From the beginning, I loved Mark’s adventurous spirit for the outdoors and watching him interact with my gang. He took us on weekend outings and summer vacations. They included dove hunting with my son, camp-outs on the beach, air shows, the circus, barbecues at the parks, and a vacation to Disney World. Even though raised in Miami, I had never been to Disney World and recall that I was as excited to go as the kids were.
Our all-time favorite excursion: A ten-day road trip to his hometown in California. We stopped in San Diego where we spent the entire day at the zoo, the largest and grandest I had ever seen or strolled through. Our second day was in Los Angeles, where I knew we’d bump into Hollywood glitter to brag about back home.
I was right, too. Well, sort of.
To my shock, a few yards away I spotted a celebrity in the crowd at Universal Studios. I saw the back of his head, and then he turned just enough for me to see his profile. He wasn’t Tom Cruise. He wasn’t Mel Gibson. He wasn’t exactly your Prince Charming … Of course, my kids didn’t know of him. Yep, I called out his name and he looked right at me and wave. It was he all right. Tiny Tim! His song, Tiptoed Through the Tulips played in my head for the rest of that day.
In Monterey, we cruised along the 17-mile drive, passing greenery, plush golf courses, Clint Eastwood’s home, and the infamous Lone Cypress tree we’ve seen only in photos before. In San Francisco, we hung out at Golden Gate Park and toured the Museum of National History. We stopped in Salinas and visited Mark’s aunt, and continued on to Modesto. We spent the night in his brother’s home and watched the children happily camp out in their backyard in a tent under a full moon.
Come morning, on to Yosemite National Park. As far as the eye could see, the view was breathtaking, beautiful, and serene. We enjoyed a picnic and watched a waterfall close by, and then the little ones wanted to go exploring. Wherever Mark led, the children followed. The kids trailed him, fearlessly climbing one rock after another. I never cared much for heights, so I stayed on “lower” ground taking pictures.
Just as I started to worry, weren’t there bears around? My kiddos raced down the trail with Mark in tow.
“Mommy! Mommy!” they cried in unison.
“Where’d you guys go?” I asked. “I started to get—”
“You should have seen Mark,” they said, trying to talk at once.
As Mark drew closer, I noticed him soaking wet, a sheepish grin look on his face. Apparently, when he wanted to venture farther along where the river ran, he instructed the kids to wait for him while he climbed higher. But when the time to descend, Mark found himself in a tight spot. From where he stood, the drop was much too far down to hop off. After some scheming, he threw his wallet and keys to where the children were and then jumped into the cold river and swam until he could gain better footing and get back on track.
Amidst the chatter, I teased Mark by saying he had fallen into the river (instead of voluntarily jumping in). But he and the kids swear to it that he purposely dove in when he felt he ran out of options. We would joke about this for years to come.
Unknowingly, those voyages were just the beginning of some wonderful memories my children shared with their step-dad, who lovingly, selflessly and so “bravely” (as my brother puts it) stepped up to the plate. That husband of mine became more than just a “step” dad.
It takes a strong man to accept somebody else’s children and step up to the plate another man left on the table…
~ Ray Johnson
I love my husband for striving to be the best Daddy that he can be for my children. And it seems to come naturally, ever since day one when we crossed paths, some twenty-three years ago.
By the way, that special someone makes a great “Papa” for our grandkids, too.
© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved