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Generation 2

1.16: A Tale of Two Sisters, Part 2

Looking back, I was such a cliche. I wanted a family, but I hated my own. I lashed out at my siblings, physically and emotionally. I hit my own father, who had done nothing but provide for me. I only had my mother on my side, and I pushed her away at every opportunity. And I created my own family, one of my own choosing.

I met Willow shortly after I ran away from the Farm. Her bright blue hair a beacon for my hopes. And her personality matched. A firebrand. Crazy. Fun. But also the most compassionate person I had ever met. But with an edge.

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“What?! You haven’t heard of them? Oh man, you have a fucking treat coming for you!” She had been telling me about this band she loved, The Untaxable Bracket. I only pretended to care because Willow was so enthusiastic.

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“Oh lets go out! They’re probably playing at the The Blue Velvet tonight, you HAVE to hear them. I’ve been a bouncer there for years and they’re the dopest band that has ever come through town. No shitting you.”

So many thoughts went through my head at that moment.

Of course she is a bouncer! 

Only she can say ‘dopest’ in that unironic way and it doesn’t sound ridiculous. 

Absolutely, let’s go! 

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We met up with a bunch of her friends at the bar. Most of them, despite fading in and out of my life for a few months, I don’t remember well.

Most of them were men. Handsome men.

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The pretty one-time screw.

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The jacked daddy.

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The bad boy.

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The lead singer.

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“Aren’t they just the shit. I told you, man. You’re gonna be obsessed” And I was obsessed, but with her.

She was so intense, but never cruel. She smiled when she called you a stupid bastard. She had an energy that could captivate you and never let you go. I wanted to be her, but I’d settle to be around her.

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She introduced me to new pleasures of life. Things my parents would shudder to think about, even though they were hardly the worst things I could be doing. I thought we were just so damn cool for lighting one up in the bathroom.

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Or behind the bar.

It was new and fun. It made me relax and giggle with Willow like school girls. I felt, for the first time in years, at peace.

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I moved in with Willow shortly after. I got a job as a dishwasher at the Blue Velvet so that Willow could take me to work when she went. And on our off days we hung out with her friends, who slowly became my friends.

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And that’s how I met Lucas.

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He was a bit of bro. Well more than a bit really. But he was cute and cocky and so sure of himself. I hated him and I loved him.

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Our relationship was hot, fun, and fleeting. Within a month of first meeting him, he disappeared. I asked Willow if she knew where he had gone but she hardly gave me an answer. I had neglected our friendship since I met Lucas, but I think it was more.

I knew for a while, looking back. The little hints.

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The lingering stares.

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The way she would scoff at the interest I showed in all her friends.

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How she changed. When we first met she was happy all the time, but after a while she was only happy when it was the two of us.

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And sometimes I do wonder what might have happened…

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if only I wasn’t pregnant.

 

Generation 1, Generation 2

1:16 A Tale of Two Sisters, Part 1

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Gideon looked back at me and I saw that same youthful face that I fell in love with at this very same festival 5 years ago. We were so young, just high-schoolers fumbling around and bumping into romance. I never thought that I would be here with him so many years later and still feel my stomach tighten when he looked at me.

Our relationship was like a fairytale.

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From our very first date, we fell in love and have been falling ever since. Just being with him made me content.

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Everyone speaks about happiness, and of course there is happiness with Gideon too. But I’m content. I feel comfortable and whole. Something that I didn’t feel with anyone else. Not my sisters, not even Mom and Dad. I don’t feel anxious about presenting my best self, because we just are the best versions of ourselves together. I don’t have to work at it, it just happens when we’re together.

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Soon those early dates piled up and before we knew it, we weren’t just casually dating but we were truly apart of each other’s lives. It happened subtly and without any fanfare. Dates turned into commitment. Commitment turned into trust. Trust turned into deep and lasting affection.

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And it all happened slowly and steadily with no one noticing.

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We didn’t realize do the traditional proposal thing. He didn’t get down on one knee and surprise me. That’s not who we are. We talked about marriage. We talked about what we wanted our future together to be. Neither of us envisioned a future without the other.

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It was just impossible to think of a life without him, he had become my foundation on which the rest of my life would be built.

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Mom and Dad of course were thrilled. They had always liked Gideon, and they knew that our commitment to each other was deep and true.

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Without the selfish display that most weddings are. With just our family and friends we decided to make legal what had been there all along.

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Everyone says that marriage is a huge commitment that is life-altering. But besides getting used to calling him my ‘husband’ nothing has changed between us. We’re still that couple that fell in love on a cute Love Day date.

