Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Had a Stepmother

       When I was thirty-five years old, my Dad remarried and so I had a Stepmother.

       Dad remarried less than two years after my mother's death. It was a good move for him as he was totally lost and did not do well after my Mom's death. It was good to see Dad happy and alive again. My Step mom was six years younger than Dad and she was energetic and very happy to be married again after the loss of her husband two years previously.

    I obviously had been out of the nest for close to twenty years, had married and had two children. I was fully occupied with my own family and a busy career 

    A fine wedding was held and all my family were in attendance but one step brother did not attend as he was estranged from his family.

   I looked at the situation and was foolish enough to think that Dad and my Stepmom were "old" and I wouldn't have them that long and did not go out of my way to form a new relationship with them. We exchanged cards and letters. I lived 1600km away from them. They dropped in when they were travelling to the west coast. I saw them at my home town when we all attended weddings etc. I never did make the 1600 km trip to visit them.

     Time went on. Dad and my step mom had a great relationship. My step mom adored my Dad and took it upon herself to look after him to the best of her ability. Dad enjoyed our step mom's company and truly appreciated her efforts to treat him well. Our Step mom's grandchildren knew no other grandpa but my Dad and they loved him.

     Time went on longer than I expected it would. After spending fifteen winters in Arizona health became a factor and they stayed in Canada for their winters. By this time Dad was 86 and they had been married 23 years. Here's where it really got interesting. As Dad aged it looked as if he would someday need nursing home care. Dad sometimes said one thing but did not entirely have it in his head. Our Stepmom knew this . So she very skillfully asked all his children what she thought should be done. It was a no brainer. Dad was close to needing nursing home care as it was becoming too difficult for our Stepmom to look after him on her own. So by asking us for input she accomplished two things. She had support to move Dad to a nursing home when he would probably not want to go. She also had our commitment so that we had preapproved what she was going to have to do. No one would have any come back on her. Dad resisted going to a nursing home but all she had to say was, "The boys think you should be in a nursing home." He didn't argue much after that as he realized he did need nursing care.

    So in the end my Step mom showed to be a very astute and adept operator when it came to family dynamics. She sorted things out for all of us.

   I visited my Step mom in the last year of her life. She asked me one day, "What did you think when your Dad and I got married?" She really shocked me and caught me off guard. So I thought I better be absolutely honest because she probably knows my true answer. I told her that I thought their marriage wasn't going to be that long and that I was busy and far away and that I didn't really try to form a close relationship. I was absolutely blown over by her response. She said , "Well ,you know we had exactly the same idea." We both had a good laugh. So in the end I came to realize that I had a super Step mom who looked after my Dad with loving kindness and was smart enough to keep some distance from her adult stepchildren. and yet let them know that she was there for them.

     Now the marriage lasted for 31 years. Both expressed surprise when they celebrated a twenty-fifth anniversary and  we had a little family gathering . My Step mom's greatest disappointment was that she died before Dad and could not look after him in his final years. Dad lived another three years on his own in a nursing home where his sons and grandchildren visited him and saw that he was well looked after in the nursing home.

     So in the end I realized that I had an awesome Step mom for thirty-one years.