Our special package of Mother's Day stories in today's edition primarily focuses on the heartwarming relationships mothers and their daughters share over the spectrum of time.
The stories have proved even more captivating than we first imagined, but we still saw the need to add some expert insight. We wanted to talk to someone who could give an in-depth analysis of how the bond forms between mothers and daughters.
So I reached out to University of South Florida English professor Joan Kaywell and shared our idea. An English professor? Well, Kaywell regularly reviews adolescent novels and writes extensively about how works by young authors can help adolescents cope with challenges. Kaywell's Dear Author is a collection of responses young adult authors penned to kids who wrote to them about their most difficult issues.
After explaining our collection — mother and a newborn, mother and a middle school daughter, mother and a daughter off to college, mother and a bride-to-be, and a daughter caring for her mother — Kaywell said we missed a relationship. The mother who gains a daughter late in life.
Clearly, I needed her to elaborate.
And she did. Kaywell attends St. Catherine of Alexander Episcopal Church in Temple Terrace and explained how she grew to be friends with a couple named Frank and Darlene. She and Darlene shared the same birthday and often exchanged cards.
Ironically, Kaywell says, doctors diagnosed Darlene, who worked at Moffitt Cancer Center, with an incurable form of cancer. She lost her life and after 41 years of marriage, Frank was a widow.
Everyone at the church wondered who would check in on him.
Kaywell, a member of the church's pastoral care program, agreed to help but insists she didn't see Frank as any kind of love interest. In fact, she told him that women would be drawn to him and he should begin dating again. Frank did just that and started "dating everybody," Kaywell says, while she just continued to serve as a friend.
Both love to cook and one day after a joint shopping excursion, Kaywell stood to leave. They usually parted with hugs, but since Frank had his hands full with groceries, Kaywell leaned in and pecked him on the lips.
She turned to walk away, looked back and saw Frank was frozen solid. So she gave him a longer kiss.
The next day, Frank called her and said, "What was that?"
I said, "I don't know, but I liked it."
From that humble beginning they fell in love and Kaywell, now 57, married Frank, 67, and became stepmom to Frank's adult daughter, Janette.
But not without drama.
Kaywell moved into Frank's home, where mementos and photos of Darlene remained. When they took photos of Darlene's parents off the wall and gave them to Janette, Janette burst into tears. She treasured a picture from her wedding day with the photos of her grandparents in the background.
The dispute represented a microcosm of the challenge they faced blending families. Kaywell said she and Janette talked through the problems and now have a healthy relationship. It helps that Kaywell has bonded with Janette's daughter, Addison.
But Kaywell says her friends in similar situations haven't been as fortunate.
"Some people go through terrible rejection from the kids," Kaywell said. "The kids constantly criticize. They worry about the new wife taking their inheritance."
Luckily, Kaywell and Janette adjusted. A mother of two sons who never had a daughter, Kaywell revels over her new role.
"It's cool to say I have a daughter," Kaywell said.
On this day, we've come to realize every mom shares that sentiment about their daughters, even those who gain a daughter later in life.
That's all I'm saying.