I’m in a strange way today. My stepmother passed away, almost the same time as Doris Day whom she resembled when they were both a lot younger. You’ll have to believe me as I have no photos of her. She hated having her picture taken as she aged and grew plump and would threaten anyone who pointed a camera in her direction.
I’m not weepy. In a way, it’s a relief. For the last few years, she’s lived in diapers, bedridden and often incoherent … too heavy and brittle of bone to be transported for family dinners or holidays. With the exception of my brother, anyone who cared about her either died or moved too far away for regular visits. So there are no tears but I am not okay.
I was living in Europe when, without warning, I got the news that my father had remarried. The announcement was hidden in a rambling letter filled with weather and ski conditions and other of life’s mundanities, a somewhat innocuous little sentence between “your brother bought a motorcycle” and “the dog has fleas” and there it was: “By the way, Mrs. Hindley and I got married the other day.” I broke down with a resounding NO that probably wasn’t heard on the other side of the world but blew my uncle off his perch at the bar and into the arms of his boss’s buxom, boozy secretary.
At that time, I didn’t knew my stepmother well, but I knew her children. Her poor broken children. The eldest, a girl, spent her teen years in and out of the psyche ward until she dropped out of school and ran off with her boyfriend. The two boys also dropped out, married and ended up in the Navy. Did I mention that my stepmother was a kindergarten teacher?
I suppose I should say kind words as the woman did me no real harm. She was in general, generous. I have many trinkets from her numerous trips. Until recently she remembered everyone’s birthday and she adored my father. Okay, she pulled him farther to the right politically than was sane, judged people by their pedigrees and thought African Americans were out to get her because her ancestors owned slaves. But she adored my father; almost worshipped him. Even when he accidentally shot Beauregard (her beloved basset hound) to death while on a hunting trip. She forgave him.
I don’t know what’s going to happen now. My stepmother died in Reno, Nevada. One of my step brothers lives in Denver, the other in Houston and the only granddaughter who cares lives in Alaska. Reportedly they all need money which she supposedly had.
Oh God, where are the tears?