The influence of a stepfather

What happens when a biological father leaves his children? The reasons vary, but for purposes of this column, let’s say it’s because the parents divorce.

And in time, the mother remarries and the children now have a stepfather.

It’s that relationship between a stepfather and his stepdaughter that’s the focus of this column.

Amber Jeske is an occupational therapist assistant who worked at Hillsboro Community Hospital, Salem Home and Parkside Homes before her company moved her to a new location.

Her daughter, Caitlin, 20, recently wrote a letter to her stepfather, which was published on the front page of the Salina Journal and was on Wichita television stations.

After receiving permission from the family, we are rerunning the letter in its entirety.

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“I wonder what you were doing the day that I was born. I bet you went to your regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, had a gas station burrito for lunch, and went out for drinks with your friends.

“You had no idea that a thousand miles away, your future wife was giving birth to your oldest daughter.

“I can sit back and say that I wish you had been there, but I know that God put you into my life when he did for a reason.

“You are not my biological father, I do not carry your last name (yet) and I do not look like you in the slightest. Any man can make a child and stick his name on the birth certificate. It takes a real man like you to step up and care for a child who is not his own.

“Your love is, in fact, a choice. I know that I have worried more about my biological father in the past, but even after he broke my heart time and time again, you were there to pick up my broken pieces. Every hug you squeezed those pieces even tighter together.

“I was 9 years old when I met you, God sent my moth­er, brother and me halfway across the United States to meet you. Who knew my mother’s hand signaling her number to you across a hot, sweaty warehouse would end up in marriage.

“You two are perfect for each other. You show my mother the love she deserves.

“You don’t get thanked enough. I know that work kills you, but you do what you have to for us kids. You never give up, and you stick it out every day no matter how difficult life gets.

“You’ve been an amazing role model for us. I know I’ve rebelled in the past with my choice of boyfriends, but you have taught me what a real man is.

“I know that a real man won’t cheat on me, won’t choose drugs or alcohol over me, won’t verbally or physically abuse me, and will never make me feel like I’m not good enough.

“I’ve had my heart broken too many times, and you’re always there to put it back together. You make me feel like I’m worth it.

“You’ve watched me grow up all these years. You were there for everything, my first prom, my basketball games, my art shows, and my graduation. You and mom both were always in the front row.

“You’ve always instilled in me to be myself. You’ve never pushed me to be someone I’m not. Even when I’ve changed my mind a million times of what I want to do, you still support whatever decision I make.

“When I make a mistake, you help me fix it. And somehow you survived my teen­age years, which tells more about your patience than anything.

“Thank-you, from the bottom of my heart for the wo­man I have become. I know that without you, I wouldn’t be close to who I am today.

“You are truly an incredible human being, and when people ask me who my dad is, I’m proud to say your name.

“Thank-you for taking care of our family. I know you didn’t create me, your name isn’t on my birth certificate, I don’t have your last name (yet) and I don’t look like you.

“None of that will ever matter to me because for the last 11 years you have shaped me, you have gone to parent-teacher conferences, you have made me one of your own, and you never made me question myself.

“I get so teared up every time I talk about you because you have never disappointed me like other men figures in my life. When they leave or put me down, at the end of the day I will always have you.

“Thank-you, for everything you do for me. I am so extremely proud to be your daughter.”

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The reason this letter was so special to me is because my children were also raised by a stepfather, and they feel or felt very much the same as Caitlin.

When our daughter, Tracy, was getting married, she asked her stepdad, Randy, along with her biological father, to give her away.

When son Joey needed guidance only a dad could provide, he went to Randy.

I believe that love for our children can take us beyond ourselves, and Randy continues to be a father to his step­children and his biological son through thick and thin.

Raising children forces parents, including step-parents, to live a certain virtue.

Like good fathers, there are also good stepfathers.

Thank you, Cait­lin, for sharing the love you have for your stepdad.

Patty Decker is a news and feature writer for the Free Press.