Seven years ago my father and his second wife, Linda, were parked at the side of a rural highway in Idaho arguing. A highly distracted mother in a minivan plowed into the rear of their car at 55 miles per hour sending it flipping over and over down the shoulder of the highway. My dad sustained minimal injuries. Linda suffered severe head trauma, clinging to life by a thread.
After our mother’s death on Christmas day in 1996, none of us thought our dad would remarry. Imagine our utter surprise when he called us all eleven months later and told us he would be getting married . . . . the following weekend.
His new wife was about twelve years younger than he, and she was about twelve inches taller than his 5’4 stature. Some of my brothers still lived at home, and she was not a popular addition to the family. I was personally happy for my dad—I didn’t want him to be lonely, and I knew he truly needed someone to take care of him. So I gave Linda the benefit of the doubt. I tried to be welcoming, and I had various long-distance phone conversations with her, trying to get to know her and show her my interest. Linda loved to talk, to a fault. On the phone, she was one of those people with whom you could put the phone down on the counter and pick it up five minutes later, and she’d still be talking, not realizing for a second that you had walked away.
I began hearing troubling reports from my siblings about her. They were things I didn’t want to believe, and I partly passed them off as typical step-child complaints. But then Linda started talking to me about my mother, saying things like, “You know, your mother wasn’t the angel you all make her out to be,” and “Your mom came from an environment based on abuse, shame and blame.” The topic of “shame and blame” became common; it seemed every time I talked to her and my dad this was the focus of the very much one-sided conversations.
The last straw for everyone seemed to be when they announced they were selling the house and moving to Idaho. And nobody except Linda’s daughter would be going with them.
Fast forward four years. Dad and Linda were contemplating the purchase of a home just outside the town of Rexburg, Idaho, where they had been renting. They were having a rather heated disagreement relating to this potential purchase as they drove down the highway toward the property. Linda was driving, as usual, but she pulled over to avoid a collision during their argument.
She never even knew what hit her.