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Fathers HandMy parents were divorced when I was 2 years old. I stayed with my mom and didn't know what it meant to have a two parent home when I was little. Although my dad was a decent enough weekend dad, that was all he was. My mom worked her tail off raising me as a single mom, and made it so I never knew how broke we were or how tough she had it.

My world changed drastically when I was 8. My mom met and fell in love with someone named Jim, and of course she and I were a package deal. When they married, we moved a couple hours away to Indianapolis. I left friends, family, school -- all I had known.

Jim had been previously married and had two daughters, both of whom were grown with kids of their own. I didn't know what to expect or how we all would fit together -- what this man, already a grandfather, would do with a boy, 8 years old.

What I did know, very early on, was that I became his son that very first day he fell in love with my mom. I don't mean that he tried to replace my father -- who was still a good dad -- in any way. But from day one, I was his son, both to him and everyone he knew. He never used the term stepson; it was just, "This is my son, Brad."

He provided for us and made sacrifices. My mom became a stay-at-home mom when they married. Jim put me through private school, not because he was wealthy, but because it was his priority to give me the very best he could.

Jim had such an impact on my life through his fatherly example and is significantly responsible for the man that I became. He taught me what it meant to work: I have earned income outside my home, in some form, since I was 9 years old. He taught me what it meant to sacrifice. As much as he tried to hide the fact, I saw him go without so I could continue through private school and on into college.

I have my own children now and Jim couldn't love them more were they from his own blood. He is their Grandpa, and I can't wait to share tales about him with their children.

I will never forget his broken wrist playing basketball, or his broken arm playing football, obtained only because he cared enough to be involved with me. His waking from anesthesia after having his arm set created its own set of family stories that I can't quote here.

Most importantly, Jim taught me what it meant to love unconditionally. I could have been anything to him -- a nuisance, a tag-a-long, or a necessary burden. What I became to him, in an instant, was his son. 

By Brad Lymburner