I am the oldest child. We have an ecellectic family. Here’s how it goes:
My mother had five children, my father had five children. I am the oldest of seven. My two little brothers and my two little sisters are not related however I have a sister related to all of my brothers and a brother related to all of my sisters.
If you figure it out – message me.
My parents each remarried within a couple of years of divorcing and I became one of those kids having to ‘adjust’ to step-parents. It was obvious, much to my chagrin at times, that they were happy and better with their newly chosen partners. Although I perceived that they were perfect for one another – in the beginning, they weren’t all that great for me.
My step dad reminded me of Sergeant Carter on the 60’s television show Gomer Pyle (see the YouTube video I linked). He was ALL Army. My recollection is that he would come home at lunch and change uniforms so that they were fresh and crisp. He demanded perfection. He was younger than mom and had been a confirmed bachelor before meeting her. I believe she was his queen. Until his dying day, he attempted to make her life everything she dreamed. At any time if I – a typical teenager – failed to be completely and totally respectful to mom – he generated consequences that were foreign and in my own mind – completely unjust. He grew to be a hero in my mind. He battled cancer with a dignity that I didn’t understand but hope to model if I am ever called to. His death was at home surrounded by all of us and if death can be beautiful – his was.
My stepmom – well she wasn’t my mom. My dad was different when she was around. I think one of the things that was particularly hard is that Mom left – she joined the Army (another blog post entirely) and so Dad was the person we needed for stability and he just wasn’t emotionally there for us as he was falling in love. I know he tried. He was a great dad. I don’t blame him but as a 14 year old I was unable to have any perspective about the falling in love process so to me – it felt like he left too – at least for some of the time. I imagine that I could have been pretty demanding in the attention department so it is entirely possible that no amount would have FELT sufficient. The end result was that I developed resentment toward my stepmom. Life with her was culturally different than it had been with mom. She was more religious, more stern, more educated, not as soft, not as playful, not as tolerant. She was secure and patient however and we plowed through our differences until respect and friendship developed. She was a trooper for sure!
I want to say that today – 40 years later, she is a friend. She is the only parental figure left in my life and I count on her wisdom, insight, and love. Today I am aware of what it is that I didn’t know then. Many times, the information we don’t know – is imperative to the development of compassion and understanding. Yet – we don’t know – we are mostly unaware – of what we don’t know. It is later… down the line after we learn, grow, and mature, that we are able to develop perspective. Knowing this – I am sometimes impatient to know. I’ve learned how powerful insight can be.
My step parents taught me. Not just the parental stuff but about change, differences, and acceptance. Don’t get me wrong – as a teen – I was awful. I was unaccepting and demanding at times. I was obnoxious and unrelenting. It wasn’t until I fell in love, until I experienced adult relationships, until I had children of my own; that I was able to explore a more realistic idea of what life offered back then.
Those years significantly molded elements of my personality, some might say scarred it. The changes in family dynamics were only one aspect of immense upheaval. I attended 3 different schools in the 8th grade as my dad moved us back to his California homeland from Pennsylvania and settled into a new life. Halfway through the 9th grade I felt that I needed to live with Mom so I moved to Germany where she had been stationed. Then – she got sick and they transferred her back to the states where I started 10th grade – and when she got settled it was in a different school district. By 1976 her health conditions made it necessary for us to live with Dad who was living in a yet different West Coast city so I started my 5th high school as I began my Junior year. I graduated from that school. I took more Greyhound busses and United airline flights than any other kid I knew.
I can’t imagine my life without all of these players and I experience daily gratitude for their presense through the years. I may not have understood the universe’s intention as the havoc and chaos developed but I am so thankful to have loved them.