Back home after a whirlwind trip to my in-laws cabin and to my sister's house. Zach needed to be picked up from a week spent with Nanny and Mike, so off I went with Tyson (he navigates from the backseat when he is not snoring).
The in-laws recently built a lovely cabin on some adjacent family property to the house where Dan grew up. There are stories on every corner of this land: from November deer hunts with Dan's dad, forts built by the 'crick' as it is called in these parts, a bear sighting by Dan and his brother, and numerous other exploits by boys too brave for their own good. Grandma & Grandpa's house was up the hill on another piece of land and Dan tells of days spent there away from his parents' prying eyes. His grandparents had plenty of farm animals and didn't miss an opportunity to feed their growing boys. What more could a boy want?
Dan's dad passed away several years ago and when his mom remarried, the dream was to build this cabin and sell the original house. As adult children, you wonder and worry and yell when a parent wants to remarry after the death of your father. Dan certainly did. Change is never easy especially when it involves emotional ties. But after this weekend, I will say that my worries about Mike, the step-dad, are subsiding. Okay, so yes, it's been years since they married, but the trust doesn't come easy when you loved your father (or father-in-law) so deeply. No one could take his place.
You see the other thing about Mike is that he has a past. Mike had screwed up his life before he met my mother-in-law. He'd divorced after several kids. He'd had an affair. He drank too much. He was in jail for something that I will probably never know. He does not have relationships with his adult kids. He had terrible anger issues. He smoked. He seemed to be a gold digger to a widow who didn't have any money. The trust would not come easy. It would need to be proven over time.
He immediately took to Zach when he married into the family. Zach was at an age where anyone was fun who would play with him and so they bonded. And of course, Zach does not know about Mike's past. As the years have gone by, their relationship has grown and developed. I asked Zach once if he felt Mike had taken the place of Poppa. He said no--his relationship with Mike was special. Just special, that's all. Last summer when Zach spent the week, the two of them camped in a tent out in the yard. Big fun. Last week, Mike called in sick to work so that he could spend an afternoon with Zach while he was staying with them for the week. He took Zach around to an enormous cattle ranch, a friend's farm and to McDonald's. Only the two of them. When I asked Mike why he had called into work, he said this..."Zach is growing up. He might not want to spend summers with us many more years from now. I wanted to hang out with him while I had the chance."
His words cut to my heart. Here is a man who does not have adult children visit him. Here is a man who tells his wife not to buy the other grandkids gifts for Christmas since he never sees them anyway. The grandkids don't know him and his children don't want them to have anything to do with him. Here is a man who has made huge mistakes in his life and who has one last shot at redemption. A boy who doesn't know Mike's past, accepts him for who is is now. Nothing more, nothing less.
Redemption is indeed a gift.