Saturday, June 18, 2011

Second Daddy

By Linda Goodman
©2011


My first time around, I married a musician who became so besotted by life in the limelight that his family became his albatross, a weight that pulled him down and kept him from living his dream. He walked out on our marriage after three years, our daughter barely two years old.

I was quite naïve in those days. Even though our marriage had been rocky from the start, I was shocked when he left. But I was flabbergasted when he seemingly forgot that he had a daughter, a child upon whom he had doted since the day of her birth. There were no visits, no phone calls, no birthday or Christmas presents – not even a card!

I was doing well financially. I had a decent job that more than met Melanie’s and my material needs. In fact, once I recovered from the shock of being left, life was pretty good. I was single and on my own for the very first time in my life, and I was enjoying the freedom.

Melanie seemed fine, as well. She did not seem to miss her father at all. She was a happy child….until she started school. That is when she became acquainted with other children of divorced parents and realized that their fathers visited them: actually picked them up and took them to exciting places like the zoo, the movies, ball games. In the summer, their fathers took them on great vacations.

“Why doesn’t my father visit me?” she asked.

“He lives in New York,” I told her. “It’s too far away.”

“But,” she countered, “he could call on the phone, couldn’t he?”

“Well…..yes,” I stammered. “I guess he could call.”

With that she began a ritual. Every evening after supper, she would pull her little chair up to the telephone and wait: hoping, praying, willing the phone to ring. It never did.

I swallowed my pride and asked my ex-husband’s mother for his phone number. “Melanie really wants to talk to you,” I told him. “Can you give her a call?”

“It’s long distance,” he told me. “I can’t afford it.”

I was not about to let him off that easily. “Call collect! I’ll accept the charges.”

“Uhm…..I can to that,” he agreed.

The call never came, and night after night I would lie in my bed listening to my daughter cry herself to sleep in the next room.

After Melanie finally accepted the fact that her father was not going to be a part of her life, she made up a story to tell her friends. “My father works for the CIA. He spies on Communists! He can’t come and visit me because it would put my life in danger.”

My friends asked me if I thought I would ever remarry. “Only,” I replied, “if I meet someone who loves Melanie as much as I do.”

They shook their heads. “You’re setting your sites too high. You’ll never find anyone like that.”

That did not concern me. “I’ll just stay single then,” I insisted.

In fact, I had decided that I would not date at all until I had my head on straight. I did not want to be one of those needy women who hastily remarry because they cannot bear to be alone. I wanted to be confident that I could take care of myself, so that any man I welcomed into my life would be my equal, not my superior. Attaining that level of confidence took two years.

When I finally did start dating, it seemed that I met every jerk on the East Coast - men who expected me to cook them a gourmet dinner and pay a babysitter to keep my daughter while we dined. There were a few scary experiences, too – scary enough to make me decide not to date anyone again unless I was given a recommendation by a trusted friend.

I met Phil at Jerry’s, a singles bar/disco on Military Highway in Chesapeake, Virginia. I normally did not hang out at such places, but my friend Pat was nursing a broken heart and thought that going there and dancing Friday night away would make her feel better. I decided to go with her.

Things were going well at Jerry’s. Pat had hooked up with other friends and a line of potential dance partners was waiting its turn to twirl her around the floor. I was envying her marvelous dancing as I waved goodbye to her.

Suddenly, I felt a light tap on my right shoulder. Not expecting anyone to ask me to dance, I responded with a shrill scream and quickly turned around to look up into the face of man who looked like John Ritter on stilts. His face was crimson as he stammered, “I’m sorry. I…I didn’t mean to scare the hell out of you. I just wanted to ask you to dance.”

Embarrassed by my hysterical scream, I responded, “Well, then, let’s dance.”

I have never been a good dancer. In fact, during this age of political correctness I have discovered that I am rhythmically impaired. Fortunately, though, a slow song was playing that night, and I managed to get through it without stepping on his toes (though he did mention years later that I had “led”).

