The Invisible Man

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My step-father is one of the most intellectual individuals I have been privileged to come into contact with throughout my life. He often leaves philosophical and thought provoking messages on a white board which resides in our family’s beige bathroom, such as this: “Dreams are not like cobwebs that can be brushed away with a casual wave of the hand. Real dreams are solid, concrete, impenetrable, and stand against all challenges.” His messages, written in bright green and blue expo marker, fill our bland bathroom with hope and encouragement. He is naturally gifted and is able to grasp concepts quickly and coherently. Whenever my younger brother and I have trouble with a reading assignment our dad can simply skim the passage and then spit out a summary back to us in a way that we better understand. He is knowledgeable in many fields. He knows that the wiffle ball was invented in 1953 by David N. Mullany, a myriad of sports trivia, and that a group of crows is known as a murder.

However, as a young adult, he did not have mentors in his life urging him to further his education post high school. When he was twelve his mom and dad separated. Sulking in his bedroom, his older brother walked in and barked at him, “Why are you crying? It’s not like he was our real dad, anyway.” This is how my step-father discovered that the man he had always believed to be his father was, in reality, his step-father. He never knew his real dad, a man who spent his life in and out of prisons in the mid-west. For most of his high school years he lived with his step-father--who did his best to treat my step-dad as his own--and his new wife--a bitter woman who did not like her “step-children” living in her home. His mother was too poverty stricken to support herself and her four growing sons.

It was a different era. Many families struggled to send their children to college. His was no different. There was no extra money. So instead of continuing his education he jumped right into the pool of the work world, taking whatever minimum wage job he could get his hands on. He worked at Zelenka Nursery in West Olive, Michigan where he was a “mud-shark.” For hours he walked down rows of plants and mindlessly filled them to the brim with rich, black dirt. For a while he was a clerk at a gas station called MSI. A few times it was robbed during his shift. My step-dad even worked at a Wal-Mart for some time, stocking shelves and pricing items.

Alas, he has worked in factories for most of his life. He operated a grinding machine at a company named Corlet Turner for years. At a powder-coating company named Proton he lifted heavy metal objects into ovens where paint was burnt off of them. At his current job, a line coordinator at a corporation named ODL, he works with his body, not with his mind. He lifts doors and windows and large sheets of glass and he hooks them on an operating line. This physically drains his body and is also hard on his mind, which is still active and craves infinite knowledge and creative stimulation.

One of my most consistent memories of my step-dad is watching from the large bay window in our living room as he walks slowly into the house, dirty from a day of hard work, carrying the news paper in his right hand. Everyday he sits in his brown, worn chair and reads the paper from front to back, stopping often to read an interesting article to whomever will listen. When he is done reading the paper, he folds it, puts it in a brown, paper bag to recycle later on, and then he takes a shower where he washes his body clean of work. While in the shower, he sings. He sings so loud. He sings Elton John, Billy Joel, and his all time favorite, The Cars. While in the shower he sings and washes his mind clean of work.

Furthermore, he has been a significant part of my life since I was a young child. My parents separated when I was one and although my mom and step-father were not married until I was five, my step-father is the only recollection I possess of having a father live with me under the same roof. His discipline, guidance, humor, and affection have shaped me into the young woman I am today. Because he never knew his father and was taken under the wing of his step-father, we are able to connect on a different level than he and my younger brother and sister, his real children, whatever the word real may constitute. It is often hard for people on the outside to comprehend why the two of us get along so effortlessly and why we have so much in common despite the fact that we do not share the same brown eyes, tall height, or strands of DNA. He understands that I often feel neglected by my true father and he knows how to patch this scrape on my heart.

With great ease my step-father loves me as his own.

However, as my step-father, he has often been deprived of the credit for this eminent role in my life.

In these ways my step-father is an invisible man.





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