My parents divorced when I was 14. I've got to say that event contributed little to the emotional suicide I was hell bent to commit. I actually felt relieved that the turmoil I grew up with was finally over, but the damage had already been done and the effects from a traumatic childhood had manifested themselves into drug abuse among other very self-destructive behaviors. At barely 16, I found myself in jail being offered a chance to be used as a guinea pig by the State of Maine in a substance abuse rehab program. I was probated there until I was 18. For anyone not familiar with the rehab programs of those days, all I will say today is what a long strange trip it was and that jail definitely would have been the easier path to take. Hindsight is always 20/20!
During my long stay in rehab (I finally left 3 months after my 18th birthday), I was not allowed any contact with the outside world with the exception of seeing my mother once for a few hours before she married a man who lived in Florida. At that time, I felt totally abandoned and wondered what my fate would be upon turning 18 and leaving the safety of the isolated world I had come to call home. I had two options. Go back to my hometown (not a wise choice) or to make a fresh start in Florida with my mother and her new husband.
Upon leaving Maine, I flew to NW Florida and immediately suffered severe culture shock. Moving from New England to the South was like moving to another planet. I adjusted, but I credit that adjustment largely to the man who stepped in and became the father I never had. I can't begin to express the gratitude I have felt over the years as he hung in there with me through all my rough spots and there were many! He never judged me nor criticized me. He stood strong and helped me through each time never giving up hope that I would finally find my groove and stop being so lost and clueless.
Any man like my biological father can be a sperm donor, but it takes a special man to be a "Dad" and it takes a saint to take on the responsibility and become a "Dad" to children who aren't his own especially when they are troubled and rebellious like I was. My mother married a saint! He did everything from teaching me how to drive to instilling an unshakable work ethic in me to showing me how to be a good parent. He taught me the true meaning of unconditional love and I feel truly blessed to have had someone like him in my life. Although it's been several since he died, I still miss him in so many ways. Each time I want to give up hope, the thought of him makes me realize that good men do exist. I'm thankful that in the end when it mattered most, I was strong enough to uphold his final wishes.