I met Jake and his brother when they were 9 and 7 respectively. Jake had a love for remote control anything, electronics and cars. I remember the first day I met them as if it was yesterday. We met for breakfast at “Olde Country Buffet.” As a single woman with a palate, this was a first to me. It was truly a kids’ breakfast buffet with a few treats thrown in for fun. Where else can you have and ice cream Sunday at 10am!? Jake had a baseball cap on with the word Chevy on it, a car and truck lover from the beginning. He and his brother tried to scare me by finding big spider webs with big ugly spiders in them outside around the building. I kept my cool, although inside I wanted to scream. I will deal with the gross bugs, spiders, etc but I scream while I am dealing!
These memories were swimming through my head as I sat in the Alico Arena at Florida Gulf Coast University this weekend. I was about to witness Jake graduating college alongside his parents. His mom and Stepdad really have been tremendous parents; including encouraging the relationship I have with their sons and wanting me to celebrate with them. As I waited for the ever familiar Pomp and Circumstances, my mind drifted to the vacations we took, conversations we have had, the fun we had in the pool, and how we liked cars, fast cars. All the while I was watching him walk in donning his cap and gown, a stride and pace fit for a leader. He exudes confidence, but not arrogance.
Pride. Pride in him and who he is becoming. Pride in the relationship that he and I have forged. Pride in the relationship I have with his mom. Pride. He shared during dinner that each of the people seated with him had been instrumental in forming his foundation and who he is becoming. As I listened to him I flashed back to my eldest niece’s high school graduation. It had rained the day before so they moved the ceremony into the gym. This would cut tickets from unlimited at the football field, to 2 per family. I wasn’t having any of that and I snuck into the gym. I knew I wanted to see her graduate. When I found my brother and sister-in-law, she shared that my brother had just said, “If anyone is going to try to sneak in it will be my sister!” And there I was. I asked if she was ok that I had. She laughed and said, “It takes a village to raise a child. You have been and are a big part of that village.”
I am part of the village with Jake as well. I am another adult who loves him and will always have his back. I wondered if this was unique, for a former step-parent to continue a close relationship with the children or for that matter the mother. The fact that we get along well and truly care for each other, is that unique?
I was thinking about that when my row mate showed up on the plane. I was seated by the window and said hello to the woman close to my age. As she sat down I noticed she was holding The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls. “I just read an interview with the author, what a fascinating story,” I said to her. She agreed and we began to talk. We talked the entire flight, something I very rarely do. She felt like a mentor and an equal at once. We shared a lot about ourselves. She and her ex-husband were very good friends and lived near each other in Naples. She had shared that her mother and father cared for each other during the end of their lives, divorcing many years earlier. I seem to hear about exes having friendships that allow for caretaking more than I would think. So if so much of that seems to be happening, then an adult and a child could easily be bonded, especially if encouraged by the parent. His mom and I didn’t really get along very well when I was married, we tolerated each other. Sometimes we tried, but my husband made it difficult. He would tell me things that she supposedly said; he would push me to fight for him because he was too weak to fight himself. He didn’t need to fight, but he convinced me he did.
When our marriage blew up, Chris was kind and compassionate to me. She helped me. She pushed me to stop letting my hurt, hurt the boys. I was sharing more on social media than I should and she helped me to really focus on the boys. Her boys. But she was also going to let me continue to have whatever relationship they wanted with me.
I think I am learning that at some point, you have to let go of the hurt and do what is best for those involved, whether that be children or an illness. I think it is pretty cool that I have what I have with all of them and don’t take it for granted.
I am blessed to be part of this village.