Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Step by step

For the next eight days, my kids are the same age now as my step kids were when Ghon and I started dating.

Let's let that sink in for a minute.

It's 21 years later. Eric will be turning 28 soon, and in four months getting married.  Say what?

Ghon was so happy for Eric when he got engaged. Eric used his grandmother's diamond engagement ring to propose.  It was the same ring his mom wore, and the same I wore for a time. A time, as on principle, I refused to wear the same ring once I was married.

Longer stories not worth going into, Ghon and I were not included in his daughter's wedding. It hurt Ghon to no end. He was looking forward to seeing his oldest son get married. He saw so much of himself in Eric and was happy he'd connected and found a strong woman to ground him, help him mature, and support him.

Sounds familiar.

I'd talked to Genevieve's dance teacher, and she was going to help us learn how to dance so we could attempt one coreographed dance at the reception.  Swing dancing.  We were looking forward to it. Jonathan is going to be a groomsman, Genevieve the flower girl.

When Ghon died, it was made clear to me that the kids were still a part of the ceremony, and I to attend.  That didn't change.

Now, a few months away, I know it's time to get ready to shop for a dress. Yesterday, I panicked. 

What the hell does the stepmother of the groom wear?

The night before Ghon died, we bought 6 wedding dresses. I joked with Caryn that I'd found my dress, and sent a picture of me in one of the wedding gowns. Radio silence.

Once she asked if it was a wedding dress, I said yes, but joking. The next night in the hospital, she told me I could wear it if I wanted. Recently, I was told to wear whatever I wanted, what made  me feel good. Just don't look better than the bride (well duh!).

But, do I wear a coordinating color? Who do I coordinate with? Bridesmaids, a mother of somebody? White is off limits right? It will be winter in the afternoon. Does that matter? I don't know if I'm going to be in pictures and don't wnt to wear a color that clashes or makes me stick out. I'm 40, but don't always feel that. I'm not trying to dress like I'm 20, but I'm not an old maid.

Then today, it hit me again. I'm the stepmother of the groom and as a stepmother, I should be there with the father of the groom.

Well shit. 

I mean, there is already a small concern with who I'll be sitting with at the reception. I'm not particularly friendly with Eric's mom's family. It's been roughly 4 or 5 years since I've seen his mom.

And now, I'll be there as the widowed stepmother of the groom. Am I still a stepmom? A family friend? Mother of his siblings? As if I wasn't already trying to figure out who I am, I add this to the mix.

I check out dresses online. Macy's, JC Penny's, Nordstrom, and Light in the Box. Do I want short sleeves, long sleeves, short, long, tea length? A jacket? Sheath, A-line, or other fashion terms I'm not comfortable with?

I don't want to wear white or cream. Orange, yellow and light green don't work for me. Red is too much.  I need blue or purple. The wedding color is plum. Mother of the groom is leading toward navy. I decide to consult with Jonathan's favorite problem solver - Google.

OK, Google, what does a stepmother of the groom wear to a wedding? 
  1. Let the mother of the bride pick first.
  2. Let the mother of the groom pick second.
  3. Don't match either.
  4. Don't match the bridal party.
  5. Don't wear white.
  6. Find out if you are a being treated as family, or as a guest. If family, the rules above apply and you dress accordingly. If a guest, be prepared to sit a few rows back and dress like a guest.
Um, well, I don't know. Good Lord, how do you ask that question? 

Eric knows that I have always been there for him. Well, at least I think he does. I mean, he does now, and I think he knew that when he was younger. Anytime he had an issue with his mom or dad, he knew he could come to me for a largely unbiased opinion. Sometimes I agreed with his mom, sometimes his dad, but I always tried to get him to see both perspectives and let him make his decisions. 

Despite this, we weren't the smooshie type, and it wasn't like I reminded him often that I did love him. We just didn't really go there.

Life, and death, have a way of changing you. So now, we go there. He has grown up and matured so much the last few years (remember that strong fiance I mentioned?) and strengthened his relationship with Ghon. He has been a great big brother to Jonathan and Genevieve. Eric, I feel, has likely put too much pressure on himself to be there for me, when he needs to grieve too. But that's his nature, always out to try and make everyone happy.

As the oldest of Ghon's children, I very much appreciated his support and opinions on the day Ghon died. God knows, neither of us wanted to take the path we did, make the decisions that we had to do, but I'm glad he was there to help me and support me. Jonathan and Genevieve may continue to ask questions about the day Ghon died and what happened, especially as they get older. As children, they aren't capable of making those decisions. As an adult, I wanted Eric to be there, understand, and help or support me in those choices. To understand what was happening. This was his father, just as much as Ghon was my husband. I never would want Eric to later question me and my choices. Whether he realized it or not, I drafted him onto my Ghon caretaking team. Time stood still that day; time flew by that day. We kept each other grounded. At least, I feel that way.

It's important for him to know that although Ghon isn't here, I will still be here for him. And Eric has promised to be there for me and the kids. We will continue as a family. It's what we do. Show the love, share the love and not worry about the naysayers.

But hell, that still doesn't tell me what type of dress to wear. I'm going with family, not guest. 

I do know that I will be wearing a smile. I'll be smiling for both Ghon and I. And I'll certainly be crying. Crying not for my baby boy; that will be for Jonathan's wedding. I'll be crying tears of joy for both Ghon and I as Eric and Caryn join together in marriage. I'll cry tears of sorrow, knowing that Ghon will not physically be there. I know he will find a way to be there spiritually, for he so looked forward to the day. 

And mark my words. If there is rice or birdseed to be thrown, Eric, be warned. Paybacks are hell. 

Anyone want to go dress shopping with me? 

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