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He still looks at me the same way he did when we first met.

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And I still love him as fiercely as when we had our first kiss.

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And there is just no other person I want to live my life with.

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Generation 1, Generation 2, Uncategorized

1.15: Scar

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How did we get here? Where did we go wrong? 

It seems like it was a different man, a different life that was so concerned about being a father like my father. Screwing my kids up. I thought, after Calvin and I understood each other that I had put those concerns to rest.

But the girls…

Although Vivian and Teresa were practically twins when they were younger, they’ve grown apart. Not emotionally, they’re still the closest of friends. But whereas Teresa is interested in securing the family Legacy and putting money in the bank, Vivian is more mischievous. And most of the time she directs her antics towards Scarlett.

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She apparently bought a voodoo doll online at one point. Her mother and I were concerned, but thought perhaps it was a good way for her to take out her anger without actually taking out her anger.

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Even if it was creepy. We talked to Vivian and she assured us that it was nothing more than harmless fun. So we let it continue, but we’ve been trying to keep an eye on her to make sure nothing gets too weird.

But Scarlett has always been the problem. And I know it’s terrible for a father to say about one of his children, but she is a problem. A big problem. And I not only don’t know what to do, I quite frankly have given up.

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When she was younger her mother and I worried because she had a bit of an evil streak in her, but we thought, just like all the other kids, that she would go through the phase and eventually come out of it. But she just continues to flout our rules and talk back to us.

Penny and I suspected that she was no longer going to school and so I was tasked with confronting her about it.

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She, of course, denied everything and claimed that it was just our way of trying to keep a closer watch on her. I told her that she is a child and she needs to listen to us and, if we want to keep a close watch on her, then so be it. She is living under our roof and she is far too young to think she can be independent.

And that’s when she attacked me.

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I was shocked. If shocked can even capture the way I felt. I’ve had my disagreements with my children, and I’ve had my verbal spats with each of them (some worse than others). But I never thought that one of my girls would turn violent against me. I eventually managed to stop her from pummeling me and she stormed out. To go whoknowswhere.

I lost it. I told Penny that we had to do something, and the only thing I could think of was to kick her out and be done with her. Penny didn’t take lightly to that idea.

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“She’s insane! She attacked me. This isn’t like before, this isn’t like with Calvin, he was emotional but he was your average teenager. Something is wrong with Scarlett and I don’t know what to do any more and quite frankly I don’t care. She’s done. She’s gone.”

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Penny always had a soft spot for Scarlett and tried her best with her. So naturally she sought to defend her. “Galen, honey. I know you’re angry and I’m just as shocked as you are. But she’s a teenager.”

“I don’t care.”

“I know, I know. But she needs help. We should sit down with her and discuss seeing a therapist.”

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“We tried that before! We tried encouraging her to get help but doesn’t think she needs it. I’m DONE. If you want to try, fine. But that girl is no daughter of mine any more.”

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“Galen!”

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I didn’t have anything left to say, I just gave Penny a look. A look I hoped expressed the seriousness of my comment. I was not going to treat this girl who didn’t respect me as a member of the family.

And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Since graduating from high school, Teresa has had two primary focuses: her job and Gideon.

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Working as an agency clerk for [REDACTED], doesn’t leave her a lot of time outside of work. Teresa has always been the dedicated one, the one who told me when she was a young girl that she would one day make enough money that I could retire and return to the woods. At the time I chuckled and thought she would she was being a daddy’s girl, but she has maintained that desire to see the family to prosperity.

And part of that means starting a family of her own.

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Teresa and Gideon have been dating since she was a Sophomore in high school. He’s a good guy. Football player, always cheerful, and seems to respect Teresa in ways I’m not even sure I respected Penny when I was that age.

But apparently, one time after Teresa and Gideon were…um…together, Scarlett stormed into the room.

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Gideon had been just getting out of bed, and Scarlett lunged for her sister for no obvious reason, but Gideon managed to get between them. It’s a funny image, even though it’s terrible, a naked Gideon, post-pleasure, trying to stop this raging monster from attacking Teresa.

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I never did find out what set Scarlett off that day, and my bet would be that even Teresa has no idea, that’s just the kind of lunatic Scarlett has become. But Teresa was pissed, and for good reason.

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“What the hell is WRONG with you?! Why did you come in here? You are a psycho, do you know that? Huh?! You’re MESSED. UP.”

After she left, Teresa was so embarrassed.

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“I’m so sorry, babe. I don’t know what’s wrong with her. She’s insane. She sort of does this all the time. Just last week she attacked Dad. You probably think our family is insane. Why would you want to be this psychotic family?”

