Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa – Let Drew James Come Over

I don’t know about your situation, but I already have several well-documented (see my memoirs) relationship failures that had D-i-s-a-s-t-e-r written all over them before I ever willingly waded into the eye of a hurricane.  When I look back on these women and the circumstances surrounding our break-ups, I like to say to myself well yes, you were a mess and they were a mess and everything was so messy- but try to remember you were young. As if my being young was the rationale for selfish behavior that hurt the people I loved. Mea culpa, mea culpa…translates as through my fault…and it usually was.

Mistakes have never been reserved for the young – it’s quite possible to make them in mid-life with the same vigor and recklessness we did when we were young. Repeating mistakes, developing patterns can be a breeze  to recognize and understand when you reflect on them forty years later sitting on a sofa in a therapist’s office. They weren’t hard to make at all when I focused on my pursuit of happiness with the fervor of a terrier that had a whiff of a delectable mole.

When I was fifty-five years old, I began a new relationship with a woman I had known and admired for eight years. She was a good friend and a wonderful activist in the growing LGBT community in Columbia during the early 1990s. We had worked toward the same goals and shared the passion that all activists share for their causes. We also shared a love of sports – particularly the University of South Carolina Gamecocks who typically rewarded our dreams of glorious wins with crushing losses. In the midst of this passion for our teams and our causes, we eventually found a passion for each other.

As the 21st century began, so did Teresa and I. We had both been in other long-term relationships that were winding down – our partners had also found fresh romantic interests with the new century. To her credit, T urged for a slower approach, to let things settle in before we settled down together. I remember making a grand dramatic gesture of tearing the months away from her calendar and telling her enough time had passed now. I was ready to move in with her. And so we did.

One complication in our uncharted family beginning was T’s son Drew James. My previous three homes and the women who shared them with me had never included a partner with a child – much less a child who had just turned fifteen and was about to be exposed to a home life that would replace a young woman he adored  for nine years with an old woman he didn’t know well. It was a rocky start.

We chose a home in an established subdivision I wasn’t familiar with, but T wanted to make sure we lived in the proper school district for Drew so he could maintain his high school friends and sports activities. He was the quarterback of the football team and a pitcher on the baseball team, and his mother wanted to be at every home game – but preferred to arrive after the start because her nerves were jangled watching him. I went with her to those games and finally convinced her to take a xanax to calm herself. My belief in the magic of pills is well-known, and T came to see the wisdom of one every now and then when the stress of having a son in competition was simply too much.

I made many mistakes in the beginning in my eagerness to please T and my misguided attempts to be Drew’s friend.  The age difference between me and T was fourteen years, but the age difference between Drew and me was an eternity. We were both not what each other hoped we’d be, and my exasperation with teenage drama – yes, boys have drama, too – too often was a voice of frustration and anger and not the kind soothing one I imagined I’d have with a son. At times I wondered if I were the wicked stepmother.

Yesterday my thirty-one-year-old step-son Drew James spoke at his paternal grandmother’s funeral. T and I were sitting with Drew’s mother-in-law Sissy who had a program and shared it with us. Drew hadn’t told his mother or me that he was taking part in the program so we were both surprised to see his name listed. And of course, his mother and I were worried.

We needn’t have been. The tall handsome young man  who is our son spoke with tenderness and love and honesty about the grandmother who had given him refuge and a place under the stairs for  his toys in her home – a woman he obviously respected and appreciated for her constant support and loving care. How fortunate he was to have been so close to her from the time he had a memory until yesterday when he had to say goodbye. What a legacy she left for this grandson.

Mea culpa, mea culpa – Red rover, Red rover – let Drew James come over.  And he has. We have met each other somewhere in the middle when he realized how much I loved his mother and when I understood how much she loved her son.  Drew and I became friends after years of altercations and sometimes even animosity. Both of us mellowed and discovered common ground – our love for Teresa. And that creates a bond which has been very good for us to find.

Families today often come in mixed packages that aren’t very neatly wrapped… Drew’s father and his second wife  sitting on a bench together in the funeral parlor while his grandfather sat with his second wife sitting on a bench behind them at the funeral… two uncles and their ex-wives sitting with their children in the family section of the funeral home…the family united but with mixed emotions as the matriarch was laid to rest.

Finally, to me, as Granny Selma used to say, I got to see some of my mistakes weren’t forever ones. Drew James stood upright yesterday and talked about his family with love and deep affection. I know he wasn’t talking about me, but I feel included and thrilled to know that my pursuit of happiness became a part of his.

It’s an early Thanksgiving gift for me.






About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
This entry was posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Reflections and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa – Let Drew James Come Over

  1. Bob Slatten says:

    Families aren’t always what you’re born into, but what you make out of the people in your life.
    So glad you and Drew and T have made it work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. says:

    Hi Sheila, I think you and Drew James were both blessed.  And Teresa was even more blessed.  C.H. and I both had a blended family and we both truly felt like both families were our families. Did it take time? Of course.  But we all opened out minds and hearts and tried and it worked !!  Adult children are such a blessing too.  You can talk to them, they have amazing ideas and you can even ask their advice and follow it !!!! You deserve a great Thanksgiving because you hung in there.  You and Drew James both loved Teresa.  Knowing Teresa, I can’t even imagine her not having a son that you would both be happy and proud to claim. Go, Sheila !!!!!           Love,                  Anne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anne,
      I am grateful to be a part of the blended family you and C.H. created!
      Blending families is a bit more difficult than blending ingredients to bake a cake – and takes quite a bit more time – but the results are sweeter, too.
      Adult children are great – you can call on them to help you get their mom home from the hospital, too! 🙂
      Thank you, Anne, for your kind words…they are always much appreciated.
      Lots of love,


  3. boblamb says:

    Sheila, this is one of your very best essays.


  4. Linda Ketner says:

    Beautiful. One of my favorites!!


  5. I’m sure Drew James has come to appreciate and love you very much. What a loving tribute to an unexpected son and a caring family.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. reocochran says:

    I think this is a piece of thoughtful writing which could be passed out to many step parents “to-be.” It might give them time to pause before reacting, it may encourage trying to see the others point of view but most of all, Sheila, it would provide encouragement. Love can conquer all with time, patience and more doses of love. Such a beautiful set of lessons within this true story. I got teary-eyed. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robin, thank you so very much for your kind words on this post. You know how it is when you write to speak the truth as you understand it – you never know whether it will be someone else’s truth or not. I have a few blogging friends who recognize glimpses of my truth as their own, and so I am very lucky to count you as one of those.


  7. So glad the two of you got there in the end. Never easy but Drew sounds like a grand fellow.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa – Let Drew James Come Over | I'll Call It Like I See It

  9. Reblogged this on I'll Call It Like I See It and commented:

    Drew James has a 33rd. birthday this week, and it reminded me of this post in September, 2016…Happy Birthday, Drew! You and Caroline rock!
    I love you both


  10. Henry Lewis says:

    Thanks for this reflective and honest account of your personal life. We can all learn lessons and have hope based on our shared experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

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