Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pep Talk: "What A Gift"

Fathers Day 2014. A time to reflect upon the men who share responsibility for giving us life. I had a great old man, Marvin Walter McIntosh. He passed seven years ago from lung cancer. I miss him, and his positive spirit, every day. But this Pep Talk ain’t about golfing enthusiast “Hacker Mac.” It’s about two other dads who deserve a lot of credit for influencing my life today.

The stepfathers of my two children.

I’m a fortunate guy in many respects. Healthy at 56, with a darling fiancee that I can’t wait to marry later this year, and two kids who are healthy as well. A son and daughter, maturing nicely and chasing their dreams. Despite being a knucklehead, more friends than a simple dude from Missouri deserves. Plus, more blessings I can’t even recall right now. It’s the wee hours of a cool June morning. The Mile High City is expecting another round of violent weather once the sun rises and warms the atmosphere. I’m just gathering my wits.

But there is one more blessing not to be forgotten. Actually, two. The men who have stepped up big time to mentor, provide and protect my kids. Sounds weird to write that, but it’s true. Divorce ain’t an easy path, but it’s a common one. Half of us who walk down the aisle and recite, “till death do us part” don’t make it to the finish line. Sustaining a marriage. The numbers tell the story. It’s a noble goal fraught with peril.

The words of the psychologist my first former wife and I were seeing as we tried to pick up the pieces of a fractured relationship still resonate in my ears: “If you’re going to get divorced, make it a good divorce.” I guess now would be a good time to also salute the two mothers who moved on because they felt it necessary. They chose good guys.

One has become a cherished friend. “We put the fun in dysfunction” is a phrase the gregarious California native coined long ago when others would ask us, when we were all together in celebration of my wonderful son, “Are you two brothers?” 

When circumstances of life led to a young man heading west from Colorado to the Golden State to live with his mother and this super dude, we (stepfather and I) would talk on the phone constantly. We share values. We share a competitive spirit. In our younger years, he would be a bulldog under the basket throughout intense basketball one-on-one games in the driveway of his home nestled in the hills above Malibu.

Most important, we share a deep love and concern for a young boy who has grown into a young man living in New York City these days and working on the writing team for NBC’s Late Night With Seth Myers. There has been no bigger supporter of my son’s dreams than his stepfather. I would step in front of a truck for that man. We sing love songs to one another when talking on the phone. It’s what goofy middle-aged men do. Deal with it.

“I can’t believe this is happening again” often crashed into my brain in dealing with a second divorce. What’s the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?” The man who became the focus of attention for the mother of my daughter is someone I knew already. From sportscasting days on Denver television, I endured commercials for his successful business airing right before I began the morning sportscasts on KCNC-TV. That was a tad painful. It’s challenging to be upbeat when the heart is being battered.

But over time, wounds heal. We gain a different perspective from life’s disappointments. I talk about this often on the speaking circuit when addressing effectively dealing with adversity and change. “Quite often, once the dust settles and the pain subsides, we realize change brings things into our lives worth keeping no matter what.”

A second marriage meltdown opened the door for an amazing woman to walk into my world. It also opened the door for a good guy to have major influence on my daughter’s life. Over the years admiration for the martial arts’ enthusiast has grown significantly. We could use more dads like him. It’s natural and comfortable to sit together in the stands rooting for my daughter and his stepdaughter’s volleyball success. We’re in this together.

Predictable. Successful. Caring.

Three wonderful traits we all would probably love to have others disperse from their lips, without hesitation, when asked to name three things about us. That terrific trio describes the men my former brides went on to marry once our unions failed to proceed.

They chose well. For that, and the outstanding job each man has done in responsibly fathering my kids, I’m very grateful. Lucky. The words of the wise shrink, “Make it a good divorce....” resonate again. Life is a roller coaster: What a great tip for the divorce dip.

Thanks, dads. When my kids have been in your care I have always felt you had their best interests at heart. What a gift this Father’s Day.

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