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Friday, November 24, 2006

My Father's Wife


My mother died on July 2, 1984 after a protracted illness. I graduated from UCLA two days before she died. I turned 23 years old two weeks after she died. My mother was 43 years old when she died.

Within weeks after my mother's death, my father started bringing women home. At the time, I was living in his house, having moved back during the last few months of my mother's life. My father's room was right next to my room. I could hear him having sex with these women while sobbing about my mother. One night, I could not take it any more and I chased the woman out of the house.

In the autumn of 1984, my father met S. in the waiting room of his psychologist's office. She was also a patient. They started dating. She started spending more and more time at our house. She would leave her young children at our house while she went out with my father. I remember seeing her little girl, who was 5 years old at the time, sitting sadly in my father's bed room watching tv and having no idea where her mother was.

She was a born again Christian and would not sleep with my father unless they were married. By May 1985, they planned on getting married. My brother and I were appalled. This woman was nothing like my mother who was intelligent, emotionally sophisticated, Jewish. At the time, all we could think about was what a horrible lack of respect to our mother, to us. We felt betrayed and abandoned by our father. My father just could not tolerate being alone. He needed a woman to take care of him.

I was told I had to move out of the house. I was not emotionally or financially prepared to move, but I had little choice. I felt like the princess in the fairy tale who was forced to leave the castle when the wicked step-mother took up residence.

In July 1985, the same week that my mother's grave was unveiled, my father married S. I did not speak to him for years thereafter.

When I became pregnant with my first daughter, it was important to me to repair my relationship with my father for the sake of my child. My father agreed to go to family counseling together. We had sessions alone, with my husband, my brother, S. and her children. Without getting defensive, he was able to listen to how his actions hurt me. My father's ability to tolerate my anger was tremendously healing. I developed a great respect for him after that experience.

We worked out a plan -- every Sunday, while S. was at church, my father would meet us for brunch. (We did this for many, many years until the kids became older and started having sports and music lessons on Sunday mornings.)

While I did not have any love for S., I endured her at family functions. I could never look her in the eye however, because the sight of her upset me so much.

Several years ago, S. was diagnosed with Huntington's disease. Ironically, my father again found himself in the position of caretaker for his wife. S.'s condition steadily deteriorated. About 18 months ago, she fell and broke her back. She has not been home since as her care requires more than my father can handle on his own.

Throughout her illness, S. has been positive, uncomplaining -- rather inspirational actually. Despite her disability, she attended family functions. She could hardly walk, but she had her hair and nails done regularly. Until she became totally debilitated, my father took her to the beach or to the movies, to church. We all recognized that her belief in Jesus was fundamental to her positive spirit and were grateful that she had religion.

I still did not have any love for her.

My father and S. come to my house every Thanksgiving. I also invite my S.'s children. She has two sons (one of which is married with two babies) and a daughter. This year, her daughter asked if she could bring S. "Of course," I said. So the daughter and her friend brought S. in her wheelchair from the nursing facility.

Everyone who was here for Thanksgiving thought S. looked good. I thought she looked terrible -- frail, bent, her hair grey. Even though I still do not have any love for her, her frailty touched me -- having a sense of my father's hardship saddened me. Seeing S. made me cry.

4 comments:

Maven said...

i just lost my first comment, which was ...

are you at peace with your current feelings towards "s" or do you want to move towards forgiveness?

it's quite a story.

Mrs. Joseph said...

Maven -- first of all, thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. Days ago, I left a long response to your comment, but somehow the response disappeared. To repeat -- I am at peace with my feelings toward S. I have no need tolove her. I am gracious when she comes to my home. I give her nice gifts at Christmas. The real issue was with my father and we healed that rift.

Crystal said...

Mrs. J, I understand a bit what you went through with your father after the death of your mother and his remarriage. My father, too, married a woman and brought her into my parents' home only a year after my mother had died. I wasn't as young as you, but I did not want this woman in our lives. She turned out to be a very selfish and hateful woman, which is where our stories diverge. My dad died one year after he and this woman married (my dad only knew her for 3 weeks before marrying her!)

I had to deal with the estate after my dad's death. Not nice. She was so hateful, she wouldn't even let me have the things that belonged to my mother. She was using my mother's credit card!

What is good about your story is that your pain is less, and you can even appreciate her positive traits. This touched me. What a story to share. I'm so glad you were able to heal the torn relationship with your father. I,too, was able to come to terms with my father shortly before he died--and he realized that remarrying had been a horrible mistake. He warned his sister to not rush into a marriage after her husband died.

Anyway, appreciate your frank discussion. It is helpful.

Mrs. Joseph said...

Crystal -- thank you for visiting and commenting. I am sorry that you had a rough tough, but it is nice to hear that you made amends with your father.