Sometimes a stepfather enters a daughter’s life and sends it spiraling downward. And for every one of those, there’s a stepfather who steps in and steps up for a daughter. Sheree is one of those daughters.
When we met, Sheree was in her mid-forties, and had worked in mortgage banking, high tech, and most recently as a professional photographer. Her father grew up in a family of alcoholism, infidelity, and financial instability. When he was ten years old, he was molested by another boy at a movie theater. Sixteen years later, that scarred boy lived inside a man of 26, with a 19-year-old wife and two-month-old daughter.
Sheree recalled her father’s narcissism, how as a little girl she once asked him to pick her up, only to be told, “I don’t have time for you, I’m trying to do my hair.”
She talked about how conflicted she was growing up—getting pieces of a normal family life from her father, and having him shatter it at the same time; wanting to be with a father, yet feeling hatred and resentment toward him for his selfishness and sexual abuse that started when she was five.
“I disliked him so much that it was always a fight going on in my mind about, ‘I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. But you’re my father and I want to love you. So I would want to do stuff with him, but then I wouldn’t.”
Her father’s sexual abuse continued until Sheree was sixteen. Her younger sister, who had also been abused, helped Sheree tell their mother about it.
“That was the beginning of the end of their marriage. At that point, I was perfectly fine with my mother not being married to my father any more. I had no guilt about it. I didn’t feel like it was my fault, I didn’t feel like it was gonna be a burden that I would carry. It practically put my mother in the grave, that she didn’t know, that it went on, and it was her child. How could he do that to his own flesh and blood? She never, ever, ever made me feel bad about not coming to tell her. My father never denied it.”
Although the damage her father inflicted was profound, Sheree had other men in her life who offered some counterweight to her father, such as teachers and then her stepfather.
“My mom remarried when I was about eighteen, and I wasn’t really happy about it. I wanted Mom to stay single. But then I got to know her husband, and I thoroughly enjoyed him. I moved in with them for about a year after my divorce, while I was going through therapy. That’s when I really got to know Grant, and the compassionate, fatherly side of who he was. And that’s when I fell in love with him as a dad. He kind of plugged the holes of all those emotional needs of a father that I had.
“I kind of felt whole, like ‘Wow, this is like having a dad! This is like having a mom and a dad and I can sleep at night.’ That was really a big one for me: a safe place to be. I can come home and I can sleep at night and not wonder who’s going to come in my room.
“Grant was really gifted in the therapy side of life. He was a real estate appraiser and I worked for him during that time when I lived with them. During the time that I worked for him, he shared so many things with me about being married and trust and relationships, and everything a dad would say to someone that age. It was just unbelievable to me to have somebody like that, that you can trust, you can love, that loves you and it’s unconditional. It made me feel whole.
“He passed away last May, of early onset Alzheimer’s. The last few years of his life, I helped Mom care for him. He had to go into a home the last year of his life, so I would visit him every day, and try to be there for lunch time and feed him and make sure he was okay.
“That was a really hard time, and a very sorrowful loss. Sometimes I just can’t believe that he’s gone.” Sheree began crying. “I just can’t believe it. On every card I sent him, I would always write that God brought him to our family, that he was our gift from God. He really, really was.”