“C’mon Teresa. You know that I don’t feel that way. Your family is great, except for her. They’ve always made me feel welcomed and, hell, they’re a lot more normal than my family.”

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Teresa chuckled with an empty smile. “That’s sweet but…I’m sure you just think we’re a mess.”

“Maybe here, not you. You’re the most well-composed women I’ve ever met.”

I watch their young relationship and see hope for the future of our family. Perhaps the only hope I see…

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Generation 1, Generation 2, Uncategorized

1.14: Happy New Year

Dear all,

Another year has come and gone. As the new year starts we’ve all made our New Year’s Resolutions and look forward to the fresh start that the turn of the calendar brings to all of us.

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Some of us wish to get back to the gym. 09-22-17_8-28-57 PM

To fix old friendships. 09-22-17_8-04-05 PM

To pick up a new hobby. 09-22-17_8-54-44 PM

To study harder. 09-22-17_11-50-41 PM09-22-17_11-58-08 PM

To focus more on the family. 09-28-17_12-22-15 AM

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And work on climbing the career ladder.

But while the new year is full of hope and new beginnings, I want to turn back and to reflect. The past year brought about a lot of changes on the Farm, some good, some bad. But all equally important in shaping who we are and how we’ve grown over the last year.

The family grew again at the beginning of the year, when Penny and I welcomed our first boy into the family, little Cody.

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A rambunctious little guy, Cody quickly grew to be much like his mother. Grabbing the spotlight everywhere he went and already looking to be the life of the party. Penny and I will have to keep our eyes on him and beware of the lengths he will go to to be one of the popular kids.

But that wasn’t the only addition to the family. Shortly after Cody was born, Penny found herself pregnant again (and for the last time!)

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Little Ainsley joined the family as the year came to an end, and already I can tell we’ll have our hands full with this one!

And our family wasn’t the only one to grow this year. Shortly after turning 18, Calvin got a bit of a shock when his girlfriend Harley Behr told him he was going to be a daddy!

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At first Calvin didn’t know what to do, he was scared and concerned and thinking he wasn’t ready to be a father. But eventually he realized he had to be one, whether he was ready or not!

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And before we knew it he had married Harley and moved out! And soon welcomed his son, Devonte.

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With the kids getting older, and old enough to start taking care of each other without so much needed of me and Penny, Penny was able to devote more time to her online personality. For years it had taken a backseat. Sure she still had her mommy blog and sold some crafts on Simsy, but it was never like it was before we got married. Until now.

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Regular house parties started to invade the Farm, where Penny could schmooze or collaborate with other online personalities.

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And as she made more and more fans and money, she was constantly being recognized when we were out and about. Something that always bothered me, but she seemed to revel in. Penny’s career reached new heights and she loved every minute of it.

The girls too saw a lot of change in their lives last year.

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Teresa,

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and Scarlett are all now teenagers. And things sometimes get a little rocky between them.

Teresa and Viv have always been the closest.

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And that has sometimes left Scarlett feeling like she has to fight to get the attention she wants.

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Now with the added stress of being teenagers, her fights for affection have…well..turned physical.

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And on top of having to deal with dueling daughters, I also had to start to accept every father’s worst nightmare: their daughter’s boyfriends.

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One of Teresa’s closest friends, Gideon asked her out to the Romance festival.

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Teresa texted her mother early on into the night to ask what to do when you have an awkward date, and I thought that maybe I could push back having to deal with the reality of boyfriends.

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But by the time Teresa came home she was all giddy for Gideon, and (although I don’t ask) I think they’ve made their relationship official.

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Luckily my other girls haven’t started dating yet, but I’ve noticed that they seem much more interested in boys ever since Teresa started bringing Gideon around.

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But boys turned out not to be the thing I should have been worried about. As a token to remember the “fireworks” between her and Gideon, Teresa brought home some real fireworks.

And for some ungodly reason, thought it would be smart to set them off inside the house.

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After engulfing the living room, her mother and I ran in to try to quench the flames.

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For a moment I was truly terrified that I was going to lose Penny. As we fought the fire the flames crept closer and closer to her.

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But luckily the two of us were able to put the fire out.

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Without anyone being hurt. (Not pictured is Ainsley, but she was safely outside already and completely ignorant of the disaster her sister had caused.)

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Suddenly our dearest daughter, our firstborn, was on the receiving end of the biggest screaming fit I had ever seen, and deservedly so.

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Our beautiful, and newly expanded home was gutted. The dining room and the kitchen were total losses, and we decided that it would be best just to remodel and rebuild.

