Wednesday, November 29, 2006

One For Steve

I was talking to a friend today who has a situation at home. He’s married to a woman who has three children of her own from a previous marriage and the oldest child is entering that netherworld of puberty. This age, of course, exacerbates any little problem in the home and he’s dealing with some of that at the moment.

When I was 13, my parents were divorced. And not long after that my mother met a man who would eventually become my sisters’ and my stepfather. This was not a completely smooth transition in our lives. I’ve come to realize, in my adulthood and, more specifically, my parenthood, that most of that was my fault. But I was ravaged by puberty at the time and was in very little control of anything going on with my body and mind. When Steve came into our lives he was … young. I’ll leave it at that. I can not imagine becoming part of a family with three children the ages that we were at the time with no handbook or manual of any kind. It took a tremendous amount of guts and love for my mother, which I appreciate to this day.

Steve and Mom went on to have two more children, my brothers, and we became seven. Let me say here, however, that my brothers have two different parents than the ones I grew up with. I seem to remember more rules being in place. I may be wrong about this, and I’m sure my mother will let me know that I am, but that’s the way I recall my youth. It’s difficult being 14 or 15 and having someone new telling you what to do and how to do it. I argued and fought against it, though in all fairness, I think I would’ve complained no matter who was telling me what to do. The truth is, we were all learning how to deal with this new situation as we went along and that’s always tricky, and not always pleasant. There were many good times, don’t get me wrong, but it’s me making an ass out of myself that is the clearest for me. I guess this is my apology for not making the transition any better than it could have been.

Years later, when Kristy and I moved to Florida for a couple of years just after we were married, I worked for Steve. He was a good boss and, because we were both adults by then, we got along really well, and I enjoyed being with him and talking with him. I looked up to him for having started his own business and he talked a lot about entrepreneurship and why people work for themselves vs. someone else, and it all made sense and stuck with me. Some years later I would be looking at buying my own business and he was the first person I called for advice.

Other than being so good to my mother and bringing my brothers into our family, the other thing I will always be grateful for is the way he’s taken care of my younger sister. She was only eight-years-old when they were married and our own father was really … um … far away, so Steve took over. And he’s done a wonderful job. He cared for her as though she were his own blood and now I believe she is - they are as close as father and daughter can be.

There are only a few men I’ve looked up to in my life – uncles, grandfather and my stepfather – and they’ve shaped me into the man and father that I am. I hope I’m doing okay. I really am trying. Children, in general, scare me, and the thought of The Quartet becoming teenagers petrifies the hell out of me, but I hope I can pass through that test with all the courage and aplomb that Steve has.

Four things about Steve: 1) he has a handshake that makes your knees buckle if you’re not ready. I used to warn my friends about it, 2) I believe he could sell anything to anybody, 3) he mumbles, 4) he once snuck a beer to me when I was too young to drink, but old enough to know better.