Contrary to popular belief, the birth of my children was not where my time line originated. I was a whole person before creating my own family unit. I had a history, a life, experiences, growth, mistakes and some pain. Go figure. I suppose we cant all organically have a sparkling, witty sense of self without some growth pains along the way.
When I was 12, my dad married a woman who was not my mother. My parents were divorced, and my dad remarried 4(ish) years later. I had met the woman once, at The Renaissance Faire. She was cool enough, I guess. Very boisterous, larger-than-life, and pretty large in the general sense of the word. They were a striking pair, to say the least. My dad had a giant personality, so to find someone equally loud, opinionated, and animated was quite a feat. They got married while I was at summer camp, because I suppose I was not an integral part of their lives. I guess I’m just glad I met her before they married..?? She had grown kids who were bigger than life to me. I thought they were all so cool and impressive. My step-sister was an even bigger personality than my stepmom. She was “The Tits”. She was rail thin, tall, loud, had long beautiful hair and she was an interpreter, just like her Mom. I never felt like I could be half as amazing as this chick.
I didn’t know much about my step siblings as they all had lives, kids, spouses. I was quite literally just an outsider who was once in a while invited to the party. It became apparent pretty quickly that my dad was NOT a favorite of my steps. Despite this being my stepmom’s third husband, I guess he was not a charm.
Admittedly, my father did not have drive or ambition. He went along for the ride and wanted to just be in the spotlight. .. but so did her kids. My dad and stepmom were all about the step family. They were close, they had big drama and big lives. My dad, on the other hand, only spoke to one of his three kids, (Me) and even that was a rarity.
When I became an adult, I took my stepmom’s classes and ended up becoming an Interpreter as well, but never an amazing or committed one. My stepmom was a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and therefore, ASL was her first language. She taught all of her kids signing, but her daughter was the only Interpreter out of the bunch. The older boys would only occasionally sign with their mom and sis when it was “handy”. (Wocka wocka!) My stepmom and her daughter were Interpreting staples at the yearly Renaissance Faire where I would tag along on the minimal weekends my dad had me.
I’m pretty much the opposite of my steps. When I was younger (and even now) I was introverted and shy. I was not a go-getter by any sense of the imagination. I was left alone to navigate a very over the top, dusty, busty, drunken, fun, colorful, and loud Faire summer after summer with my Dad.
Fast forward to 2001, I had established a more solid relationship with my Stepmom after going to school, taking her class, sticking with the program and doing quite well. In December 2001, my Dad died. When he died, there was no one there to help my Stepmom deal with the logistics. She was a member of her LDS Church and folks would stop by and mourn with us, but to my knowledge that was all. The stepkids that were so needy for so long were nowhere to be found. Despite my strep throat, my stepmom and I sat and figured out burial, funeral, flowers, pall bearers, obituary, etc etc. My own brothers were lost in their own grief, so they went to the funeral, but that was about it.
The funeral was pretty much what you’d expect. Tears, family, hugs, more tears. I cannot even say if my stepsiblings were at the funeral because I only remember sitting next to my uncle – my dad’s little brother – and trying to get through the service without bawling uncontrollably.
Next fast forward is post-loss. So my stepmom and I got together once in a while after Dad died but it was always awkward. It was always a little strange. My dad was nearly 400lbs when he died, so to say there was a gaping hole, or an empty space when we got together is putting it mildly.
We kept in touch, she helped me get my first post program job working with a Deaf student and I was grateful. I met my now husband and wanted her to meet him. She did, it went well. He and I decided to move out of state the following year. When I called to tell my stepmom I was leaving the state, she never returned my call. She never contacted me or replied to my attempts again.
In the early 2000s, there was no simple way to keep dibs on someone. I was not on FB at the time, and neither was my family. I had sent a Christmas card to the address I had for my Dad and Stepmom, but never had any replies. After a while, I supposed she moved on with her life.
About five years ago, I searched for my stepsis on Facebook and found her. I sent her an initial email asking about everyone. She replied with some venom, surprisingly. Apparently my leaving the state broke her mother’s heart. In fact, she was so terribly inside out over my leaving that she had a stroke. I am 100% to blame for this life event, and because of my evil existence, I was never to contact anyone in that family ever again or there would be consequences.
I wish I could say I’ve since moved on. I wish I could say that my belief that their family was projecting their own inadequacies and regret onto me gave me closure.. but it would not be completely true. Family is part of all of our lives, good bad or ugly. These people will forever be tied to where I came from, the story of who I am, and my own history. I can’t delete them simply because they lacked all the facts, have terrible judgement and communication skills. I wish I could say I’ve moved past it, but a small part of me can’t quite let it go.
I wish I had tried harder periodically. I wish I had searched them out throughout my adult life. I wish they had searched me out. I wish I was, in their eyes, worthy enough to find and get answers from.
Tonight I was locking down my Facebook account for unrelated reasons when I noticed during that whole exchange with the stepsis 5 years ago that I had blocked her. I thought all this time she had blocked me, and I’m fairly certain that she did, but when I unblocked her, her profile picture showed her smiling face beside her Mom. I scanned her wall and saw immediately that her Mom just this month passed away.
My feelings about this news of my Stepmom passing 13 days ago has left me feeling numb. What a sad statement when considering it’s the loss of a family member. I am sad for the family, I am sad for her kids. I’m sad that it all went sideways so long ago and no one thought to make it right by simply contacting me.
Grief does strange things to people. Because I had a front row seat to the death and subsequent responsibilities of my father’s passing, I understand my stepsister’s lashing out at me. I’m an easy target. I’m a simple dispensary for her own regret and pain … but I don’t allow myself for a second to believe it. Just because she needed me to be that to make herself feel better doesn’t mean it’s true.
My perspective is the only one I move forward with. I know I have shortcomings and I know there are things that I can be better at. What I cannot do is let someone who has never in my life felt that I was worthy of respect or love define my role in their own guilt.
To the memory of my Stepmother: I am sorry. I am sorry you had pain. I am sorry that you felt I should have lived my life beside that pain. I am sorry that you missed out on the family that I made and the happiness that I found and fought for. You missed out and for that, I am sorry.