white owl

My parents divorced when I was eight years old. Several years afterward my mom dated a man she met at work. I liked him right away. That was 45 years ago, he’s been a stepdad ever since.

Tom isn’t perfect. He can be a little stubborn and he picks the worst pizza parlors. However his character far outweighs the flaws. Nearing 80, Tom is now battling dementia and he isn’t able to do many of the things he did before. It’s hard to watch his personality change. Sometimes, I miss his belly-laugh the most.

Growing up with Tom in my life, I observed his character. It taught me that a man should be:

Responsible-if Tom has a bill to pay, the check will be in the mail before it’s due. And if he said he would be somewhere, wild hoses couldn’t keep him from showing up.

Confidential– When I was a teen, I shared a secret with Tom. A stable stepparent can be viewed by the stepchild as a safe person to talk to when they fear telling a parent. My Dad and his new wife were going to have a baby and I was very worried that my mom would be upset when she found out. I asked him not to tell her.  A mob boss couldn’t have dragged it out of him. He was a “safe place to fall.”

UnselfishTom never stopped helping others. Whether it was walking a neighbor’s dog, driving a friend to the doctor, bathing an old man who couldn’t do it himself, or taking out someone’s trash, Tom always helped. And he did it with a smile.

Patient-When my nieces and nephew were small, Tom would spend hours teasing, swimming and having fun with them. He would walk Maria in her stroller until she fell asleep. Then head off to his difficult job as a superintendent at General Motors.

Positive-Tom rarely says a negative word about anyone. He was raised in a good Irish family that taught him, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.”

Dependable– I grew up near Buffalo, NY. One Christmas when I was 16, I went on a shopping trip with the YWCA teen group. My mom and I made plans to meet up afterwards. There was one problem. I told her the wrong mall.  She was at work when I discovered the error. This was long before cell phones and texting existed. Using her name and badge number I left a message at the factory, not knowing if she got it. Waiting alone and afraid in the massive mall, I learned a heavy snowstorm was blowing in. How would I get home in this blizzard?

As time slowly passed I anxiously awaited her arrival at the designated meeting spot. Keenly watching I never spotted my mom. But then a tall, familiar man was walking straight towards me, smiling—Tom! I was never so happy to see that bald head and beige trench coat.

He had driven a long distance in treacherous icy weather, just to acquire me. Relieved, I cried.

Sometimes a foolish girl just needs to be rescued, doesn’t she?

That’s what Jesus does for us. He left the cozy comfort of heaven, and came to the turmoil of earth, just to rescue us.

I’m not that scared little girl anymore, and I’m preparing for the sad day when Tom won’t remember who I am. But I’m so grateful that Jesus, my faithful Heavenly Daddy, has promised He will never abandon those who follow Him.

On this Father’s Day, I want to thank the Lord for my stepdad, Tom. He always shows me love, and he often reveals glimpses of Jesus in his character. I love you, Tom.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on stepfamilies, relationships, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal, 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Her website is www.TheSmartStepmom.com

mom and tom june 1982   grandpa Tom and girls in pool family fri nite