I’m grateful to say our family has been pretty blessed in the Dad department.

For starters, my father, gone now nearly three years, taught me many meaningful life lessons. And my stepfather, well, he’s always been my hero. Then there’s my husband, who is a terrific father to our daughter (and doggy daddy to the puppies).

What makes the story even more remarkable is we’re a blended family. Second marriages and adoption brought us all together, sometimes in package deals.

My mother and stepfather met on a blind date arranged by our mailman when I was 8. One of their first outings was the Washington Grade School carnival where my stepfather, Harlan, volunteered to work. One of the other mothers leaned over to my mom and said, “This one’s a keeper.”

They married that fall when I was 9 and, presto, we became an instant family.

Thirty years later, the scene was repeated, only this time I was the bride and my husband-to-be and I were adopting a 9-year-old. Presto, another instant family. I knew it would work because I had already lived it. My parents had defied the odds and proved blood alone does not a family make.

But what are the ingredients in the secret recipe of happiness for a modern blended family?

Eager to know my stepfather’s thoughts on the matter, I picked up the phone and called him. He was busy washing windows.

“What do you think makes a good parent?” I asked.

If he was startled by the random question, he didn’t show it. “Be a good listener and be patient.” He said.

“What’s the hardest part about being a dad?” I asked, expecting his answer to be “when your daughter does stupid things.”

Instead, he offered, “When parents have differing opinions. You might agree with the kid, but the mother doesn’t.”

What? You mean you were on my side when Mom grounded me until I was 18 years old — and I was only 13 at the time? (It didn’t last.) Or the time I repeatedly disobeyed her request to get off the phone and she ripped the telephone set out of the wall? (Yes, young readers, telephones used to be connected with wires called “cords.”) On second thought, maybe I better leave history alone.

Pivoting, I asked, “What do you think is the hardest part about being a stepfather?”

There was a brief silence on the line followed by chuckling.

“I didn’t think it was that hard,” he confessed. This made me smile. One of his endearing qualities is his eternally optimistic attitude.

I concluded the mini interview by asking, “What’s your favorite part about being a stepdad?”

His quick reply: Having a family.

I could hear my mother commenting in the background. (This is standard operating procedure whenever I call them. They both start talking at the same time and then no one can hear what’s being said.)

“Mom, what did you say?” I shouted.

The voice of my mother came on the line. She repeated her comment, “He was lucky to get us because he could’ve ended up with some floozy…”

Then my 5-foot-tall mom added, “Or he might have married some tall, gorgeous blonde ...”

Eager to return to window washing, my stepfather said, “Yes, what a relief I didn’t end up with some tall blonde.”

I hung up and smiled again. Yes, what a relief he ended up with us.

About that time, my husband entered the room.

“What makes a good father?” I asked.

“Love, patience and consistency,” he said. “And modeling the behavior you want to encourage in your child.”

Thinking of our family’s blessings, I nodded, and said, “I’m glad you didn’t marry a tall blonde.”

Happy Father’s Day to the dads, stepdads and role models who make a difference in our lives every day.

Contact Susan Hazlett at susanrhazlett@yahoo.com or write to her in care of The Pantagraph, 301 W. Washington St., Bloomington, IL 61702-2907.


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