The silver lining was that just month, our lovely, modern new home was finished.

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It doesn’t scream Farmhouse, it no longer has the down to earth feeling that I sought. But I think that’s okay. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that living off the land was fun and rewarding when I was young, but I’m no longer at such an age where that is practical. Not with five kids, an online celebrity for a wife, and my own music career which has been stalled for years and needs the refinement that a lovely new space can bring.

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As for me, this year I noticed more lines on my face and the salt and pepper I was hiding for the last few years gave way to a solid head and beard of gray. I thought this year was the best time to throw a big birthday bash.

I invited my oldest friends, Gunther and Diego, whom I’ve grown away from as we’ve all lived our lives but who have always stayed close to my heart. 11-25-17_10-58-59 AM

I thought now was as good of a time as any to bury the hatchet with Lilly. For years I was still angry about her affair with Wolfgang, but my life has turned out so wonderfully. And I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I hadn’t ended up with Penny.

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Speaking of Wolfgang, I invited him as well. While things have never been good between us, he has been woven into the fabric of my life for decades now and I have accepted the role he has played in making me who I am.

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I especially mean his and my role with Calvin. As Calvin aged and grew closer to Wolfgang he and I realized that the animosity we felt towards each other was misdirected. Our relationship has continually grown stronger (especially now that he’s out of the house and has started his own relationship). And I see him growing into a lovely young man, and a wonderful father in his own right.

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My life here in Windenburg has finally come together. This town, these people, my family. Everything finally came together in the last year.

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As I look back on this year, I not only look back on 365 days but on decades. On the decades I have spent here in Windenburg, the decades I have spent forging relationships, and the decades I have spent establishing my own legacy. My work is still far from over, but this moment of reflection makes me so proud of all I have accomplished so far.

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From my family to yours, Happy New Year!

Generation 1, Generation 2

1.13: Open the Floodgates

“I am so disappointed in you. So ashamed! Galen told me that you should not be left alone and I should have listened to him! I should have hired a babysitter. You have no idea how ANGRY I am right now, Calvin.”

“I’m sorry, mom.”

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“That is not good enough! I trusted you! You broke that trust and I don’t think I will EVER be able to trust you again. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t think you do. I don’t think you know how foolish you were!”

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I just stood by watching as Penny went off on Calvin like I had never seen before. Usually I am the disciplinarian, especially with Calvin. But when we walked inside she broke up the party, dragged any stragglers out of the house and stormed into Calvin’s bedroom, where he quickly decided to take shelter immediately after we we got home.

“You are grounded. I don’t even know for how long. Until I’m not angry anymore. Until I can trust you again, and believe me I don’t think that will be for a very long time.”

Calvin had nothing to respond with, he simply hung his head. He knew he was was in the wrong. He knew this time it wasn’t me being unfair toward him, because this time it was Penny who was angry. This time his punishment came not from me but from his mother.

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I gave Penny some space, I had never seen her like this before, but I got the impression that this wasn’t one of those time when you try to calm someone down. When she finally came out of the bedroom for dinner she had taken a long bath and was eerily calm. I wasn’t sure if I should bring up what happened and risk making her angry all over again, but she took the reigns.

“I’m so disappointed. You were right, Galen. You were right all along.”

I felt a pang of regret at those last words. What have I been saying all along?

“I don’t know why I thought he wouldn’t mess this up. Ever since he’s been seeing Wolfgang again he’s been reckless and terrible. Just like you always said.”

That one hit me in the gut. For year I thought that I had been a good-enough for Calvin. That anything I held against him for who his father was or for not being my son was hidden enough that no one knew it but me. But clearly that wasn’t true. And if Penny knew, how must Calvin feel?

I listened to Penny talk out her feeling, but I didn’t want to respond. I was ashamed but also afraid. Afraid that somehow I would just contribute to the idea that Calvin was a disappointment.

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The next day I heard something coming from inside Calvin’s room. I stood by the door and realized that he was playing on my old keyboard again. I opened the door quietly and just stood in the doorway for a while and listened. He was surprisingly good. He had always lingered around and watched me as I practiced on the piano, but he had never asked me for lessons. Never came up to me and asked me how things worked. He just would stand and watch. And listen.

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And now that’s what I did. As I listened to him carefully play a song that I had just been playing the other day, as I practiced for my next show. When he finished I walked further into the room and clapped for him.

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“Oh,” Calvin blushed. “I didn’t know you were here.”

“You’re pretty good.”

“Well, I’m not an expert like you.”

