My dad met Vicki three months after my mom died and the seed was planted for our family’s rebirth.
My mom killed herself on July 7, 2005. The previous summer, she’d attempted suicide twice. Throughout the next year, she went into the psychiatric ward four times and had at least 10 electroshock therapy treatments after a sundry of different medications.
After the second attempt, a psychiatrist diagnosed her with Bipolar Type II—Depressive. She hated life, she hated everyone and, most of all, she hated needing help.
My mom was probably mentally ill most of her adult life. She alienated our friends, neighbors and family, didn’t have her own self-identity and made herself the matriarch of oppression that kept me, my dad and my brother from liking each other and only “loving” her.
When she died, I felt the burden lift, which inevitably evoked the evils of guilt, shame and anger. Scorched by what I’d been through, I believed I could survive better without a mother.
Wrong. I became my own enemy because of what I believed a mother was.
My dad registered on eHarmony a month after her death; afraid that at 52 he’d lost the better years of his life. My parents had been married for 22 years, many of those — I found out later — were riddled with guilt and pain.
I was 20 when my dad started dating Vicki.
I considered myself mature because I didn’t just blindly hate her or hate my dad for liking her. Turns out my “maturity” was really a self-inflated ego that needed to realize there were two decades of thorny social habits rooted by my mother.
But Vicki was patient.
She showed my family kindness we’d never experienced first hand. The kindness we’d only seen in made-for-TV movies. We had never been supported by a woman who didn’t demand something in return.
But, I waited. It was inevitable that her “true” self would show, I believed.
When my room resembled a disaster zone, she didn’t call me by the name of messy neighbors she despised. When I arrogantly told her she was too nice and being fake, she respectfully listened and said she’d try harder. No expletives, no yelling, no grounding, no lecture on disrespect, no guilt trip about being unappreciated, no degradation. And most of all, no threats to kill herself because she was “worthless.”
In early 2007, another blessing entered my life: my husband. After almost instantly knowing we were soul mates, we got engaged and set a date to be married 10 months later.
I never treated Vicki like a mother. But that didn’t stop her from nurturing me.
Headstrong and independent, I didn’t ask for much help planning my wedding. But, Vicki had taken the time to understand me. She always offered to help but never pushed herself into our plans.
She supported what my husband and I wanted, offered ways to help and slowly took charge without hounding or asking for thanks. She never complained, never acted excluded and never made it about herself.
Selfishly, I feel as if I didn’t prune the rose bush around my heart because she’d get tired of the pricks and give up.
Our relationship blossomed because she loved me and continually demanded nothing for it.
It was then I believed in her love for the first time, even though she’d believed in me and loved me from the start.
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