She and my dad were married almost 28 years. I was 24 when they wed, so I did not have the chance to know her in my formative years. It’s a little different, I think, when your parent remarries when you’re an adult, compared to when you are growing up.
It takes longer to get to know your step-parent and your step-siblings. I never had the pleasure of knowing my step-brother very well before he died tragically just before his 40th birthday.
But what did happen is that I found pretty quickly how happy my dad was with her. They seemed to buoy one another up, not only in that horror of my step-brother’s death, but in everyday life. Daddy was committed to her and she to him, in marriage, in support, in encouragement, in lifting-up. He became successful in his business with her support, and credits her with that success. They traveled endlessly around the world and created cherished memories of a happy and interesting life.
And they had fun. As I read over this tribute, I realized I forgot to mention that. They were serious about their relationship, but having fun was a basis of that. My dad is a comic, and she didn’t used to “guffaw”, so he taught her to cut loose and laugh heartily. He was forever telling me the latest funny they shared and laughed about.
Along the way, I got to know this woman who made my dad so happy. When he was out of town on business, and I knew she was home alone, I would call her up and visit for a few minutes. I liked the idea of having my own relationship with her, not just as “my father’s wife”.
She was so gracious and never let on how my chattering style bothered her. I never knew until after her passing that I was not her “type of person”, because she just loved me all the same. She sincerely enjoyed my company, even if it wasn’t her favorite type of company.
She was officially one of my children’s three grandmothers, dubbed “Memaw” by her oldest grandchild. They adored her and her popovers (Camille owns the old popover pan) and her welcoming, accepting way. With her golden needle and unsurpassed talent, she needle-pointed their special Christmas stockings, something she did for ALL the grandchildren and, eventually, shortly before her death, the great-grandchildren.
Some years into their marriage, I was delighted to discover that she and I wore the same size shoe, although we were built nothing alike otherwise, she being statuesque and blonde, and I being, well—the opposite of that. She had wonderful taste and beautiful clothes. She handed down to me a pair of shoes that I would never have been able to afford. They were a little ballerina flat in neutrals and metallics. I wore them completely out. Shortly before she died, she gave me a pair of black patent sandals that were meant for walking. I got some use out of them that summer, and they were still in great shape for the next year. Again, they were shoes I would never have bought myself, so that was a treat. Besides, they were hers. And I was glad to have them.
Her marriage to my dad has shown and taught me a lot about relationships, and I strive to emulate it every day. I learned, both during my own relationships and outside of them, how to support a spouse, how to love, to be patient and kind, to be thoughtful and communicative, and that marriage is really wonderful when both partners do all that. They made a point of sitting down together every, single day to discuss their feelings and their lives, and to pray together. No one is perfect, and I know she and Daddy must have had their moments, but I never saw them. They protected their marriage and treated it as a treasured and sacred entity, which it was.
What the future holds for my dad, we don’t know, and we don’t need to know right now. I can only feel grateful to have had her in my own life, and far more importantly, that my dad had her in his.
Godspeed, Jean Mosher Kendall.
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