She stood with her arms folded. She stared down her nose at me. It was the first time we met. First impressions are lasting.
John and I were married a month when Mary, his teenaged daughter, came to live with us. She had been living with John’s sister since his ex-wife ran off.
“I don’t want to live . . . here,” she said.
My husband was silent in his silence. He gathered up her luggage and assorted belongings. Then he nodded for her to follow him to room. Her new home.
“I hate you,” she bellowed after him. Then followed.
He caught my concerned eyes when he said, “Kids will be kids.” I wanted to speak. Speechless.
Weeks, months passed. We played like family.
He asked her to help with chores. She refused. She demanded an allowance. He refused.
The day he slapped her across the face for calling him a ‘bastard” and she retaliated by spitting on him, I beckoned him to let me help. He raised his hands up to stop me and walked away.
Their battles raged. Not at me.
He grounded her. She gave us the silent treatment. She stole the car and came home drunk. He locked her in her room and she called 911.
One night he worked late. I asked if she would like to go out to dinner with me. She agreed. In the restaurant we sat in silence. We looked at the menu, at the other patrons, but not at each other. Then she asked, “Why does he hate me?”
I looked at her and saw her for the first time. She is a child. She is a woman. She is confused. She had been abandoned. She is finally asking for help. For his love.
“Do you hate me?” she asked.
At that moment the bell rang, the gloves had come off. I could step in for the count.
My first reaction was to jump across the table and wrap my arms around her. Baby steps.
I closed my eyes. Tears welled up.
“Mary, your father has loved you from the day you were born. He may not say it. He may not show it like he should. But I know for a fact, he adores you. Me? I don’t hate you. I don’t understand you sometimes,” I said with a chuckle, “Frankly I don’t always understand your father but I know we both want you to be a part of our family.”
She listened. That was a start. We finished our dinner in silence and drove home.
John came home to the sound of laughter. Mary and I were sitting on the floor in the living room surrounded by family photo albums.
“Look at dad in his prom tuxedo. What a dork!” Mary and I both laughed.
“What’s going on here,” John asked as he stepped into the room and stood over us with a curious grin.
Mary stood up and wrapped her arms around her father’s shoulders and said, “I love you daddy. Welcome home.”

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