My Step-Mother has always referred to herself as my "Evil Step-Mother"... but she's really not evil. I promise.
My Dad married my brother's kindergarten teacher. That's not as taboo as it sounds... Chris had Mary as a teacher in '77 or so, and Mary didn't marry my Daddy until 1990. I grew up knowing Mary... er, Mrs. Piercy. She was the teacher that you had sign your yearbook even if you didn't have her as a teacher. She always signed on the yearbook entry... but she put a smiley face in the palm. She lost part of her hearing as a child and became fluent in sign language. She started a sign language ministry at our church (yes, I grew up at the same church that she attended) and even later taught our youth group to sign "Love In Any Language." I've kind of just always known her.
She let me learn how to drive in her Thunderbird... she would lean the seat back and let me drive the whole way to Waynesville for my first job.
She's taken up a million different hobbies in the last 20 years that she's been my Step-Mom. She's antiqued, knitted, beaded, sewed, clogged... I can't even begin to keep straight all of the "things" she's done. In each of them she's included us- she's made me whatever the craft of the day was or bought me treats from her eBay addiction.
Most importantly, she's loved my Dad. Those of you who know him know what a hard job this is. :) She's helped him quit smoking, cut back on drinking, and behave in public. She said to him once "I made it 40 some years without you, I can do it again." And she meant it, so he straightened up.
In 1990, right when they got engaged, she told me "I'm not looking to be your mom. You've got a good one of those. I'm going to be your Dad's wife, and I'd like to be your friend. Let's figure out how to do this together." And she stuck to her word.
It's been awkward to have a Step-Mother. In fact, for years, I referred to her as "My Dad's Wife". This was meant as no disrespect to Mary, but more out of care for my mom. I didn't want to give Mary a similar title to Mom and have Mom think I was somehow replacing her prime spot in my life. But thanks to Mary's gentle way of "making things work", she gradually became a Step-Mother to me... never stepping into Mom's role, but creating one of her own.
7 years ago, Mary got diagnosed with breast cancer. She had skipped mammograms for several years and found "something" on one that turned out to be cancer. I got that phone call while I was at Happy Hour at Village Tavern with Dan and some of my girl friends. Over the years, her diagnosis has gotten better and worse. The cancer has spread to other spots in her body, and then the cancer has seemed to shrink. Good phone calls and bad phone calls. After one bad phone call, I started this blog.
At Supper Club a few months ago, I got another phone call. Daddy said "This is it, Doodle. Mary is dying."
Just before Bunko in September, I got another phone call. He told me they were stopping treatment and that they were going to call in Hospice.
And today I got another phone call. While I was at the pool here at the beach. Daddy told me that it appears to be the "bitter" end. "Bitter" for us, because I cannot imagine a life without Mary. In the weeks to come (it appears that we only have weeks left, a month at most), I will try to spend as much time as possible with this woman who has been a part of my life for... well... my whole life. She entered it as Mrs. Piercy and now is a whole 'nother role altogether.
But this is not a "bitter" moment for Mary. In fact, when the doctor told them that there wasn't much more they could do, Mary turned to Daddy and said, "I'm ready for this. Are you?" She told me years ago when things looked bleak that she has the best spot in this mess. Then she told me worst case: she dies... and gets to be with Jesus. Best case: she lives... and gets to spend more time with us... before being with Jesus. I'd say she does have the best spot, for sure.
I'm not sure what the next several weeks will entail. But I do know that I am thankful for every single day that I've been able to call Mary the title of my Non-Evil Step-Mother.
(Sidenote? I sent Mary a text while we were at Disney World of my picture with Cinderella's Evil Step-Mother. She said "That can't be your Step-Mother! That hag has hair!")