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A young girl can be intimidated by a new stepfather, but when he reaches out to her at the holiday season, two lives can be magically changed at once.
My stepdad’s name was fearless. He was a retired Air Force Colonel and that was the name he earned in the service for reasons unfathomable to the common man. Like the time he flew his B-52, leaking jet fuel into a snowstorm, attempting to land at the nearest fuel station, dangerously close to enemy territory. Legend has it that when he landed, he pushed the door open to his plane and as a plume of snow settled he demanded, “Where can I get a drink around here?!”
One other reason I think they gave him that name is because he had a commanding presence and he could walk into any room—whether it was the waiting room at a tire and auto shop or a first-class place like The Hotel Roanoke, one of the finest institutions in Roanoke, Virginia, where we lived, and be treated like a king.
He had an unshakeable confidence, and, I would later learn, a crisp supply of $10 bills on hand for tips for anyone who helped him. From my perspective as a young girl, he seemed like the master of his universe.
Before I met Fearless through my mom, I never would have even thought about stepping foot into a place like The Hotel Roanoke. Built in 1882, it was a beacon on the hill, something that maybe I would be worthy of seeing someday, but I would be much older, certainly richer and more distinguished.
Growing up, I never knew my real dad. I would always envy my friends who had dads. They would pick them up from school, or plan special father-daughter dates with them or generally give them that ol’ “Hey, I’m your dad and I’m proud of you” pat on the back kind of thing that can really build a young girl’s self-esteem.
So even though I was standoffish with Fearless at first, I knew that he was the person I’d always dreamed of meeting. I had so many ideas for us! He would take me to ball games and teach me how to fish and maybe even take me shopping. And even though he wasn’t my real dad, I knew he cared about my mom and that he cared about me, too.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach the whole “You’re my dad now, let’s go do all these fun things together” conversation. I thought for several days on how to ask him to assume his new role as “My Dad,” and I couldn’t come up with any ideas.
So when Fearless invited me for the first time to be his date at The Hotel Roanoke for brunch, I was relieved, but I still wasn’t quite sure what to say. It was a moment I had been waiting my whole life for. Was I worthy of this? I didn’t have time to think about it because I had already blurted out an exuberant, “Yes!”