They are getting ready to leave, and she clings to me like she never wants to let go.
She is only two years old.
I am “grandpa” to her, her four year-old brother and six year-old cousin. Last night, in the two and one-half hours after I got home, she said my name roughly 450 times. With the state of her current diction, most of the time I am “gam-paw”.
I’ll miss these days when they are gone.
One of the things I dread is they day she realizes we aren’t really related. That “Granddaddy” across town is her actual blood relative. That I am just her mother’s stepfather.
My wife looks at me like I’m crazy when I bring this up. Actually, she looks at me like I’m crazy a lot. “She loves you,” she says. “None of that will matter to her, or to any of them.”
‘Yeah,’ I think. ‘Easy for you to say.’
Being a stepparent is a thing you never really get over. I have a stepdaughter who works for the same company I do. I almost always refer to her as “my daughter”. She refers to me as her “stepdad”.
I think that captures the asymmetry of step-parenting pretty well. She’s 31 years old, and how we look at the relationship is subtly but intrinsically different; a difference so subtle that neither she, nor her sisters, nor her mother can see it.
“What makes you think they will care?” my wife asks me.
“Well, for starters, advertisements for Ancestry.com are everywhere these days. Show me one where anyone is looking up stepparents. To fully-grown children, stepparents are like the domestic help of the modern age. They may look back on them fondly, but they are secondary characters.”
“Tcch. Ridiculous,” she says.
‘Sigh,’ I think, ‘Maybe so.’
After all, I have pretty strong memories of my grandmother, even though she lived a thousand miles away and we only visited her like four times before she passed. (All of my other grandparents died before I was born.)
My grandmother, as I remember her, was as wide as she was tall. She had orange hair that looked like she might have colored it with shoe polish. And she smelled like the face powder that collected in the cracks on her face.
I still remember how she smelled.
She was very sweet to kids. I really loved her. Relatives are very important us as children, and as adults.
My wife breaks in on my thoughts. “Technically, she [my granddaughter] isn’t related to you, either. Does that change how you feel about her?”
“Of course not.”
“Then it won’t change how they feel about you, either.”
No, I suppose not.
‘Love’ is a word of action,
It’s more than blood or skin
Or any other type of thing
We get invested in.
‘Love’ is a thing immortal,
And we’d best not forget it –
To give love where and when we can,
And cherish when
We get it