“I wasn’t always an expert. In fact I had hardly ever played the piano before I was randomly offered my first job here in Windenburg. You have a better head start than I do.”

Calvin smirked at that. And after that it as if the floodgates had been opened.

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We started talking about our favorite piano pieces, and from there the conversation shifted. Not only did we talk about music, school, his siblings, and girls. But we got onto the topic of the party. And what had really happened.

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“I know I shouldn’t have invited her over. But if it means anything I never intended to have a party. I never intended to steal your wine. I just wanted to spend time with Harley because Teresa and Viv made me so mad.”

“What you did was still wrong. But I understand. You’re a young man. Everyone when they’re your age will make stupid decisions like this. That doesn’t make it right. But I get it.”

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“Why doesn’t Mom get it?”

“She’s angry. You disappointed her. You embarrassed her.” I said sheepishly. “I didn’t trust you to watch the girls by yourself, but she insisted that you could be trusted. Especially with the girls, you wouldn’t let anything happen. And then, we came home and she felt as if you had proved her wrong”

“But she wasn’t wrong! The girls were fine, even when they started the fire in the kitchen, I made sure they were safe.”

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“And maybe you should tell that part to your mother. And I also think you should apologize.”

“I did-” he started.

“Really apologize. Not just in the moment after you got caught, but tell her you’re sorry. Show her you regret what you did.”

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When Penny got home from work that evening, Calvin asked if I would talk to Penny for him. I told him that it wasn’t my place but I would tell her that he had something to say. After I said those initial words I left them alone.

As they talked I went inside and thought about how this would be a new beginning. Something between Calvin and me finally seemed to click. We talked like adults, and there were no feelings of anger, or resentment. We enjoyed our conversation and we connected. I was surprised at how mature he was, and I knew that Penny too would be happy to see how maturely Calvin was handling the situation.

But I was wrong. She wasn’t happy, she was even more angry. She blamed me for trying to turn her into the bad guy here. To take the backseat and and seize the opportunity to be a friend and let her be the mean parent.

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I couldn’t believe it. I thought she’d be so happy that Calvin was stepping up, was being mature and seeing that he was wrong and apologizing with no promise of anything in return. And I thought she’d be happy to see Calvin and I bonding. For the first time. Ever. But, no.

The flame that had been quenched the day before had engulfed her again. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t take it.

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I didn’t know what else to do, so I yelled back “I can’t believe this! I need to leave!” And I left.

Instantly I knew where I was going. Back to the campground.

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I wanted to capture those fleeting feelings that I had felt just a few days earlier when Penny and I were here together.

I went to find Kennedy again, the peculiar hermit woman who had contributed to the wonder of the last trip.

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But I was only distracted and nothing she said stuck, and the feelings of melancholy deepened.

For the first time in years, the woods had failed me. They had always been where I was happiest. Where I was able to put aside all other problems and connect with myself. But this time it did nothing. And I didn’t know why.

 

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It wasn’t until I approached the same bench overlooking the water where Penny and I watched the sunrise only days before that I realized that it wasn’t the woods anymore that had the ability to make me feel that way. It was Penny.

I rushed back home and wanted to tell her how sorry I was. I thought you’d be happy and your reaction took me by total surprise. That was why I was angry. That was why I left. I love you. I love you so much. 

But before any of these words could come pouring out, Penny met me and stopped me.

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“I’m pregnant,” she said.

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Generation 1, Generation 2

1.12 And Out of the Woods

Mom and Galen left for the week to go on some woodsy retreat for Galen. Since they didn’t hire a babysitter it means they’ve left me in charge of my sisters.

I never thought Galen would let Mom leave me in charge, I can tell he doesn’t think I’m “responsible” or “mature” or whatever.

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Luckily Teresa and Viv keep each other busy, so all I really have to do is watch over Scar, feed them, and make sure they don’t burn the place down. Easy enough.

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Poor Scar though. About halfway through the week when the three of them were playing, I heard her cry and she ran passed me into the bathroom.

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I was able to cheer her up after a little bit. She’s the only one of them that’s cool anyway. Teresa and Viv act like they hate anyone that isn’t them. So Scar and I chilled together for a while. I practiced some music while she was painting and after she calmed down and we chatted for a while.

But from inside I heard this piercing alarm and Teresa and Viv started screaming.

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They really were going to burn the place down. The girls were just freaking out and I didn’t have time to figure out what happened.

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It wasn’t as bad as it looked, and luckily there was no damage. But I was so pissed.

Of course it was the two of them. And of course I would get shit for not watching them.

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“You need to tell me what happened right. now.”

