On Friday I counted my own mom since Mother's Day was coming up. Today I want to mention my stepmom, Mary. Mary came into my life when I was about 11. From the first day I met her until now she has never been anything but sweet and kind toward my brother and me. She has always been generous and thoughtful. She's the type of person who will hear you make an offhand remark about something you enjoy or favor and she files it away for future reference so she can surprise you when you least expect it.
She is patient and willing to overlook an offense and always look for the better side of a person, almost to a fault. Actually, with no disrespect intended, it's probably a huge part of why she and my dad are still married. He requires a lot of patience, overlooking, and searching for the better side. She's very willing to to give the benefit of doubt.
She is one of the best listeners I know. She's able to be very non-judgmental but gently asks incisive questions and makes soft recommendations that lend clarity and perspective. When I was a teenager and went through that stage where I was sure my parents were idiots whose sole desire was to ruin my life, Mary was there to listen and I was comfortable talking to her. I confided a lot in her during that time. For that alone I owe her more than I could ever repay.
She's been a support to my brother, and me, and my kids every bit as much as she has been to her own son. She kept her old house as a rental and has let my brother live there and worked with him when unemployment was making rent a hardship. Instead of getting involved in "which grandparent can buy the most stuff" game she has very quietly chosen to pay for various lessons and camps and other activities over the years so my kids can have the opportunity to explore interests and develop talents. She quietly slipped me a key to her beach cottage and told me, "Whenever you need a sanity break it will only cost you a tank of gas to get there."
My parents really never quite got my sense of humor, that's not to say they are humorless people, they just never knew what to do with my particular brand. I often left them shaking their heads and wondering just how many screws I had loose. Mary got me, and she didn't shake her head. She laughed. When my kids came along she laughed with them too and and in so doing, reminded me I needed to do the same.
Mary may be nearing 60 and have a crap knee that gives her crazy amounts of pain but she has never stopped playing. Whether she is digging sand castles at her beloved beach, playing board games with the kids, or taking a wild ride on the tree swing we used to have in the backyard (Sadly, that got dismantled along with the perilous zipline after I demolished my arm.) she is the first one who is up for fun.
I have to thank Dad for bringing Mary into our lives. Mom once told me it was harder to allow me to develop a friendship with Mary than to encourage respect for my dad because she felt some jealousy. She recognized Mary's decency and kindness and realized she had to permit me to explore that relationship. I have to thank Mom for giving me the freedom to welcome Mary the way Mary welcomed me.