Yesterday was my parents’ fourth wedding anniversary. That may not seem like a lot to most people, but they’ve actually been together for twenty three years in total. They’ve both been married previously, and they’d both said they’d never do it again, but then something changed all of that.
In 2012, my mum’s partner, Mark, was diagnosed with bowel cancer. It brought our worlds crashing down. When it happened, I remember asking all of the typical questions; why him, he’s so good and kind; how can there be a God if there’s such thing as cancer; what’ll we do if he dies? I remember vividly that on the day I found out, I didn’t sleep at all that night. I remember reading a book (though I can’t remember the book) until 8am, before finally dragging myself downstairs once more for a cup of tea in silence with my parents. I think I ended up napping in the day, eventually, but it didn’t take away the exhaustion.
The years following his diagnosis are a blur now, but at the time, they felt like decades. I couldn’t cope with uni, and ended up failing my first year and transferring to a new course. My mum had to go off sick from work, due to stress and worry. My stepdad, well… he had a different way of coping with things. He’d laugh it off, joke about cancer. In the end we all ended up doing it. The two of them went away a lot in that time. I think, in hindsight, it was to hide me from the worst effects of chemo, but I think it did help them too.
In 2012, after 21 years of saying they’d never do it, my parents got engaged. My mum said it was so that, if Mark did die, it would be easier to arrange everything posthumously. It broke my heart. In 2013, they got married. It was beautiful. It was full of joy. It was incredible. And guess what? Now, in 2017, he’s still here, and she’s stuck with him. Grumpy features, with a face like perpetual thunder, always moaning, and complaining about something or other. But you know what? I absolutely would not change him for the world. The day the two of them got married was one of the only times I’ve seen Mark with a smile on his face, properly. He’s one of those people where, if you ask him to smile, he’ll pull some sort of forced grimace that makes him look constipated. I’m not saying he never smiles, but when he does, it’s rarely caught on camera. There are so many photos of him smiling at the wedding that I think it made up for it though.
I don’t really know my biological dad. I have him on Facebook, and he sends me two cards a year, but that’s about the lot of it. I don’t mind too much. He has his life and I have mine, and we never really did the father-daughter bonding thing. I used to feel bitter, and abandoned when I was a child, but as an adult, I get that some people were just never meant to be parents. Now, my stepdad? He was. He’s a fantastic dad. He’s terrifying, and low voiced, and scares all my friends witless, but I just think it’s funny. He likes the same things I do, and I think that I’ve inherited his disposition for complaining, as well as his somewhat sardonic sense of humour. He likes cake too much, and cooks some really bizarre concoctions.
He’s the perfect father, really. I’m glad he’s still here with us, all these years on.