Once upon a time in a faraway land by the sea, let's call it Beachland, there lived a King and Queen. In a land not too far away from Beachland, also by the sea so let's call it Sealand, lived another King and Queen.
|L: Stan and Bev (Sealand), married 1969, Dawson Creek, Canada;|
R: Di and Jim (Beachland) married 1965, Murwillumbah, NSW
The Queens of Beachland and Sealand were best friends having met when they were very young, well before they met their Kings. After they met and married their Kings and went to rule their respective Kingdoms, the Queens stayed besties throughout all the years of their lives. They wrote to each other often and came to visit on holidays with their Kings and little Princes and Princesses.
|Beverly far left, Mum second from right, early 60s;|
Mum with bridesmaids L-R Beverly, Jan and Debbie 1965
One day the King of Beachland suddenly died. The Queen was bereft and alone but continued to sadly rule her Kingdom. Then about a year later, her bestie the Queen of Sealand died. The King of Sealand was bereft and alone but continued to sadly rule his Kingdom.
The widow Queen and widower King were already friends as they had known each other for more than 40 years.
|Jim, Di, Bev and Stan on holiday, undated early 90s|
They started to spend time together and after a while they fell in love.
|Di and Stan late 2002|
|On the ferry to Tasmania, late 2002|
Eventually they decided to get married. Both Kingdoms rejoiced, and the King came to live with the Queen in Beachland to rule both Kingdoms together. And they lived happily ever after!
|Dad's poodle comes to bless the union during the ceremony. Two perfect roses also bloomed that morning. November 2005|
You see, sometimes fairy tales do come true. It was so wonderful to see my Mum and Stan fall in love and both find a reason for living again after Dad passed away and then Stan's wife Beverly a year later. Mum was lost in the wilderness, and Stan gave her back that spark to throw herself into living again. They were always lots of fun to be around; two people in their late fifties acting like giddy teenagers. And it never wore off.
|Alaska June 2004|
|San Diego August 2010|
|There's no place like home, October 2009|
|Home, March 2007|
Stan and Mum picked up where their lives had left off with gusto. They spent some time travelling between their homes, which were about eight hours drive apart, then after a year or so Stan came up to Pottsville to live with Mum. I think Mum would have been happy to live in sin (as she liked to call it) with Stan forever. But she knew Stan wanted to get married, and maybe deeply secretly, so did she.
Mum told me the story about the day Stan proposed to her, and in a lot of ways it summed up their whole attitude to their relationship and to life. Stan had bought a ring in Newcastle ready to ask Mum to marry him. When he came back home to Pottsville he took Mum out for a walk on the surf beach intending to walk all the way down the beach to the creek breakwater and there to propose. Apparently when they got out onto the sand he asked her right there and then, because he just didn't want to wait any longer, even the five-minute walk to the heads. Of course she said yes.
I'm not sure if this story is all truth or part legend but it fits with Stan and Mum's attitude to life, not wanting to miss a thing. They spent the next decade travelling the world and packing as much into life as they could, including learning rock n' roll and swing dancing. I remember when they would dance together in the back room of the house for practice. Eventually they wore away the varnish on the floorboards in a few spots.
|Wearing away the varnish on the floorboards, 2004|
|Cutting up the rug at various events and weddings. L-R Wintersun Carnival 2004, a friend's wedding April 2012,|
goddaughter's engagement party February 2013 and wedding February 2014
|New York, USA, September 2010|
|Go Padres! And go Stan! San Diego, USA, August 2010|
|Paris, France, May 2007|
|Go Padres! August 2010|
|Amalfi in Italy, September 2008|
|Ding ding ding went the trolley! San Francisco, USA, November 2010|
|Nafplio in Greece, September 2008|
As I mentioned in Part One of this blog Stan has been much more than a stepfather to me. It's a tough gig being a step-parent; I know from personal experience. Stan took the task on without question, accepting, as Mum did, that ruling the Kingdoms together would come with baggage. Most of it was cute baggage, which helps.
|Poppa Stan and Nana Di with grandchildren, January 2012|
|More bloody kids! October 2006|
|Poppa Stan with our grandchild Miller, July 2014|
|May 2013 at home|
|2007 at home during Simon's year back in Australia|
|Time to send one back home! March 2012|
|With my father's extended family in Warwick, March 2012|
For me it was never about anything but my mother's happiness, and Stan certainly made her happy.
|Revisiting Woodenbong School in 2002|
where Mum and Stan both taught in 1964
|Mum's 70th birthday November 2013. (Message me|
if you want to know about the fantastic cake)
|Old friends are the best friends. Mum and Stan with Jan and Bruce.|
Jan was Mum's bridesmaid when she married my Dad in 1965
I really don't know where to start to talk about the influence Stan has had on my life. Stan not only helped us reunify ourselves as a family unit but he accepted Simon and I as if we were his own flesh and blood children.
|I'm pretty sure I'd had too much to drink here. Maybe we all had. 2006|
|The family members of photographers develop patience quickly. August 2007|
Stan stood in my corner and supported me through some pretty crappy times and more than once has come out punching for me. During the six months of my mother's illness Stan was not only a foundation stone for her but for all of us. In this situation that could have seen our family relationships self-destruct we've come through it stronger than ever. Stan's also been there for the exciting and proud moments of my life like receiving my degree and getting married; moments he softened a little by being there when I most sorely missed my father.
|Graduating from QUT, October 2004|
|Congratulations after my wedding to Danny in the backyard|
of our family home, March 2009
I know Stan will also be there when I need encouraging through my next challenge; studying for a post-graduate certificate. He never stopped nagging me to make sure I enrolled after I put it off for a year when mum became ill.
We were hoping for another long innings with Stan - I'm so sorry Stan that your time with mum had to be short. I know though that you've packed in a lifetime of memories together in 12 years and truly lived – not just existed. I thank you for giving our Mum back the 'spark' that she lost when we lost dad; I had trouble finding photos of you alone because you were always by Mum's side.
|Top Dog, February 2007|
Thank you for being so much more than a stepfather to us. You will always be my 'other father'. Happy Father's Day.
|Christmas Day 2013|