The Step Dad

My kids are not technically my kids. They are Laure’s kids, from her previous marriage. When I entered their lives, they were three and seven years old. I’d like to say that we formed a really great bond, I tried to, but a step parent is almost always at a serious disadvantage in that regard.

I had several step dads growing up. I never had a bad relationship with them but never really had a father and son type relationship either. This is partly because growing up with a schizophrenic mother teaches you to stay on your toes, all the time, and to never trust anyone’s mood. This is something I still struggle with today. It also doesn’t help that I am a diagnosed schizoid, which is nothing like schizophrenia, just for the record. The first few paragraphs here sum it up quite nicely. In general, I have a difficult time forming emotional attachments, which explains a lot about me. I think it’s also contributed to my difficulty in bonding with the oldest.

But back to the boys.

The youngest and I are good, I think we have a great relationship. This is in part because he has no memory of his biological father, so I wasn’t forced to compete in that race. The oldest, on the other hand, that has been an uphill battle from day one, and it hasn’t gone well.

I won’t go into all the details, but Laure’s ex-husband was not a nice guy. He went away to prison for a particularly heinous, and violent crime. There were also physical and emotional abuses at home, toward Laure and the boys, as well as a complete disinterest, and outright neglect, toward the youngest boy. One would think that this would be enough to color the boys’ view of their father, but kids don’t really work that way. Memories are funny things, and more often than not, a child’s desire to remember their father in a particular way can over ride anything anyone tells them, and even their own memories.

The oldest has always had a very idealized and unrealistic view of his father. He blames the incident that ultimately sent his father to prison, on any number of other factors, and has always insisted that his dad is this great guy. This has been particularly difficult on Laure, who was forced to deal with the realities of an abusive husband, and a small town police department that all but ignored her pleas for help and sided with the father time and time again.

It was a nightmare for her. The oldest though, remembers things much, much differently.

The oldest has always seen his mother as the enemy, because that’s how his dad taught him to see her. He would make it into a game where it was he and the oldest on one team, and Laure and the youngest on the opposing team. That view has stuck with the oldest his entire life, and it has been the source of many problems at home.

There isn’t much you can do about that. I accepted pretty early on that I would never be able to live up to the standard that he saw in his dad, so I just tried to be a good dad to him and at least have a good relationship with him. Things seemed to go alright until we hit the teenage years, and then everything pretty well crumbled between me and the oldest.

I introduced them both to a lot of my hobbies, including pen and paper RPGs, which the youngest has really latched on to. Naturally I introduced them to all of my family traditions, and all the special places and things in my life. Most of the time, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing but in retrospect, I think all parents feel that way. For the youngest, many of the things that were special and important to me as a kid, are now important to him. We’ve bonded over a lot of the things that were and still are a big part of my life, and it makes me feel pretty great to have passed those things on to him.

He’s now in high school, and while we’ve hit all the usual teenage speed bumps, things are good. We have a pretty solid relationship. Sadly, things with the oldest have gone in an entirely different direction. He’s finishing up his first year of college, in a town several hours east of here. We don’t talk much, even when he comes home to visit, we tend to avoid each other in the name of maintaining familial harmony.

I take a little bit of comfort in that it isn’t just me. Laure has had a difficult time maintaining a relationship with him as well. She has a lot more patience than I do but I suppose being his mother makes all the difference in that regard. We both agree that he’s a troubled kid. He seems lost, like he’s struggling really hard to figure out his place in the world. He exhibits a lot of his father’s behaviors and views, which has solidified my belief that a child’s first few years are the most important. His father was paroled two years ago, and the oldest had never shown much interest in getting to know him. Laure even offered numerous times, against both our better judgement, to take him to visit his father in prison, but he never took her up on those offers.

We both suspect that he was worried that reality would not line up with his view of his dad, and he was afraid that meeting him would shatter that view. About a year ago, he did make contact with his dad, and has even been over to visit him a few times. Laure and I both agree that this has done even more damage to our relationship with him. Again, I won’t go into specifics, but his dad is very good at getting people to like him. He is very charismatic and knows how to manipulate people to get what he wants. The oldest is most definitely under that spell now.

