In Memoriam: "Step-Up" Dad - An Edifice of Rescue Legacy

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Much ado with animal news this week. But that is being preempted by a life tribute. It is with indescribable sadness that I announce the passing of my step-dad, Paul Hansfield, lover of life and family including two dogs. This man modeled prosperity in all its forms. He instilled in me the values and commitment fundamental in the creation of this website. I couldn’t help but call him“dad,” even hough I already had one.

I wasn’t looking for another dad when I met you more than 50 years ago. But what I ended up getting was - in many ways - an upgrade from what I knew a dad to be.

The introduction did not go well. To my puppyish exuberance at sharing details about the new love in my 12-year-old life you said, “Don’t get too attached, kid. You’re moving!”

And so I did - from my life of new addresses every other year to a grand estate ensconced in lush lawns and towering spruce. From being an only child to having the siblings I once dreamed about. I even took your name to anoint my fresh start. 

But then my internal judge took the bench and pronounced sentence: thou hast forsaken thy true father and the life ye once knew. As punishment, thou shalt renounce thine new loyalties and take pleasure not in the comforts of family.

And so I did - I took back my old name whose very lyric smacks of poverty. I banished myself to the attic bedroom where I plotted my trans-continental path back to my “real” family. I became a vegetarian, as much to signal that I was different as for compassion toward animals. I refused to strive for fear that my achievements would pale next to those of your children. I brooded over sharing my mother, not thinking about the wife you’d lost.

I ceded to your trappings but brought little warmth to them. But, still, you loved me. You loved me though I lived like a border, never fully unpacking my suitcase. You loved me though I made it clear it was my blood-father’s love I sought to win. You loved me through my tacit insistence that I was unlovable. And when your temper flared in frustration, I admitted that as evidence of your callousness and my unworthiness.

And then I left - made my pilgrimage back to the “promised land” of opportunity that never kept its promise. Because I never received your lesson on how to make and keep my promises. I sentenced myself to false starts and short landings. For nearly 20 years I wandered my heart’s desert before returning to the place I left: that breeze-kissed oasis ripe with the fruits of generosity. The place you live.

It was there I welcomed your sweet soul rush and the epiphany that rewrote my truth and my loyalties. All those years, you let me love you the way I could - the only awkward, ungrateful and infuriating way I knew how. And there it was: my get-out-of-jail card. The key to all the wealth I’d ever need. The family I’d had all along. My halves and steps made whole.

You are written into me, beyond DNA and patriarchal labels.

Papa Paul, you will forever be my “step-up” dad.