Having Three Fathers Turned Me Into The Brave Woman I Am Today

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Having Multiple Dads Turned Me Into The Brave Woman I Am Today

I had multiple dads growing up. But somehow, I always felt fatherless until I connected with my biological dad.

The heaviness comes from missing my Dad, the unheaviness comes from being grateful for the brief experiences we shared before he passed.

It's truly a wonder that I could like men, bond with men, and have any trust at all in men.

The legacies my fathers left could've been unintentional as I know they loved me and only wanted my happiness. It wasn't their fault they were temporary.

My mother had a revolving door on her relationships. There were the ones she married, and then there were the ones who passed through for an evening or a weekend — those were my "uncles."

My Dad (my biological father) left when I was 14 months old. I saw him once when I was five years old as he (unbeknownst to me) was signing custody of me over to my grandparents.

I remember that day as if it were a movie. It's in my mind's eye, always. He picked me up and put me on his desk, handed me a hot dog and a coke, like nothing. And then he was gone. He wrote child support checks throughout my life (also unbeknownst to me).

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My first stepfather came to be when I was in 3rd grade. He was a beautiful gift. He showered me with love, affection and most importantly, acceptance.

I was my stepdaddy's little girl. He passed away at the hands of my mother when I was twelve.

The summer after my stepfather passed was horrific. He died in February and my mother remarried in June, news I received from her by phone.

She sounded elated and was so excited for me to meet him. But I cried myself to sleep that night — not because of her marriage, but because the realization that the only father I'd ever really known was dead.

I didn't cry at his funeral; I didn't believe he was in that pine box. I sat quietly staring at all the people crying.

I watched as his mother pounded on the coffin screaming, "Let me in!" I was completely disconnected from reality; I simply wanted to be invisible and did my very best to dissolve into the background of those horrible moments and the week of Shiva that followed.

I cried myself to sleep ever so quietly that June night so as not to be found out by my aunt. I cried, wept until my well was dry.

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One week later, I went to find my real father. I visited his office and the receptionist told me he was in a meeting. She was shocked to see me; she recognized me as his daughter immediately because I have the exact same face as him.

Yet, I was denied. I sat in that office as the staff left and my coward of a father snuck out the back door.

I sat in that office as the cleaners came in and out. I watched them emptying trash bins, silently dusting and vacuuming. I would've sat in that chair all night.

My 18-year-old brother came for me. He somehow figured out where I was and without a word he extended his hand; we walked back to my aunt's house in complete silence.

I cried myself to sleep again that night.

I felt that my father who passed did so because I couldn't save him. I was a failure and the proof was that my real father didn't even want me. I was worthless, just as my mother had said.

Summer ended and I was greeted with yet another new stepfather. He was a really nice man but my mother forced me to call him "Daddy." He tried to intervene, suggesting I call him "Pop," like his real children did.

My mother ruled supreme, a lesson he had yet to learn. She'd already taken me aside and laid down the law and I knew it wouldn't be worth the battle.

I felt so disloyal calling him Daddy. That was my first stepfather's earned title. But fortunately, this "Daddy" was a lovely man and ended the trail of "uncles." And fortunately, this was also the year I was sent away to boarding school.


Fast forward to six years ago. I've long since separated from my mother and she's on husband number six now. I've united with my biological father through quite a series of events.

The choices I made to have a relationship with him were misunderstood by most and celebrated by a few. I chose to let go of the past and in doing so, my father validated childhood memories, explained his decisions, and above all, apologized without prompting.

Because I let go of what couldn't be undone, I received unconditional love from my father.

My children bonded in the most special ways with their grandfather and we all gained a huge extended family. One day I will go into more detail, but for now, I'd simply like to thank my fathers: 

To stepfather number one:

Thank you for the love you showered upon me. Thank you for making me feel like a beautiful little girl.

Thank you for the light moments amidst the darkness that was my mother. Thank you for the physical affection, the cuddling, and the light kisses on my nose that make me smile to this day.

Thank you most of all for being my soft place to fall; you made me feel safe for the fist time in my life. You gave me a secure foundation. You were my solid ground with no unexpected faults.

Thank you for being my confidant, my keeper of secrets and most of all, thank you for teaching me that men could be trusted. Every year I light a candle for you, Daddy. You're remembered and honored by me. You're a story to my children and you forever will be.

To stepfather number two:

Thank you for your sensitivity. Thank you for validating me as a good person. Thank you for trying to protect me. And most of all, thank you for sending me to safety.

I don't know if you knew that you were sending me to safety when you enrolled me in boarding school, but that was the result. You saved my life.

You put me somewhere that gave me perspective. You gave me peace. As you sit in heaven with my first Daddy and my real Daddy, I hope you know that I have much love and respect for you.

To my "real" father, my Daddy:

Thank you for owning up to the past and helping me heal. Thank you for giving me unconditional love and for filling the holes in my heart. Because of you, I no longer look at Father's Day cards wistfully. I now know what it's like to buy one without heartbreak.

Thank you for making me your "little girl" in my forties. Thank you for giving me advice that I still hold dear today. Thank you for becoming my rock.

Thank you for all the answer to the questions I never had to ask. The one thing that haunted me more than anything was the wondering — wondering if I was ever sitting in a restaurant in your proximity without recognition.

There are no words to describe how that haunted me. Every time I was in a restaurant in your city, I'd look around at the other tables searching for your face. I knew I wouldn't know you for all the years that had passed; yet I hoped I would.

You never blew out my birthday candles with me. You weren't there for most of my milestones. Yet we shared the last moment of your life exclusively. I don't know why that moment was given to us exclusively.

I fought for you in the hospital. I brushed your teeth, I walked you to the bathroom, I took care of you in the way you never took care of me. I remember the moment when this concept flashed in my mind and I know you thought it, too.

Thank you for that silent acknowledgement. I love you more than words could ever do justice to. And most of all, I know you loved me the same. Thank you, my dear Daddy. Thank you most of all for that.

For all of the Daddies, "real" and other, and for my three daddies, thank you for combining your efforts to make me whole.

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​Marnie Grundman is a Montreal native currently residing in Toronto, Ontario. She began her writing career as a way of letting go of the wounds that almost defined her.