Michele, My Bell
I didn't grow up in a traditional household. I'm sure many of you reading this didn't either. My parents divorced when I was young and my sister and I lived with my father. The majority of my young life, my father was an alcoholic. He was never abusive. He didn't bar hop and stay out all night. Mostly, he came home drunk from work and sat in his chair, watching TV and drinking some more until he went to sleep. My mother was a binge-drinking alcoholic who moved from place to place and state to state. There was no lack of love from either parents, there was just no structure or feeling of security.
When my father began dating the woman I have always referred to as my step-mother (they were never actually married, just dated for 17 years), I thought maybe my sister and I would begin to live like so many other kids our ages did: "normally." Alas, that wasn't the case. To this day I still feel strongly that my father's girlfriend couldn't stand the two new young ladies she was forced to live with. She never showed us that she had a maternal bone in her body. I often felt she was disgusted by me and wished I didn't live in my own home. As a result, I walked on eggshells, more often than not completely avoiding any room she was in. My father didn't seem to care how uncomfortable my sister and I felt, as he spent most of his time wandering through his acres of woods drinking Busch Light until it was time to come inside to have dinner.
My house was never a home. I hated it. I resented it. I will go as far as to say I DESPISED it. I did everything I could to avoid that house, which is where Michele comes in.
I was lucky enough to meet my best friend, Ali, in sixth grade when I changed school districts. We weren't besties at first, but we were friends. Once we got to high school, we were practically inseperable. Literally. I started going to her house almost every day and became close with her mother, Michele, whom I considered (and still do) to be the epitome of the June Clever mother I had always wished for. She was maternal, patient, kind, and fucking hilarious. Her demeanor was so inviting that I really could tell her (almost) anything. She quickly became my second mother and I her second daughter. I loved her like she gave birth to me, and was so happy to finally be a part of a "normal" family.
I lived this way for years, preferring her home to my own. I was always excited to leave my own house on holidays to go to Michele's because I knew it would be full of laughter and stories and traditions. There was even a time in college when Ali and I had to go to court (it really wasn't a big deal, just an alcohol possession charge...blah blah blah) and my father didn't come. Nor did my mom. But Michele did. She stood by my side the way any parent would (or should, in my opinion) and put me at ease.
During my last year of college, after my own mother had passed away from breast cancer, I started dating Michele's middle son and quickly became pregnant. My father was disappointed and would barely acknowledge the baby, but Michele assured me my life wasn't over and that everything was going to be just fine. She was in the delivery room when I had Evie Sherie. She even helped hold one of my legs as I pushed for 2.5 hours.
Three years ago on this date, September 10th, Michele passed away. I was lucky enough to be in the room with her as she took her last breath, just as I had been there when my own mother died.
I will always be eternally grateful for the life Michele gave me. She gave me stability, home cooked meals, sage advice, a shoulder to cry on, laughter, unconditional love, a family, and a home, not just a place to lay my head at night.
I love you, Michele. Forever and a day. I have no more words except THANK YOU. From the very bottom of my heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you.