By Kairis Joy Colter Burt
“Tell your mama she can tell the truth. We’re divorced now. Who is your Daddy?”
Every time my father says it, my parents, all four of them, laugh uproariously. But the question really does have an answer. The quartet of wanna-be comedians who raised me can all take credit for the woman I have become. I look like both of my mothers, and all three of my dads. Before you blame public school for my math skills let me explain: I am a Daddy’s Girl in two realms. My heavenly Father chose to reflect a little of Himself when He gifted me to my biological father who in turn, graciously supported the loving relationship between me and my step-father. In an uncommon display of confidence and manhood, these two men partnered in my parenting, assuring both my spiritual, cultural, and historical education, and common sense survival. So no, I was not allowed to drive until I prayed, could change my own oil and hot-wire the car in an emergency. The friendship and comraderie between these two men was both genuine and sincere.
When something or someone hurts my feelings, I often say out loud, “It doesn’t matter. My daddy loves me!” People will ask, ‘Dad or Step-dad?’ My answer is, “Yes!”
My biological father saved my life the first time before I was ever conceived. After 9 years of marriage, doctors had told his childless wife she would always be barren. She was also told she had cancer, and a year to live. He stood by and defended her faith-based decision to refuse treatment, despite not understanding it. A year later she was pregnant with me. I was born the following July, ironically during the part of the month associated with the astrological symbol of a crab. Cancer. He saved my life again by making me cry when my newborn habit of not breathing surfaced. A crying baby is a breathing baby that lives long enough to get to the emergency room. I also remember being sad about him calling me out of the corral when the untamed mare I had been harassing all afternoon suddenly had a change of heart and headed in my direction. I thought she wanted to play… Neigh? Nay! My Daddy told me in rather colorful language to get my hindquarters out of that horse’s yard. I was oblivious to the danger from the charging animal, but I knew the sound of my father’s voice was not safe to ignore. It was her high tail or mine. I chose mine. In my teens, my mom and dad both became gravely ill. Mom had cancer again. My Daddy battled meningitis. Faced with raising my brothers alone, I had a heart-to-heart with THE Father, explaining that neither I nor the rest of planet Earth’s population was prepared to function without the man I loved so dearly. God was either merciful or in agreement. My Daddy celebrated his 70th birthday this year! Although their marriage had ended 35 years prior, mom was there cheering him on. He still protects me from harm. He literally stood guard over my heart and my person in the middle of the night, without question, when it became necessary to begin laying groundwork for a home for my children and I, separate from my husband.
I was a young girl the first time I met my step-dad and his daughter. I could never have imagined at the time that years later they would become my family. Sharing a bathroom was mindboggling. Sharing my mother was nearly incomprehensible! I thought for sure my world was ending. But what I got instead was a whole new one. Calling him Dad was easy. My step-father made sure I knew I was his daughter. Family vacations, planning gifts for mom, even telling on my siblings, I knew there was no ‘step’ when this man referred to me as his child. He encouraged my talents and praised my work ethic. He was there for my graduation, cheered at every ball game and track meet, and videotaped every musical performance. He signed whatever I needed for financial aid when it was time to enroll in my college classes. The look on his face nearly stopped me when I announced my decision to leave school, move out of state and get married. “Daughter,” he said. “That’s 3,267 miles away. If something happens I can’t just hop in the car and come get you!” When things did go badly, I only made one call. The man who had promised my young husband his daughter had ‘a home and family’ who loved her acted immediately. He paid for my one-way ticket home and met me at the airport. He took pride in the fact that he gave my son his first car ride, coming home from the hospital after his birth. He took his first grandson on vacation with him every year. When my father’s mother became ill, my step-father invited her to live with him and my mother. She lived with them for the remainder of her life. Dad eventually became disabled with age related disabilities. That did not change our standing lunch date. Every Tuesday we would plan something to do. We learned how to get in and out of the car with his wheelchair in tow and looked forward to it. It became the highlight of my week. As he became physically weaker, I would still come to him for advice. But more and more he would say, “Let’s call your father. He’ll know how to handle that.”
In 2010, shortly before his 85th birthday, my step-father passed away. My biological father spoke fondly of him at his memorial service, as did many other friends and family. Shortly thereafter my daddy called me and said I needed to come over. “There’s something I want to give you.” When I arrived, he handed me a letter that was nearly 20 years old. It was to my father, from my step-father discussing concerns he had and things he was proud of about “Our daughter.” It’s something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Dad, or step-dad, my answer gets to be yes! And I thank God.
“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-
to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
Kairis Joy Colter Burt
Co-Editor/Contributing Writer, B.L.O.G. Magazine
At 40-something Kairis is a divorced, single Mother of three biological children, and three more born in her heart, preschool to college aged. She’s a Labor Coach, a professional birth Doula who approaches the world from that viewpoint; holding your hand, reminding you to relax, breathe, trusting God with your purpose, no matter what your situation is giving birth to. She’s a volunteer teacher for homeless women, a project manager for a pregnant teen mentoring program, on two non-profit Boards, and a praise dancer. She also has a passion for natural beauty; a self-proclaimed, self employed natural hair artist, escaping only to coach laboring women at whatever hour a baby decides to enter the world. Doulas, like Brides of Christ, are on-call 24/7.