I’m pushing into new territory in the memoir (working title You Loved Me). My father finally came to get me off the street and I met his new family, the one he left my mother and my sister and me for in 1979. When he left, my mother had a breakdown and abandoned me, forbidding me to come back home.

Moving from Altamonte Springs to Indiantown was a bit of culture shock, but it was even more difficult to go from the familiar streets of Altamonte where I had grown up, into an established home where I had little connection with my father – it felt like these new people had more of a claim on him than I did. As I observed this new dynamic it had a profound effect on me. The deep sense of the loss of my father clashed with the real-life fact that I saw Dad almost every day but could not access him in the way I needed to. This caused me to disconnect emotionally from everything around me; to withdraw into myself even though it may have looked like I was interacting. I was really hiding. It’s a survival mechanism that stayed with me.

My stepmother did not exactly embrace me with open arms. I don’t blame her for this; from my adult perspective I can understand how difficult it would have been to adjust to a panicked, streetwise, hostile 16 year old girl coming to live with you. But I can also see the enormous opportunity that was there to reach out to someone who desperately needed to be loved. That opportunity came and went. She was not capable of reaching out. I’m not sure anyone would have been up to that task. The great triumph of my life is that it really is OK. I’m OK.


Written by Tina Gasperson


Jim Grey

Reaching out to your new spouse’s kids is hard even when they’re not streetwise and hostile. I have regrets over missed opportunities to love my now-29-year-old stepson, who liked me and lobbied his mom on my behalf when I was dating her. Fortunately, he has a balanced view of how things went and we are still in relationship.

I may get a second chance to be a stepparent as my girlfriend and I are talking marriage. She has a 17-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son still at home (plus boys 22 and 20 who are either not living at home or soon not to be living at home). I know better now, so I will do better.


Jim, you were never as bad as my stepparents. Just the fact that you have regrets proves it. If my stepmother has any regrets over how she treated me, she’s never made it known 🙂

It’s great to hear that you are in a serious relationship. Congratulations. I think your girlfriend’s kids will be blessed to have you as their stepdad.

Cassie Hamilton

Thank you for sharing this. For me, this is timely as I’ve taken in two teenagers. I’m working with DCF to become a foster parent. Their mother died four days after they moved in with me. It has been a rough haul for us. Not only have we all lost our mothers, but we are getting to know each other and the kids also lost their home and most of their things.
DCF shared with me that the inner life of a child can be very different from the outer life. So, what you wrote is important to me as I try to help my two kids. Because I talk with my kids quite a lot (about nonsense, about serious stuff, about anything that comes up). we have a continuous flowing dialog.
But, in the face of this, I know there are many untapped areas of their life and we have much to come. I hope by continually telling them I am on their side, I am trying to help them be the best that they want to be, and they have choices in life — that I am showing them that they are important to our world. I’ve even said that directly — and that they are special and important too. But I think it is most important to act in ways that show them t his. And, I think it is important that I be consistent with my actions.
I think your story will effect many and in profound ways.


Thanks Cassie. I can’t imagine how difficult life must be for you right now. I pray for strength for you and the kids. I think your game plan sounds like a good one. It’s a million times more than I ever had when I was a kid. Thanks for your encouragement, I really needed to hear that today. <3


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