She introduced herself as the Wicked Stepmother to my friends and colleagues.
We can thank Disney for that stereotype.
She married my dad after my mother died when she had been widowed herself for 15 years. She’d had other marriage proposals and told us she never intended to remarry. I guess my dad was more persuasive than the rest.
She was independent, feisty, and had a quick wit. She saw life in a unique and fun way. She laughed easily and walked into a room with a “here I am” swagger.
She loved my dad.
She did card tricks and made origami birds and could fold a dollar bill into different shapes. She had a treasure of family heirlooms and could tell the stories of each one.
She was a child of the depression who salvaged, reused and re-purposed before it became popular. She knew how to make a dollar stretch until it squealed.
She loved food, especially my sour cream cake. She enjoyed gathering with people at the table and had her own method of involving her senses in the process of eating, slowly relishing each bite.
She became a minister and performed marriage ceremonies for about a bazillion people, some of whom would only have been welcomed by Jesus himself. Her stories of those experiences were both touching and hilarious.
She had been our neighbor when I was just a little girl, and she was my mother’s friend. How ironic that my dad would spend his last 30 years living next door to the house he built for my mother and me.
She re-entered my life while I was still in the depths of grieving for my mother. It was a hard dance at first, us trying to find our rhythms in a new normal.
Our one and only son who was only ten years old wanted to call her Grandma from the beginning. She soothed a fresh wound in his heart left gaping from the death of a grandmother he loved dearly.
We welcomed her into our lives, celebrated her on her special days, and she became part of our family’s holidays and everyday events. It was like grafting on a new branch to a tree whose deep roots were already well planted.
She was a friend to Sweet William and me. She was the grandmother of the groom when our son married and became Grandma to his sweet wife. She was the great-grandmother who held their babies on her lap. She was the woman who gave meaning and purpose to my dad when he didn’t think he could live without my mother.
She endured hardship during her 88 years. A tragic sudden death of her first husband. The murder of a close family member. Her own children living cities and states away from her. Stolen assets and property. A devastating house fire. A caregiver for my dad in their home until his death.
She encouraged others going through tough times, reminding them to trust God as she recalled His faithfulness in her trials.
She witnessed with her words and her life. The message on her telephone answering machine was “Jesus is coming soon. Are you ready to meet Him?”
No one can take another’s place, and my step-mother never tried to become my mother. Instead, she made her own place in my life, in our family. We were not blood related but joined by heart and by spirit.
She prayed for us. She loved us by her actions. She claimed us as her own. She was our family and we were hers.
She died yesterday and we are left with a hole in our hearts.