This is the tale of two wonderful women who, by a cruel twist of fate, had the singular misfortune to have both (at different times) fallen in love with the same man.
The first woman, Sandy, is my Mother. She had a relatively happy childhood until her father died of leukemia when she was a young girl. From there on out she grew up in an atmosphere where she felt unloved and unappreciated, and largely in charge of the care of her younger sister, Pat. She married at age 16 to escape an unhappy family situation. But as the old saying goes, out of the frying pan, into the fire. She had no idea at the time that she left her childhood home of Elmira, NY and traveled 3000 miles across country to start a new life that she had married an abusive alcoholic.
Just a couple years later, the man took me and drove back to Elmira, leaving Sandy behind with a very sick child. My sister Wendy died at age 5 of childhood leukemia. Broke and alone, Sandy had no means to come after me.
I was left with my Aunt Bev, where I spent a year of my life. And where my first retrievable memories reside.
The second woman, Sue, was my Mom. She also had a relatively happy childhood until her mother died of breast cancer when Sue was only ten. Sue's father remarried quickly. The step-mother was a strict disciplinarian who favored Sue's younger sister, Judy. Apparently Sue's life after that wasn't as happy. The parallels in the lives of these two women is somewhat spooky.
Sue grew up in Chicago. It was there that she met the man in 1964 and became pregnant. They married in February of 1965. Sue was 23.
They came to get me and took me back with them to Chicago where Sue assumed the role of my Mom. She did it well. She never once made a distinction between me and her biological children. We were all just family and siblings.
Apparently the man had a "type" when it came to women, because yes, the two of them did look a lot alike, and yes, as I was growing up people often commented about how much I looked just like my Mom. It was like an inside joke that always made us laugh, but never explain.
What a pair we made, my blonde hair, her fiery copper red.
From the outset, Mom encouraged me to have a relationship with my Mother and we began exchanging letters as soon as I could write.
In the meantime, our family expanded and Sue also learned about life at the hands of an abusive man. This chain smoking, beer drinking, deadbeat couldn't manage to hold down a job and did nothing to help around the home. But was quick to blame and to punish if things were not the way he liked them. He played a leading role as the villain in my life until I was 13, but now is nothing more than a footnote in my family history.
When I was nine years old, my Mom took a giant leap of faith and put me a plane from Chicago to go visit my Mother in California.
When I was 13 my Mom realized that the abuse she was taking wasn't affecting just her, it was affecting her entire family. So she divorced the man. And began life as the single mother of four children.
Both women remarried wonderful men who treated them with kindness and respect. And because they shared not only a history with the man, but also me, they eventually became good friends.
That is how I came to have two wonderful fathers to walk me down the aisle at my wedding.
And two mothers-of-the-bride sitting in the pews.
That is how I came to grow up with two women, both of whom love(d) me and provided for me, each in their own unique way.
So I'm grateful for the cruel twist of fate that brought these women together, my Mother and my Mom, so that my life could be what it is today.
My kids loved her like crazy. That's Becca on her lap and Rachel to her right. See Rachel's pouty face? She was mad that she didn't get to sit on Grandma's lap for the picture.
Mom was already sick at this point, she just didn't know it yet. Sadly, Mom died in February of 1998 of renal cell cancer. She was only 56.
There is so much I could tell you about these two women and their beautiful and unique contributions to the world. But I don't want to hijack your entire day. Suffice it say that growing up with two women who loved me as their daughter is something for which I will always be grateful.