Monica L. Murphy
Step-parents can be cool. They get a bad rap, sometimes well deserved, but I know for a fact they can also be cool.
When I was seventeen, my mom married a great guy. He accepted me and my brother without hesitation and I blissfully acquired a pack of brothers and an older sister. Okay, so things are not always Brady Bunch in real life, but they’re not always Cinderella, either. My stepfather, J.D., taught me that.
I remember one time when a couple came over for dinner. The lady asked me what I was writing when she saw my notebook. I don’t remember what it was at the time but I do remember J.D.’s words, “She’s a good writer. She’ll do something with it someday.” No editor or publisher could ever make me as happy as his words did. I knew what it meant to have a proud father for the first time in my life.
Three years later, I discovered firsthand that the grandfather in him didn’t stop at blood relatives. I woke up one night after a bad storm and couldn’t make my “backache” go away. I took a shower and still it hurt. At this point, not only am I a blonde, but a young one. I called the hospital to see if I could take some Tylenol.
When I explained the pain to the nurse, she said, “Honey, you’re in labor.”
“Yes, you need to come on in.”
“Well, it’s awfully late. I’ll just drop by in the morning. It’s starting to hurt again so can I take something?”
“You can take a ride up here to the hospital.”
I stayed on the phone with her as I tried to wake up the family… did I mention it was really late? The nurse told me to pass the phone to my mother. I said, “Mom, it’s for you.”
I don’t know what was said but as I sat at the dining room table everyone took off for the car. A few moments later, J.D. walked back in to grab his cigarettes.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“To the hospital, the baby’s coming!” He made it to the door before he realized who he was talking to. “Get in the car, girl, don’t you know that baby’s coming?!”
Now my stepfather had been chosen to go into the delivery room with me. As the father of six boys and one girl born during the time of waiting room fathers, he was tickled at the chance to see his first live birth.
My son had other plans.
We got to the hospital and found I apparently have a high tolerance for pain. I was in hard labor but I thought it was a backache. The baby was turned and estimated to be a little bigger than what the doctor felt my body could naturally deliver. I was rushed to surgery for an emergency caesarean and my stepfather had to wait nearly three years for my late-in-life sister’s birth to witness such a miracle (but that’s another story).
J.D. proudly walked the hallway as friends joked a football scout was looking for us. Joshua was finally born at 9:32 a.m. and weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces.
My son and my stepfather took to each other like ducks to water. J.D. would grab Joshua to go riding around town in his pickup truck and they would have conversations no one else could be a part of. J.D. introduced Joshua to The Wizard of Oz and made sure he always woke up from his nap in time to watch The Dukes of Hazzard.
We lost J.D. two weeks after Joshua’s third birthday when my sister was less than a year old. A few months later my son was nearly hit by a car in a Safeway parking lot. He had spotted a General Lee kiddie ride in front of the store and darted across. We couldn’t believe he wasn’t hit. He just looked at me and said, “Paw-pa got me, Mama”.
It’s comforting to know my son’s guardian angel is his grandfather especially since we’re at war. I know J.D. watched over Joshua while he was in Iraq. J.D. must have figured God was busy with so many precious troops that he must have surely declared he’d keep an eye on ours.
Thanks, J.D. We miss you.
©Copyright December 2004 by Monica L. Murphy