(Why I Love You)
Recently I had the chance to look back upon my life and think about the people that I am so thankful to, the people who have made my life wonderful. Although many made my list, this story is about the two ladies in my life that I met in my thirties, my wife Terri and daughter Lindsay. This story is a work in progress, after all, as I’m still alive, learning, and doing well. Choosing where to start this story was easy. It started with when I was preparing to meet Terri. The ending was chosen because I am heading into the unknown confidently.
Soon after I met Terri, about three months, I knew she was the one for me. I married at a later age than most of my friends, age thirty-six. I hadn’t dated much, so as I started my journey towards finding that special someone, I did my due diligence. This included putting out ads in singles magazines and making my list of what I wanted and did not want in a wife.
My profile had a short list of important items. At the top was I didn’t want a woman with a kid. I was also upfront on the first date that I am an atheist.
Terri had been married previously and had a son, Adam. Ironically, I will probably never know why, when I typed up my profile for one particular singles magazine, I forgot to include that I wanted a girlfriend who didn’t have children.
On our first date, Terri was upfront about her religious beliefs. She was a born again Christian. However, the connection between us was instant, so me being an atheist didn’t turn her off. It didn’t take long before I both wanted and needed her. As an intuitive person who knows how to nurture, she picked up on how I was feeling and responded beautifully.
One of my fondest memories of that first date was when I made an ass of myself by taking a tumble. It was November, so the snow and ice were covering everything. As I lay on the ground, not sure if I should laugh or cry, she leaned in and kissed me. It was quick, but the kiss did its job. I thought, I like that!
Because we both felt the connection, I met her son Adam within the first week. He was nine years old at the time. The meeting went well, so I decided to keep it to myself that I didn’t want a kid.
As the days passed, I saw my new habits forming. One of my favorites was waiting for her at my home, like a teenage boy who was nervously excited to go on his first date. One day I realized that I kept staring out the window, waiting for her car to pull up. This was when it hit me; her kindness and beauty were affecting me.
It didn’t take long, however, before tragedy struck. I will always treasure this memory because of how it toughened me up.
I arrived at her home one afternoon expecting a common, pleasant evening. Instead, she had left me a note that she had gone to the hospital. I got nervous. Although her condition was not life-threatening, I felt a panic attack come on because I kept having a flashback of my sister’s death. She died half a dozen years earlier. We were close, so her death upset me. I had experienced people die in my life since my sister’s death, so I was not able to understand at that time why I was overacting about Terri.
Later, it all made sense. There I was. I had finally found my soul mate. We had only been dating about three months, but I was getting hooked. She was in the hospital, and she needed me to be with her. I got dizzy. After feeling weak in the knees, I took a seat. As the time passed, each time I tried to get into the car, I felt the shakes and a cold sweat come over me. I became angry with myself, so much so that my condition worsened. The final result was I fell asleep from exhaustion.
Although the details have escaped me, I remember waking up in her bed alone, in the middle of the night. As I went for a walk towards the kitchen, I saw her sleeping on the sofa in the living room, so I knew I was in trouble. Either I had to give the real reason for my bizarre behavior or risk losing Terri.
For the first time since the death of my sister, I was able to talk about how my sister’s death had affected me. Before and after our talk, Terri yelled at me for not going to the hospital. However, it was difficult for her to remain angry because she realized how important she had become to me. As I shared this with Terri, her eyes watered. It was then that I knew she understood. I loved my sister dearly, so placing such value in Terri was a bonding moment for us.
Imagine that. Being yelled at from the woman who I was falling madly in love with cured my anxiety; disappointing her was not an option.
I know I am cured because I have been to the hospital many times, including many trips when Lindsay was born, but more on that later.
After we got married, we began to plan for a baby. I took comfort that she had been through this before. There is a movie called Back to School. It was a famous movie in 1986. One of my favorite lines is “Remember, the best part about having children is making em.” So we got busy practicing to make one, a daughter. We practiced regularly and not only in the bedroom. One of my favorite places to get comfy was the hot tub on our back patio. My best friend had become my lover, and I knew this would be important as we raised our child together.
I had felt disappointed that it took me until age thirty-six to marry, but I knew others who had married earlier and divorced. So waiting this long to find the woman I would want to stay with for life, well, the wait wasn’t too terrible after all. I married for companionship, not for sex or on a romantic whim. Maybe this is why we are still together years later and going strong.
Once Terri conceived, I felt a strong confidence about my up-and-coming duties. Though it was a family event, I kept saying to myself, “My daughter.” Crazy as it may sound, the word my had special energy to it. The months passed quickly because I often felt like I was in a euphoric state. My thoughts often drifted. People saw it and commented. I was going to be a dad in my late thirties.
We experienced a few challenges along the way that shook my confidence, but as long as I shared my concerns with her, since we were in this together, the fears lost their hold. The first was when we discovered that Lindsay would be a premie-baby, or pre-mature. Although it was all guess work, we figured she’d come into the world a week or so before Thanksgiving.
My next challenge was watching her birth and knowing she couldn’t go home with us any time soon. She had a condition called Rh disease and this meant she had to stay in a special ward at the hospital for an unknown number of days. With Thanksgiving so close, this hurt.
