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I Don't Want A New Daddy MAG
I do believe it's safe to say I will never forgive my daddy for leaving me. Mama says to forgive him – that it's not his fault he died in World War II – but I blame him just the same. My daddy died when I was just seven, right at the end of the war, in 1943. That left just me and Mama, until Robert rolled around. Mama was convinced that he was a real man worth marrying, but all I saw was a fool. He didn't seem to care about anything other than fishing.
First day he came into our house, he walked right up to me and said, “Grace, I know that this must be hard on you, but I'm your new daddy and I need you to cooperate with me. Before the end of this year I want to go fishin' with you, or somethin', so we can get to know each other better. So what do ya say?”
At that point I ran out crying, feeling real sorry for myself. First daddy I ever had left me, the second was an impostor who just wanted to go fishing. The way I saw it, no daddy could be trusted.
“Hey, Gracie? Can you come out here for a minute?” I rolled my eyes as Robert hollered down for me with the nickname no one except him used. I ran to answer his call. As I entered the living room, I tensed up.
“You hear me callin', missy? I called you two times,” said Robert with one of his “good-natured” smiles that really looked like a dog bearing its teeth.
“Yes, Robert, but-”
He held up his hand to silence me. He has big hands. And big brown eyes. But I'll bet he has a tiny brain.
“Gracie, please. I just wanted to say that I got some real nice seats at a baseball game this weekend, and I want to know if you'll come with me,” he said. As relieved as I was that he had chosen a different bonding activity other than fishing, it didn't change a thing.
“Robert, I never, ever said yes to fishing, so why on earth would I say yes to this?” I tried to reason.
With a sigh, Robert put the tickets back in his pocket and picked up his newspaper. “Well, that's okay. I guess I can take your mama.”
I left quietly and ran off to Ma to ask her to tell Robert to stop trying to be friendly with me.
“Honey, Robert's a nice man. I know he may not be the same as your papa, but he's a caring gentleman and a kind soul. You'll learn to like him,” she replied with a reassuring pat, as if that would help.
I stared right back into her big green eyes and examined the way her long brown hair blew over her face.
“But, Ma, why can't you go and get yourself a nice job so we can live in comfort by ourselves? We don't need a daddy, and besides, I will never, not ever, trust a daddy again,” I said with a stubborn pout. “And-”
“We've been over this,” Ma cut me off. “Robert's a fine daddy. Besides, I can hardly get a job, much less a well-paying one, in the middle of Alabama. Now, I'm sure you have chores to do. Or else, make yourself useful and go fetch me some soap from the general store.” Ma handed me 20 cents. “Now hurry along. I'll have a talk with Rob–I mean, your father.”
Ma always did that. She would tell me that she would talk to Robert, but when I asked her, she always said she got too busy and forgot, although I knew better.
I walked quietly to the general store, tossing up the coins Ma gave me. As I strolled along, I passed Mrs. O'Neal's fancy house. It had two whole stories with more bedrooms than I could dream about. It had pretty white trim and fine lilac paint. I asked Ma why we couldn't have a house like that, and she told me she would ask Robert about it. She certainly says that a lot.
As I was admiring Mrs. O'Neal home, she must have thought something was wrong with me and came outside. Mind you, Mrs. O'Neal is just as fancy as her house. She's petite with a pretty smile. She has shoulder-length brown hair pulled back in a bun and a pleasant face with clear green eyes and a kind smile. Even her laugh is delicate because it sounds like tinkling glass.
“Hey there, Grace. What're you doing?” asked Mrs. O'Neal.
“Oh, nothin'. Just runnin' to the general store for my ma,” I replied. It always surprised me how good a mood Mrs. O'Neal was in every time I saw her, especially since her son, Tommy, was in Vietnam.
“Well, why don't you stop for some tea? I'm sure your dear mother wouldn't mind.”
“Thank you, Mrs. O'Neal,” I said as I stepped up to her front porch.
“I wish I had your green eyes, Grace. And your hair – it's just somethin' else,” Mrs. O'Neal commented, stroking my long blonde hair. “You remind me of my daughter.”
“You have a daughter, ma'am? I would certainly like to meet her,” I said.
“Oh, yes. She was just your age, ten, with the same beautiful smile and eyes,” she recalled wistfully. “She was full of energy, always bouncin' off the walls. I could never get Meg to stop.”
“I'm sorry, ma'am, but did you say ‘was'?” I questioned, now thoroughly confused.
A tear pooled in her eye, which she quickly wiped away. “My darling died long ago, before I moved to Alabama. One day Mr. O'Neal was drivin' me, Tommy, and Meg. He swerved the car right into another one by accident,” she said staring into her cup of tea. “I was fine, and so was Tommy and Mr. O'Neal, but Meg …” And with that, Mrs. O'Neal broke down crying. Unsure what to do, I sat there like a statue.
“I'm so sorry,” she said, wiping the tears from her face.
“Pardon me for asking, but how can you ever forgive Meg for leaving you?”
With a sad smile, Mrs. O'Neal studied my face. “Sometimes things can't be helped, and the only way to move forward is to let go of the past. You know, Meg used to say, ‘As long as forgiveness paves the road, love will always travel it.'”
That afternoon I walked back over to Mrs O'Neal's house with a big basket of cookies. “Hey there, Mrs. O'Neal. I, uh, brought you some cookies 'cause, you know …” I trailed off, nervously shuffling my feet.
“Thank you, sweetie. They look delicious,” she said as she reached for the basket. “I got something for you too. I'll be right back.”
I sat waiting on the porch, thinking what she could possibly be giving me. Maybe it was a piece of jewelry or a nice dress that used to belong to her daughter. Never mind, I thought. I don't want to wear a dead girl's dress. Then I felt guilty and swore to myself to be thankful for whatever Mrs. O'Neal happened to bring out.
In a minute she returned with a slip of paper. “I wrote Meg's quote down. I thought you might like it,” she said, placing the thick cardstock in my hand. Her handwriting was elegant and fancy, just like her house.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
A few days later, I sat in my room staring at the quote that Mrs. O'Neal had given me. I mulled over the words until they were imprinted in my eyes whenever I blinked. Then all of a sudden, it hit me. Maybe I could make things right for everyone.
I padded down the hall to where Robert was sitting in the easy chair, reading the newspaper. I took a deep breath.
“So, uh, Robert,” I began shyly.
“Yes?” he asked, setting down his paper. “What is it.”
“You, uh, still got those tickets?”
I had never seen a man smile so big in my life. “I sure do, Gracie. I sure do.”
And you know how much I cared that he called me Gracie? Not one bit.