My Fake Parents

As I’ve written about before, my father died just after I turned 10.  It was a horrific accident, one straight out of the pages of Jodi Picoult.  Loving father brings his three young daughters to visit the new lake house of a family friend.  They spend the day visiting, eating, and playing.  The drive home took them down some really beautiful back roads in central Maine, twisty back roads.  A road block to screen cars for drunk drivers had been set up miles away.  One of the cars that such a barrier was set up to catch saw the block and fled away in the opposite direction, spurring on a high speed police chase down these same beautiful, twisty back roads in central Maine.

My father was not the only one who died that afternoon–the two men driving the camaro also died, I hope instantly.  When I was younger I was told that my father died instantly, to save me from the truth of knowing that he might have been saved, but would have been a vegetable on life support.  Triage saved my two sisters and I.  I was only in the hospital for a few weeks with facial injuries.  My older sister had half her head shaved, and ironically, needed a pediatric neurosurgeon, a surgery my father could have performed one day prior.  My little sister stayed in the hospital for close to six months, she broke her legs in many places, and required many surgeries to make her ambulatory again.

My teenage years were my sad years, when we were known as those tragic Duckworth girls.

But I’ve always felt my dad’s presence.  He had an immeasurable strength to make life okay for us even when he was no longer alive to do it.  I’m not sure if I believe in God, but I do believe in Karma, and I know he had such a cavernous storehouse of the stuff that he ensured we were taken care of.

Enter my fake parents.  I’ve had several sets during different points in my life, but the two people I refer to now as my fake parents (oh so lovingly) are the ones who helped guide me into adulthood.  They was first a classmate’s rents, then family friends, and for some amazing reason they have always stayed in my life.  Unlike those high school friends’ parents you quickly lose touch with, these two have stayed engaged and present in my life through a combination of fated circumstances and genuine care.  They are the most authentic parents I know, and I see them sitting high on the pedestal of parenthood.  I strive to emulate my own marriage and parenting style after theirs.  Their daughters are successful and fiercely independent.  In fact, over the last 5 years I can guarantee I have slept more nights in their oldest daughter’s bed than she has.  Maybe it is because I lost my father at a young age.  Maybe it is because my mother sold our house and I have no childhood home to go back to.  I suspect it is all of those things and then some, plus my personality that begs for sage advice and wisdom that parents possess.

My mother did a fine job raising three daughters on her own.  But there is just no way a mother can fill the needs met by a father.  And I suspect children require their parent of the opposite sex to guide them through the challenges of life even more, since there are parts of this world where intuition fails and gendered roles win out.

I’m never sure what to say when I need to refer to this man and his wife.  They’re not family by blood, and though I know fake parents sounds like I’m referring to my imitation designer purse, in this case I mean it with so much love and respect.  My real father did an amazing job of teaching me things that a young girl needs to know.  I like to pretend that my Dad hand selected my fake parents to step in as a last minute substitute, and are reading the lesson plan he prepared over 19 years ago.

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