The tale of the un-wicked step-mother

wickedstepmother

Louise was a young, newly married woman. Despite her parents disapproval, she married into a rather well to do family in Ashland, KY. Her husband’s family owned a successful furniture store and she was to be one of their buyers.

The idea of buying trips to Chicago and New York thrilled her. Such a far cry from her upbringing. The oldest of 3 children, her family moved often to small towns in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Her father worked for the railroad and, in the early 1900’s, the railroad was king.

Her middle class upbringing was strict and uncomfortable for her. She longed to see the world and make her mark. She was able to go to college after graduating from high school, and in 1931, that was quite an accomplishment. First, because the country was in the midst of the Great Depression and second, because she was a woman. But Louise was quick, intelligent and curious, and did well in her studies to become a teacher. Turned out, she hated teaching. It happens…

I don’t know how she met her husband or when they were married, but by the 1940’s she was in full blown career mode as a furniture buyer. She was a beautiful woman with impeccable taste, cultured, well read and could have easily been mistaken for a woman who was born into a society family.

But somewhere along the line in the late 40’s or early 50’s, her marriage went terribly wrong. Details are sparse, but somehow her husband managed to obtain a divorce from her without her knowledge. Scumbag doesn’t even come close… She received word from him from some Caribbean Island – he was supposedly on a business trip – that not only were they divorced, but that he had married his secretary.

Talk about your bad, FML days.

Although she gave up her buying job, she kept their beautiful home surrounded by acres of trees in the exclusive Bellefonte neighborhood of Ashland. This is where I came to live in 1965 after my mother died.

Louise was my step-mother. She would have been 103 this week. Yikes!

My father, divorced from my mother a year earlier, married Louise in 1960 after my grandmother died. My father lived with his mother in Pittsburgh, where I lived, but within months of her death, married Louise, and moved to Kentucky.  And he was out of my life for the next five years.

I’m sure that, in 1965 at the age of 52, Louise never expected to have an 11 year old girl as a live-in step-daughter. It must have been an incredible shock. More like a huge, massive earthquake.

Now, when I think back, I thank God that she was such a kind, understanding woman. I was incredibly broken and confused at the sudden loss of my mother and my move to a new state to live with people I barely knew. She was patient and gentle with me, and over the years, I grew to love her. Not the wicked step-mother at all, you see.

And she grew to love me like the child she never had. It wasn’t the same sort of love that I have as a mother for my children, but it was as much a she could love me and still be loyal to my father.

He was always her first priority.

In many ways, Weezie, as I sometimes called her, protected me from my father’s emotional tantrums. He was not a happy man. To this day, it’s still a great mystery as to why she married him. She was much too good for him.

Sadly, my happiest memories of my home are when he traveled for work. Louise and I would just chill, eat pizza (which he hated) for dinner, and totally enjoy the lack of tension that was always present when he was home. It was blessed, temporary relief.

I was thrilled to go far away to college and escape his dark moods and temper. But I felt more than a few pangs of guilt leaving her alone with him. And it took it’s toll on her.

So I moved on with my life, got married, had children. We settled down in one city, and she and my father moved from city to city trying to find a place to make him happy.  I used to call them gypsies. Louise loved my kids, but, to appease my father, kept an emotional and physical distance. They rarely visited. We always had to go visit them.

In the late 1980’s, symptoms of dementia started rearing their horrible, ugly heads. Once a voracious reader and crossword puzzle enthusiast, Louise had trouble finding simple words. She couldn’t pay the bills anymore. She started night wandering.

My father, not surprisingly, could only complain about how she was disrupting his life. Seriously. He couldn’t understand why she couldn’t just “straighten up and fly right”.  I won’t go into details, but she used to call me, sobbing. It broke my heart.

And, as always happened with my father, we had to handle things in crisis mode when everything exploded in 1991. Again, no details, but he went to Chicago to recover with my sister and we moved Louise in with us in southern Ohio.

Eventually, she went to an assisted living facility for several years, then to an Alzheimer’s unit at a local nursing home when she started wandering outside at night. My father eventually moved to our city to be closer to her, but had no intention of letting his life be burdened with her condition. He lived in a lovely senior community.  And, as so often happens, in a strange twist of karmic fate, she outlived him.