Viv stayed silent, and as usual let Teresa take the lead, “I dunnooo. We just found this thing and put it down and it started.”

“What thing?”

“The fire thing,” Teresa said and mimicked flicking a lighter with her hand.

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“You took Mom and Galen’s lighter from the cabinet?! What did you set on fire?”

 
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“NOTHING!”

“WHAT WAS IT?”

“A napkin.

But then it caught fire-and-almost-touched-my-hand-and-I-had-to-drop-it-on-the-floor-and-then-we-didn’t-know-what-to-do-so-we-ran-away-and-thought-that-you-would-find-it-so-it-would-be-okay.”

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“Stupid! You two are grounded to your room until Mom and Galen get back! I don’t care, you can’t leave this room except to go to school and eat.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Yeah,” Viv finally chimed in. “You’re not even our brother. You can’t tell us what to do!”

“They put me in charge, so you BET I can!”

I stormed out so and slammed their door. I was so mad. I decided to text this girl that my dad had introduced me to last week when we went to this little sports bar.

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At first I noticed her sister (she’s one of triplets!), but she was bitchy and Harley looked like more fun when I saw her dancing.

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Dad told me to go over to talk for her and I left with her number. We started chatting and sorta started getting into each other.

So anyway, I invited her over and she wanted to bring some friends along. So of course I agreed so I could see her.

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She brought her sisters and they all told a bunch of friends. It was definitely more than I had anticipated, but so worth it.

And it was such a blast! After a while Harley asked if Galen and my Mom had anything to drink. I had no idea, so I went over to the bar and found some bottles of wine.

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Turns out, everyone wanted some so I poured a bunch of cups out and left them on the bar for people to grab.

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While I was doing that I had lost track of Harley, so I went to hunt her down and found her near Galen’s tent. That stupid thing he keeps at the side of the house as some reminder of something.

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She grabbed me for a selfie my cheek briefly touched her and I felt a stirring.

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I grabbed her and kissed her, not caring that everyone was around, not caring that this should have been a big moment. It was my first kiss. But I didn’t want Harley to know that, she obviously wasn’t new to this. Things got a little carried away from there.

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Maybe it was the wine or just being close to Harley and tasting her lips for the first time, but she opened the tent and dragged me in.

And well, it was AWESOME. I was so in love with this girl now.

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And I never wanted to be apart from her. And I wanted that again and again.

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Between all the music and the wine I don’t think that anyone heard us, so we snuck out of the tent. But just as we were going inside the house, I heard a car pull up. My first thought was that it must have been some more of Harley’s friends. But when the door opened I heard Galen’s voice scream out

“WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?!”

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I was SO screwed.

Generation 1, Generation 2

1.11: Into the Woods

Penny decided to surprise me with a week-long camping getaway to the woods. She thought that getting in touch with nature again, living off the land, and returning to the simpler life that I first moved to Windenburg to experience would refresh me and give me a break from the chaos that is our house.

But there was only one problem, she wanted to leave Calvin in charge while we were gone.

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Begrudgingly I agreed. Calvin will never be responsible if we don’t give him the opportunity to do so.

So Penny and I packed up the tent and went off into the woods for some relaxation and privacy. With only the slightest pains of anxiety about what was happening back at home.

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It was a lovely time, Penny and I hung out around the fire for most of the day. Reading, chatting, and stargazing.

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And the privacy of the tent and forest brought some other benefits as well.

And in the late evening, while Penny would settled down near the fire or take advantage of the free time to get some sleep, I would go out to explore the woods.

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One night in particular I stumbled into this little grotto that was separated from the rest of the forest and came across this secluded cabin. My first thought was that this was true seclusion. Whoever lived here would was living the dream that I, so long ago, had in my heart.

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I tiptoed around the property, not trusting that anyone who lived so far out here alone was accustomed to having visitors. And was probably accustomed to having a loaded gun at arms length. But I found, amidst the wild plants and foliage, this delightfully peculiar woman. Instead of being shocked or angry that I was trespassing on her property, she welcomed me while still singing and talking to the plants she was tending. As I watched, I couldn’t help but ask her about what she was doing, what she was planting, her techniques and thoughts on cultivating plants. I was excited when I left, not only because I felt as if I had met someone who had the ability to turn my life into a different direction, but also because I was excited to take the lessons that she taught me and apply them to the farm.

On our last night, Penny and I decided to just relax around the fire and enjoy the few fleeting moments to be wholly present in each other’s presence. I couldn’t help but break out the violin and play some music for Penny. Something I used to do much more often before work and home became two very distinct divided (and both busy) worlds.

