Step families


The High School Sweethearts

From time to time  the oldest daughter would shyly announce that she’d “met a boy”.  Sometimes that’d be it. But occasionally a date or two-ish followed only for said “boy” to be quickly banished for his clinging ways or over-enthusiastic interest in her.

One thing about both of my step-daughters that struck me early is that neither one has a clear picture of themselves in relationship to how others see them.  Attention and enthusiasm seem to puzzle them.

That young men notice them is no surprise to me.  Each in her own way is a bright light that naturally draws the eye and incites interest.

The “boy” in question turned out to be the older brother of a friend.  I can’t recall if they’d met previously, but they collided with some force at a party, which found them sitting on the roof, deep in conversation for five hours.

“He thinks I’m funny,” she chirped bemusedly.

He probably thinks you are quite beautiful too, I thought but knew better than to say aloud.

“Anyway,” she continued, “we have a date.”

And we didn’t hear about “the boy” again for some weeks.

Edie will be 28 on Thanksgiving (the Canadian one) this year. Her age and singleness have been a growing concern – to her. Rob was unconcerned. His ambivalence about the girls and “boys” is amusing and reminds me a lot of my own father, who had little visible interest in his children’s marital status*.

I tried to be encouraging without being nosy. I am not her mother. Although we have a good relationship, it is not a deep one. She has her confidants, and I am unlikely to be added to the list. That’s okay. I don’t have expectations of being a mother-like figure for her. I came into her life late, and we simply haven’t had, and most probably won’t have, opportunities to bond in that way.

But I wasn’t surprised that a “boy” would find her funny, want to take her out or discover a way to pursue her without sending her in search of her hidey-hole in the hills. That clever “boy” was bound to show up some day.

On Father’s Day, Edie brought him up again. She’d just gotten back from a long weekend in the States, and he surprised her with wine and flowers.

“He missed me,” she blushed a bit.

At the end of a Sunday supper visit later in the summer, I inquired about whether she would be bringing the “boy”, who now had a name which peppered her conversation, to visit.

“It’s too soon for that,” she said.

And I let it go, but I told Rob I expected we’d meet this “boy” by Thanksgiving.

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” he replied.

Christmas at the latest perhaps, but I am guessing sooner rather than later,” I said.

She brought him around for Rob’s birthday at the end of August. A bit sooner than I thought, and the significance of the occasion wasn’t lost, even on her father.

We knew a lot about him by then.

Edie had breathlessly updated Rob as he lay in the hospital the night of his heart attack. Worried perhaps that she wouldn’t have another chance?

At one point during her gushing, Mick leaned over to me and said, “I wish she’d just marry him and shut up about it.”

Silver is a paragon though this is no surprise as like as he is to Rob.

He is handy. Renovating his first house and flipping it for his current fixer-upper. He’s outdoorsy. Good with the romantic gestures and sweeping a girl off her feet moves in a way that cast me back to my early days knowing Rob.

The clincher, I think, was an extended weekend camping trip he planned for the two of them.

“He’s doing everything,” she said. “And I don’t even have to drive!”

So familiar. The keepers must all get the same playbook handed to them before they embark on a new existence.

His first Sunday dinner with us was enlightening as it was vindicating. He was, however, not what any of us had envisioned.

Rob feigned indifference to the potentially momentous occasion.

“I’ve met boyfriends before,” he said.

“But have they had good jobs, their own transportation and owned property?” I asked.

“Good point,” he said.

And upon first glance, he was handsome with pants that sat at his waist and a ball-cap that just about hid his Dermot Mulroney eyes.

During their first conversation, Silver explained to Rob that he liked to do all the renovation work himself because he was “too cheap to pay someone”, and I had to turn around and find something to do in the dining room to keep from laughing out loud where I found Mick snickering knowingly.

When I commented on that revelation later, Rob simply said,

“Don’t go there.”

Barely a week later, a Facebook message from Edie announced their intention to come to dinner again.

“Why so soon?” I asked. “What’s up?”

“Maybe they just want to spend time with us,” Rob said. “There doesn’t have to be something up.”

But of course there was. The children want to spend time with us only about every six weeks more or less.

I am not Edie’s mother but I did watch** them carefully that first supper. Silver had eyes or a hand on her at all times, and I have seen that look before. It’s the one that says everything in the world that will ever matter is right in front of you, and you still can’t quite believe it.

The second dinner was a family dinner. Teasing and stories and protests that nothing more can possibly be consumed even as hands move to refill plates.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

Until we were at the door, Mick, Silver and Edie saying their good nights. Edie suddenly threw her arms around her Dad’s neck and said,

“So …” Long pause and deep breath expelling a rush of words she’d clearly rehearsed. “I’m moving in with Silver at the end of October.”

Rob blinked but said nothing. This produced a slightly less breathless rush to fill the gap as Edie began to expound on the foolishness of renting a place she was never at anymore and that finding a sublet had been easy and that Rob wouldn’t have to move the couch again – in case he was worried about that.

“Well, I’m certainly not helping with that couch again,” Mick chimed in.

My heart sank a bit at the “rent saving” reason. I don’t think that money should ever be the motivating factor for couples to co-habitate. It should always be based on love, and the realization that a shared journey is the only option for them even if achieving this means scrapping one life, or both, to rebuild the new one together.  Expense, logistics, degree of difficulty are to be treated as details only. And then Silver broke into her monologue with

“And she likes me.”

And she does more than that. She’s giving up the city, her beloved neighborhood of Whyte Ave to move to the suburbs. Her sensible speech was for Rob because all his daughters from oldest to smallest value his opinion and respect and want him to approve and be proud.

