When speaking of blended families, you don’t usually think of adult children as part of the language. Children, still living in the home, are the focus. How will the different families’ children fit in with the others? Will they get along with the new spouse and children? Whose room is whose? Whose mother or father do you listen to? And many more details that all have a touch of dynamite if handled improperly.
So that is why our story is a little different and actually much simpler than many others; but it is still a story.
When my mother-in-law died at the young age of 56; leaving behind my husband and two other married siblings; we were all concerned about my father-in-law. He was way too young and active to be left alone. Although we cherished his visits; which he would devote to his grandchildren, we were worried about him.
My husband, since he is the oldest, told Dad (in all our names), that although we loved our mother (in-law) and would (and do) miss her on a constant basis, we wanted Dad to know not only he had our blessing but we prayed that he would get remarried soon.
We, I suppose in the role of caring (read meddling) children, we started considering Mom’s widow friends, unfortunately she had a few. There was one who was similar looking to her, but missing Mom’s fun. Another cared for Mom deeply but we didn’t see any similarity between her and Dad. You might think that this was not our place to pick out a wife for Dad, but it came from our love and concern for him.
Thank G-d it didn’t take long. At the end of the year we were invited to his wedding; not to either of the prospective women we had thought of, but to Elaine; a younger widow, who he knew from synagogue. She had two sons; one married and one still living at home.
As soon as we met her; it was so clear why he chose her. Dad later confided. He knew about our meddling concerns. But his direction was different than what we thought. He had contemplated even during the end of Mom’s life of what his future held, “If I am to get remarried, “he thought to himself, “it should be someone like Elaine.” It was awhile, before he actually got to the idea of not ‘like Elaine’ but ‘Elaine herself’. It took the time that it takes to start healing.
Elaine is vivacious. She beams love and laughter. Although one hardly would call her skinny like my mother-in-law was, she did have my mother-in-law’s short stature, and more importantly, a great sense of humor.
My father-in-law’s life has changed. He took early retirement and began travelling. (Like Mom before her, Elaine doesn’t like to fly, so they travel by car across the country). Her grandchildren get (at least from our point of view) more attention, but we are willing to share. (Well in theory anyway.)
When her son’s family got into an accident, Dad and Elaine were the ones who were there to pick up the pieces. They stayed for weeks, as her daughter-in-law received surgery and bed rest. They became like surrogate parents for the baby. When Elaine’s youngest son got married; Dad and Elaine were part of all the details and walked him down the aisle, together.
We are all glad he is building and is such an important component of their family, but can’t say we aren’t jealous of all the times and attention these younger folks get from our beloved father and grandfather.
But when Dad and Elaine come to visit each one of us and our families; the jealousy dissipates in Elaine’s tremendous warmth and love. She has been there for every one of our children’s events (bar mitzvahs, weddings and such) fulfilling the role of a truly beloved grandma.
So as easy as it would be; to cast her as the wicked stepmother who stole our Dad; it would be so far from the truth. Elaine has stepped up to fill the hole Mom left in her death.
But the most important role Elaine plays; is being the wife our father needs.