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But my fiddling must have been too intense, for even the fire got dancing into it and an ember leaped out of the firepit and onto my shirt.

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Needless to say it’s a good thing that each campsite came with a fire extinguisher, because Penny doesn’t do so well under pressure. She started screaming and looking around frantically for anyone else to take the lead and avert the disaster.

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But besides a few singed hairs and soot

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I was fine, and Penny and I had another funny memory to take home from our trip.

We spent the rest of the night just sitting and chatting by the firepit. And before we knew it, we started to hear the first twitterings of the morning birds. We decided to move to the river to watch the sunrise.

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And those final moments of our trip together, watching the sun rise over the forest with no distractions reminded us both of our love for eachother.

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And in those moments nothing ever felt so lovely as Penny.

I held onto those moments so hard when we returned home and I couldn’t suppress the thought that if only that fire had taken me…

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Generation 1, Generation 2, Uncategorized

1.10: Growing Pains

The first years of parenting were hard. The girls were always crying and just as one went down for a nap the other got up and woke up the third. Penny and I were always exhausted beyond belief.

But yet, we could solve all of the problems our kids were having with relative ease. That is no longer true.

Looking back I think I can pinpoint that is all started to change around Teresa’s birthday.

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It was, itself, a cute and fun day. Teresa loved the being the center of attention from Uncle Gunther and all of mommy and daddy’s friends.

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As Penny and I work to build a family and still have our careers it becomes more and more rare that we have company over, so whenever we do get together with friends the girls have feel like they’re the ones being treated and work to steal all the attention for themselves.

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And sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. I remember just before we cut the cake poor Teresa was already pooped and crashed right on the playground.

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We managed to wake her up for her big moment and she reveled in the attention as we all sang to her.

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But not everyone was happy that Teresa alone was the center of attention. Now that they are closer in age, Calvin and Teresa bump heads in a way that they never did before. And that’s the reason I say this birthday was what started the change.

As Calvin got older he ran more and more to his father. I have to give Wolfgang some credit because he was taking an interest in Calvin. Although I couldn’t stand having in as a part of my life and I didn’t exactly trust his ideas about parenting.

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But Wolfgang became the only one who could forge any kind of true relationship with Calvin. Although it was more a friendship, than a responsible parent-child relationship.

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Wolfgang would be claiming to take Calvin to the museum, but neither of them seemed to be the “museum browsing types.”

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So I always suspected that there were other reasons.

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But it was something I no longer went to Penny about because if ever we argued it was about Calvin.

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Penny always thought that I was too hard on him, and maybe I was. That feeling of nothing being good enough for him as a father or responsible male figure nags me still to this day. Which is why I wanted to foster the relationship between Calvin and Wolfgang. But if anything it made me more bitter towards me.

When they were younger I could always look to the girl to remind me that maybe I wasn’t so bad of father. Each one was wonderfully happy baby and especially Teresa and Vivian especially (being very close in age) always played together well.

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Although as they got older even that bond sometimes was tried. As anyone would expect with three young girls all around each other’s age and all around each other’s stuff all the time.

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But, and I feel so terrible to say it, Penny and I both came to realize that Scarlett was just…evil. She was so mean to everyone, but especially to her sister.

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And at first we thought maybe because Vivian and Teresa are so close in age that she feels left out and acts out to get their attention.

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And maybe that is what is happening.

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But that seems to be manifesting itself in a really cruel streak.

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Where she just wants to see her siblings cry. And Penny and I have tried everything. We continually punish Scarlett when she acts this way, we try to dote on her just a little bit more than everyone else.

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She does get along with one of her siblings, however, Calvin. And (although I’ll never tell Penny) I think it’s because he’s a bit evil too.

If only I could somehow have some impact on him.

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Generation 1, Generation 2

1.9: Stepping Up

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Life has settled into something of a normal pattern. Or at least as normal of life as one can expect with three daughters under the age of 5 and one angsty step-son.

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Those fears of mine which continued to rear their head every time Penny told me she was pregnant have subsided now as I see that I can slide into the role of “father.”

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At least to my own children. Calvin’s concerns about losing the attention of his mother were only increasing with each new sibling that we welcomed home.

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And a deep resentment of his half-siblings has created a hostile arrangement between him and everyone in the household.

Teresa and Vivian, our two oldest girls, get along wonderfully. Penny was worried that bringing home a sibling so soon after Teresa was born would be hard on her, but the girls are inseparable.

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And now it doesn’t seem right to think of just having one. Especially since the girls can entertain themselves. A wonderful gift to any parent, the silence of children entertaining each other.

