There’s one thing that can’t be stolen: memories. For the bad memories, this is a curse, but for the good memories it is a blessing. Or perhaps together, they make this montage called Life?
In any case, my wife had four children — three girls, E, G, and R, and one son, Y. When I met my wife, they ranged in age from 4 to 12. The boy, Y, was the second-oldest. G, the second youngest had Down’s syndrome.
Knowing my father had died when I myself was 5 years old, and what his loss meant to me, and knowing the full story of Caleb (see The Post I Never Thought I’d Write), within a few weeks, Paula had her children calling me “daddy.” Except for the oldest, E, who called me “Teddy,” my nickname.
Later on, my wife’s sister wrote to me along the lines of, “Don’t think you’re the first man she’s brought round and had the kids calling him daddy.” Of course, I didn’t listen and I didn’t understand. I only ever wanted a family and that was the hope Paula held out to me.
Now I have my treasured memories…
With little R:
So eager to read, she grabbed an automobile manual and sat on my lap, magnificently sounding out the big, unfamiliar words, and begging me to do it every day. Expressing her night-time fears and quaking dreams, with me suggesting that she imagine her fantasy home — what colors to paint the rooms, what furniture she’d have, and who would live there. Her favorite color was yellow for a while, and there was always a dash of pink. I’d get her report of what she’d added to the house the next day.
With G who had Down’s syndrome:
When I first met G, she had no language skills. She was taught Makaton, a simplified form of sign language. I learned to sign “good,” “very good,” “bad,” “very bad,” “daddy,” “nurse,” “silly,” and a few other words. As her language skills improved, she was able to verbalize, “dah-DEE, dah-DEE!!” G liked to draw, and she was beginning to learn her letters. I tried to help her learn the letter “M” so she could draw something for mum. Up-down-up-down. The last time I talked to Paula on Skype (Jan / Feb 2014), my wife told me that G was still calling me daddy:
I will never forget G giggling and signing, “Silly daddy!” Or the hugs we shared.
With Y, the son:
Y loved football (soccer to Americans) and he was very good at it! He tried to explain the rules to me, and I listened intently. He would demonstrate a myriad of moves and kicks, and offered for me to try them out. I was pathetic, but I gave it a go. Best memory — listening to Y read David Williams’ books before bedtime. He’d been given one book and loved it, so I bought him a set.
With E, the oldest:
E had amazing artistic talent. She was quite shy, but she had a strong soul. E never called me “daddy” — it was always “Teddy.” Paula said she’d come around once she knew I was there for good. E refused to leave the house on her own. When an errand for bread or for milk had to be run, E would ask one of the younger kids to accompany her, but they would refuse. So most often, I would walk with her, and once we were outside the house, she’d light up like a glowing bulb and talk to me about her dreams and experiences. I listened to her and encouraged her, because Paula usually made fun of her for talking too much.
We walked to the Co-op and to Mulberrys down Stoney Lane. One day when I was with Emilee on the way to Mulberrys, there was a gaggle of teenage girls who tried to get me to buy them cigarettes and I refused. When we came out of the store to stroll home, they shouted out some unsavory comments. We sauntered past them, and I made a remark to put them in their place, trying to demonstrate to E that one need not always be afraid of bullies.
When everything collapsed, Paula certainly had no concerns about how losing the children would affect me. But neither did she have any concerns about how losing me would affect the children. I have my memories, and they can’t be taken away. I have the cards and drawings they made for me (some shared in previous posts). I hope they have their memories, too — though I know they’ve been covered over by lies and distortions. I hope they know I tried to make a difference while I was a part of their young lives. I saw her do the same to her own parents. She did it to the two husbands before me, and I’m sure she’s doing now to her next victim, a woman.
Now I won’t say I was perfect. I know I made mistakes. I hadn’t had a huge amount of time around children, especially four at one time and all very needy. Coping with a vision impairment in a foreign country, my Bell’s palsy and stroke, and the lies and chaos my wife spread was hard enough. But I loved those kids and I did my best while I could.
This is for the fathers out there who will understand what I’m talking about…
[Apologies… The missing video was a public video embedded from Facebook, made by a man who was denied visitation with his daughter by his wife. He was singing a song to his daughter in hopes that she would find it and see how much he loved her. My guess is that the poor guy was harassed by the ex-wife into making the video non-public. Sad shame. Google “Chris Mackney” to read similar stories.]
Be a good daddy if ever you get the chance — the world needs more kind and loving dads.
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