Today is my stepdad Andy's birthday and I have never seen him more clearly than I do now. I write this post having just left dinner with him to celebrate the occasion and nobody in this world makes me feel more cared for than he does. Let me share some of the wonderful qualities that make him the very best. The most telling occurance I can think of to describe Andy is the story of his patched shirt from when I was 8 or 9 years old. Our dog, Dogberry had a habit of eating odd things and one day in the woods he found the scrap of an old cloth (a delicacy amongst pups I hear). A few hours later Dogberry proceeded to barf up said fabric in our house. A few hours after that, a wash cycle and some sewing, Andy had used the scrap to patch up an old shirt of his. We made jokes about it for years and may have even embarrassed him a few times, but it truly represented everything our little family unit cared about. My mother lived by conservation, so marrying a man who reused materials that had gone through a canines digestive track and back was a perfect fit.
Andy is quiet, humble, brilliant and kind. He is masterful in the art of origami, sitting quietly for hours in his office creating new folds and studying pages and pages from books of old ones. He gardens, spending months planning out which seeds he will need for the year and exploring new produce for the yard. He walks the dogs for hours a day and cooks fresh dog food each week from ingredients procured at the weekend Farmer's Market. He bikes to and from his job at the Brown University Special Collections Library and if asked for a tour he will talk through the dozens of hidden historical gems housed there. He loves Tolkein, the Beatles, Harry Potter and recently called me to say he had discovered my CD of Buffy The Vampire Slayer The Musical and adores it. I think Andy might actually be the original hipster, but in the most genuine, effortless and cool way possible.
More than the fact that his lifestyle tastes and hobbies are awesome, Andy is pure kindness. I think I spent years seeing him as my mothers husband who I thought was great and loved, but through her somehow. Recently I have realized he is a father. Since my mothers passing he and I have engaged in more than a few long, deep talks and I have seen him quietly take care of me. In my life, most of the people who have done things to care for me have done so in a grand fashion or in a way that demanded recognition. I think I am that way too; I do a lot for other people but always need to hear that they noticed. Andy has been watching out for my well being for years without ever needing praise or attention.
He is quiet, but when he says something it is everything. A majority of the wisest and most helpful things ever uttered to me have come from him in times when I needed it most. When I was ill a few years ago and had to cut off all my long hair to keep up with how quickly it was falling out, nobody could convince me that I was still beautiful. Everyone told me all day that I pulled it off and that I had a great shaped head or that I had a face for short hair and I'm sure they meant it, but I wasn't buying. Andy came over to walk my dog for me and as he was about to leave my apartment he stopped and looked at me for a long second. He said, "you look really great with that haircut... you look like a girl from the Mickey Mouse Club that I always thought was the most beautiful girl in the world."
I just felt how much he meant it, and it made everything okay.
That is one instance out of an endless number of interactions that saved me in a moment. I am so blessed to finally see Andy for the parent he has been for the past 21 years. I love him for never needing credit and for always doing what was best for me even to his own peril at times. That is what being a father really is and thanks to him I feel like I have someone left in this world as my parent to teach me. He has taught me about having hobbies, nature, composting, oldies music, woodwork, patience and a million other dynamic things that have enriched my life. I no longer love him because my mother loved him, although that was a powerful reason for many years. I love him for the relationship we now have because of and in spite of the loss of my mom and even though he asks for no recognition, he deserves it more than anyone I have ever known.
Happy birthday Andy.