Coming from a long line of long lived people, she was 88 when she died. By that time she could no longer recognize me or my family, was in a wheelchair, completely non-verbal and required total care. It was a great mercy when she passed. Yet I still grieved this beautiful woman who loved me second only to my own mother.

Happy birthday Weezie! Your beauty was so much more than skin deep… Thank you for teaching me how to be a woman of substance and for your love that helped heal my broken heart and spirit.

You were one bad ass lady!

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39 thoughts on “The tale of the un-wicked step-mother

    • Thanks so much! I have some jpegs of her in the 70’s and 80’s but since I’m the worlds worst photographer and they were old fashioned film cameras, they aren’t very good. For her memorial service, I dug up a number of pictures of her when she was a young thing and boy, was she a hottie! 🙂 I’d like to get those “digitized”!

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    • Yeah – Disney sure set up negative expectations! I’m sure the poor woman was frantic when she found out I would be coming to live with them. 🙂 But she was lovely to me when I moved in and continued to be lovely to me. I actually was an exceptionally compliant child and didn’t have a sassy bone in my body. I was too afraid of my dad to cause trouble. I think that helped a lot…

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    • She really was! The one word that kept coming up over and over when I was writing this was “gentle”. She was a very gentle AND a genteel woman. It was wonderful to be able to really think about her and remember how lovely she was. Thanks for the sweet comment JaneyDoe!

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    • Thanks so much! You know – I never thought of it that way, but you’re right! I think I was as much of a shelter for her as she was for me. And my coming to live with her really bought her a ready made family – complete with grandkids in later years! I feel certain my older sister wouldn’t have probably never met her had my mother lived. As it was, they became friends as well when she would come home on college breaks! But I was always her favorite… 🙂

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  1. Thanks AGMA for sharing her story, which is your story as well. It was an inspiring look at how people rise above difficult life circumstances. She sounds like a wonderful lady. I’m glad you had her in your life and I think it is telling of the kind of person you are that you stayed involved in her life and loyal to her all of her life. I’m sure your Mom would also be proud of the woman you became.

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    • Thanks so much for your sweet comments – they brought tears to my eyes! Yikes – now the screen is all blurry and I’m verklepmt! She was very special to me and the thought of not being involved in her life or helping as much as I could never even occurred to me! I guess that’s a good thing… 🙂 And thanks for the comment about my mother. I often wonder what she would think of me and if she would be proud. Oops – there I go getting teary again…

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    • Louise was certainly a strong woman to live with all of my dad’s nonsense! Ha! Yes – she was a survivor until she came up against Alzheimer’s. Even then, she was the longest lived patient in her dementia unit when she passed. She was tough for sure!

      She taught me a lot by example. And while she passed on many of her wonderful traits to me, she did NOT teach me how to cook. But that’s okay – I struggled through. Louise actually hated cooked! (And that’s another thing she passed on to me!) But she could make a mean chocolate pie and lemon meringue pie (that did NOT get passed onto me!)

      Thanks Joyful for spending some time with us! I really enjoyed writing this although I did get choked up a few times. 😉

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      • I got the feeling from reading this that you loved her very much and enjoyed sharing this with me. I enjoyed it too. I now must write about my two very different but very strong grandmothers. See what an inspiration you are!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Awww…. But a wise (I’m really getting into the wisdom thing aren’t I?) person can find inspiration in the most unlikely places. I think it has more to do with your wisdom than my writing, but thank you all the same! Have you written the posts yet? I want do make sure I don’t miss them!

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  2. This is such a touching tribute. And it is so unusual. Ordinarily, these stories are filled with dislike and distrust of each other. I run a link on Fridays for stories about women who have been inspirational. You might want to consider posting this as a further tribute for Weezie.

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    • Oh Bernadette – thanks much for your sweet, kind words. I guess as a girl then a teenager, I really didn’t think much about us falling into such a good, easy relationship with each other. Now that I look back, I see how highly unusual that was! We were both pretty easy going and basically nice and not fussy (if I do say so myself!) I think that was a big part of it.

      I’ll check out your Friday link! Thanks – I’d love to share her with a wider audience!

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    • Awwww – thank you so much! It was something very beautiful that came about as a result of a terrible tragedy. I certainly wish my mother could have lived and had been able to meet her grandchildren, but since she couldn’t, I was given a beautiful woman to stand in for her! How lucky did I get??

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