Stepmothers often get a bad rap in fairy tales and in real life. They’re portrayed as cold, calculating, mean women. But nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to mine.
Oralia Caballero Rede has become like a third mother to me. And today, on Mother’s Day, I want to recognize and thank her for being such a loving, caring wife to my father and an excellent example of how to live one’s life.
Of course, no one can ever replace the role of my birthmother, Theresa Vargas Flores. She gave me life and raised me, and left a big void in the extended Flores family when she died in October 2013, a day short of her 86th birthday.
The same can be said about my mother-in-law, Virginia Rauh. She was a sweet-natured woman who accepted me fully and never meddled in the life that Lori and I built for ourselves, hundreds of miles away from the San Francisco Bay Area, where we both grew up. Virginia has been gone 10 years now.
That leaves Ora as the third and only remaining maternal figure in my life. Just as my dad is lucky to have met and married her, I too am fortunate to know her and love her.
Ora is 81 years old, but you’d never know it from the energy she exudes and the zest for life that she embraces. She is, like my mom and mother-in-law were, deeply religious. And she lives her faith by volunteering for several causes in her community, the sleepy little town of Silver City, New Mexico, where she lives with my dad.
They moved there in 1988 from their home near Oakland, California, to get away from the rat race. For my dad, it was a chance to return to his native New Mexico. For Ora, a chance to be closer to family members in Texas and Arkansas.
Since their arrival, they’ve been active with veterans’ groups, the Knights of Columbus and the League of United Latin American Citizens, a nonprofit advocacy group known as LULAC. Ora also has tutored in English and Spanish and sung in the church choir. She balanced these commitments along with working in the surgery and ER departments at the local hospital before retiring several years ago.
More recently, with my father having turned 89 this year and needing more attention at home, Ora has graciously cut back on her community service activities in order to tend to him. It’s an act of love and selflessness that’s greatly appreciated by Lori and me.
Circumstances prevent us from seeing Ora and Dad more than once every couple of years. Fortunately, the old adage about distance making the heart grow fonder is true. We talk often enough by phone and email for me to feel connected with them both, and she never fails to ask about our three children and their spouses/partners. It’s evident she cares — really cares — about each of them.
I was 15 when my parents divorced. For many years after, I couldn’t imagine my dad with another woman. Or, for that matter, my mom with another man. But here we are, with Act 2 a resounding success in Silver City. My dad was incredibly lucky to meet Ora. Likewise, I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a great relationship with a woman who is unfailingly kind, gracious and generous.
Wicked stepmother? That fairy tale doesn’t apply here.
Read more about this remarkable woman in a profile highlighting her work as a CSJ Associate: http://bit.ly/1Ha7aJU