PERHAPS IT WAS because of the embarrassment brought on by my long-ago decayed teeth that I was obsessive about the care of my children’s teeth. When the twins were two and my daughter four, I brought them for their first dental checkup. Dr. Mike was recommended by my next door neighbor, and was considered one of the best dentists in the area.
Mike was forty-three when we met, divorced once, and had a ten- year-old daughter. I was twenty-eight, and divorced twice. Several fillings later, Mike walked me to the door and said, “Would you like to go to dinner, or are you involved?” I explained that I was involved, but thanked him for his offer. He said, “You have an open invitation.”
One year later, after my breakup with Bo, I called him to see if the invitation was still open. We agreed upon a time for our first date, but it was our third date that changed my life forever.
Promptly at 6:00 p.m., Mike rang the doorbell for our date. I knew by now that he would open the door of his older but sensible car for me, which I appreciated. I was not used to such gentlemanly behavior, and it really made me feel like a lady. The radio was playing soft music as we drove toward the interstate. I thought back to our second date, when we’d had a flat tire during a horrific thunderstorm. Fear knotted my stomach as I waited for the customary onslaught of anger and cursing, as was the case in all three of my past significant relationships. Instead, Mike calmly navigated the car to the side of the road, looked at me, and said, “We are so lucky to not have been on the interstate when this happened.” He got out during a break in the rain and changed the tire. To my delight, his calm attitude under fire has remained consistent. He has always been easy on my mind.
I asked, “Tell me about the people who we are visiting.”
“We’re going to my ex-wife, Carol, and her husband Bobby’s house for dinner.”
As my mind ran around inside of itself looking for a familiar place to park this curious bit of information, I squeaked out something like “Oh, I see.”
Mike went on, “Carol’s father had a serious stroke a number of years ago. His mind is fine but he has aphasia and is unable to match the correct words to his thoughts. He’s confined to the house and gets very lonely. I’ve played cards with Poppa once a week for years. Carol remarried about six years ago to Bobby, and he and I became good friends.”
Again I mumbled something lame like, “Really, wow.” As we pulled into the driveway, Mike continued with more details. “For the past three years, every other weekend, when I’ve picked up my daughter, Ann, for the weekend, I’ve taken their little daughter, Christine, as well; I have grown to love her like my own.”
Forcing out my mature voice, I asked, “How old are the girls now?” “Ann is ten and Christine just turned five.” Mike got out and walked around the car to open the door for me. He took my hand, and we proceeded to the front door, where we heard sounds of laughter and music.