Somewhere around 30 years ago, a lady entered into our lives. She was short and very sweet. She brought three daughters with her and that meant that I grew up with four females surrounding me as siblings. I was not simply the only boy, but I was also a heck of a challenge for her to learn. It wasn’t so much that I was rebellious or rejecting of her. It was that my personality was probably a bit over the top for her. Her name is Jackie and she’s been my stepmother for a long time. Jackie was always much quieter than I was. She didn’t always know how to handle me. I was very loud, very spastic, and very obnoxious. Most of the time, she could be found in a quieter spot in our house reading a book. If she sat down to watch TV with us after dinner, it was a sure thing that she would fall asleep because she got up very early in the morning. I didn’t always know how to relate to her, either. We were two people that just truly spoke different languages. She was a hard worker and seemingly never slowed down. I always wondered how much of a challenge it was for her to adapt to helping raise a young man such as me.
She has always been one of the most patient people I have ever been around. It takes her quite a while before she blowing a gasket. I think I may have only seen it once or twice in all the years I have known her, and even then, it wasn’t over the top. Jackie has never wanted much attention. She’s never been high-maintenance. She’s always been one to look out for her family and love us all regardless of our shortcomings. My dad tells me frequently that she’s the best friend he’s ever had. He tells me how she looks out for him and tolerates his quirks. There’s only so much I can say about Jackie because she’s never been one to talk about herself, and getting personal details from her has always been a small challenge.
I can tell you about the things I took for granted growing up: I was a very, very messy teenage boy. When I would take off my dirty clothes, I would just pile them in the floor. It never occurred to me that the pile of clothes sometimes just vanished. Then I would find neatly folded clothes in my room ready to be put away. Sometimes I would come home and go in my room and find a new T-shirt or pair of shorts. When I would ask about the occasion, she would just say that she saw them and thought of me or thought I might like them. Any time I ever needed her to do anything for me, she was always more than willing. If I needed a hug I got one. If I needed gentle correction I got that as well. She was one of those people you just hate to disappoint. A lot of people have bad experiences with step-mothers. I never did. She was good to me. Always. She still is. It makes me feel secure to know that she is the one by my dad’s side. I know she will always take care of him and look after him.
One memory I have of her probably jumps out at me more than any other, probably because it was so out of character for her. It was close to Halloween, some time in the early 90’s. My room was over the attached garage and had a ground level entrance with stairs. I was in my room, and I heard my door open downstairs. I just waited and then nothing happened. I got up and turned on the stairwell light. It went back off. Someone was around the corner by the switch… I got a little nervous. I turned it back on. It went back off. I decided I would bound down the stairs, jump right in their face and scare the crap out of them. I jumped down the stairs in about three leaps and landed in a ready position, yelling “AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!” What happened next is something that only occurs in cartoons. When I got down there, what I saw was a gorilla standing there staring back at me with its hands up in the attack position. I jumped in the air, shrieked like a 5 year old girl who’s dad had startled her, and I swear I ran in the air for a few seconds. I don’t think I hit a single stair on the way back up and if memory serves I was trying to jump out of the skylight in my room. After a few moments of coming to my senses, regaining my composure, and possibly even changing my underwear, I heard her and one of my sisters laughing hysterically. I went back down there and tried to act cool. “I wasn’t really scared…I was just goofing off…” I said. Jackie replied, “Uh-huh,” but she couldn’t say much else due to laughter as she stood there with the gorilla head in here hands, wearing the suit. Jenny was standing there smirking and proud. I don’t think I showed my face in the house the rest of the day. To this day, I laugh my butt off thinking about that.
I’m not real good at communicating to others that I truly appreciate them. Jackie, I SO appreciate and love you. You have been such a steady presence in our family and a trustworthy example of loving service. I know that blending a family wasn’t easy, but you pulled it off. We aren’t a perfect family and have lots of “warts” and dynamics. But we are a family and a lot of that is because of you. I love you.