Day 60 — My Stepdad is Dating Again

My stepdad is dating again.

Back in my single days, Mom would say, “Honey, if you can find a man half as wonderful as Pete, you’ll be very lucky.”  When I used to visit them up in Oregon (where they lived for 25 years) I used to think it was silly the way he and my mother used baby talk with each other. I also used to get annoyed and a bit resentful, as she would always put him first; certain foods she knew I liked, but wouldn’t make, because “Pete’s not real crazy over that sort of food.”

My stepdad is dating again.

He used to brag to people when I first got married, “Our son-in-law is an Architect!” When Chuck decided to take a break from architecture, Mom & Pete didn’t understand, but they were accepting. Regardless, Mom asked me one day, “Why would he go to Architecture school all that time and not be an architect the rest of his life?” Mom & Pete had worked in paper mills most of their lives — that’s how they eventually met — and they had a hard time comprehending Chuck’s decision.

My stepdad is dating again.

Complaining to my mom one day about how I hated my graphics job and wanted to quit, her reply was, “Well, Honey, sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.” “That’s what you (and Pete) think, working at a job you’ve despised all these years,” I thought, but not out loud, “I’m not you, and I won’t work at something I hate.” I’ve pretty much stuck to my guns on that policy.

My stepdad is dating again.

My cousin Bettye Sue told me a funny story from around 1980, when Mom and Pete had only been together about a year or two. “Pete had a dozen oysters for lunch,” my mom confided in her sister Berniece, and Bettye Sue, “but after lunch, only eleven of them worked!” They all howled at the time. I would have cringed at that story back then; at age 20, the last thing I wanted to think about was my mom and Pete “doin’ it,” but it’s kind of funny now.

My stepdad is dating again.

My mother died on March 11th, 2012. They were together for 34 years. After her last stroke 3 weeks before her death my stepdad Pete would be at the hospital everyday. Mom couldn’t speak or move much, but she was conscious. As she lied in her hospital bed, Pete would lean down, hold her face in his large hands and bend down to kiss her on the lips. “I’d trade places with you in a moment,” he would say, his voice shaking, and tears coming to his eyes. Mom would gaze up at him lovingly with her big blue eyes, and mouth the words, “I know.”

My stepdad is dating again.

“She’s so cold,” he would wail, a few days after her passing. She was to be cremated a few days later, but her body laid at the hospital morgue. My brothers, sister-in-law and I would sit around Pete in the living room of the Antioch house, surrounded by the vintage dishware and cookie jars they had lovingly collected for so many years. “I hate it that she is so cold right now,” he would lament in frustration and heartache. “Pete, she can’t feel it,” we tried to console him, “She is just a vessel right now, out of her pain.”

My stepdad is dating again.

Pete had Mom’s ashes put in one of the antique cookie jars. “It’s the prettiest one, worth about $1500.00,” he justified, “I think she would get such a kick out of that.” I told him he was probably right, adding, “Why spend that amount on an urn, when Mom would be perfectly happy in a Shawnee cookie jar?”

My stepdad is dating again.

“How are you doing, Pete?” I would check on him via phone every couple of weeks. Concerned, I would ask, “Are you eating okay?” My mother was a great cook; always keeping Pete well fed with mostly home-style meals, along with some great Mexican favorites. They also enjoyed going out sometimes, for either Chinese or Mexican. “I’ve been eating Stoeffer’s a lot,” Pete would admit. “If I eat one I don’t like, I just won’t buy it again.” After the call I tell myself next trip to Antioch and I am going to make Pete a bunch of dishes that freeze well.

My stepdad is dating again.

Pete went to his 55-year class reunion a few months later, and wound up talking to a former classmate, Louise, for about 3 hours. She lived in Denver, and had lost her husband several years back. A couple months after that Pete went and visited her in Denver, but stayed at her daughter’s, who had a bigger home. Both Louise and Pete have made it clear to each other that they don’t want to remarry, but companionship is sure nice.

My stepdad is dating again.

I called Pete while he and Louise were strolling through Boulder, CO, and after talking for about 5 minutes, I said, “Well, I’ll let you get back to Louise. Please tell her hello for me, even though we haven’t met. And Pete, please know that I am very glad for you, and that you have my blessing.” He sounded both happy and relieved at my comment. After hanging up, I broke down in tears — bittersweet ones — but only for a few minutes. Life indeed goes on.

My stepdad is dating again.

I was talking to an elderly woman before my low-impact aerobics class a few weeks ago, and she was saying how she moved from Prescott, Arizona back to San Diego. “There are just no men out there in Prescott,” she added. I told her about my mom’s passing, and how “my stepdad is dating again.” The woman smiled, and replied, “Yes, when you’re my age, there are only so many shopping days left!”

My stepdad is dating again.

Long-distance can be tough, and Pete is trying to convince Louise to come to California and live. She has another daughter, who lives in Northern California, which would be convenient. They talk on the phone a lot, but things are on hold somewhat, until Louise decides what she wants to do.

My stepdad is dating again.

Pete met another nice lady named Tula, in the Plumbing Department at Loew’s. He was sort of singing to himself, and a lady asked, “Are you singing to yourself?” A conversation ensued, and they have had several dates. She breeds Pekinese dogs for a living. Her husband passed away five years ago. She is also a cook, having made Pete a nice meal soon after they met. (Now might be a good time to sell your Stoeffer’s stock, if you have any.)

My stepdad is dating again.

I always knew there would be a short break between my mother’s death and Pete jumping back in the saddle. He was 19 when he married his first wife, and went straight from that bad marriage into a warm and loving relationship with Mom; and the loving relationship he had with Mom is the reason why I wish all the happiness for Pete. I always knew they were in love, but that love never shined through more, than when Mom was dying. “She’s my life,” he cried in my arms after the doctor came and had “the talk” to us about quality of life, and what she would want in her final days, “I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.”

As if that wasn’t enough conviction, Pete’s devastation and crushed spirit after her death left no doubt in any of our family’s minds that this man truly, unconditionally loved our mother more than anything in the world.

My stepdad is dating again.

And I couldn’t be happier for him.

About kdanek17

A work in progress. Radio personality and voiceover artist. I love cooking, entertaining, and being with friends & family (which includes my dogs).
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7 Responses to Day 60 — My Stepdad is Dating Again

  1. Bettye says:

    I’m in tears sweetie. Life does go on and it is for the living but never forgetting those we’ve lost. love you my dear.
    Bettye Sue

  2. Sue says:

    Dear Kelly,
    You do have a way with words that just touches me. Keep up your writing and sharing. It is priceless. You will never know the impact of your stories, especially this one… ” my stepdad is dating again”! You are so special.

  3. kdanek17 says:

    Sue, you are always such an inspiration. I love having you in my life, Scorpio Sister!

  4. Tom Hendrix says:

    Well done Sis. Bravo.

  5. Pingback: Day 16 — Whatever it Takes — 40 Days of Writing, Fall 2015 | Kelly Danek

  6. Sherri Livingston says:

    so touching!!!

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