by Will Gorman, Los Angeles, California
A few years ago my 30-year-old daughter picked the night of the Dodger playoff game to tell me she was pregnant – hoping I’d be so enthralled with the game that I wouldn’t be too upset by the news.
She had tested my nervous system just a few weeks earlier by revealing that her husband had decided to strap his guitar on his motorcycle, file for divorce and head for new frontiers. He had the charm of a giraffe with a bad cough, so I wasn’t really that sad to see him leave. But now she told me that one reason he had bailed out of the marriage was the fact that she was pregnant, and he wanted nothing whatsoever to do with becoming a father.
Pregnant? I was more than upset. I was angry.
My life has been slightly rocky since my wife died, at the age of 23, leaving me with a three-year-old daughter. Even though little Ellen has always been a joy to me, she has also been testing my patience for 27 years.
Now I was suddenly very tired of parental responsibility. I was tired of protecting, of being concerned, or arguing. I was tired of the constant drain on my wallet, and I was tired of telling myself, “She doesn’t mean to be a pain the neck. Under all this oddness is a good kid.” She’s the type who refused to study in high school. “Dad, there’s more to life than being a secretary. I want to do something outdoors!”
My first gray hair sprang from my skull, when she announced that her life’s goal was to become a bicycle mechanic at Yosemite. For the previous 10 years she had been like a sack of firecrackers, popping off noisily every time I relaxed. I had learned to accept her selfish and silly way of living.
But pregnancy was an entirely different matter. I knew there was only one thing to do. “I’ll make arrangements to have this taken care of,” I said.
Ellen had always done an excellent job of ignoring my advice – usually reacting with fury and fight – but now she was just smiling at me.
“No, Dad. I’m going to have this baby. I didn’t plan for things to be like this, but I’m going to be a mother!”
I looked at that new smile, and heard the words, and should have realized I was suddenly dealing with a woman, not with rebellious teenager who had never quite grown up.
I marshaled all my facts and warnings and shot them at her as fast as I could. Bang: You have no husband! Bang: You have no job! Bang: You have no education! Bang: You have no savings! Bang, bang, bang: You have nothing, nothing, nothing! And now you’re going to put the cap on your life by bringing a baby into it.
“I refuse to pick up after you anymore,” I shouted. “You are not going to mess up another person’s life with your selfishness. You are not going to have this baby!”
Still smiling, she stood up and headed for the door. “I’m sorry about all of this Dad. But I will not have an abortion.” She opened the door to leave.
“Just what do you think you’re going to do?” I yelled.
“God’ll take care of me,” she said as she got into her car and drove away.
That bit of news surprised me just as much as the news of the pregnancy. God? “God will take care of me?” What did she mean by that?
During her formative years I made sure that she had not fallen under the influence of any religion. I told her it was foolishness that would turn her brain to pudding, and she had always agreed with my counsel – or I thought she had. God, indeed!
I was too mad to talk for a week or so, but when I became calmer and a wee bit more rational, I phoned her – and gently told her that was unwise to continue her pregnancy.
And she calmly told me that she was going to have her baby.
During the next few weeks we tiptoed around each other, softly fencing for position. I’d tell her how difficult her life was going to be as a single mother, and she’d tell me she was going to have her baby. She never wavered.
It was a full month before I realized that I was facing a new person – a steadfast, determined and stubborn person who was going to become a mother!
“Okay, okay,” I said, finally giving up the idea of an abortion. “But what was that stuff about being helped by ‘God’?”
“I knew you’d be mad when I told you I was pregnant,” she said, “so I went to a church and talked to the minister about my problem. The church has a Crisis Pregnancy Center and he sent me there.”
So by the time she had approached me with the news, she had been counseled by a group of church women – some of whom had had abortions, and some who had their babies when an abortion would have been the easy way out. And while seeking answers, Ellen had found her God.
“I’ll make a deal with you, I said, “I’ll accept the idea of your being a mother – but don’t ever, ever try to talk me into going to church!”
She just smiled again.
Ellen had one final challenge for my sanity. She announced that she was going to have her baby in her apartment, with only the assistance of a midwife.
“Call me when all this foolishness is over,” I snapped.
During the following months I watched her grow and glow as she became more and more involved with her church and her pending motherhood. And the more she bloomed, the more I withered.
I knew she’d have to more out of her apartment when the child was born. In fact, I knew she’d have to move in with me! I resented the fact that she had refuse
d to take my advice and had forced me into a position where I had no choice but to take on a new and heavy burden just at a time in life when I was getting ready to lay parts of the old load aside.
I drove the 10 miles to her apartment and walked in, wondering what life had in store for me now.
She was standing at the door waiting for me with “six pounds of sleepy” in her arms.
She handed him to me – and my life changed.
The first time I touched little Will’s cheek and held his tiny hand, things began to fall apart inside me. If I had been listening, I’m sure I could have heard the sounds of anger crumbling, of teeth unclenching, of frown lines disintegrating – and when he gave forth a loud yawn, I knew the meaning to “making a joyful noise.”
Within a week I had moved Ellen and her son to my house, and then this special little messenger began to mend my heart, soul and mind. And he did the sme for his testy, grouchy mother, who became more and more involved with her church, and easier and easier to be around.
During the following months, I often sat holding his hand while I watched him sleep, and I was filled with dreams and hopes that had been absent for decades. He filled my hours with wonder. The only nervousness I ever felt was when Ellen took him off to church with her several times a week. But I kept my mouth shut. In the past I would have warned her of the myth of religion – but something stopped the words.
During his second year I taught him to walk and how to go to the bathroom, and he started stringing words together to express his interest in all these new things around him. We discussed bugs and grass and wind. We investigated dew and reflections in rain puddles. Together we eagerly checked the sky each night to see if the moon had returned, and together we sat in a dark room, holding flashlight against the bottom of my hand so he could investigate my bones.
Shortly after his most recent holiday – his third – I introduced him to the goofiness of special Friday night “stags.” While his mom went out, we stayed home to eat “banilla” ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce and watch reruns of the Three Stooges.
One day recently we were strolling through the aisles at the supermarket.
As usual he was standing up on the cart, making various purchasing recommendations, when he started to sing one of his little church songs – something about God being very nice.
“So you think God’s pretty neat, huh?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said, pointing to a shelf. “He made me just for you. There’s the chocolate stuff right there.”
I was stunned. He made me just for you. The words echoed through my mind like the sound of a beautiful bell. I suddenly remembered all the anger I felt at the news of his arrival. I remembered Ellen smiling as I ranted. I remembered her saying, “God will take care of me.”
I thank Ellen for ignoring my advice. I thank little Will for giving me joy and love I never knew before. And I thank God for taking care of all of us.