The Silver Lining

davidNote: Our wedding day. See angry eleven year old in mirror….

A silver lining is defined by Webster’s as “a hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty.” What a great term! Interesting enough, my grandmother use to tell me to look for silver linings when I needed one. Last night, I discovered I have had one for some time….And I never said thank you.

When you blend a family, you take risks. I married a forty-four year old bachelor – an engineer – someone who had left Corporate America – a comic collector (you have no idea!) – and someone who had never been married or had children. He did, however, come from a traditional nuclear family and a father and mother who expected excellence and knew how a young man should behave. Most of all, his parents defined the Puritan work ethic – something my parents did as well.

A divorced librarian of 16 months, I married him after a whirlwind courtship and a glaring child during our nuptials. Yep, see above picture. My glaring child is the love of my life – but I knew this was a good decision. Despite the storms that later happened in our lives, I have not regretted blending my family.

At all. In time, stepfather and stepson became very close – and sometimes, I felt like I was the interloper. Many people commented, “How did you do that?” My husband has a marvelous ability to quote Cheech and Chong records from the 1970s and make a zany teen laugh and feel secure. Most of all, he was there when my son needed a role model – to requote Paul Simon’s “Call Me Al,” “when my role model is gone…gone…”

Recently, a huge dental bill came to us when my son decided that dental hygiene could be neglected. Actually, he jokes he stopped brushing when the Challenger Disaster happened in 1986. My son was born in 2000. Real epic dental folly, kiddo. Needless to say, a $2100 dental bill gave me days of tears, taking a Klonopin (or two – hey, you homeschool a teen, you need some nerve pills handy!), and constant moving around mental money to prepare for the huge bill. We did our taxes  and glory to God – we had enough and “then some” in our tax return to pay for my son’s dental folly. But his birthday is in two weeks and he goes camping in two weeks and last night…

“You need to schedule the first of the dental work this week,” the voice floated from his side of the bed.

“Let’s wait until May,” I informed him.

“No. We will have the money this week and the dental folly is done. He can get the dental work started,” my husband was insistent.

“He has…”

“Who cares what is coming up?! He has teeth to be repaired and let’s roll on it!” my husband rolled to my side and tapped my hand, “This week. Get moving on it Monday AM and make appointments for all the work in the next few weeks. Give him his week off for camping and birthday, but he’s getting it done.”

I wanted to snap, “Hey, Buster, that’s my son, not yours,” and then….I heard the voice repeat, “I won’t have my boy with all that dental work waiting to be done. Got that?”

He had said, “My boy.”

I sniffled.

Note that my former husband is required in the divorce decree to cover my son’s dental. Note that I didn’t have the required medical health insurance for two years while I worked direct sales and  I didn’t follow my part of the divorce decree either. I own up to that. Times have been hard on both of us. Child support only goes so far – and it is appreciated – but rearing a teenager is more than $500 a month: it’s expensive – way expensive. We didn’t always have the ability to get insurance or have extra monies.  And with jobs in my field scarce, I’ve struggled to cough up my own share – even if I homeschooled and worked from home. As a feminist and someone who always had money and came from money, it was a real hit to my ego to not be able to fly solo in providing for my child financially. For me, I don’t even make $500 a month on my own – where once I made $3700, with full medical and dental.

But my son never went without medical or dental care…All paid for and now health insurance (thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act) provided by….

His stepfather.

My husband never calls my son by “his son” or “our son.” Because he is, honestly, the son of two people who made him in July of 1999 – and my son’s father and I are both involved and loving parents.  But what my husband – the stepfather – brings is the medical and extra financial stability my son needs. I’m a-okay with “my boy” or “that kid I’m fond of” or even better, “my stepson…of whom I love very much.”

Wait, Anne, many individuals would say, “That’s your husband…so you are counted in the income tax return epic save for the dental folly.”

No, not the way my feminist mind works. The tax return was majority my husband’s earnings – and that sacrifice I cannot thank him enough for. He goes without to provide for us. I have a stack of hemming on work clothes that should be updated, he works two jobs to provide for us, and he works so intensely, he stresses he has to work even harder to provide for “his family. In no way do I bash my son’s father, but I wanted to say we owe a huge amount of thanks to

A step-parent.

An inherited Puritan work ethic.

A successful blended family of almost four years.

Taking care of “his boy.”

He is our silver lining.

I love you, David Childress, for all you have done for our family and most of all, for our boy.

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