The song ended and, still blushing, he asked if he could sit at my table. Being intrigued by a man who could actually blush, I replied, “Sure!” We talked for a while. My instincts said that he was a nice guy.

Pat came back to the table and a smile spread across her face when she saw him sitting beside me. “Hi, Phil,” she greeted him. “I haven’t seen you in years.” As it turned out, Phil used to date Pat’s sister when they were in high school. Pat pulled me aside later and enthused, “Linda, that is one nice guy!” I had my recommendation from a trusted friend!

Phil lived in the Washington, D.C. area and was in town for the Labor Day weekend, so I invited him to dinner Saturday night. As I opened the door to let him in, Melanie peered at him from behind me.

Once again, his face reddened. “I didn’t know your daughter was going to be here,” he said.

Taken aback by that comment, I inquired, as sarcastically as possible, “Is that a problem?”

He shook his head. “Oh, no!” he insisted. “It’s just that….well, I brought this bottle of wine.” He pulled a bottle of Chardonnay from behind his back. “And I don’t believe in drinking in front of children.”

I liked this man! “No worries,” I insisted. “We can drink it another time.”

During dinner, after he had assured Melanie that he liked Star Wars (“I’ve seen each episode three times!"), Melanie was won over as well.

After that, Phil came to see us every other weekend. I was managing a furniture store in downtown Portsmouth at the time and worked Saturdays. He insisted that I give my mom (who kept Melanie while I worked on weekends) Saturdays off when he was in town so that he could spend time with Melanie.

Phil took Melanie to all her Saturday soccer games (her girlfriends thought he was a dream). He took her to what had been his favorite fishing hole when he was a boy in Virginia Beach. He bought her a bike and taught her how to ride it.

Once Saturday evening, as the three of us were having dinner, Melanie asked him “Phil, is it okay for me to call you Dad?”

After a moment’s hesitation, he replied, blushing, “You can call me Dad as soon as your mom and I get married.”

I asked him later if that was a marriage proposal.

“I guess so,” he answered.

On the night before our wedding, Phil took Melanie to dinner, just the two of them. After their meal, he presented her with a ruby and diamond ring. “Tomorrow,” her told her, “I will be giving your mother a ring to symbolize my commitment to spend the rest of my life with her. I am giving you this ring because I want you to know that I am making that same commitment to you.”

When Melanie came home that evening, with tears in her eyes she showed me her ring and recited what Phil had said to her.

I drew her into my arms for a hug and said, “I think that Phil is going to be a pretty good father.”

“He’s better than a father,” she whispered. “He’s a daddy.”

Phil and I have been married for twenty-eight years now. Phil is a wonderful grandfather, and he still performs his daddy duties admirably.

When people refer to Phil as Melanie’s second daddy she always corrects them, “He’s not my second daddy.” She insists. “ He’s my only daddy.”

12 comments:

  1. Linda, That's beautiful. Thank you for a lovely portrait.

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  2. What a great story. you and Melanie are so lucky!

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this story. It brought tears to my eyes. How lucky you truly are!

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  4. ~Tears.~ OH so GOOD! The perfect story. ~contented sigh~

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  5. aww..phil's a great person!!!!!!

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  6. What a beautiful story! If only all people in this world were as beautiful as Phil. :)
    I hope one day to meet this wonderful man that stole the heart of both you and Melanie.

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  7. (((((HUGS))))) sandiJune 15, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    It's always such a delight to read and re-read and re-read this beautiful story! ~contented sigh~ and ~happy tears~

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    1. So glad you enjoy the story, Sandi. I am indeed blessed.

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  8. Absolutely beautiful Linda. Thank you for sharing your family with us. You are both lucky women indeed to have found Phil as he is to have found you and Melanie. Definitely a good guy and a wonderful "happily ever after..." story.

    Karen

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  9. Thanks, Karen. When I told my friends that I would not marry again unless I met someone who loved Melanie as much as I did, the said that would be impossible. They were wrong!

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