Jamie's dad...that's always been an interesting phrase. It certainly doesn't seem like it should be, but it is. Let me explain.
Jamie's dad - the man that has raised him, put a roof over his head and been there - is Tom. He's the one that raised Jamie into a man of value and substance. He taught Jamie how to build a house, how to fix a car, how to do just about anything requiring tools. He's the one that was at our wedding. And he was at the hospital with us when Faith was born. He has been an amazing father to Jamie, particularly considering that Jamie (as most children) didn't come with an instruction manual. Jamie and his older sister, Gina, came as part of a "pre-fab family" (Jamie's phrase) when Tom married their mom, Dorothy. See, Jamie's dad - his natural one (hence the confusion), died before Jamie was even born. Long before. About 8 1/2 months before. I write about this today because Jamie's mom pointed out to him yesterday that it was the anniversary of his dad's death. She told him, "Your dad died today."
Of course, when he came home and told me that, it took me a second to realize that they were talking about J.R. - his natural dad. For just a brief second, I did look at Jamie in shock and say, "WHAT?!" I heard "dad" and thought, "Tom." I have learned over the years that context is an important part of interpreting which dad we are talking about! Anyway...
June 26, 1976 - James Richard (J.R.) Largent died. Jamie (yes, James Richard Largent II) was born March 2, 1977 - you do the math. Gina was about 4 years old and remembers snippets of life with J.R. and when he died. I thank God everyday that my mother-in-law had the strength and courage to continue carrying her precious baby when she discoverd that she was pregnant - probably just weeks after her husband was killed. There she was - 20 years old, widowed, a 4-year old to raise, and newly pregnant. Having been pregnant and being married to the love of my life - I cannot imagine how she did that. Except that from my own experience I have learned that in the throes of grief, you just do the next thing. So, I thank my mother-in-law for being stronger than she has ever believed she is. Thanks to her, I have my husband. And because of her, he feels a connection to two fathers - including the one he never knew.
Jamie has relationships with extended family from every side of his family. He is especially close with aunts and uncles from the Largent family - J.R.'s family. He has one cousin that I have seriously mistaken for Jamie in photos because they look so eerily alike. And I have learned about J.R. I have seen photos and see the red hair that Jamie inherited. (Okay, Jamie won't admit he has any red hair, but take one look at his beard.) I look at Jamie with the Largents and it's easy to see whose genes he inherited. At 6'3" Jamie isn't even the tallest of the Largent cousins. I look at Gina's children and see how strong that Largent gene is. I even look at pictures of our precious Faith and can see in her features pieces of her dad. I am constantly amazed at the connection that Jamie has with a father he never knew.
Jamie has talked over the years about J.R.'s presence in his life. How he knew his dad was watching over him because it's the only explanation he has for escaping serious trouble or harm over the years. All of this has become more important to me since Faith was born. We have struggled a bit with how to include her in our life and how to include her as the "big sister" when we have more children. Jamie has demonstrated that clearly a physical presence isn't necessary to feel connected to someone that is a part of you. I have learned a lot from a relationship that doesn't actually physically exist. I have my husband to thank for that. And I have an amazing mother-in-law to thank. She has not had an easy way in this life, but she is an incredible person who has never stopped fighting her demons, determined to beat them back into submission each and every time. Maybe I don't tell her enough, but I admire her tenacity and her strength.
I also have to thank Jamie's dad for these lessons. Not J.R. - but the father I wrote about first. Tom. Without Tom, Jamie's life would have been very different. Don't get me wrong - the relationsip Jamie has with his parents is very different now than it was when he was growing up. Jamie wasn't easy and Tom came in to a situation he was unprepared for, taking on the job of dad to two young children with no instruction manual, no training. He just loved Dorothy and Gina and Jamie came with the deal, so he did an amazing thing. Despite the struggles over the years, he figured it out. And he is every bit a father to Jamie and Gina, no matter what biology says. Jamie's admiration and respect for his dad is immense. So, when Jamie talks about his dad, I usually have to pause to get the context and figure out which dad we're talking about. But no matter who the discussion is about, I know that he is talking about a man he loves and admires.
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