That time my dad’s ex-wife died and I didn’t mention it for eight months

So, back in January, I wrote the following on my Facebook page:

I am not really sure of what I want to say yet, because my former stepmother, my father’s second wife, was a complicated person and we had a complicated relationship. What can you say when you wish things hadn’t happened, and yet, you are who you are because of those things? So I’m going through old photos and I’m thinking over old times, and I’ll just let what David said speak for me as well. Vol, thank you for the wonderful, strong person you brought into this world in FL, for whom I am grateful to have in my life as more than a stepsister; as a friend.

And I have to be honest, I mean, I *meant* to eventually write a blog post about it, I just… I wasn’t sure what to say, and then the pandemic happened, and yadda yadda yadda. I kept putting off writing about it, but then I also didn’t write about anything else, because whenever I’d sit down to write a blog post I had this “oh I should write about ____” but I didn’t want to, and yet… no other words would come. For a few weeks now, I’ve been wanting to get back to regular blogging, but kept feeling like this topic was… damming everything up. So. Here we go.

For a number of years I’ve been wondering how I’d feel when my Stepmonster died. I mean, odds were, she’d go before me, since she’s older and I don’t live a very risky lifestyle. So what was I going to do, then? I prepared myself for pretty much anything. For anger, that she was such an angry, mean person who drove everyone either crazy or away, and yet she lived so much longer than my father. I prepared myself for regret, because not like I ever thought we’d work things out, or that I’d get an apology, once she was gone there would really be no chance of either of those. I prepared myself for sadness, although god knows why. Sad, maybe, that she was loved once, and either never loved herself enough to think she deserved that or didn’t love anyone else enough to care. I prepared myself to have a lifetime of confusion and anger and frustration and to possibly need to go to a therapist a few times to deal with that and work through it. I prepared myself to be relieved, that I’d never have to worry about running into her at a science fiction convention or something.

But you know how it’s never what you expect? Like, you prep and prep for a hurricane, and then you get an earthquake? I wasn’t prepared to feel … this curious mix of forgiveness and nothing.

Within a few minutes of getting the message that she’d died, I felt… I felt like I could let this go. I’d had these … things … these memories, questions, hurts, confusions, angers … I had them in a box in my emotional attic and instead of having to go through the box when she died and wondering what to do with all this … garbage …? I pitched that fucker out the window and never looked out to see if it landed. None of it mattered.

In fact, it so much “doesn’t matter” that I could write another five or six paragraphs about individual things, but… what’s the point? And I don’t mean that in a sort of depressed, Eeyore, Marvin the Paranoid Android kind of way. I mean it in… in a … she didn’t win. She couldn’t love me but she didn’t break me, and any part of my heart or energy moving forward trying to understand her just isn’t even necessary. I’m alive. She’s not. It doesn’t matter what she did, it matters how I carry myself going forward in my life.

Two months later, in March, I met my stepsister at my favorite place. We hugged. We drank. We ate. We walked around and watched giraffes until we sobered up. She gave me the ashes of her mother, my Stepmonster, and I brought them home.

The plan was to, at some point this summer when FL’s father, Vol’s first husband, was well enough to travel that they’d all fly back down here and we’d bury her ashes out at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. FL wasn’t really sure what to do with her – Vol hadn’t left any directives – so a few weeks after she died, I suggest the idea of Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. It’s a natural burial site. Yes, primarily they do bodies, but they do take cremains if they’re in a compostable container, so that’s what we went with.

There’s two things going on here at the same time. First, in suggesting such a lovely, beautiful and still place for her to rest, I feel I was kinder to her in that moment than she was to me for most of our lives together. I don’t mean that in a “hey look how awesome I am” way, but in a “huh, how weird, it turns out that I can have compassion for someone who hurt me and that’s a little unexpected because don’t I have a small black and bitter heart?” And the second thing is that at Prairie Creek, I get to help dig the grave, and I can not even tell you how thrilled that idea makes me.

That was the first week of March, and I think maybe a week later was when talk from the CDC sounded like things were going to get bad. And the rest is history, as they say. Or is still history being made. Obviously traveling hasn’t been at the top of anyone’s wish list, and it’s not like Vol is going anywhere. And it’s given me the excuse to not think or talk about it, so, yay?

But now? I’m ready to move on. I’m sorry for you, Vol, that you had your own rough start in life. And it breaks my heart that a living human being on this planet was so unhappy and angry and self-hating all the time. Vol, you could never let go of your past. But I can.

3 Comments

  1. Lloyd

    Lore;
    As someone who has out lived them all, perpetrators and loved ones alike, I salute you.
    This is a well crafted and just distant enough piece to show a growing maturity.
    Or as MY dad would have said, “yer growin’ up kid’….
    Peace.

  2. Quinn

    I love this post. The feeling of just letting it all go and continuing on with your life is so important, so freeing, and a weight never fully felt finally lifting.

    I’m so relieved for you.

  3. Bonnie

    Thanks for writing this. It’s so strange when we think we have some idea how we’ll feel when something happens, and then to realize we feel something (or nothing) else entirely. Brains are so weird and complicated. You sound like you’re in a really good place about this. Yay!

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