Even amongst all the abuse there were times of laughter, joy and fun that would often later be overshadowed by the abuse and chaos that seemed to be ever present at almost every family gather where my stepfather was involved. You know, it’s funny how we tend to grab on to and remember the bad times and forget the good times. That is until something happens to remind us of some of those good times and people.
While it is true I lost my father and everything I aspired to be when he died, there were a few things I gained, like two stepbrothers, and a stepsister. I also acquired two sisters-in-law that I always loved and respected. Unfortunately when I cut my stepfather out of life, I cut them out of my life as well. It really wasn’t intended that way, it just happened. Over the past thirty-five years, plus or minus, I have thought about them often, only to dismiss them by believing they wanted nothing to with me as I was just the outcast stepbrother. Boy was I wrong.
When Cathy and I got married in 1983 my stepfather showed up uninvited to my wedding. Not only did he show up, walking in behind him was one of my nephews. Right away I noticed something different. My nephew was no longer the happy go lucky kid filled with the joy I knew he once had. He walked in with his head hung low; shuffling his feet and shame written all over is face. I looked at my bride and told her – That S.O.B. is molesting my nephew. It was everything I could to do not to harm my stepfather, but after all it was our wedding day and a special day for my bride. I did not want tainted with violence. I knew deep inside of me that my suspicions were true that day and I have never forgotten that moment or doubted my knowing.
If any of you have followed me at all, you know how big I am on forgiveness. It is one of the hardest bridges for a survivor to cross. The three things I avoid telling any survivor is that they need to “forgive, forget, and move on.” I rephrase it by saying, “if you want to experience true lasting happiness and freedom, then forgiveness is a must, but it is also a process and you must move on.
It was about two-years into my recovery when I was finally able to fully forgive both my stepfather and mother. Since that day, I have no longer desired or thought about harming either of them. If you want to know more about what forgiveness is and is not, get my book Healing The Man Within, available on Amazon. I dedicated a whole chapter to this subject (chapter 12).
In 2013 my wife found my stepsister on Facebook. My curiosity got the best of me and I started digging deeper. Eventually I ran across my stepfather, exactly as I remembered him. The comments I read about him were exactly the same I use to hear from people while growing up; “He’s such a great guy.” He helped me so much.” If it wasn’t for Frank I wouldn’t be where I’m at in life.” While these phrases were upsetting to me, I didn’t let them drag me back into the role of a victim.
Literally two days after finding my stepfather on Facebook, Frank died due to complications in a gall bladder removal surgery. Once again I went on Facebook and read the comments, only this time the comments were even more adoring towards my stepfather. Again I cringed and thought; If they only knew!
At my next survivors meeting I talked about the chain of events that had happened in regards to my stepfather. One of the men in our group, a man with forty-two years “sobriety,” not recovery, asked me; “did you tell everyone on Facebook the animal your stepfather was and what he did to you?” I was appalled. What right do I have to do this, especially when his family and friends were grieving. Besides, it came to me that my stepfather was that person to all those people. He was their hero; he just wasn’t that to me. It was on that day I realized I had fully forgiven my stepfather.
One year later I heard that one of my stepbrothers had died. His wife was one of the sister-in-laws I respected and loved. I sent her condolences from me and my wife, not expecting too hear anything back at all. I was right I didn’t, at least not then. On Friday March 23, 2018 my life would take a turn for the better in a way I had not expected in any way.
I received an unexpected message from my sister-in-law saying that she just saw my condolences, three and a half years later. She said that she just now saw the message and was very happy she did. Her and my stepbrother often thought about me and how I was doing. After telling her how wonderful my life is as well as some of the struggles I’ve had, and letting her know I wrote book telling everything, she got back to me and said; I have to ask you Randy did Frank molest you? She then proceeded to tell me that Frank had molested her son and my nephew. Unfortunately, I was right 35 years ago and another man is struggling to survive and live the life he deserves because of it.
Here’s the great news and the fruits of forgiveness. First, had I of been vindictive when Frank died and tore him a part on Facebook, the conversation between my sister-in-law and I would have never happened. Thus my nephew would never of received the phone call from me that I am certain will be the beginning of his healing journey.
Here’s the best gift of all, I recently met with my sister-in-law for four hours. She was happy to see me, as I was her, and had she missed me so much. We are reuniting and becoming a family again. I will be meeting with my other sister-in-law I loved and respected, along with the one I have already reunited with and I can only imagine what that will be like. I’ve been told she misses me and always wondered about me as well. I have never had any siblings like this, especially sisters and I am so excited to have them back in my life.
For myself, I am overwhelmed with joy, happiness, and excitement. I did not realize how much I missed these two until this encounter. Survivors are real good at stuffing their feelings, and I found feelings this week I never knew I had. Only one person could ordain this whole string of events, GOD. If I had not forgiven Frank, had I still been holding on to resentment and bitterness, none of this would have happened. We must forgive and we must move on, however we will never forget.