — healing I didn’t take part in. Ron grew ill, and in 2014, when we’d just gotten home from a family vacation to New York City, Ron was admitted to the hospital. He’d had a stroke. In February of that same year I’d published my first book, The Book of Ardilia, and Ron — my stepdad — was the first to read it. He was the first to review it on Amazon, a review riddled with grammar and spelling errors, written by a man who was once an excellent writer. He wasn’t able to finish reading that first book, but I remember the last words he said to me still today. He passed away after a short week in the hospital and was unable to speak for the last two days, but two days before he died, as I was sitting beside him on the hospital bed, he leaned over and whispered in my ear, his voice faltering, “You’re a good writer, son.”
It would be two more months before I found it in my heart to forgive him for everything, before I came to terms with his actions and understood him as he was when he passed away instead of how he was when I’d met him ten years earlier.
My dads taught me two of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned, and together they taught me to chase my dreams. That might sound foreign after hearing their stories, but to me it resonates like the beating of a drum, always playing incessantly in the back of my mind. John taught me to never give up, that it’s never too late to try, and that my dreams — big or small — are worth the long, hard fight. John showed me that mistakes don’t define a person, that failures don’t equal the sum of the whole, but instead that determination and willingness to adapt are the test of strength. Ron taught me the importance of putting people first, of chasing dreams first and money second. He taught me that a lifetime of trying can lead to the ultimate failure if you’re trying for the wrong reasons. Above all, my fathers showed me that forgiveness is the most powerful thing in the universe, the ultimate test of strength and endurance, and the greatest path to your dreams. John and Ron are my role models, not because they showed me exactly what to do, but because they showed me the fight is worth it if I make it so, gave me resilience, and proved to me that my attitude, goals, and priorities matter more than my failures ever will.
Special Announcement: In celebration of World Book Day this Sunday, April 23rd, all of my books will be free for eBook download starting this Friday, April 21st and will be through Sunday. To find out more about my books, click here.
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Here’s this week’s writing prompt:
It seemed like a normal Sunday, until from the skies a being descended…