I was at my grandson’s seventh grade football game when the call came. Amidst the noisy fans, my son’s voice sounded unexpectedly sober and lower than usual. “Wanted to let you know that I’m down South,” he said. He went on to explain that his stepmom’s health had taken a turn for the worse.
Tears sprang to my eyes, as he went on to explain that all the radiation her medical team had given her to knock her cancer out had damaged her lungs. The prognosis was uncertain. But there was no question that her condition was very serious.
A beautiful, accomplished woman, my son’s stepmom has had an extraordinarily happy marriage with his dad. They’ve raised two terrific children of their own and were deeply involved in parenting the son we shared.
She lives several states away. We don’t socialize, you really couldn’t call us friends, and yet she feels like my family too. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten to know my son’s younger sister on my visits and recognized how devoted she is to her mom. Or maybe it’s because my son’s stepmom and I had such a good time together planning his wedding rehearsal dinner (This woman knows how to throw a party!)—or because over the years, she’s had such amazingly nice things to say about my son. What mom doesn’t like to hear she’s raised a really wonderful human being?
Not that it’s all been easy, especially in the early years when we were both newly remarried and wary of one another. I still remember my child returning from visits smelling like his stepmom’s perfume from her having held and hugged him. I was taken aback, feeling threatened and a little insecure about sharing my kid with another woman. But I knew there was no such thing as having too many people love you. Besides, I had to admit she was a lovely person and a wonderful stepparent.
She is also the center of my ex-husband’s world. I can only begin to imagine what he is going through. Although we’ve been divorced for decades and happily remarried to others, he is still part of my family. I care about him. We share a history and a son.
In my experience, we don’t really X the ex’s out of our lives. They are a part of us, and we are a part of them. On some level, we are still family.