Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Chronicles of Florida: By way of an introduction...

We started our vacation here. Then, there was Day 2. We *finally* made it to Mom's on Day 3! After a (minor, but frightening) Medical Emergency that required an Intermission to our story, we return you now to the morning after Day 3, which would technically be Day 4, and...

In order for you to understand things, I can see that we will have to backtrack a bit at this point, Gentle Reader. Our astute friend Kelly noticed that I seem to consider That Guy That Mom Married After Daddy Died (hereinafter known as The Stepdad) to be a bit *problematic*.

Kelly is a very smart woman, indeed.

The Stepdad is a complex issue.

You see, after my Dad died (in 1990) Mom was shattered. She and Daddy had been so much in love; he truly adored her, and she thought that he would always be her Knight in Shining Armor. He died way too young; he was only 58, and was full of plans for their retirement. He was smart, funny, and feisty. He was a Korean War Vet, a true patriot, and a Master Mason. When I was born, in 1960, he was in the delivery room (something unheard of back then). He was my hero, and my best friend.

He loved me as only a Daddy loves his little girl, and to his very last day, he never let me forget how much he loved me.

Daddy thought that The Wrench was simply "The Best Guy Ever", and was delighted when after our whirlwind 9-day courtship, we announced our engagement. He took the The Wrench into his heart - and into his beloved, sacred garage. They bonded so quickly and completely that I knew without a doubt that The Wrench was The One For Me. When Daddy was dying, The Wrench sat by his side for hours, and did whatever he could to make Daddy as comfortable as he could be.

After he was gone, there was this huge Dad-shaped hole in our world. For the first year, Mom worked on auto-pilot, getting up every morning, getting dressed, eating meals, doing what had to be done... but she was just existing. Marking time. During the second year, she decided to go back to college - not for a degree (she already has a Masters Degree in Education) but to take all of the "fun" classes that she never got to take when she was in school. Art classes mostly - The Wrench and I would come over, and find her (literally) knee-deep in one art project or another. After the second year passed, she began to talk about finding someone - a companion. A friend. Someone her age. She didn't want to get "serious", but she didn't want to be alone, either.

Mom spent some time going around with a widower from church - a nice enough fellow, but significantly older than her, and she knew he was looking for another wife. The Wrench and I encouraged her to keep looking for someone that she might "click" with. She picked up a copy of a local Christian singles paper... and there was an ad that she decided to respond to. An ad that had been placed by The Stepdad.

The Stepdad was, on the surface, much like my dad. Similar occupation, similar physical appearance, both were veterans, and The Stepdad was instantly and fully smitten with Mom. Financially speaking, he was roughly Mom's equal; their investments differed. From their first date, there was nothing he wouldn't do for her. She nervously arranged to bring him by our little cottage in The City one evening for after-dinner drinks and dessert. The Wrench and I saw that she was happy with him, and we could tell right away how much he liked her.

Time passed - just a few months, but it was enough, and they decided to move in together. The problem was, The Stepdad lived two hours away, in the next state to the east. The other problem was that The Stepdad had daughters from a previous marriage, and he had - from the start - tried to treat me as one of his own daughters. (His daughters, however, treated me more like Cinderella, but that's another story for another day...)

This all sounds tolerable enough on paper. But the reality was, I was (at the time) a 34 year old woman. I had already had a Dad, thank you very much, the best dad ever, and I still missed him tremendously. Especially now, because I was pregnant with The Little Sprout (who was actually Baby Twinks, but we didn't know it yet) I didn't want "another" dad; I didn't need The Stepdad to be a "father" to me. I was hoping we would form a friendship of sorts, knowing that my Mom would be the glue that bound us together. I always figured that as time passed, I might be able to accept him more as a "father figure", but I didn't know if I would ever be able to call him "Dad".

And, I didn't want to be anyone else's daughter. It felt like being a traitor to my own father.

I'll be the first to admit it - it was an extremely emotional time for me. I was pregnant, and we were struggling just to get through the first trimester. We were all on pins and needles, since I had lost our first two babies. My Mom was moving away - two hours away, which seemed like forever at that point - and The Wrench and I were in the process of buying and moving in to Mom (and Dads) old house. Not exactly the best time to try and forge a relationship with your Moms new husband, but thats the way life goes sometimes, right? Things might have been OK, except that The Stepdad made this HUGE mistake about The Wrench and I, and it has taken years for me to understand why, and years for us to build a relationship based on trust and truth.

