Tag Archives: step father

From Rebecca: Family stuff

Those of you who have read Joe’s blog for a long time will know that he has written many times about his struggle to hold on to items he inherited from his parents, even when he didn’t have the space in his apartment to keep all of them. He had to let a few things go in periodic clean outs, and it was difficult for him each time. This is on my mind today, because my family is struggling with a similar issue of losing family stuff, and it is a heartbreaker. We thought some items were safe at a family member’s house and it turns out that they were not.

The items are from my mother, who passed away, and my stepfather, who is still alive but has a lot of health issues. One item in particular was a stuffed leopard that my sisters and I had as children, that our mom kept and then it went with our stepfather when he moved after she passed. After one of my sisters asked about it this week, another sister found out that at some point it was thrown out after something got spilled on it. The other stuff was important too, but this is the item I really cared about and it is gone. I really wish that we had taken it the last time we were all there together a few years ago, but it didn’t seem polite at the time. I ached about the loss for a few minutes, and then thought, okay, there is nothing we can do about it now.

An added complication is that, due to certain circumstances, when our stepfather does pass away, all of his stuff might be lost, and there might not be any items from him that we inherit to remember him by. Does this possible loss matter? Just how much do we need family heirlooms as reminders after loved ones are gone?

I do cherish the items I have from people who are no longer with me. It is nice to look up on my bookcase and see a scarf from one of my grandmothers, the statue that reminds me of my other grandmother, my copy of the spiritual book that my mother gave to each of her daughters while she was still alive. These items sit among the ones I have from people who are still with me, like the pictures of my nephews and niece growing up, the candle my mother-in-law gave me, and something from a dear friend who is like a sister to me. I like the memories and the reminders of my loved ones. My life is richer because of all the people in it. But I also know that I don’t lose that if I lose the mementos.

If I don’t end up with my stepfather’s pocket knife, I still remember him using it. I still remember him cooking meals and joking with my mom in their kitchen filled with knickknacks, cutting the lawn on his sitting mower, pointing to his picture of a ship he crewed on and telling me about his experiences on it, sitting at his computer, fixing the latest of his parade of vehicles, and trying to figure out his latest electronic gizmo. My stepfather was a force of nature once upon a time.

I don’t think of my stepfather like that much anymore, and maybe I do need reminders. Maybe other family members will have to do that for me instead of his stuff. And that is okay. And maybe I will end up with an item of his to spark my memories. That would be good too.

Joe will be back with a blog entry next Wednesday. Until then, take care, have a great week, and happy reading.

From Rebecca: Thanksgiving and my mom Betty Lee

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States, the holiday where we celebrate the gathering of Pilgrims and Native Americans to give thanks for friendship and abundance. Traditionally we celebrate it with a big meal that we eat with as many family members as possible, where we say what we are thankful for, and then after the meal we fall asleep will watching football on television. The holiday is about family, tradition, gratitude, and food.

It was one of my mother’s favorite holidays. Betty Lee was big on counting your blessings, but she also really loved that every few years her birthday was the same day as Thanksgiving. Last Sunday I had conversations about her with my father and with my sisters. She passed away almost four years ago, and we are thinking about her a lot. We aren’t going to be all together this year, instead we are having small gatherings in our own homes. I never realized how much she and my step-father did to get us together for the holidays and birthdays until she passed away. Without her calling with the time, place, and expectation to be there for family get-togethers, we just don’t get many of them arranged anymore. We do see and talk to each other a lot, so that is good. Maybe the big meal together is more for families that are far apart from one another. We are blessed to live as close as we do. We are not as close as we would like to be my step-father, but we try to keep in touch as much as we can.

My mom and step-father, when they were still in good health, loved going places and talking to people. In restaurants they knew the servers and managers, in banks they knew the tellers, and in grocery stores they knew many of the cashiers. They really liked knowing about other people and had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. If someone had trouble and needed help, my mom and step-father would give that help if they could. Mom loved keeping in contact with people on the internet, especially Facebook. My sister Marjorie has inherited these traits. She also likes keeping up with a wide circle of friends on the internet. When I go to restaurants with her, she knows all the servers and managers. They stop by the table for a minute on the way by to chat with her and she cares about many of them. At one place, she is such friends with a few of the servers that for a while she was giving them rides to and from work when they had trouble with transportation. Mom would be so proud of Marjorie.

Mom also spent her life exploring her spiritual path, inner truth, and how to live her faith. She sometimes explored paths that were different from those her family, and sometimes society, were following, like A Course in Miracles. She followed her own sense of inner right and wrong, while accepting that others had different views. My sister Jennifer also explores her inner spiritual truth and how to live her faith. She participates in her church and struggles with how to follow her path and God’s plan for her. Her father, mother, and sisters are not a part of her church and that faith, but she is true to herself by choosing to be there. She also uses her artistic skills to help others who are in pain because of tragic loss. Mom would be so proud of Jennifer.

I am not sure what I share with Mom, other a love of books, but I know that her life on earth flows through us and with us into the world. I am so thankful that she was my mom. It is one of the things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving, along with my dad, sisters, step-father, nephews, niece, brother-in-law, husband, mother-in-law, my friend Joe, and my other friends. Mom was a big believer in going around the Thanksgiving meal table and saying our list of what we are thankful for each year.

I know there are people who do not celebrate Thanksgiving the same way, and see it in light of the eventual oppression of the Native people of this land by the European people. I am aware that the Natives got the short end of every deal they made with the people and nation that followed the help that tribe gave the Pilgrims that first pivotal year. But I love the spirit of two different groups gathering together to celebrate friendship, generosity, and achievement. The Pilgrims had lost so many in the ocean crossing and the first devastating winter. Then, with help, they learned to live off the land and grow crops in their new home. They had food and skills to go into another winter from a better position. In gratitude, they invited their teachers to a feast, to celebrate having an abundance to share. We honor that meal with our holiday.

So if you are in the United States and participate in Thanksgiving, may you have a good meal and great company. If you don’t celebrate the holiday, may you still have many blessings to give thanks for this year. Happy Thanksgiving.