We’ve been to family counseling, and no matter how bad things got financially, even during the out of work, foreclosure years, we always found ways to do things as a family. We always worked at that. While it did greatly reinforce the bond with the youngest, the oldest has always been a little bit on the outside of things, just on the edge of the circle. I think he always felt like getting close to me was a betrayal to his father. So the few times that he and I did start to get close, he always eventually made a U turn and I quickly became the enemy again. The same things went for his relationship with his mom.

He’s legally an adult now, out there trying to figure out the world with the rest of us. He’s not doing well at it, unfortunately. The only help that he’ll accept from me is in the form of money. Anything else, it seems, is strictly rejected and avoided simply because it came from me. There is nothing I can do about that. Laure insists that he’ll eventually come around, and learn to appreciate me when he’s older. I don’t know, I really doubt that.

Meanwhile, I’m glad that the youngest and I have a good relationship. He’s going through the usual, raging hormone, teenage shit that we all do, so things are up and down around the house but overall, we’re good. He plays RPGs with his friends at least once a week, usually more. He and I have a private Minecraft server that we spend a lot of time on together. We go to the comic book shop and out for lunch every Sunday, and we have a pretty good laugh together at least once a day. I think things are going to be fine between he and I.

Being the step dad is tough, for so many reasons. I like to think that I’ve met the challenge well, time will tell though I guess.

My birthday was last Thursday

I turned forty-one. It was a good birthday. We didn’t do much of anything celebratory that day, except both of us took the day off together. I really enjoyed that. We slept in, way in, went out to lunch, ran a few errands. I took a few photos of Laure, which reminded me of just how out of practice I am with my photography. We got a few good photos but I can see all kinds of mistakes I made. Still, it was great to spend the whole day alone with her.

Saturday afternoon we had an official birthday dinner with some friends, then came home and watched “Dr Strange” with Heather. It was a really good movie. I kind of lost interest in the whole Marvel thing the last few years but I really enjoyed this movie. Heather spent the night, we had a big breakfast Saturday morning and then she headed home.

For some reason I spent a whole lot of time during year forty, thinking about death. Not in the creepy, I-want-to-watch-everyone-die kinda way, but just a contemplative thing. I dropped christianity like a sack of rotten potatoes, damn near twenty years ago. I no longer believe in a god, or heaven, or hell. I also don’t believe that there is simply nothing after death. There are just too many things that science is barely tapping into, to suggest that this state of existence is all there is. I dunno, I’m sure I’ll find out though.

I think forty-one is going to be pretty good. I’ve been working out consistently, my motivation and interest in my bagillion hobbies has come back, things are good.

I’ve been spending less time focusing on politics but that has taken a bit of work to do. Shit is so completely fucked right now, but I’m trying to focus on the long term and hoping that this will end up being a positive thing.

Um… that’s all I’ve got right now. I’ve been awfully busy and neglecting my blog, so I wanted to get something up here.

Delays, delays, delays…

They’re never ending.

So I went to the local lumber place yesterday and they had a pretty good assortment of marine plywood, they also want an arm and a kidney for it. $82 a sheet for 1/2 inch marine plywood. The reason I wanted to work with them is that I prefer to buy local when I can, and I wanted to get started on the floor as soon as possible. But I can’t pay that much for lumber, so Lowe’s it is.

Of course, our Lowe’s doesn’t carry any marine plywood on hand, it has to be special ordered. It’s $50 a sheet though, plus another 10% off with my veteran’s discount, and another 5% using the Lowe’s credit account. That’s a little less than $43 a sheet, damn near half what the other place wanted. I’ll call in my order later today.

So we went to lunch at Red Robin.

Sunday

Didn’t make as much progress as I would like this weekend. There’s still tomorrow though. Yay for three day weekends.

Saturday I got up and ran some errands around town while Laure indulged her sudden, inexplicable urge to deep clean every inch of the house. I returned home about the same time that she was finishing up. I fully intended to go out and clean the garage, after a bite to eat. What ended up happening was Laure falling asleep in our room, while reading a book, and myself nodding off on the couch and sleeping through five episodes of Futurama. I’m not sure where the sleepiness came from but we were both exhausted by mid-afternoon. After we awoke from our naps, we spent the evening watching TV together on the couch.

