Sunday, May 11, 2008

Out of Character: Step moms

In nearly every movie ever conceived it seems that step mothers are evil, conniving women who are out to destroy everything in their paths to break the bonds between their husband and his children. I'm here to blast that pattern out of the water. I can speak from experience that not all step mothers are created equal.

I will admit that when my father first announced that he was remarrying it was a shocker. He chose the day after my sister Maureen's nuptials to drop the bomb. I don't even recall hearing much about this woman he was to marry; the woman who would be ::daunting music:: my step mother. I think when he made his intentions known to most of us I had to feign enthusiasm.

I need to backtrack for a minute. I had been somewhat disconnected from my father for about 3 years. Call it post mortem confusion. I was a young teen without a mother and dad wasn't available in his own misery and grief. The household was in calamity and I was in dire need of love and guidance. Watching my father lick his wounds had no priority in my life. There were circumstances that pushed me to, in essence, run away. I needed a parent. I needed my mourning acknowledged. Dad and the one brother who still lived at home were swirling in a sea of self-absorption and leaving me alone in a big house at the tender age of 16. I had always been protected and looked after. In a short time our home was turned upside down and anger seemed to be the only emotion expressed. I couldn't bear to be alone any longer. So, I moved in with my sister(s).

So, dad announced that this woman named Nancy would be his wife in less than a week. I didn't attend the wedding. I showed up for the reception after my shift at Monical's Pizza. This woman had no meaning to me. She was just a flight of fancy for a man who was tired of being alone. Yeah, at 19 I was selfish, but I had my own demons to deal with. I had been literally walking around in a haze of denial. In my mind I sincerely convinced myself that momma hadn't died. She was just gone for an extended visit with friends. Subconsciously I knew better, but I utilized whatever coping mechanism I had. That was it. Mom was coming back and dad was betraying her.

Nancy, as it turns out, came to be a driving force in reconciling my father with his bewildered, grieving children. We all had issues in dealing with our mother's passing. I didn't want to embrace this new frontier in Dad's life. However, she never thrust herself or her son on us. She patiently waited. She didn't insist that we love either of them. She wasn't intrusive. She was simply Nancy.

Time would pass and I quickly learned what an amazing woman my father had married. My relationship with him strengthened and became better than it was before mom had left this world. He learned to reach out and communicate in a manner I'd never witnessed before. I got the father I always needed, and it was Nancy who let him BE that man. It's hard to explain, but there was a transformation in him. He was given a new lease on life and he was happier than he'd been in ages. WE were happier.

Nancy was so far removed from the stereotypical step mother. She is a friend. A confidante. If I need to talk; she listens. If I need advice; she'll dispense it if I ask for it. If I don't take that advice, she doesn't say 'I told you so.' She supports me in my errors and rejoices with me in my triumphs. She's everything a girl could want in a mom.

Fast forward a few years. In 1999 my world -- our world -- would be rocked again by dad becoming ill. Like mom, his decline was rapid and his passing surreal. I had been living in Georgia. I wasn't there to say good-bye, but my last conversation with him was filled with declarations of love. The past was shut away and we had become closer than ever. Nothing was left unsaid. No regrets.
For many that might have left a house divided. That wasn't the case. Nancy was and is the matriarch of our diverse clan. For many of the grandchildren she is Grandma. She's the only grandmother they know. She's the one who spoils them to the best of her ability (and the big kids, too). This post truly can't give her the justice necessary. It's hard for me to put into words the important role she plays in my life. In all our lives. She is astounding. If ever there was a question over whether unconditional love exists, I would tell you to talk to my mom, Nancy.
She entered my life at a tumultuous time, and managed to calm the storms. She took a wayward sailor and brought him into port. She reunited a broken family without realizing she'd done it. That woman I was determined not to like is a woman I now proudly call Mom.


  1. WOW! You said what I've thought for years in your perfect, thoughtful, meaningful prose! We ARE blessed!

  2. Thank you for the comment on the Oh, Hush! interview.
    They really are a very catchy band and quite nice. Although, they aren't telling who they are.
    I hope you have a nice day.

    -Cassie from SS


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