Father's Day proved to be quite different this year.
My kids spent the day with their father, and I spent the day getting reacquainted with a practice I hadn't gone through in 18 years: meeting the parents of my significant other.
I wanted to introduce my new boyfriend, Derek, to my stepfather, and he wanted to introduce me to his father.
Time that Derek recently spent with my kids, including my youngest son, made him want to reach out on a deeper level to his father, who was reaching out to him.
They are rebuilding their relationship after years of hurt and pain. They ended up spending an entire day together about a week ago, the first day like that in many years. That opened the door for me to meet his father.
Derek knew I was nervous about both introductions. He assured me that of all the people he had brought home, I'd be the most accepted. This didn't do much to curtail my nerves, or my stomach, which seemed to be attempting to crawl up my throat.
I knew I was overreacting. I have a flare for the dramatic. Somehow it soothes me in preparation to come down from my neurotic paranoia the instant we pull in the driveway. Okay, maybe the moment we knock on the door. Or perhaps not until the first joke is cracked and I know I'm comfortably spending my time with other witty, sarcastic people.
Halfway along the drive, I just decided to be me. And I wanted him to be the same for my family. Derek got me to relax and realize they will all see it and feel it after being in the same room with us for just a short period of time.
There was no prepping for insight or forbidden topics of conversation. The only rule was to let it flow naturally.
And that it did.
Derek's father is a great man who is happy to have his son back in his life. To witness the pride he has for Derek living a good life is one of those feelings you can rarely replicate.
We then proceeded to visit my stepfather. Our relationship has been strained for most of my adult life. Early on, I was defensive and a right fighter. I left no room for him to be right because I was defending the life I was building with my then-husband.
Life wasn't doing anything to me that it wasn't doing to everyone else. I had to lose myself to find the "Heather" that had been lost in balancing being a wife and mom with making a living.
Derek didn't ooze concern over fitting in, or so it seemed. He looked my stepdad right in the eyes and shook his hand. That's dealbreaker No. 1 with him. I failed to warn him of that, but he naturally succeeded without me mothering him.
The U.S. Open was on, and Derek immediately made his place in the room with the golfing jibberish of par, birdie and bogey. And Tiger. Can't forget Tiger.
For the first time in I can't tell you how many years, I spent an entire afternoon with my stepfather without any angry discussions or dramatic incidents.
I also called my biological father and had a nice conversation with him. Since my divorce, I have felt some sense that I disappointed my father with some of my decisions. He ended the call with "We will all get together soon, and we love you."
It gave me peace.
And it gave me hope for acceptance. So many of the people involved in the day have spent much of their life seeking acceptance. And I believe everyone found it.
And after not having it for many years, I gotta say, it felt amazing.
Happy belated Father's Day to all the men trying to do the best they can until life teaches your kids what you've been trying to teach them all along.