Friday, November 11, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude 2011: Day Eleven

Most people have two parents. I have five. It's never seemed weird to me - my parents divorced before I was old enough to remember, and before you think "aww, I'm sorry," rest assured that it's okay. If it was going to happen anyway, I'm grateful that they got it over with before it caused any emotional damage on my end. Honestly, thinking of them together is what's strange.

It all worked out well - I had two very involved parents and don't harbor any repressed resentment toward either of them. And while I'll "be grateful" for both of them on another day, today I'm grateful for the three "extra" parents that I have because of them.

The first was my very own personal "wicked stepmother", who, truth be told, doesn't have a wicked bone in her body. In the 28-ish years that I've known her, I have never once seen her angry. A trifle irritated, perhaps, but never jumping-up-and-down, steam-out-the-ears, bring-me-her-heart-in-this-box mad. (That's big.) She had infinite patience with me when I was little - a fact that I appreciate all the more now that I'm older and have kids of my own. See, she was very young when she and my dad were married. She got a man with baggage, and I know that being a part-time stepparent couldn't have been easy. But she sure made it look that way. She always made me feel right at home, welcomed and loved, and even taught me several very important life skills (coming from a home where my mom rarely cooked, I probably couldn't toast my own Pop Tarts today were it not for my stepmom.) She's been there for every memorable milestone in my life, and I'm glad that she's "just" a grandparent to my girls - no step-anything, she's just always been there. She's the only grandparent that will willingly venture into the blast zone of Milly's bedroom to sit in the floor and play Barbies, which also leads me to believe that she's a courageous little thing to boot. I am so grateful for her, and that I can count her as a friend as well as a parent.

At around the same time, I gained my first stepfather. (That sounds really bad. It's not...just keep reading.) He was a good bit older than my mom. His three kids were already grown - in fact, his son was six weeks older than my mom. He drove a dump truck and had a bushy beard and seemed so old, and he didn't have a lot of patience for discipline. I was expected to mind my manners, and as long as did, all was well. My mouth got me in trouble a few times as a kid, but overall, we got along well. My relationship with him definitely improved as I got older, and by the time I was a teenager, he was a great guy to have around. He introduced me to Saturday Night Live (back when it was still pretty good) and Sherlock Holmes and jazz music, and was only marginally disappointed when I chose to play the saxophone over his favorite instrument, the trumpet. He closely monitored the guys that I dated and, in true fatherly fashion, pretty much hated all of them until Gene. He taught me a lot about respect - both giving it and expecting it from others. We were devastated to learn that he had lung cancer less than two years after Gene and I were married. I am grateful that we were (just) able to share the news of our first baby on the way with him before he passed away...he predicted that it would be a boy, and he was correct in his advice so often that I firmly believed it until the ultrasound showed otherwise! I wish my girls had gotten to know him.

Mom started dating again not too long after he passed, and I was not happy. I was pregnant and hormonal anyway, and I just detested the jerk that she latched onto. He had two little kids, and she didn't need that. He lived too far away. His personality was abrasive. Even his name irritated me. And then she decided to marry him. I was a good daughter and helped Mom plan the wedding, although I can't say I had the best attitude about it behind her back. But it happened, and life went on. He turned out to be an okay guy. He encouraged Mom to spend time with "her girls," which was nice. He and Gene got along well enough. And Rachael really liked him. Then Milly came along, and she REALLY liked him. Maybe it's just that I finally decided to give the poor guy a chance, maybe it's that I can't watch someone adore my children and not like them just a little...but I finally, thankfully, realized that he's really kind of a great guy. He's the grandparent that rolls on the floor with the girls, wrestles and flips them around and (literally) lets them walk all over him. He's a pushover, so long as the demands are polite, and he acknowledges and enjoys it. He proudly wears a shirt proclaiming to the world that he's a grandpa, even though his own children are only 12 and 15 and he wouldn't be close to grandpa-dom yet if not for claiming my girls. I am grateful that he's part of our family now, and that Mom didn't listen to me after all.

Oh, and today is his birthday: 11-11-11. Neat, right? Seemed like a perfect day to be grateful for those stepparents.

Gushing about my terrific mom and dad coming soon...and I guess I should include in-laws somewhere too, huh? I guess I kind of have seven parents! Okay, now it's starting to sound a little crazy...

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