Choosing to love again
New chapter of life expands family
I never thought I would see my father propose marriage to somebody. At least, the thought was the furthest thing from my mind until the year of 2014 came and left with my mother’s life.
It was not long after Mom’s death when I realized my father could not live alone. Yes, he had the love and support of my sisters and myself, but not the singular relationship that comes when two people decide no matter the pain or difficulty, when all is said and done, they will be standing side by side. My father, the single most resilient and tough man I have met, needed that kind of love more than anything else.
Partway through 2014, Dad met Tammy Fraiser. Tammy was kind to my sisters in their foolishness and listened to me in my arrogance. Yet, above all, Tammy clearly cared for Dad, a feeling he clearly reciprocated. Tammy is still kind to my sisters, still listens to me and still cares for Dad.
I hugged my younger sister Audrey, partly for warmth in the chill December air, partly because I was aware after today, neither of our lives would be the same.”
— Jaren Tankersley
I realized Tammy would likely be a permanent acquaintance sometime in 2015, and I accepted the fact without anger or dismay, which brings me back to Dec. 31, 2016.
I hugged my younger sister Audrey, partly for warmth in the chill December air, partly because I was aware after today, neither of our lives would be the same. I then hugged my other sister, Kathlyn, around the shoulders and drew her close.
I saw my dad kneel, saw him produce an engagement ring and saw Tammy slip the ring onto her finger. Abigayle Pasley snapped several photos, and I found it odd she was my future stepsister-in-law, when she had not been seconds ago.
The assembled group of my present and future relatives turned to walk back into the Rafter G Winery for celebratory non-alcoholic champagne. I pulled up the rear, reveling in the odd sensation the past moments had brought.
My father wore a smile beneath his beard, so one stretched across my clean face. I truly did celebrate the engagement. Jeff Tankersley had and has listened to my ramblings more than any living person. He is the man who taught me to be a man, thus his happiness brought me happiness.
Still, my happiness felt odd. Perhaps I thought the occasion strange because despite Tammy’s kindness to the people I care for most, a small part of me will always love her purely because she loves my father. This is no tragedy, and I cannot adequately express my gratitude to Tammy Fraiser for telling Dad “yes.”
Such love is born from a conscious decision to be there for the other party through thick and thin, to be patient and kind and not easily angered.”
— Jaren Tankersley, 11
However, in a little more than a year, I intend to depart from Canyon. I am much my own person, and it is unlikely Tammy will shape the person I become much now.
Yet this is not to say I have not and will never learn anything from my future stepmother. I already have. During the two years they dated, Tammy worked her way through medical school, Dad learned to cope with the death of his wife and both raised children who could be stubborn and needy. Yet they hardly faltered, and when they did, Tammy and Jeff were back together before a week had passed.
Such commitment does not come from mere emotion, for emotion falters. What I have learned from Tammy Fraiser is the strongest love, the kind that lasts, comes of a choice. Such love is born from a conscious decision to be there for the other party through thick and thin, to be patient and kind and not easily angered.
Tammy made that choice for my father. For that, I’ll make a similar one for her.