83: There All Along

83: There All Along

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

There All Along

What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life — to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.

~George Eliot

I wasn’t sure what to think about my stepmother. She came into my life when I was a teenager, when I had more important things on my mind than becoming friends with her. I liked her and was always polite to her and we would chat at family gatherings, but I had friends and a social life miles away from where she and my dad lived. I was happy my dad had found someone who loved him as much as I did, but I really never took the time to really get to know her. Any communication she and I had was done through my dad. While he retired early, she continued working in a high profile career that left her very few free hours. This was just how it was and I never gave it a second thought.

As the years went by I would meet my dad for lunch during the week while she was at work. I would fill him in on the events in my life. I know he relayed my news to her but she and I never had one-on-one talks.

Then the unthinkable happened… my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Before we knew it, the cancer had become aggressive and my dad’s remaining time with us was limited. I spent many long hours in my dad and stepmother’s home those last few months, but most of the time it was to tag team with my stepmom so that she could run errands, take care of business, or just go get her hair done.

I know my dad worried that my stepmom would be alone once he passed away. He expressed his hope to me that our family would stay intact and that we would still look out for one another since he would no longer be able to fill that role. I told him we would. My stepmom and I sat together on either side of the bed and held my dad’s hands as he took his last breath and died peacefully.

The turning point in our relationship came on the night of his death. I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. We were sitting at her kitchen counter waiting for the coroner to arrive when I finally asked, “Why did you not have children of your own?” With sudden clarity I realized that, although she had been a part of our family for more than twenty years, I never took the time to truly get to know her. Her goals, her dreams, her past. It was clear that we loved and cared about each other but did we really know each other? I stayed with her that night and we talked, laughed and cried.

Since that night she has become my biggest cheerleader and I hers. She is the person I call to discuss hardships, frustrations and joys and she listens. She encourages my son to achieve his goals and dreams and never misses an opportunity to tell me how proud she is of him and how proud she is of the job I have done as a parent. When I need advice or just a sympathetic ear she is always there. Our lunch and dinner dates are cherished moments that don’t happen often enough.

It has been almost eight years since that night. Rather then look back on what we missed those early years I am so grateful for what we have created since then. I hope my dad is able to look down from heaven and be proud of the relationship we have created on our own. A terrible time in my life brought a blessing I never knew existed.

By the way, her response to my question that night so long ago was, “I never thought I would be any good at it.” How wrong she was.

~D’ette Corona

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