Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From the Top to the Bottom, In Short Order

My family dynamic, in a nutshell. Heh.

No sooner did I post my good news about my acceptance for publication than the bad news hit:

My stepfather Martin passed away on the evening of November 16th. Needless to say, I was devastated by this news, as were the many, many people who cared for him.

As I write this, my mother is on her way to Kentucky for the second of three memorial services to be held for him. The third will be in Florida in mid-December. I will be traveling home to accompany her and my brother and sister for this final farewell.

Martin Riley meant a lot to me. When my parents split, he became my second father - at first through marriage to my mother, and then by taking on the role of fatherhood in my life when my real father and I grew apart.

Although in time I mended my broken ties with my real father, and at the time of his passing last April I felt we had finally come to understand and love each other better than we had in years, Martin remained as much of a "Dad" as I'd ever known.

Martin was the man who taught me to drive, who helped me get my first (and second) car, who performed my first wedding and who really understood my Agnostic views for the form of spirituality they actually are. I can't say that about everyone.

This was significant because, you see, Martin was a pastor in the Methodist Church for as long as I knew him. In spite of having been raised Methodist myself, I do not believe in organized religion. I don't have anything against those who do, though, and Martin - unlike many others, some of them in his own parishes - understood why I feel this way. People like Martin are types I admire. People of faith who live their lives according to their faith, and don't try to force the issue of their religion on those who worship differently.

I admire people of all faiths - regardless - as long as they don't try to forcibly convince me I need to be like them. Martin never did that. Sure, there was some poking and prodding, early on. After all, in my younger years, I was quite the fervent follower. Until I grew disillusioned by the politics and polemics I saw first hand in the church. Until I was hurt emotionally by those I turned to in the church, asking them questions they couldn't answer.

Martin and I often had discussions/arguments about politics, about religion, about all sorts of subjects. Frequently we arrived at our own conclusions and we agreed to disagree. But never once did he tell me I was wrong for believing as I do.

He was one of the few who really "got" it. In many ways - as much as I hate to say it, even now - he really "got" me, too.

And now I've lost my sparring partner.

I've lost the man I thought would take care of my mother, and who would guide me and my loved ones as he had for so many years. I've lost the man who I loved so much, even when he was annoying the ever-loving crap out of me.

I didn't think he'd be around forever, but I thought he'd be around a while longer, at least.

I was wrong.

I know he knows, though. I know he knows I miss him. I know he knows I loved him, and I still do love him.

I know he knows I'm sorry, and I know that he forgives me.

I just hope he knows how glad I am he understood me.

At last.

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