A Real Daddy
He was like no man I had ever known - a big, shy, gentle man, who adored children. He was a U.S. Navy Electrician, with powerful hands, yet to see him brush the dirt off a child's scraped knee left me breathless at his tenderness. He was younger than I, that was certain, but I noticed that his eyes had a look about them, as though he had seen much sorrow. So had I.
I was on the run, from an abusive marriage, taken in by mutual friends. I was devout, even prudish, but with a "wicked" sense of humor that could crack him up and make him blush to the roots of his hair. I found that irresistible.
I was pretty sure that I was in trouble, when my nine year old daughter, Jenny, cornered me and asked if I would "marry again." That filled me with panic.
"Oh my, Jenny! I'd like to not think about that for about a hundred years!"
"O.K., Mommy." Jenny replied, giving me a level look. "...But, if you ever do, I want you to marry someone like, Louie." I was stunned. Only nine years old, and already planning her future.
"You know," she continued. "He'd make a great Daddy!"
I could feel myself repelling down the side of a cliff, without a safety net, but I was charmed by her candor...and even then, I could feel God beckoning me toward this wonderful man. Of course, Jenny gave Louie "the speech." What she expected out of a father. What she would consider as appropriate behavior. Suddenly, my nine year old was a therapist and matchmaker, right in the middle of the living room. I expected that Louie would "run for the hills!" But he stayed on.
He was from Tennessee, and very country. I found him likeable, sensitive, and charming. He was a gentleman and a gentle man. It was not in him to take advantage of a woman. He was my friend, with perfect courtesy, and he was attractively awkward. Altogether lovely to a woman like me.
From a distance, we fell in love. Not even in his heart would he bridge that gap of impropriety. I had never met anyone like him before. We loved the same books. When it came to music, we were from different planets. I was whimsical, creative, a dreamer. He was practical, solid, a rock. But we both loved my children, and against all odds, we fell in love.
Of course it would never last. How could it? He loved motorcycles! And he owned one! I loved the ballet and opera. The closest I came to rock and roll was the BeeGees, and the closest he came to ballet was when he was launched from his motorcycle, making a hard right turn! We talked away the night every chance we got. I could make him helpless with laughter, which in turn, delighted my heart! How could it not work? But the miracle worker and the wisest of us all, turned out to be six year old Helen.
We were sitting in my car, right outside of Baskin Robbins. She was licking her Bubble Gum ice-cream cone. I was inhaling my Pistachio Almond Fudge.
"We need to have a serious talk, Momma." She said. She looked intently at me, with her sea green eyes.
"I've been thinking. I think it's time that we get married." She pulled herself up to her full, three-feet, six inches in height, as she searched my face.
Helen had proposed to Louie, weeks ago. She had ushered him into her room, sat him down on her bed, and stood in front of him. Her hand raised, finger pointing for emphasis, she said:
"You know, Louie, I've been looking for a man like you, my whole life." Stunned, all Louie could do was listen.
"Now, Louie," she began, "all of us girls need you, and I know that Momma does, too! That is why I'm asking you to marry us!" Afterwards, when Louie told me about the proposal, I thought...oh boy, this guy is history!!
"So what did you tell her?" I asked him, not quite nonchalantly.
"I told Helen, that as soon as we decide that we want to get married, she would be the first to know." He said, looking at me with an intense gaze.
Helen thought that Louie looked like Elvis. (I guess he did, sort of, if you closed one eye and looked at him through the heart of a child.) She had fallen in love with this big, gentle man...head over heels. Our romance had blossomed surrounded by a crowd of little girls...a blonde, a brunette, and a red-head. We had discussed marriage and there was no doubt that he was crazy about the girls...and me.
Helen had been the most hurt, when her 'birth father' had abandoned her. He explained to her that it was "nothing personal." Now, I wondered if a new marriage would be the best thing for my daughters, and I knew that Louie wondered if his great love could erase a lifetime of hurt.
Now, here I was, being lectured in a parking lot by my six year old.
"You know, Momma, you're not getting any younger" (Where did she get this stuff?) "Louie loves us, and he WANTS us. I want him to be my Daddy! My real Daddy!"
Words of reassurance rushed to my tongue, as Helen exclaimed. "Momma, my birth father doesn't want me!" An exquisite pain shot through me! Of course he does! I wanted to scream, but I could not invalidate the truth she spoke, with a lie.
"I think it's time, we got married!" Helen said. "We've been dating long enough!"
Finally, with tears in my eyes, I said, "Helen, I don't know what's inside some men's hearts, but I know Louie's heart. He loves you. He loves all of us, and if there is anyone who can be your "real" Daddy, he can. And I'm going to tell him 'yes' for all of us!"
That night we had a celebration dinner...Louie, Helen, Jenny, Michelle and me. With Kool-Aid glasses held high, we toasted a new future, a new family, and a new hope: where children are always treasured, and every Daddy is "real."