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I heard a soft knock on the bathroom door. He looked me in my eyes and told me how sorry he was for what I was going through. I thought my mother tucked our secret deep into her khakis. “I’m so sorry,” he said. The entire house pretended like I didn’t exist that September, and here he was, a man who I assume knew very little about womanisms spoke to me with compassion. For the first time, I felt like I could temporarily remove the Scarlett Letter I was wearing. Someone finally empathized with me. The person I never saw coming, my stepfather.
I moved to Maryland in the Summer of 2007. I loaded my belongings and prized possessions in a black 99 Volkswagen Passat. My stepfather purchased it for me, and I was grateful that I could finally do mischevious things without having to sneak around in my mother’s dream car. A red 2005 PT Cruiser that held my deepest secrets and followed me across town time and time again. Now I had my own form of transportation, another way to get around the world, it was like a right of passage. My stepfather stamped it with his approval by providing me with something that could help me grow and move forward with my life.
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Throughout the years my stepfather made large purchases for our family. Part of me knew this parting gift was made out of love but mostly out of guilt. My stepfather was an alcoholic throughout my childhood. I spent many nights alone with him to protect my mother from his drunken antics. He was never physically abusive, he was just loud and belligerent. According to her, I was the only person who could keep him quiet, talk him off the ledge. In hindsight, I was, and I felt a sense of responsibility and accomplishment in doing so, but the truth is it caused a lot of anxiety and distress for me at a young age. I would stay up so late some days that I would barely get enough sleep for school. [bctt tweet=”My responsibilities mounted as I quickly became the voice of reason in my family as early as I can remember.” username=”ladylauraco”]
Nonetheless, I adored my stepfather.
Like many Hispanic males that succumb to the warm feelings of the bottle, he never felt like there was a problem. Besides, he worked every day, how could he be an alcoholic? In hindsight, I think my stepfather was going through that thing that men go through. That thing. That longing feeling. It’s that thing that women discover much sooner than their male counterparts. It’s being able to reinvent yourself once you’ve fallen. It’s resilience. It’s purpose.
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He was bored. His boredom turned into depression. It’s the boredom that comes the morning after you’ve reached success. You look around only to realize the things you’ve worked so hard for, didn’t turn out to be what you thought it would be. Or worse, it’s exactly what you thought it would be but you didn’t expect to feel so detached from everything. It’s like sitting alone in a busy restaurant for hours only to look up and find that everyone has left. They have moved on with their lives. Where did the time go? When you’ve worked so hard to obtain wealth, success, meet a goal, or complete a challenge the day you accomplish all you’ve dreamed of is probably the worst day of your life. You are left wanting to go back to the day before, back when your life had a purpose, where the rubber met the road every single day, and you woke up with a fighter mentality. When it’s all said and done the world gets quiet. You can’t stand the sound of your own silence, and you feel like you don’t even need yourself anymore.
[bctt tweet=”Men play a critical role in the lives of women whether biological or by way of love.” username=”ladylauraco”] As I look back at the relationship I had with my stepfather, I know he was endearing, he loved and respected me. He was far from perfect, but he has taught me how mental health issues can be dormant or manifest themselves in different ways. If you never get to the bottom of your own problems, you’ll spend your life fighting off demons until it’s too late.
A father’s primary role in the world is to provide and protect, but who provides for him and protects him when he is fighting the current, and on his last breath? My stepfather decided to leave my family in 2013. It wrecked me. The years that have gone by have made me increasingly bitter and in many ways have deconstructed my idea of a family. My biological dad passed in 2001, so my stepfather was my only remaining father figure. I was already out of the house and on my own by the time he decided to leave. I understood the problems he was facing, but I still can’t figure out why I felt so abandoned by men who I thought loved me.