The blended family thing isn't easy by any means. We moved to the house my Step Dad lived in and his daughters lived with their mother. For many years, especially during those years when you can't stand your own siblings (Sorry Christy... love you!) Dena and Beckie were the highlight of my weekends. I would wait for the every other weekend visits, and it was like having a 2 day sleep over with friends.
We're over thirty years into this now and while I have always referred to the girls as my sisters, I rarely refer to their father as "Dad". I am the only one who doesn't. It's not that I don't love him like my Dad. For most of my life he was the only Dad I had. My biological father struggled with alcoholism which made him an absentee for the majority of the years I really needed a guy around. My Step Dad provided for us, gave us shelter, food, clothing, invited us into his family, and when we needed it... a good swift kick in the ass. Trust me, there were times I really needed it.
So what keeps me from making the leap like my biological brother and sister have? Respect. I'm not talking about respect for him. I hope that he knows how much I love him and how much he's meant to me all these years. My respect is to my sisters.
Since I didn't have the same sort of experience with my own Dad as they did, I always thought how lucky my sisters were. When they went home on Sundays, I wondered if they ever felt jealous that we got to spend all week every week with their dad, in their house, with their old toys, and they didn't. Even at a young age, I remember thinking that if I were them I would be mad about the whole thing. If I had called him "Dad" it would have been like taking away that last little thing that belonged to just them. I sure didn't want anyone else calling my mother Mom. She was the only Mom I had! I didn't want to do that to them. I didn't want to hurt my friends, and that's what they were.
Many years later as I went through a divorce myself, my ex husband began to date our daughter's best friend's mother. Within a year of our separating, her best friend moved into our old house, into her old room, with her toys, and her Daddy. Unfortunately, things became progressively worse for my daughter as her best friend took great joy in taunting her with things like, "He's MY Dad now. NOT yours." I watched her withdraw into herself and her grades began to fall. She was having trouble in school and the two girls were separated and put into separate class rooms. It broke my heart to see her heart breaking and I couldn't help but to think of my sisters, and be glad I never called him Dad.
So to Denny, husband to my mother, the guy who taught us the importance of hard work and all we ever wanted to know about little Johnny, Olie, Lena, and other fictional joke characters, and what it means to really step up to the plate... I love you and hope you know that in my heart, whether I call you by the name or not, you're always my Dad.