Friday, February 22, 2008

A Brave New World, Part 3

This is the 3rd part in a series of posts about a turning point in my life which took place nine years ago. If you've already read parts 1 and 2, press on with this post. Otherwise you'll want to read these in sequence. Part 1 and part 2.

David Crowder Band, Come Awake

Tammy and I were on the phone daily with each other after our date. Whereas she had a cellphone, my hesitancy to embrace newer technology left me with a simple little pager. I would need to do something about that. We made plans for me to come up and visit her one night during the next week so I could meet her daughter, Rachel. I had shared with Tammy a bit about my previous marriage and that I'd been a stepfather to my former wife's two sons. What I didn't share with her was that my role in their lives was a bit of a thankless one and not the shoes I was looking forward to filling again any time soon. It wasn't for a lack of trying to be close with David and Joe because we all did what we could. There were other dynamics too complex to write about here.

As an aside, I don't have any contact with Dave or Joe today. I'd hoped to stay in touch with them but it hasn't really happened. They both moved to California to be closer to their father after serving in the military. Joe drove out in May of 2006 to help his mother move out west and Noy called to see if I'd like to stop by. It was so nice to see him again and I was sure that we would stay in touch. We haven't.

Back to the Spring of 1999. A few nights after our date I drove up to Maple Grove to see Tammy and meet Rachel for the first time. Earlier in the day I took a trip to Target to find a gift for Rachel. I bought her a Betty Spaghetti doll with accessories. I couldn't go up there empty handed.

I'll never forget as I drove into the driveway of Tammy's townhome. Rachel was outside playing with her best friend Camille when she saw me coming. She ran alongside the truck all the while looking back over her left shoulder with the biggest smile on her face. I pulled my truck into the driveway, got out and walked to where she was standing by the side door in the garage yelling to her mom that I was there. She looked at me all out of breath and asked if I was Kevin. She was the cutest kid, all 7 1/2 years of her.

Tammy asked me in and Rachel led the way. Tammy had told me about a guy she'd dated for six months who paid little attention to Rachel. I couldn't imagine not wanting to get inside this little one's head. She was full of questions and I had answers. A little later Rachel stepped outside only to return in a few minutes with some of her friends to introduce them to me. Tammy later told me that that was a good sign. Oh, and Betty Spaghetti was a hit.

As the night wound down Rachel got a bit testy and Tammy had to scold her. She went to her room and was crying. I felt bad for her because I knew she didn't want our first meeting to end that way. Tammy told me that there was very little chance she would come out of her room but that if I wanted to go in and say goodbye that would be fine. I sat on the edge of her bed and made small talk with her. The next thing I knew she was showing me some of her drawings and the tears were gone. She came back out of her room and Tammy was impressed that I was able to get her to do that. I'd never met a more precious child. From the moment I first laid eyes on her I felt a connection with her.

Over the next few weeks the bonds between the three of us would grow very quickly. I'd found what I was looking for in Tammy and the feeling was mutual. By the time summer arrived we'd begun speaking of a life together and getting married. Tammy likes to tell of the time she was putting Rachel to bed and saying her prayers with her. As they were saying a prayer for me Rachel chimed in with "Thanks for letting us get him before anybody else did". How sweet is that? It was all happening so quickly but neither of us had any 'red flags' whatsoever which may have held us back. My fear of being a step-parent was no longer a concern with the exception of one small speed-bump along the way.

Rachel had grown attached to me and no doubt was telling her father about me. Tammy and I had begun to talk about a late summer wedding by this time. We could wait until after the coming school year or we could take the leap before school started and that was what we decided to do. I'm not sure who told Rachel's father of our plans for marriage but when he learned of them he wasn't happy...for a couple reasons. His daughter would be living 40 miles south and there would be some other father figure in her life. He most likely felt threatened by that and I sympathised with his position. I understood as best I could how he was feeling but I didn't agree with his response.

Rachel's dad would call her one night to tell her that if she was going to be moving away he wouldn't be able to see her anymore and that he'd bring her toys by the house. She was in tears pleading with her father on the phone trying to convince him that they could work it out and that it would be okay. He wasn't making our situation any easier. Tammy had some harsh words with him later when Rachel wasn't around and did her best to assure Rachel that everything would be okay just as she told her dad it would be.

Over the next couple weeks Rachel withdrew from me and was no longer the affectionate, happy kid she had been. Her father had apparently had an influence on her attitude toward me but Tammy and I took it in stride knowing that the truth would win out and that she'd warm up to me again before too long. About that time we were driving in the car and from the back seat Rachel piped up with "why don't you date Brittney Spears?" Tammy and I did our best not to smile and I remained quiet while Tammy had a talk with Rachel.

Shortly after that incident Tammy and Rachel were over at my house and Rachel was watching me as I used a Have-a-heart trap to catch some chipmunks making a home in my woodpile out back. I didn't think much of it. We wanted to slowly ease Rachel into the neighborhood and allow her to meet some of the neighbor kids. A little later that day Tammy sat Rachel down to explain to her that she loved me and that we would be married soon and that it wasn't okay for her to treat me disrespectfully. Tammy said the talk lasted maybe five minutes while Rachel quietly listened. When Tammy was through speaking she asked Rachel if she had any questions. Rachel thought for a moment and said "I just have one question...I want to know how Kevin got that chipmunk in that trap?" Tammy told me when she came back with that response she knew everything was going to be just fine.

And it was and it is.

We were married on July 30th, 1999. Four and a half months after our first date.

To be continued...

1 comment:

John said...

A great story, Kevin. thanks for sharing.

By the way, I bought the book One Heartbeat Away and am working my way through it. Thanks for the recommendation.