One year and two days after my mom passed away, my father called me to let me know that he was engaged to be married. I knew this was coming, he had been dating like a madman starting three weeks after my mom's passing. My hope was that she would be nice and that she would make my dad happy.
My dad wanted me to meet his fiance in Febraury, and so I agreed. I would pick them up at the train station and spend an hour with them. Mr. Boy wanted to meet her, AK wanted nothing to do with it. As I drove to the train station, my heart started pounding and the familiar phrase of, "I don't want to do this." repeated in my head. As I neared the station, I saw my dad with his arm around a petite lady, who was not my mom. It all seemed wrong, and I hit the gas and drove right on by the train station leaving them standing there on the curb. Mr. Boy kept pestering me, "Mom, why did you drive right by Grandpa?" I just needed a moment to think this through. I summoned all my courage, made a U turn and headed back to the train station. I picked them up and spent the next hour with them.
I spent 34 years of my life seeing my mom and dad together. It seemed so weird to see him with someone else. I know he is incredibly lonely, I know he needs a companion, I know he deserves happiness... I know, I know, I know, but my heart still longs to reverse the clock and go back to the "Before". Before there was cancer, before there was heartache, hospice, death, and a funeral. He is ready to move forward, I am not.
"Steplady" as she was called in our house, because Stepmom didn't quite seem right, turned out to be lovelier than lovely. Kind, endearing, warm, and friendly, she is impossible to dislike.
This past weekend my brother, who has been with me through it all, met me in Dallas to fly out to Tennessee for the wedding. When I got to the crowded gate at the airport and couldn't find him in the crowd, I stifled the urge to call out "Marco?" When we were little, we spent hours in the pool playing Marco Polo, and used that same game to find each other in crowds our whole childhood.
I arrived in Tennessee with an emotional gameplan. I simply wouldn't have feelings. I would stifle them, smile, and go into auto pilot. I brushed up on Tennessee football trivia, funny anecdotes, and interesting news topics to chat with the "New Family" about. I would be charming, but emotionally distant.
I spent the last few months building up walls, that southern hospitality knocked down within the first few minutes. Steplady's adult children were kind, welcoming, and endearing. They embraced us and celebrated the new family. I was caught off guard and it was impossible not to like them. I felt guilty for wanting to keep them at arms length. They were compassionate and knew things were hard for my brother and I. They wanted me to know, my mother was honored. We had things in common and I couldn't help but instantly fall in love. I had always wanted a big family, and now I had a large family with lots of siblings.
My dad and his new wife were married on Saturday. During the ceremony, I found a spot inside the temple where they were married to focus my attention. I had a multitude of emotions, happy, sad, good, weird, and excited. The excitement between my dad and his new wife was contagious, and they were beyond overjoyed during the ceremony.
I had been unprepared to hear people call the Steplady by my dad's last name. I hadn't even thought that she would be called, "Mrs. X", yet after the ceremony people were calling her that in a celebratory manner. In my world, Mrs. X was my mom, for 49 years she had owned that name and built the reputation it carried with it. That was the hardest part of the whole thing, and I felt that familiar stab of grief as people congratulated her by calling her by her new last name. I could hear my mother's voice, "Don't you dare let people see you upset. This is your Dad's day." Appearances were important to her, so I quietly slipped away to pull myself together. Do you ever really stop grieving?
Pictures and an intimate lunch for close friends and family completed the celebration. When it came time to leave, I was sad to bid my new siblings goodbye. I am positive there will be multiple visits in the next few years. I never thought that when I wished at the age of ten for a big family, that it would come true 15 years later. Now when people say, "Do you come from a big family?" I can answer, "Yes! There are 6 kids, 2 girls, 4 boys." And maybe I can get away with having a little southern drawl when I say it. I've always wanted an accent. Life is funny how that works out.