My mom passed away when I was 31 years old. I was already married with young children and had a career. I lived in the same city as my widowed father.

Eventually, my dad met and married another woman. They took their time getting to know each other, and she slowly eased into our family. Considering that my brother and I were adults, we never considered her to be a stepmother. She was simply our father’s wife.

Once a parent dies, nothing is ever the same. Holidays do not feel or taste the same. Traditions become bittersweet. The house has an emptiness despite the whole family being gathered. All of these things change even more when a parent remarries. There are new recipes at Thanksgiving, different Christmas traditions to start, and changes to the home décor. There is a respectful silence of no longer mentioning the loved one who is missing

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But my family was blessed. We were blessed with a woman strong enough to step into the void in our family with patience, strength, and respect. She deserves to lead by example for other wives of widowed men. 

She didn’t rush the situation. She took time to get to know our father, his children, and his grandchildren.

She never tried to change our father. She accepted him as he was. Despite her opinions, she looked the other way when he insisted on eating white bread and accepted his differing views on religion and politics.

She took care of him during illnesses and made him laugh during their world travels. I didn’t have to worry about him being lonely.

I appreciated that she was strong and independent, thus being able to complement my father instead of being reliant. 

She respected him and the relationship he had with his kids. She was never jealous when he spent time with us or talked with us on the phone.

She always happily attended my children’s games, performances, and ceremonies. She cheered just as loudly as everyone else. She invited them over to make cookies and to enjoy their favorite meals.

She is the closest thing to a grandmother my children will ever remember.

 She celebrated our birthdays and Christmases by giving her own personally chosen gifts. 

She engaged in some of our holiday traditions while also starting some new ones that we now all look forward to.

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She was there in times of need. If my husband or I were sick, she helped transport kids and delivered food. She sat by my hospital bed after a devastating diagnosis.

She was never intrusive nor demanding. She never showed up unannounced nor remained in constant contact. She had her life and we had ours. 

Most importantly, she never tried to remove my mother’s existence.

For many years she kept much of my mom’s décor in the house, slowly exchanging it with her own. She didn’t mind using my mom’s cloth napkins at family dinners. She even used some of my mom’s recipes knowing they were some of our favorite dishes. We slowly realized she was comfortable if we brought up memories of my mom. I understand this takes a special, confident, yet compassionate woman. 

She is very much her own person and is quite different than my mother. She never tried to take my mom’s place by becoming my new mother or best friend. She didn’t fill my mom’s absence, but her presence brought a renewed joy to our family. One more person to laugh with, share with, grow with, and be family with.

It’s been many years now, and I am proud to call her my father’s wife.

Janelle Sims

I am a retired teacher, wife, and mother of two teenagers. I have a published memoir entitled, "Getting Along with MiSsy" as well as a coping workbook. I am a freelance writer for various publications andI blog about my journey with Multiple Sclerosis.