“Well, I told you so,” I said.

The next day Rob asked,

“How long have they been seeing each other again?”

“How long did we know each other before we were engaged and I was leaving the U.S. and everything I knew?” I said.

“We weren’t kids,” he countered, “but good point.”

“They aren’t kids. Twenty-eight and thirty-two are firmly in adult territory.”

“Good point again.”

“He’s good for her. She loves him,” I said, “and he fits.”

And now that I have officially blogged about him – he’s family.

*Save for that of my youngest sister. Her habit of breeding with men she either wasn’t interested in marrying or those who were not interested in marrying her drove him to distraction periodically.

**I watch because I care deeply about her happiness and because I have this inexplicable sense of obligation to Shelley to keep watch in her absence. It’s something only mothers would understand, I think.


So yesterday was a banner day for views. Between my YouTube version of a Hallmark greeting in honor of my handymanly husband and taking part in nursemyra’s T-Shirt Friday, I nearly topped out at 150. Woo-hoo, eh?

The week was packed with errands and reno and school preparations and family melodrama.

BabyD has been having tiny bouts of anxiety about her upcoming induction into grade one and all day school. To the point where she has been making Rob and I a bit peeved with “growing pain” episodes and tears at the drop of a hat about – nothing as far as we can ascertain.

We dropped by her school on Thursday as the teachers were finally back in the building and a visit to the grade one classrooms and a chat with her kindergarten teacher – in addition to picking up her supplies – has calmed her a bit. I will be taking her in on Tuesday but Wednesday we start with the bus back and forth. Fortunately, the little boy behind us (renters – it won’t last) is going to be riding the bus with her and with luck they will be in the same class.

Tee is a nice kid though Rob doesn’t think he is too bright (he thinks that about the boys ElderD and MidKid bring around too) and today BabyD and Tee played princess and My Little Ponies happily for over an hour. I have high hopes for this friendship*.

Most major activities for the fall are now booked. Ballet on Monday night for BabyD. Yoga twice a week from 10 AM to 11:30AM (me). I found a yoga strength training drop in class on Friday mornings too, and I am signed up now for the writing course at U of A. It’s being taught by a local journalist and writer and is designed for immigrants to tell the story of what brought them to the area. She is going to put together a book in which some of the stories might be included and there is a public reading after the class is over. Very cool opportunity.

Thursday being my dad’s birthday, I gave him a call around lunch because it is better to talk to him early in the day anymore. He is in bed most of the time and is not really eating again. Our talk was brief. He was not very responsive and sounded worn out and very old. Sometimes he is lively and witty but more often than not now he is sounding far away.

CB tried to call dad too a few hours later but got our mother instead and was told to call later as dad was asleep again. His call to dad was really about him – he needs help escaping his situation in San Francisco and wants to go home. To Iowa. That’s desperate folks.

Thwarted, he called me but got the answering machine. His tone told me I needed to call him right away and my instinct was right. He was zoned on his anti-anxiety meds and he talked – mostly at me – for an hour and a half. Basically he wanted me to convince the folks to bring him back to Dubuque.

And that’s what I have done.

But first I told him that it was time to really put the past in the past and take his relationship with our parents from now forward. No more looking back.

I told my mother the same thing when she tried to bring up CB’s long ago hell raising of his teens. I pointed out that he was a kid and they were the adults. They didn’t know he had mental health issues even as a small child but they had made mistakes and some of them were wrong no matter how the spin played.

I talked to my brother again on Friday. He sounded much better and I told him to call home and hash details out with the folks. Later DNOS called to wish Rob a happy birthday**, and when I told her about urging our parents to bring CB home for a bit, I got her pat reply,

“Oh really.”

Our mom uses the exact same expression and tone. DNOS sounds just like her sometimes – and would be horrified to know it.

Anyway, it means “WTF are you up to” or “Thanks so fucking much but I don’t think so”.

I noted but ignored. I am tired of some of the older family dynamics.

Dealing with CB is upsetting. It reminds me of Will in the earliest days of his illness – before we knew anything really – when he would get anxious or angry and plaintively tell me he had no idea why he felt as he did but that sometimes he felt like he was losing his mind. Sadly, he was and no one believed him or me.

CB’s quest to find mental help or help period has been fruitless with most doctors and other professionals telling him (or accusing him – take your pick) that he is actively choosing to live an effed up life. My folks and DNOS still believe this to some extent too. I don’t.

But I have no magic wand (or excess cash lying around) to help him, so I remind my parents that CB is their son and they have amends still to make. Unfair? Perhaps. But that is what big sisters are for.

Today Rob is off to the city to help ElderD move in with her friend who is a boy whom she loves and who loves her. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. Our massage therapist thinks BoySheLoves is gay***. We’ll see.

BabyD and I are off to shop for school clothes.

Next up is cleaning for a garage sale (good freaking god help me) and to put our new fall schedule to a serious road test.

Life in the Great White North.

* Like that the family doesn’t move soon. They are acreage crazy and it’s not looking good.

** My family worships my husband like aboriginals with a Coke bottle*.

*** Okay, we wondered about that too but ElderD says “no” because she wondered also and asked.

* nursemyra rightly reminds me that Australians might take offense at the coke bottle reference. I was thinking about that movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, when I made the comparison. My family acts as though Rob dropped from the sky like a god in Greek Mythology and it irritates me to no end as it seems to me they are happier with him than they ever were with my late husband. I meant no offense but realize now that some people were offended and I am sorry.