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Ex-etiquette: A farewell to daughter’s father

My daughter’s father recently passed away after a courageous fight with cancer and I would like to deviate from my normal format and dedicate this week’s column to him.

I rarely write about him. When I do reference my personal trials, I usually write about my life after remarriage and how we struggled to combine our families. That family, what I call my bonusfamily, where my daughter had siblings, both bio and bonus, was loud and crazy and full of kid-centered chaos.

My daughter had a different life with her dad. Being that she was his only child, her life with him was much quieter, much more reserved, and it wasn’t until she was older that she really jelled with that side of the family. As an adult she became very close to both her dad and her bonusmom, so much so that there were many times I had to secretly admit there were aspects of her personality that really fit-in better over there than with the chaotic craziness we called home. My daughter’s back and forth life was at the root of my learning not to compare, not to put my child in the position of having to choose which home she liked best, and not to panic when she and her bonusmom planned special things like a trip to New York, just the two of them. It also taught me how important communication was, because for years her dad and I were very poor communicators. When we began to communicate better, our daughter’s life became better – and the philosophy for “good ex-etiquette” was born.

We always think our life with our children is their life. Our house is where they really want to be, but children of divorce have two homes and watching my child go to her father’s taught me to understand that it’s not me or her dad, but me and her dad. She was a product of both of us. She was not my daughter visiting her dad. She had a full life with him and her bonusmom – family friends, favorite foods, favorite things to do, her own room, family jokes and memories that had nothing to do with me.

This was never more apparent than when my daughter’s dad took a turn for the worse. She flew in from Arizona to spend his last days with him and to help her bonusmom prepare for the inevitable. It was difficult to hear her so sad on the phone and not be able to put my arms around her to comfort her. I had never been in that position and had a hard time adjusting, but it was evident that she wanted to be there for her dad and her bonusmom. It was their life together that was ending and I had no place in it.

My daughter and her bonusmom were experiencing something together that was theirs alone. And, at this point, now that my daughter’s dad has passed on, I’m grateful she has someone who was also witness to her dad’s life as she experienced life with him.

My daughter’s father was a good man and a wonderful father. There were times, of course, like all divorced parents, that I was frustrated, but there was never a day, never even a minute that I was not grateful that he was her dad.

And with that, let me say, “Rest in peace, Michael, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.