I'm on a flight back to San Antonio. What was supposed to be a quick flight home has turned into a 8 hour ordeal due to weather. The pain of flying to work is one I choose to bear so I accept the long days and hectic schedules. What I miss most is time away for the kids. Having raised two older boys I know how quick time goes by before they are leaving for college. The days when they would want to sit in your lap while you read them a story, or you would play silly games on the floor are gone way to fast. I remember when Nic was young he Andrea and I would go to the front yard and play a game Nic made up. We would each take turns pretending to be an animal and the others would try to guess what you were. If I close my eyes I can still see Andrea on all fours arching her back, and Nic and I could not figure our what she was...a cat of course. We would laugh and think our neighbors must think we are the "crazy Ravellas." I know as kids grow there are great memories at every age but I miss those young and innocent days.
When I met Ginger Nic was 22 and Anthony was 15. Andrea and I were close to being empty nesters and thinking about where we would live when we retired. Ginger gave me a do over, a chance to be a dad to five more wonderful kids. I quickly learned that being a dad to girls was much different then parenting boys. A son gives you pride to raise a young man. You automatically like the same things, sports, cars, planes etc. But I found myself in uncharted waters with the girls. It hit me right away when I was introduced to the basket of naked Barbie’s. I have yet to understand why they all end up naked but they do and they buy more and they all end up looking the same, naked in the basket. Andrea kept a box of her Barbies from when she was little and about a year ago I got it out to show the girls, of course when I opened it up they were all naked:) One of the funniest memories was when the girls showed me their naked Jesus doll. I guess there is no discrimination amongst the dolls, naked you came and naked you shall be...in the basket.
I was baptized by fire when the day after we got married Ginger, her mom, Isabella, Aspen, Annalise and I hitched the Haul to the Suburban and headed to San Antonio. 5 girls and me. I loved every minute. well right up to the point the twins got explosive diaherria at Coppers BBQ in Junction Texas. We still laugh about that day. I dropped off the girls and pulled into the gas station next to Coopers. There was no hint of trouble; everyone was smiling as they headed to get a snack. A mere 10 minutes later I pulled up and was greeted by the sight of Ginger on the outside playground holding one twin, totally naked and hollering "Bring clothes and diapers!" My military training kicked in as I went to the U-Haul and start digging for clothes amongst the boxes of keep sakes all the while trying to figure out what happened. I look up to see the other twin also naked and Ginger's mom shuttling cups of water fro the bathroom to Ginger. It was go time.
There have been many great memories with the kids, each of them have enriched my life just as Nic and Anthony did. But last week is a day I will never forget. Ginger and I took the girls to see Cinderella and I was sitting between the twins. As Cinderella was transformed into her beautiful blue dress the twins were literarily sitting on the edge of there seats, mouth open in awe as Cinderella twirled in her dress and her prince danced with her at the ball. In that moment I saw how different girls are from boys. In their minds they were dreaming of being Cinderella, the center of attention at the ball, swept away by their prince. It's true whiles little boys are dreaming of driving a race car a little girl is planning and imagining her wedding day. The second memory I had this past month was with Boston. After years of dedication to soccer, countless hours of practice Boston was requited and verbally committed to play soccer at SMU. We had visited three schools and that was exciting but to hear Boston tell the SMU coach he wanted to commit to SMU was a day we all dreamed of. But truthfully none of us dreamt this big. But God does exceed our hopes and dreams.
In both cases I felt the joy and pride of being a dad. But as I often find myself doing I thought of Troy. These were to be his days, his moments to see, and share with his kids. It's a strange thing to raise another man's kids. And I know this happens all the time in our society. But Troy did not leave and Ginger did not split from Troy, unfulfilled and looking for someone better. Troy was loved but taken. When someone dies they leave a void that at times no one wants to fill, so it makes it a little different to step in a be a dad. I know Boston wanted Troy to be there when he committed to SMU. It does not mean he did not want me there, just that he missed Troy. There is always a void in the kids hearts, all seven, as they go through life and wish Andre or Troy could be there.
I have never wanted the kids or Ginger to feel Troy had to be removed from their life to allow me to come in. And Ginger never wanted that for me and my boys. We celebrate Troy and Andrea on a near daily basis in our home. We say they made us who we are and neither of them chose to leave us. But for me it was different because Troy's kids were so young, 9 years to 2 years when we met. Ginger and Troy were not about to be empty nesters, that was the furthest thing in their mind. They were still into bottles and diapers. So for me I was going to play a very active role in raising the kids and in doing so I was going to experience the raising of the kids. This meant I would be there for most of life accomplishments. In those moments I remember that I am standing in for Troy.
I look forward to meeting Troy and the thought of that day drives me everyday. It bears a weight of responsibility that I feel on my shoulders. These are his kids, his creation, his most prized possession that he dreamt of watching go on a first date, cheer them on in their first game, the thrill of their first time to drive, but mostly the love and adoration they give. To hear the girls say "I love you Daddy" or watching the boys play together on the High School soccer team, these are the moments I cherish. Moments like watching the girls dream of their Price Charming, knowing out there is a boy who will become there all in all. I pray he is being raised to love the Lord and treat a women with respect. I pray he loves them more then I do, he would love them as I loved Andre and Ginger.
I never think I replaced Troy because that is impossible. You can't replace someone as if they never existed. But you can fill in for them. Like a pinch runner in baseball, the batter still got the hit and made it to first, then the pinch runner comes in to run the bases. Although the pinch runner scores the run he knows he would have never had the chance had the batter not first hit the ball.