My nervousness disappeared immediately as a beautiful woman opened the door with a hug for Mike and a most welcoming smile and an extended hand. I knew immediately that this was Carol. She was blond, slender, and abundantly gracious. Her fair skin and piercing blue eyes were stunning. As Mike headed toward the bedroom to visit with Poppa, Carol said, “Come, let me fix you a drink and introduce you to my husband, Bobby. Mike very seldom brings a friend for us to meet, so you must already be special to him.”
About this time a large presence walked in with thundering laughter and some joke about Mike and me resembling the beauty and the beast. Apparently, Bobby and Mike’s good-natured barbs toward one another were legendary. Bobby’s success as a bartender had less to do with his good looks and everything to do with his good nature and amazing, quick wit. As Carol handed me a scotch and soda, the most delightful little blond girl bounced into the kitchen, making funny faces. I knew at once this was Christine; she appeared to be as amusing as Bobby, her father. Finally, I met a tall, slender girl with shining brown hair and a cautious stare. Ann scrutinized me with her intense brown eyes. She was the image of her father, who by now was deeply engrossed in a card game with Poppa.
Somewhere between that first handshake with Carol and her warm good-bye hug I remember thinking, I’m really going to have to step up to the plate if I ever want to become part of this man’s life. In ways that I did not yet understand, I could see how important this family, now his family, was to him. I knew that I had to find a way to open my mind and heart to something new, something that was way outside of any traditional “norms.”
Just as he cared deeply for Bobby, Poppa, and Christine, I could feel that Mike was not “in love” with Carol but that he cared for her like family. The depth of familial connection that I felt between these individuals forewarned me that if I were to be with him I had to accept them as well. As the weeks passed and I reflected on that lovely evening, I wondered about the character of a man who would volunteer to spend time without obligation with an old man who could not speak. And what kind of man would consistently take on the responsibility of an additional child for an entire weekend. A dependable man with a kind heart, I thought; perhaps the same kind of man that took responsibility for his own mistakes and who never said a bad word about his ex-wife. Shocked, I pondered this rare species of a man, which was totally unknown to me. On our fourth date, I marveled as he invited my mother to have dinner with us during her visit from California. I wondered with increasing interest, who was this incredible man?