31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Faith In Love Abides

Single with Children: Relationships don't always follow expected path

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 04/23/03

The other evening my daughter's boyfriend, Andy, invited me to attend a lecture given by a witty, sardonic writer whose works we have enjoyed reading the past couple of years. I must admit that on the Friday evening of the event, I was pretty exhausted and was thinking more of sleep than sitting through a "reading," regardless of how much I enjoyed the writings of this author. However, I also knew that Andy was missing Katie who, I am happy to report, survived her flight across the Atlantic and is having a great time living with her new Irish family.

The writer was just as funny and entertaining in person as he was in his books, and it was interesting to hear him read some of his own works and expound on the origins of his stories. By the time his lecture was over, I was more then ready to drop Andy off and head for home and my bed. It had been a long day.

On the way out of the auditorium, Andy said he wanted to pick up a book for Katie. No problem. After buying the book, Andy decided it would be a real special treat for her if he were to get this author to sign it. I peered into the auditorium and saw a line that snaked around several rows and estimated that we were probably talking a good hour and a half wait. All I could think was, "you've got to be kidding." He wasn't.

This guy was on a mission. He was going to get this writer to pen my daughter's name into a book he knew she wanted and that was that. He had offered to walk home, but by now it was nearly 11 p.m., his apartment was a good two miles away, and I wasn't about to leave him there.

I tried to pass the time. I managed to clean out my purse. I called a couple of friends on my cell phone. I focused on not falling asleep and falling out of my chair.

I turned my attention to the length of the line and my eyes finally fell on Andy. I remembered the first time Katie went out with him 18 months ago. How giddy she was when she returned from that first date. How impressed I was with his manners and good nature the first time he visited our home. I remembered the first Christmas they spent together; she a high school senior and he a striking junior at the university. I remembered the time he threw her in the swimming pool last March, the times he would toss pebbles at her bedroom window at dawn on a school day just to tell her he loved her and leave flowers or notes on her car. The time she had a nasty case of the flu and he tended her with soup and countless glasses of juice.

The only thing I couldn't remember in all of those 18 months was ever a cross word between them. Not even the hint of a fight.

When finally it was Andy's turn, he told the writer to sign this for his girlfriend, Katie, who was in Ireland and who loved to read his books. The man smiled and wrote Katie's name in the blank page before the preface.

When I dropped him off at his apartment, he talked about how much he missed her, how hard it was, after seeing her nearly every day for a year and a half, not to see her at all. He said how lonely he felt without her around. I listened intently, mesmerized that someone so young, at 22, could articulate such intense feelings.

As I headed home, I remembered how I had read so many things following my divorce about how children from divorced homes experience greater difficulty staying in relationships and maintaining them. Reading that kind of stuff used to haunt me. What if I'd messed up my kids' future happiness? What if they were never able to commit or trust or love someone?

I smiled as I realized that Katie had just shot that theory full of holes.

This isn't to say that my daughter and her boyfriend might always be together.

There's no engagement on the horizon, but from what I can tell, the bond between these two is stronger and more mature than people I've known twice their age.

Sometimes, I love it when kids break the experts' rules.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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