July 18, 2024

Relationship beats the labels

Wood Visions owner Ray Kegerize uses his faith and own experience as a stepchild to be a stepparent.

Look on the back of canned or boxed food and there is a nutrition label.

On the back of an over-the-counter medication the label states how much should be taken.

For Ray Kegerize on Father’s Day Sunday, he looks beyond the step label being a parent.

With one biological child and seven stepchildren, Kegerize said he strives to diminish, or eliminate, the stepfather label.

“My mom has always been my mom. My biological father left us when I was 8 months old. I believe that has ultimately left an impression on my ability to be a father now,” he said.

Born in a military family that lived from South Carolina to Hawaii, his mother had additional marriages. “The third time, he was a wonderful man and he was my stepfather,” he said. Having a stepfather was the only father he knew during his youth. It has also been his motivation as a parent himself.

“The whole thing I talk about with kids these days, step is almost a bad word. To use that word step, and it’s not bad, the word step can separate so much in a relationship. I have felt that. That experience is my life. I have been led by that and it is important for me to not separate. I don’t want the child to feel they are not worthy or anything in that matter,” he said.

Kegerize said he remembered his stepfather when he was 12.

“He did the best he could, he knew how to include us,” he said, referring to his sister. “Family was a big thing for him that came to me. I was still young enough for that to have impact.” Kegerize has stepsiblings.

Kegierize, 53, is a 1989 Creston High graduate. He eventually experienced the stepparent realm as a parent. His first marriage included his own biological child and two children from his wife’s previous relationships.

“It was more important for me to include both of her kids with mine with everything we did,” he said.

That relationship ended and Kegerize eventually met the woman who is his second wife. She already had five children.

“Even though the kids are older, they never had a solid father figure in their lives. I hope I have filled that need,” he said. “We all fall short. We are not perfect. Introducing God in their lives, that is a big part of our life now. It is very important,” he said.

Kegerize attends Abundant Life Family Church in Creston. He leads the church’s youth group.

“He and his wife recently started looking out for the teens. They are a great addition to the church,” said church member Richard Madison.

Kegerize said his faith has influenced his life and parenting.

“I have less now than I had in my life, the material things,” he said. “I have had the perfect house with the three-car garage and picket fence. But until I received Jesus, I didn’t know. I have none of that today but feel more fulfilled. That influences my relationships with the kids.” He explained a family trip to Florida was fun, but the relationships will be more important to children than material things.

Deb, his second wife, had kids in the their teenage years when they married. That reminded him of his teen years establishing and developing the relationship with his stepfather. “I knew the way I didn’t want to feel and didn’t want them to feel that way,” he said.

Kegerize has seen both sides.

“Experience does come into play. With all the turmoil of raising teens, being a parent is hard if you come at it like that. Don’t think you’re better, but be real. You have to be a parent first,” he said.

He said the relationship building with those kids came in stages. “The older ones may have been a little jaded. It took longer. I have a better relationship with them now,” he said. Those children are all in their 20s now. He’s also a grandfather.

“It probably took three or four years,” he said about making those relationships solid. “I found trust in myself. That truth came whenI found value in myself and Jesus was part of my life. If you have value for yourself that translates to value for your kids.”

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.