The other morning, I told my stepmom that I was going to cook some perogies for my fiance for lunch. I could hear a little crack in her voice as she replied. Were those a few tears welling up? When I was younger, we cooked together quite a bit. We hadn’t made perogies in probably 15+ years, but I knew that my simply remembering resonated within her.
Those who know her may baulk at the idea that my stepmom means so much to me. If you were to ask her about her life, she would tell you that she was a complete screw-up. Maybe she was. She’s a felon that spent many years in a penitentiary. She drinks. A lot. She smokes cigarettes and pot. She cusses like a sailor. She dances to the beat of her own drum. You can note all of the bad things you want about her, but that woman saved my life.
The first time I met my stepmom wasn’t much different from one of my first encounters with my own [future] stepkids. We went out to the beach with my father, had lunch, and spent the day in the sun. She taught me how to swim (and likely scared the hell out of my dad in the process when the riptide came rolling in.) I don’t remember how old I was… 6 maybe? I didn’t really understand who she was at the time or what role she would play in my life. She didn’t shower me in a ton of gifts or toys or anything. She was just someone that gave me undivided quality attention, which at the time, I desperately needed.
My parents separated when I was very young. I didn’t understand why at the time, but in hindsight I’m extremely thankful. They’re both toxic people; together they were like fire and gasoline. My mother was abusive – physically, mentally, emotionally. My father is a tried and true narcissist, but did the best he could with the obstacles my mother put in front of him. “The best he could” didn’t amount to much, but at least he always accepted me for who I was. After their divorce, I had a multitude of stepfathers, but it was my stepmom who stuck to me like glue. No matter what happened, she was there. She stood in my corner, silently screaming at the world… much like how I’ve felt through my fiance’s custody battle. She did what she could to advocate what was best for me, not what was best for either of my parents, despite not having the ability to have much of a voice in anything.
As I got older, I was a bit of a troubled teen. I still made straight A’s in school and was as smart as a tack, but I hated the world. Depression from abuse consumed me. At 15, I moved in with my grandparents, then shortly after, moved into my father’s house. Though I was free from being physically abused, I still had to deal with having a narcissistic parent. I went from one hell to another. And then there was my stepmom. She stood in the fires of that hell in order to provide me a small space of peace. She stood up for me and protected me from everyone that was against me. She got up in the faces of my family’s hierarchy and reminded them that I am a product of my environment, that if they didn’t like who I was becoming, then they needed to change my environment.
Though I lived most of my childhood with my mother, I don’t really have any good memories of her. Between abandoning my little brother plus the way she treated me, my father, and everyone around her, made me resent her with a fury. We haven’t seen each other in almost 8 years. I don’t hold any ill feelings towards her anymore; she simply doesn’t exist in my world. The feelings I have felt about her in the past, though, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. My relationship with my father is rocky at best, but we talk. But the strength of my stepmother’s love remains unbroken.
My stepmother set an example of things to not do in my life that would make things more difficult. Her past taught me consequences of doing anything that that could get me into any serious trouble. Her support taught me that despite what I came from, I was worth something. She instilled value into my life by stepping up to the plate and standing up for me. She taught me how to stand up for myself and how to stand up for others. She was the first to teach me the meaning of love.
To my future stepkids, I hope that I can live up to the kind of impact my stepmom had on me. I will always be there for you and cherish you no matter what. I will always do everything in my power to advocate what’s best for you, not necessarily what’s best for your parents. And like my stepmom did for me, I will always love you as if you were my own. ❤️