You see, That Guy's daughters live over there, two hours to the east also. They are physically beautiful, always well-dressed, cultured women. They are prominent in their local social and arts scene - they have well-dressed, handsome husbands who appear at the appropriate moments, and say the appropriate things, and then disappear again until they are required for another event. Their children are fully equipped with the latest electronic gadgets and toys, and they always drive expensive, late-model vehicles. The daughters each have an address in only the best part of town - and they only shop at stores that offer the best of everything. They dine at the finest restaurants. They have personal trainers and tennis pros, and golf pros on speed dial. They have the best plastic surgeons to keep everything lifted and/or tucked.

And they sit like sleek, beautifully coiffed vultures on the fence of The Stepdad's life. Simply put, they are waiting for him to die. Should one of them ever deign it necessary to actually pick up the phone and call The Stepdad, the first question out of her mouth is "So, you're not dead yet?" When The Stepdad told The Daughters of Gloom and Doom that he intended to marry my Mom, their first collective response was to demand a pre-nup and an ironclad will to insure that she would NOT be able to walk out with anything that was "rightfully theirs".

The HUGE mistake that The Stepdad made was lumping us in with them. He assumed, before even meeting me, and certainly before getting to know me at all, that I was like they were - and that my only interest in my mothers well-being involved any possible financial gains I might accrue. That any interest I might appear to have in him would similarly involve the possibility of being included in his will. Even once he knew us, he could not fathom that we had no desire for the money; it was outside the realm of possibility for him.

The Stepdad never had the kind of life that our family had. Until he met my Mom, no one in his adult life had ever loved him for just... him. His first wife, and his daughters were always far more interested in his earning potential than in anything else. He didn't realize that I might not care about the money - any money. I just wanted my Mom to be happy. I just wanted my Mom to have someone who would love her and care for her. And it has taken him all of these last 12 years to even begin to grasp that.

Until I came to know The Daughters of Gloom and Doom, I had never even thought about what would happen after my Mom passed away. Oh, I knew I would have to plan a funeral, and notify people, and do some legal stuff, but it isn't something I dwell upon. It certainly isn't something that I *plan* for. But The Daughters of Gloom and Doom - they have it all planned out. How The Stepdads funeral will be. Where it will be. What the flowers will be like, who will do the catering, and - of course - what they will wear.

And then, what they will do with his money.

Needless to say, The Stepdad holds a fairly small opinion of The Daughters of Gloom and Doom. His own children, and he can hardly stand to be around them. It has taken him all these years to see that The Wrench and I are not like them. Hell,"not like them" is an understatement. We aren't even in their same species.

So, things have been a bit, um, *rocky* at times between The Stepdad and I. He almost always approaches me as an adversary; I tend to view him warily at best.

To give credit where credit is due, he is a wonderful Grandfather to Twinks. He loves her - absolutely and positively loves her - just as if she were his own flesh and blood. He is tremendously proud of her, and I appreciate the fact that he treats her as his own (much to the chagrin of The Daughters of Gloom and Doom) The Stepdad has been every bit as good a Grandpa to Twinks as my own Dad would have been. For that, if nothing else, I would owe him a debt of gratitude. And he loves my Mom. He cares for her, and he encourages her to continue with her art, and her quilting. He made one of her life-long dreams come true, building her a home on the ocean, so that she could watch the tides come and go, and walk the beaches that she loves so much whenever she wanted to. And whenever she has been ill, he has taken her to the finest and best doctors that he can find. As long as she is happy being married to him, I am fine with it. I do not meddle in other peoples marriages.

I appreciate all The Stepdad has done for Mom. I really do. But what I don't appreciate, and what still bothers me after all these years is the fact that he steadfastly refuses to believe that I don't have some ulterior motive.

And *that*, Gentle Reader, is what you need to know as a preface to the rest of this story, that continues to unfold even as I write this tonight...

Next: The Chronicles begin...


Rurality said...

Wow and I thought our trip to FL was eventful! They do seem to be doing road construction every 2 miles too, huh?

Chuck said...

Hope your relationship with "That Guy" continues to improve. While I can understand him being initially wary, it would seem like 12 YEARS is enough time to get to trust his wife's kids. Oh well. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.

Kelly said...

Just got back from vacation and noticed you had posted this explanation....

Thanks for taking the time to do it! I'm sure I wasn't the only one who picked up on it, but as usual, I'm very often the only one who will jump in and ASK....LOL! But then again, I probably stick my foot in my mouth more often than most people too!

Is there going to be any chance of a "heart-to-heart" with him? A "Here's all your good points, but you really need to be understanding this fact of life" type talk?

Because there's the chance that the "Glue" won't be there, and Twinks will still need to be around her Grandpa.

But I'm sure you've already thought of that....

Feel free to email, if you'd like.