I recently walked into Scheel’s, a well-equipped hunting, sporting, and clothing store in our local mall. I had barely entered the facility when a young voice right in front of me called out, “Hello, Mrs. Olson!”
I stopped in my tracks. I looked down. A family friend’s seven year old son stood there smiling at me while bobbling a football, probably in hopes that whomever was with him would be buying it. I smiled and said “Hi!, where are your folks?” He told me he was with his brother and his grampa.
I found the other family members, we chatted, and I went on my way.
As I entered the mall area, I remembered the specific feeling of hearing “Hello Mrs. Olson” and the face of that innocent boy. I felt like I had been sucker-punched in my gut. Naturally, this emotional spin was completely invisible to anyone else. I just remember stopping and standing for a few seconds.
All this precious boy knew was that his elementary school girl friend’s last name is Olson and her mommy and daddy’s last name is Olson. And so, seeing me and knowing I am his friend’s gramma, he greeted me as “Mrs. Olson.”
However…..that is not my name.
The faded pain, guilt, and sadness of divorcing my sons’ father tried to rise up and flood me again. There are times I do wish things could have been different. I do wish that I had never changed my last name until my sons were grown. I do wish my sons and their families do not have to figure out how to divide time between all the various households during holidays. I could wish all I want; however, my life is the path I’ve chosen after dealing with circumstances. As with most decisions as a single mom, we do the best we can at the time.
As I regained my composure and continued to walk, I realized this experience eased into something I could write about for all of us stepfamilies. I’ve ministered to a divorced woman who is an elementary school teacher and the class called her ”Mrs. Smith”. She finally had to tell them one day after her divorce that she changed her name, and they could now call her “Miss Jones”. She shed tears as that too, brought back painful memories and emotions. Complications of an agonizing event in our lives.
Today I thank God that we’re all healthy, and that MOST importantly, we biological parents and step-parents get along. All of us can be in the same place at the same time for my sons, their wives, and our grandchildren. Additionally, God has given me the gifts of ministry so that having lived these experiences, I can be empathetic, compassionate, and help others. Some day that innocent little boy and my grandchildren will understand divorce and remarriage and how it’s affected our family tree. My fervent prayer is that they never have to live it.