My stepfather passed away around Christmastime in 2019. He was with his real family, and we were not notified of his death.
I was about 11 when a new man entered my mother's life. I've seen her have some boyfriends, but this guy was different. He was the kindest, most soft spoken man I've ever met, and to this day, he remains the standard I set for men.
I remember being poor for a majority of my childhood, and my Papa, as I call him, was an architect so he earned a very decent living. Before he arrived in our lives, my mom and I were living with my grandparents and her other siblings. For a time, I recall how my mom and her family would just be borrowing money from whomever was willing to lend. I sadly remember how one time I had to wade through flooded, muddy streets to a nearby store when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Some of the elders in our household thought it would be more depressing to the store owner that I go because I was a child, and maybe she would take pity on us and let us buy food on credit. The store owner did. I think that was the day I decided I will do my best not to become poor again.
My stepdad is a much better man than my real father is, in my eyes, and his only flaw--the dealbreaker of all-- was that he was married and could never legally be with my mother, as separation from his wife was out of the question for reasons I never understood.
My mom and stepfather knew each other from childhood, as they lived in the same small town. He says he has always liked my mother, and I believe she was his first love, but she did not reciprocate when they were young. I don't recall the turn of events, but they found each other again after many years, and while he already had a wife and two children, he again fell in love with my mother.
He rented a house for me and my mom so we could be independent from my grandparents, and supported me throughout my high schooling and college. My stepdad is a much better man than my real father is, in my eyes, and his only flaw--the dealbreaker of all--was that he was married and could never legally be with my mother, as separation from his wife was out of the question for reasons I never understood. He did mention one time that it was for our safety, and I always took him on his word.
I used to feel a tinge of jealousy that she gets to call him her father, because in my heart, I wanted him to be mine as well. He passed away with his real family, and we were not notified of his death.
I can still recall his kind eyes, sad smile, the way he slouches as he stands, thinning hair, and dark skin. My stepfather looks so much like his daughter, my sister Erica, who was born when I was 13. I used to feel a tinge of jealousy that she gets to call him her father, because in my heart, I wanted him to be mine as well. I'm not sure if Papa's family knows about my sister's existence to this day. After several years, my mother and stepdad also parted ways, as he started a new life abroad. We have not spoken for years even before then, and I always thought that at some point in my life we would still get to.
I was mistaken. My stepfather passed away in the U.S., and was mourned by his real family. We only heard about his death through the grapevine. I only found out about a month or two after, as I don't think my Mama wanted to talk about it.
Rest in peace, Papa. I love you so much. I wish I could put your photo here for the world to see the man who helped make me who I am today. Thank you for all that you have done for us.
All my love,