"If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing right. There's no satisfaction in doing anything halfway!" My father preached those wise words of wisdom to me from the time I was old enough to grasp their
meaning. And, Dad was right! For me, a job well done brings happiness like nothing else and typically comes after triumphing over a major challenge that generates joy in the lives of those I love.
When my husband, Jerry, and I were given one days notice that his children, Leisa and Chuck, were arriving the following afternoon to live with us, I was dumbstruck, felt completely inept, and was shaking in my boots. I was overwhelmed with fear and knew those youngsters felt the same way, surely even more so. Why would a Mother choose to devastate her children's lives at a moment's notice?
To this day, none of us have an answer. We took custody rapidly so she could never again "toy" with their lives. Leisa and Chuck came to us broken, confused, and anxious about life in a new city, new schools, and without old friends to confide in. Worse yet, a step-mother!
When the most difficult challenge of my life was unexpectedly tossed my way, I said a prayer and gave it my all. On day one, I assured both children they would always be cared for in safe surroundings and that I would never try to take their mother's place. Also, that my utmost hope
was to earn their trust and become a friend that they could come to in
times of trouble.
Chuck, at nine years of age, had his father available for male conversations. Leisa, at 12 years of age, definitely needed a woman with whom she could easily converse for she was about to be faced with rampaging hormones and a barrage of questions, many of them personal in
Positive results did not come quickly and time crept by at half speed.
We all struggled. One day, one week, and one year at a time. We shed tears, had bouts of anger, and dealt with a gamut of emotions like the peaks and dips of a seemingly endless roller coaster ride. Bad days would remind me of every story I'd heard or read about situations like
ours and the many marriages that didn't survive!
That's when determination would suddenly grab hold; I'd grit my teeth,
re-adjust my attitude and continue to battle the predicament thrust upon
the four of us. And, on my most frustrating days, Dad's words echoed a
stern reminder of doing the job right! Given time, lots of time, it happened. Eventually true love did grow! I can't put a finger on the precise moment, but gradually love was felt lingering in the air, and little by little tension skedaddled right out the front door.
I'm reminded of a sick, scraggly, withered plant that is surely to die.
But, with continued watering, moving it to differently lighted locations, you are astounded to envision what appears to be a minute hint of green. Within a few days a single shiny leaf begins to appear.
You see there is hope, you don't give up, and in due time the plant is lush, green, and heavy with glorious blossoms!
The day Leisa informed me I was never to use the word "step" again, more than made up for all the daunting days of years gone by. Her exact words, "You are my mom!" She was a grown woman with children of her own when that time came and possibly the long wait made those words even more cherished. It is said, "Good things come to those who wait." I'm a believer!
Chuck and I always had an unusual and comical way of communicating and I
still jokingly refer to myself as Your Wicked Step-mother. Not long ago
I referred to myself in that manner as regards Leisa. He stopped me dead in my tracks, "That phrase is reserved for me and me alone!" He and I may be the only ones that know what he was really saying, which was, "I love you."
Even though the journey was thorny, it's rewarding when two now- grown children mainly recall only the good times. Often they remind me of events I've long since forgotten; we laugh and relive those times again.
Mealtime had been more important to Leisa and Chuck than I had ever fathomed. To this day, it's a rare visit that their favorite recipes don't sneak into our conversations.
Recently, I flew to Leisa's for a week's visit. Several days before my
departure, she called wondering if I could find time to bake Pumpkin Bread. Her request was added to my already staggering "to do" list! I baked, froze two large loaves, and placed them in my carry-on bag. When I plopped them down on her kitchen counter Leisa squealed with delight.
My reward was a tight bear hug and "thank you" muttered from a mouth
already stuffed full.
While blended families do not always thrive, thankfully ours did. It took tremendous effort from all of us; the end result being a home filled with love. That's what I call happiness than can never be outshined.
Kathleene S. Baker
Kathy and husband Jerry reside in Plano, Texas with two fur babies, Hank
and Samantha. Kathy contributes to magazines, ezines, anthologies,
Chicken Soup for the Soul and writes a weekly column entitled Heart of Texas.