My mom and step-dad married when I was 13 years old.
I'd made it clear in the years since my parents divorce that I never, ever wanted my mom to marry again. Until she met Bob. Mom and my sister and I all fell in love with him.
We all "got married" a year later.
My baby sister was born a year after that.
Bob could kinda be a crabby guy.
As the years passed and I became an adult, it used to make me mad the weird ways in which my mom fussed over him: she'd get up in the wee hours every morning to make his lunch. She'd lay out his socks and underwear before he took his morning bath. She'd crawl into bed before him, lay on his side of the bed to warm up the sheets and then roll over onto the cold side when he came to bed.
Child of the 60's that I was, this sort of stuff kinda hacked me off.
The whole equal-rights thing that was marching down every major highway in America reminded me he could "certainly make his own damn lunch."
Mom told me one time, "There are so few things I can do just especially for him ~ I love doing those things because they make him feel special."
And I would huff a little huff and decide she was clueless about how women should be treated.
My folks were married in early 1967.
In 2008 my mom became ill and ended up in a hospital bed in the living room of the home in which I grew up. She would lie there, unable to so much as roll over on her own, for the next 6 years.
During that time my step-dad cared for her. He was nearing 90 years old and still tight as bark on a tree when it came to money, but he took good care of my mom.
Fed her. Bathed her. Made sure she had all her medicine every day, on time.
He made sure she was safe and warm.
In February of 2014 my step-dad had a stroke, sitting in the recliner right next to my mama's hospital bed. She was right there beside him and had not a clue what had happened. She was cozy and warm and slept through it. An ambulance took my step-dad away.
A week later, he was transferred to a hospice care facility.
Three days later we moved my mom to a care facility near our home.
They lay in their respective beds, on opposite sides of the city and we assured them both the other was being well taken care of. They never asked.
My sisters and I were with Bob when he died so peacefully we barely realized it had happened.
It was a Thursday.
A week later mom went the same way: peacefully, surrounded by her girls.
My favorite memory of my folks is the day Bob left mom in my sister and I's care to accompany one of the WWII veterans Honor Flights to Washington DC. He leaned over her hospital bed to check on her one more time before he left her for the first time they'd been separated for more than a few hours....for years. "Mama, I'll be home soon." he told her.
"Daddy," she said as she reached up and touched his arm, "Are you wearing an undershirt today? I don't want you to get cold."
Still fussing after all those years.
And finally I understood.
Our final picture with the man who loved my mama.
Strong hands that belonged to a man who went from bachelor to husband and step-dad of two in one quick ceremony in front of a few family members and friends. He loved us as his own and I'll always be grateful for those loving hands.