Bruce Sallan: A story of faith
A Dad’s Point of View column by Bruce Sallan
This past Easter I was skiing with my younger son. As my middle-aged body gets sore from several hours on the slopes, I tend to indulge in the jacuzzi to ease some the aches I’ve earned each day. On this past Easter Sunday, I ended up sharing the communal jacuzzi at the condo complex with members of a family who shared some personal stories. For me, they were inspirational.
I met Bob (names all changed) who was single 30+ years after divorcing the mother of Sharon and Mark, the other two adults in the jacuzzi. Bob had been their stepfather for seven years, yet remained actively involved in their lives long after he and their mother divorced. Sharon felt so close to him that when she got married she invited both her biological father and Bob to walk her down the aisle. This irritated her biological father who had evidently not been much of a father during the years before and after Bob was in Sharon’s life.
All these years later, these two adult children had chosen to remain connected with Bob, their stepfather of seven years. Their bond and commitment to each other was obvious. With all the struggles so many blended families go through I was impressed and touched by their closeness.
Mark had had a child out-of-wedlock and struggled mightily to stay in that son’s life. The child’s name is Rick. Mark said that he had spent tens of thousands of dollars seeking visitation rights, but Rick’s mother did everything in her power to frustrate his efforts to have a relationship with his son. I’m putting aside the issue of Mark not being married at the time and, instead, focusing on the mother and father fighting, thus hurting the child. This is too often the case and, sadly, too often our courts instead of looking out for “the best interest of the child” choose to focus on the best interests of the angry spouses only resulting in financial gain for their lawyers.
During the years of this legal struggle, Mark married and had two more children, a boy and a girl, yet he continued to try to stay in Rick’s life.
The result of Mark’s fighting with Rick’s mother was that Rick became a troubled teen and young man. Big surprise. Rick was caught between his warring parents, with Mark trying to establish some boundaries for him while his mom only gave in to anything to win Rick over to “her side.” Ultimately, the story takes a turn for the worse when Rick turns Mark’s other son onto drugs, slipping him what used to be called a “mickey,” or giving him drugs without his knowledge!
When Mark learned of this, he had no choice but to seek a restraining order to keep his older son away from his impressionable younger one. However, the damage had been done, to some degree, as his younger son began to embrace the drug lifestyle.
Throughout all these travails, Mark stayed close with his stepfather, Bob, who offered counsel, financial help, and a strong, mature, and loving sounding board. However, the grip of the drug culture is strong and Mark finally turned to his church, to his pastor’s son, a 19-year-old to seek some outside intervention that might help his younger son.
Thankfully, Mark’s younger son respected and liked the pastor’s son and became a mentor to Mark’s troubled son. The two young men ended up going to Columbia on a church mission to help some of the impoverished children that live there. The impact of this trip was powerful on Mark’s younger son and when he returned, he told Mark, “After witnessing the love these (Columbian) kids had for us, seeing the horrible poverty they live with, I realize how much value our lives are and I’ve changed completely.”
He hasn’t touched a drug since.
Bob now has another situation in which to offer his guidance and support, as his stepdaughter, Sharon, mother of two young children, is in the throes of divorce. So, again, he faces the job of supporting one of his stepchildren from years past, this time through the rigors of a divorce, while she’s still raising two small kids. I could see from the look on her face, as well as Mark’s, that their bond with Bob was as strong as any biological parent could have.
Between hearing about the marvel that occurred with Mark’s younger son and feeling the positive energy that Sharon gets from both Mark and Bob, I have full faith that she will emerge from the divorce as well as can be expected. She may be a little emotionally battered, as is the result of just about every divorce, but she will be intact, well-balanced, and healthy due to this strong family support.
What is the lesson? Parental bonds have nothing to do with paternity; they have everything to do with desire to be an active, good, and participating mother or father. Bob demonstrated this to Mark, and Mark tried to be there for his older son, Rick. And, Mark’s faith and connection to his church, gave him a tool that may have literally saved his younger son. A miracle? No: the power of faith, commitment, and love.