Today, after sleeping in till about nine AM, I went out and cleaned the garage. It is once again usable for more than just keeping our van dry. I didn’t get out and buy lumber like I’d planned. Today being Sunday, everything closed early. I did spend a little time in sketch-up, and measured and re-measured the trailer. I briefly entertained the idea of trying to salvage the existing decking somehow, but a cursory inspection of that plywood confirmed my initial concerns. That wood has been soaked through more than once, and while it would probably hold up fine for a few years, perhaps longer if I seal it properly, it will eventually rot out from under the teardrop. So I’ll be making a trip by one of the local lumber companies for some properly treated, ¾ inch plywood to replace that decking with.

I was also struck by something that I hadn’t put much thought into before, the fenders. I haven’t been a huge fan of the existing fenders but they don’t look bad, so I figured I’d leave them alone. The problem is that, as they are currently installed, once I build up the floor of the trailer there will be no way to remove those fenders. We’ll be stuck with them. That got me to thinking about something else, and whipping out the measuring tape yet again. The existing fenders are mounted in such a way that when the teardrop is finished, there will be a gap of a half an inch to an inch, between the walls and the fenders. I don’t think it’ll look good. So after I use the trailer to pick up the larger bits of lumber that wouldn’t otherwise fit in the van, I’ll be removing those fenders. I know a few people that are pretty good with a torch and a grinder, and I’ll have those fenders modified to attach right to the side of the teardrop when it’s done. I think this will look much better, and it will give us the option of replacing them with something we like better, in the future.

Since it’s President’s day tomorrow, I don’t know if the lumber company I want to use will be open. If they are, I’ll pick up the treated plywood for the underside, and see how far I can get with replacing that and then framing up the floor. I’d like to get it to the point where it’s insulated and ready to lay the cabin side of the floor down, but we have a million other things we need to do tomorrow so I don’t know how far into that I’m going to get.

In any case, some progress will be made and that’ll make me happy.

 

The teardrop

Not our trailer, or our car, unfortunately. Just a cool photo of a vintage teardrop.

A little over a year ago, Laure and I decided that we were going to build a teardrop trailer. We went out, got a loan for it, started ordering parts, bought a trailer to put it on, I got our van all equipped to tow the thing, and then life took over. With a kid going to college and other stuff coming up, we ran out of money before I could actually start building the thing. So for the last year, I’ve had boxes of stuff stacked up in the garage, leering at me every time I walked by them.

Tax refunds have come in, and we have a little bit of wiggle room in our budget now, so I’m hoping to start working on the teardrop again.

I started a separate blog about the whole process because I thought it would be fun to document the whole thing, from the planning stages on through dragging the finished product around the country whenever we have time to do it.

Needless to say, the blog hasn’t been touched since movement stopped on the project, last April. This morning, I decided to just condense these two blogs. I copied all the posts over from that blog, keeping the original post dates, so they now show up at the beginning of this blog. If anyone is interested, they can read about the teardrop’s progress by clicking on the teardrop category on the right hand side of this page.

President’s day is this coming Monday, so I plan on resuming the project at some point this weekend. First though, I need to organize the garage again because the holidays left it a total disaster. That should take up a good portion of my Saturday. If I’ve still got the gumption Saturday evening, I’ll begin ripping up the existing decking off of the trailer that we bought. Otherwise I’ll get started on Sunday. That trailer sat outside in the weather, at the trailer dealer, for who knows how long, so I don’t think it’s wise to trust the wood that’s there or to take a chance that it will begin to rot out from under the trailer.

So that is the first stage of the building. I need to put down fresh wood, weatherize it, build up the floor on top of it, insulate it and then get it ready for the walls, which I will hopefully begin building in a few weeks. Unfortunately, I don’t have a huge chunk of money to get going with, so I’ll have to build as the money comes in, a few hundred a month if I can manage it.

In any case, it’ll feel good to see some movement on it again.