Investing in Family: My Two Dads

I have always been a self-reliant individual. As a child, I took care of myself and my little sister while my mother worked, and I was “cooking” — sandwiches, mac and cheese, fruit salad, cookies, etc. — since I was 12 years old. The teen years struck me with an even more independent nature, and the minute I graduated from high school, I was out the door.

All of this fabulous independence had a price, though: I did not felt deeply attached to anyone in my life for years. The connections were shaky at best, especially since I lived so far from family and friends — 2,000 miles does not make dropping in for a visit simple.

All of that changed in 2004 with my step-father’s terminal cancer diagnosis. I felt his diagnosis deeply — he had seen me through some of the roughest years of my life (the teen years) with humor and encouragement, even as I kept my self-reliant distance. And I knew I would miss his presence.

I called home to check in a little more often, but I never got the full story. I was consistently told things were going well. Then, my brother called and urged me to make the trip to see my step-father — things were looking a lot more rough than my mother was willing to admit.

So, I traveled 1,000 miles to the cancer treatment center and said my goodbyes, and Dad #1 succumbed to the disease a few months later. The funeral was difficult — my mother was a tiny wisp of herself, bones sticking through the over-sized sweaters that used to fit her perfectly — and my husband and I decided to move back to Iowa to be with our families, realizing how little time we had spent cultivating relationships.

From there, we spent more time with family, and I got to know my biological father better. A good man, absent from my youth simply because of his own personal issues, Dad #2 has now become a part of my life. We come and go, connecting and disconnecting because of busy lives, but we always welcome each other in our own ways, investing in the tiny portion of family that defines us.

Experiences like these often lead us to embrace our families, flaws and all, to invest time, energy and appreciation into the people we love. As I move forward, I look forward to investing in every family member with more of me and to connecting with an open mind and open heart.

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Anonymous's picture

MoneyCone wrote:

Fri, 02/04/2011 - 18:14 Comment #: 1

That's a very touching story. Sorry about your loss Christa. When we lose someone that person seems dearer to us than before.

The move must've taken a lot of courage and determination.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Fri, 02/04/2011 - 19:00 Comment #: 2

Thanks for the condolences -- the loss was rough, but I will always remember my step-father. I am grateful to have had such a great father, teacher and comedian in my life.

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