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But the girls don’t respond well to him, as if they can pick up on his deeper feelings that he may be able to repress temporarily. His attempts at play turn the girls sour. Their reactions to his attempts, unfortunately, only make him more spiteful of them. As if he’s saying to himself “They don’t like me?”

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Penny and I have talked about what needs to be done. She is the only one to whom Calvin will listen to. I know that his situation can’t be easy. I know that I probably am not giving him what he needs, no matter how much I try. So Penny and I have decided that I will take on primary parenting duties for the girls so that she can dedicate more time and attention to Calvin.

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And we’ve also decided that he needs his father, his real father, back in his life.

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Wolfgang had entirely been absent from Calvin’s life since Penny and I got married. Partly, or largely, because of me. I couldn’t put aside our previous encounter or the resentment I held against him for his relationship with Lilly and Penny to welcome him into our home.

I realize now that I’ve been punishing Calvin for the sins of his father, and it was hurting Calvin. It was contributing to him acting out, to him hating me and his sisters. Again, I realized I failed as a step-father.

To be fair though, Wolfgang wasn’t exactly willing to play a role either. And it wasn’t without some arguments that we finally convinced him that he needed to step up.

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Your son is struggling, here, Wolfgang. I don’t think that it is too much to ask that you are just involved in his life. He needs a father, and you have never been that to him.”

“Yeah, but, he has you. And Galen. That’s–that’s good.”

“Good, but not enough. He needs you.”

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“You and Galen keep me out of his life for 5 years! But NOW–NOW that he’s being a brat and you have your hands full you want me to take him off your hands! You can’t put this burden on me just like this!”

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“How dare you! Do not refer to our son that way and do not think that I am trying to get him off of my hands. I’m trying to do what is BEST for him. I don’t care about you. This isn’t about you. It’s about whats best for him.”

“But that isn’t me! I’m not a father!”

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“But you ARE his father! Goddammit, Wolfgang.”

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“You’re right. I am. But I don’t know what he needs.”

“He just needs your attention.”

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“So you like chess, huh?”

“Heh, yeah. I’m good at it.”

“Well you’ll have to teach me.”

After that, things were better. Not perfect, but more harmonious. Calvin got to spend a few days a month with Wolfgang and he soon came to worship the man who reluctantly assumed his rightful place as his father.

But with his outbursts subsiding things around the house were more enjoyable.

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Hectic, of course.

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But wonderful.

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For now…

Generation 1, Generation 2

1.8: Sprouts

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One of the things about gardening that makes it so alluring, so relaxing is the consistency of expected results. You take the seeds left over from a piece of fruit, plant them in the ground, care for them, and wait.

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Knowing that with your care they will always grow into something more.

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And one day that plant will return to you fruits, from which it is possible to start the cycle over again. Over and over. Civilization itself was built on the back of this repeated promise.

But yet, so few things in life are as clear and predictable as gardening. And human life does not promise to return anything to the gardener.

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All throughout Penny’s pregnancy I was that typical worrying dad-to-be. “Don’t lift that.” “Do you want to sit?” “Are you okay?”

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“Are you sure you’re not in labor?”

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“Really, that’s just a stomach ache? Are you 100% positive?”

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I wasn’t just worried for Penny, although that was a large part of it. Nor was it just for the unborn baby. But I was worried about myself. Would I, could I be a good father? I had struggled to forge a connection with Calvin from the first day that I met him.

But I could always write that off because he was distant, because he wasn’t my son, because Wolfgang, during those odd moments he decided to actually play the role of father, put negative ideas about me into his head. But I always knew that I was part of the problem.

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Awkward and fumbling, I would go through the motions of what I thought a dad should be, but Calvin’s stare of disdain told me my sincerity wasn’t believable.

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And when his fear of losing his mother’s attention to younger siblings manifested itself into anger it was Penny who had to talk to him.

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“You know you’ll always be my oldest, right?”

“Yeah, but so…”

“So that means you’ll have a special place in my heart, no matter what.”

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“So I’ll always be your favorite!?”

“A mother should never have favorites. But you’ll always be special.”

The words seemed so simple, and said with no more sincerity than I would tell Calvin that having a new brother or sister didn’t mean anything would change. But Penny’s words put a reassured smile onto Calvin’s face, while mine only brought about a grimace and disappointment.

When I felt her in my arms for the first time…

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… my fears subsided. There was a connection. Somehow. Already. There was a connection with this newborn baby. And I knew that all the concerns I had about being too distant, not loving my child enough, not knowing how to be a loving father, were gone.

You’d think I would have been used that by now. But I guess the third times the charm.

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