To read Part 1, go here, to read Part 2, go here:
Unfortunately, the magic had to end. Sometimes life happens and puts a halt to even good things. In January, Margaret’s brother’s (supposedly soon to be ex) wife and son came back to the USA and she promptly asked him to reconsider the divorce. It really threw him for a loop.
As a person who had been through a divorce and who also had a child, I could see it was tearing him up. You see, all the things that I loved about him… the kindness and goodness of his heart… were the very things that made him feel torn about leaving his little boy.
So, after six months of dating, I put a stop to it. I told him that he could not be torn like this and that he needed to “...finish reading one book before picking up another. Otherwise, you don’t enjoy either book.” I thanked him for his goodness to us but told him that I couldn’t morally or emotionally keep dating him. He did end up deciding to go out west where his wife and son were and I actually drove him to the airport. I held nothing against him and I wanted us to be friends and think fondly of one another.
About a month later, he came back to the east coast and immediately looked me up. I said, “Are you divorced?” He said, “No.” I said, “Well, no dating then.” And I went on about my business, one bit of which was to finally move back into my own apartment! Of course, Margaret’s brother heard all about it (through Margaret) and organized a moving crew for me.
I had to make some hard choices one of which was that I refused to socialize with him because my heart was tender there and I knew it would lead to no good. Funny thing? I was right and he eventually moved back with his wife and son several months later. I was happy he finally made a decision but sad for me. It didn't help that he called me the night before he left and said, "I probably shouldn't say this since I never have before, but I need you to know I love you. I'm in love with you. I think we should be together but it's a case of really bad timing. I have to go and take care of my son." Additionally, Margaret felt that all of this was her fault and she started avoiding me. I lost my boyfriend and my friend all at once.
However, for Little Helen's sake I couldn't crumble. I was all she had so I went about my business and spent the next years working hard, raising her. We had to move again. Within the same town, but I was working my fingers to the bone, (at one point I had three jobs) and having a hard time meeting expenses. I made the very difficult choice to find a place where I could have a roommate and take off some financial pressure.
I ended up sharing a 3 bedroom apartment with a single guy who had a daughter about the same age as Little Helen. He got visitaiton with her every summer and some holidays. He specifically wanted a roommate that either didn’t mind kids, or had a daughter so his daughter could share the room when she came into town. As hard as it was to make that change, it really was the perfect situation once we settled in. Ironic thing? He was one of Margaret’s cousins! Never anything romantic between us but we cohabited very happily for two years and then he left me to get married. My own brother became my new roommate.
One day I was getting ready to leave the house with Little Helen and as we approached the door, there was a knock. I opened it up and there stood Margaret’s brother. Needless to say I was shocked! It had been four years since I’d seen him but he looked as good as ever. He told me he was moving back to town. He was staying at his parents and heard I lived where his cousin used to live so he thought he’d stop and say hi.
A few days later, Margaret showed up on my doorstep. She walked in and said, “Look, I know I’ve avoided you for a few years now. I didn’t even invite you to my own wedding which I will regret until the day I die, so if you want, just tell me to leave. I’m not going to beat around the bush… my brother sent me over here because he wants to take you out on a date. He said he’ll bring the divorce papers with him if you’ll go out with him, just once.”
I told her she could tell him yes. There’s so much more I could say here but I’ll just condense it and say the rest is history.
We started dating and never looked back. Two years later, in 1992, he became Mr. Helen. (Margaret was our Matron of Honor by the way.) He took us on as a package deal, knowing that I did not receive any child support or other kind of financial help from Little Helen's father. Yet, he never once uttered any other phrase about Little Helen other than “My daughter…” She was 12 going on 13 when we married, and she and I were starting to do that mother-daughter dance of the teen years. He was right on time, there as a calming and sane voice, always loving us both, even though I'm sure there were times when he'd like to have choked us.
During her high school years when he was driving a car full of teenagers all over the county, her girlfriends would remark that step fathers just didn’t act that way! He acted like he really cared about her! Like he loved her! He did and he does. I've shared before that sometimes the two of them seem so sympatico I wonder who the biological parent is?! She has always been "his." Every Christmas, a tiny jewelry box is hidden in the tree for me... and there's one for Little Helen, too.
What I haven’t shared in this story so far, is that Mr. Helen has a beautiful angel named Vanessa who watches over him. His own precious daughter was born prematurely in 1980 and lived only six weeks. (She and Little Helen are only 6 months apart in age.) He tells me, “I love Little Helen because I love you. And I love her because I feel like God has given me back my daughter. I feel like this is what I was put here on earth to do.”
I wonder if Joseph felt the same? I think he did. I have to say I feel blessed, as I'm sure Mary did, to have this wonderful man with the huge loving heart to call my own. I can't help but feel he was "divinely" given to me.
So now, here we are, 25 Christmases after that first one, and when you see this picture and I tell you it’s my MOST FAVORITE ornament on the tree, you can understand why. Little Helen made it for me when she was in second grade. There she is toothless, in her purple coat with the fur trimmed hat. To me, it's the perfect symbol of This Season of Love.