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Naya Sanchez-Sanabria: “Water Is Thicker Than Blood”

This I Believe

Water Is Thicker Than Blood

by Naya Sanchez-Sanabria

 

I have never believed in the saying that “blood is thicker than water.” It never made sense to me because I knew that it wasn’t true.

One of the most important moments in my life is when I met my step-dad for the first time. I had no idea at the time how much it would forever affect my life. By meeting my step-dad, a new sense of adventure was evoked and a craving to keep things changing every once and a while. Without ever meeting him, I would have been stuck in the same small town in Minnesota, doing the same thing all my life.

It all started when I was in second grade. My parents were in the middle of a nasty divorce that would last for the next year and a half. I didn’t have any real idea of what was happening between my parents at the time because my mom wanted to shield me and my brother from her reality and not sully the relationship we had with him. However, this never seemed to cross my dad’s mind as he manipulated my four-year-old brother and me to gain advantages in court against my mom. He played mind games with all three of us like we weren’t once a family. Like we weren’t his children. Like he had no regard for the future of our mental health.

The only thing I knew for sure in the years it took, was what my mom told me: she and my dad were separating, which meant that they weren’t going to be married anymore. All of the other details I wouldn’t find out until much later when I started asking more and more questions. And my mom felt I was old enough to understand the gravity of the divorce they went through.

When my dad moved out of our cramped apartment and into his own place, we were supposed to be visiting him every other weekend per court order. Every time it was my dad’s weekend, my brother and I would get so excited to see him only to be disappointed when he canceled on us at the last minute. My brother’s resolve never faltered, although mine did after a while. At some point, I just knew that he wasn’t going to show up. It was a hard truth to face but one I had to accept.

It wasn’t too long after that, that my mom started dating again. I, again, knew none of this at the time. She had been reconnecting with a guy she had known since the third grade. He too was going through a divorce and had two children, they bonded over the similarities. The only problem that stood in the way of them being together was that he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He was in the Marine Corps, and still currently is, and was stationed overseas for the next two years. Although he and my mom agreed to not date because long distance would have been too hard at their age, they became closer and eventually they couldn’t deny their feelings for one another anymore.

I first met my soon-to-be stepdad at my mom’s job. It was a completely coincidental accident that I don’t fully remember. However, from what I’ve been told I was sitting at my mom’s desk when he came in for a surprise visit. We had a short conversation, he asked me where my mom had gone and I pointed to the back office, telling him that I didn’t know but he should check back there. My mom hadn’t wanted us to meet that way so she never mentioned who he was.

The second time we met was the official time we were supposed to first meet. He had come to visit my mom again. He would be staying for a week to meet my brother and I and get to know us. However, he was also there to tell my mom that he was going to be stationed in California soon and he wanted us to come live with him there.

Of course, with such a drastic decision, my mom didn’t answer him right away, especially because she would have to go to court towards the end of her divorce to ask to relocate us. The judge had already placed my brother and me under dual custody which meant that my mom couldn’t make a decision like moving us across the country without the judge approving of it.

My biological dad resisted at first and I don’t think I’ll ever know why he agreed to let us move with my step-dad across the country, but I’m glad he did. Because if my dad hadn’t decided to let us go then I never would have been able to really get to know the person who I truly believe was meant to be the father figure in my life.

We moved to San Diego a week after my mom’s divorce was finalized, driving there from Minnesota in the middle of winter. It was my first time out of the state and I tried to stay awake the entire trip, so I wouldn’t miss a thing. Every state we stopped in or passed, my step dad would tell us a story he had from there. His adventures through the United States only solidified in my 9 year old brain that he was the coolest person I had ever met.

It would be a month after we got to sunny California that my step-dad’s divorce would be finalized. Then, two days before my tenth birthday my mom would get married for the second time. Looking back, I’m sure I was more excited that I could officially claim him as my step-dad than I was about them actually getting married.

In the years that followed, I slowly dropped the “step” prefix on his title. “Step” comes with so many negative connotations and I had never felt any negative feelings towards him, so he soon just became my dad to anyone who asked. It was easy to forget that he wasn’t my “real” dad because he always treated me and my brother like we were his own. Even though he had two daughters, he never made us feel as if we were any less his kids. He’s the person who stayed up with me doing my math homework, the person who taught me how to drive, and was always in my corner no matter what. Without him and his influence in my life, I have know idea who I would even be.

When I was in my junior year of high school, I had just about given up the thought that he would ever be more than my step-dad legally. I had already planned to change my last name legally to reflect how I had already felt on the inside for the past six or so years. Until I got the news that my biological father had passed away. And while it was tragic, I couldn’t really mourn someone that chose not to be part of my life for years, who couldn’t have been bothered to pick up the phone and call his kids.

But while his death was sad, and I will never be able to rekindle a relationship with my biological father in the future, it was an opportunity. An opportunity for a new chapter in my life. It allowed me and my brother to be legally adopted by my dad. It was a big deal for all of us because of course we had always been a real family but it was finally reflected in our last names.

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(Read all the pieces in This I Believe; featured image by Linda Heyworth from Pexels)

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