Adam was very helpful at this stage in the game. At age thirteen, he was maturing quickly and becoming a friend and helper to me, his stepdad. When I made comments about this to him, he gave me that look that said “of course I should be helping you.” I didn’t feel the right to require him to take this role. Instead, he had the desire to be this person.
We visited Lindsay every day, but we couldn’t stay overnight. I was losing sleep, weight, and hope. Deep down I knew she would survive and come home, but I wanted her home for Thanksgiving, so as that special Thursday approached, I noticed Terri talking to herself more. Later I discovered she had been praying. Since she was a born-again Christian and I was an atheist, I didn’t want to admit that I was happy someone was praying. And if God was going to listen to a prayer request or two, I figured Terri was the right person to be doing the asking.
The day before Thanksgiving arrived, the news came that we could take Lindsay home. By this point, I was no longer calling Lindsay my daughter. I was calling her our daughter. We have a Thanksgiving family photo of the four of us. Every time I look at it I smile. Terri and I look so exhausted in that picture that it is the best reminder of why we were so thankful for that special Thanksgiving gift.
I was ready to tend to my daddy duties, but I wanted to do more watching first. I told Terri this, but she tried a really bad line on me: “I’m kind of new at this too.” Adam was thirteen, and he had turned out well. He really loves and trusts his mother. I figured, if Terri did it so well with Adam, I was willing to trust her with teaching me how to be a great parent to Lindsay. So I watched Terry. All I needed to do was watch her and learn. . .and I loved watching her.
The years passed with relative ease. I know, as a parent I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. We had a surprise here and there, but Terri and I were in agreement on the major issues, so Adam and Lindsay knew if they asked one of us a question, the other parent would have the same answer. The truth is if I wasn’t sure, I told them to go and ask their mother. I didn’t care what her answer was. I was confident it would be the best answer for our children. She’s a smarty.
I now have a confession to make. We kind of liked the Waltons. Yes, this has a point.
When Lindsay was about three, I was helping with potty training. One important rule we had as parents was allowing our children to have self-expression, as long as it wasn’t vulgar. So there I was watching my daughter sit proudly and task-focused on the toilet. She was the type who liked to speak her mind and it was time for me to get a nickname from her.
Lindsay had heard the name “John Boy.” I hadn’t paid too much attention to how often we heard or spoke this name at home. I also can’t remember the first time that I called her “Lindsay girl,” but I’m guessing it was inspired from the show The Waltons.
Since she was in a playful mood, a common occurrence, she decided to start playing with words and sounds that she liked. I got into the game with her. As I listened, I figured out where she was going.
“Yes Lindsay Girl.”
“I have a name for you.” She smiled while I held my breath. “Daddy Boy Poop.”
I didn’t know what to say, but I felt a smirk sneak on my face.
“Daddy Boy Poop.” She repeated it again.
As the days or perhaps weeks passed, she decided it was too long, so she shortened it to “Poopy.”
Although I would have preferred another name, my Lindsay Girl had a way of doing things that I found hard to object to.
If I was making a list of terms of endearment, Daddy Boy Poop and Poopy would make my list. At times I cringed when she said them, but now ten years later, I can’t help it, I miss hearing these silly names, from time to time.
Our names for each other have changed through the years, but if you take a guess or two, it’s easy to speculate about why that name really stayed with me as easy to remember.
As Lindsay grew older, our relationship got better. But I must admit, there have been days when I was a pushover. Even in recent years, she always knows just what to say. Although I have learned to say “No” much of the time when she makes requests that I should simply ignore, on occasion I joyfully concede.
We were home and she wanted to eat something. She didn’t know what, so she decided it was my problem to solve.
“Daddy, could you get me something to eat?”
“Lindsay, I’m not your slave.”
She paused for a second and smiled at me. “Yeah, you kind of are.”
I just laughed out loud, got up, and headed for the kitchen. I don’t remember what I got her to eat, but I remember that I enjoyed that moment.
If there is one characteristic I want to engrain in my daughter, it is that I will always be there for her. Although I usually say no to such requests, it is one of the more humorous recent memories of how she knows that Terri and I love her very much. I am privileged to be that kind of dad.
From my bachelor days to my married-with-children days, life has changed so much and for the better. It is hard for me to imagine what life could have been like had I not made the mistake of forgetting to reject the love of my life by mentioning the part about “no kid.”
I didn’t want to be a stepfather, but now I can’t imagine my family being any different or better. Of the people who know both Adam’s real father and me, they all said that I had been a better friend and provider for Adam. The funny part is I never thought too much about it when those events happened. It was common sense to me how to be a friend and provider, especially after Terri got me tuned in.
The kid, Adam, is now grown up and married with a son. Lindsay is thirteen years old and ready to take on her teen years like a champion. I’ve heard enough stories through the years of how the teenage years are a struggle for many, but so far I’ve seen no major red flags.
Lindsay and Adam are good friends, so they talk a lot. And I know that Adam has put in a good word for me many times during his chats with his sister. They love each other and trust each other.
Terri and I have had more than a few talks about how well our children get along. When I shared with Lindsay about the panic attacks and how mom was there for me, Lindsay confirmed that she knows she is never alone.