My little Ally was also fair, as was her father, and had an indistinct ethnic look about her; perhaps even a bit Polynesian-like. She became more exotic looking as she grew older. Ally was a cheerful child who loved life and loved to laugh. She was just like I remembered her mother when I first met Christina at age 3. I was 31 and was instantly drawn to her. I later learned that life had been cruel to Christina, and by age 12 she had become emotionally independent, guarded, controlling, and manipulative, and all with a smile on her face. At 16, she was unreachable. Always scheming to get what she wanted; by age 17 Christina determined that Mr. Charming, Amado, was going to be her husband and that he would be a father to Ally. Within a few months, Christina was again pregnant and moved in with Amado. This was the first time I felt I had “lost” Ally. As long as Christina was single and out having fun, I was needed to babysit Ally, sometimes for days at a time. Her mother’s selfishness and immaturity grieved me, but I was delighted to have Ally to myself as much as possible. I enrolled her in Mothers Day Out, Jr. Jazzercise, and dance classes. I took her to church. I sang to her, rocked her to sleep, showed her Shirley Temple movies, and took her shopping, to work with me and to my parents’ summer home in the mountains each year. I even let Christina tag along the first time, when Ally was 6 months old, as well as on business trips, just so I could have Ally with me. After that, she was fine with me taking Ally by herself. After all, it gave Christina more time to be a teenager. My husband, my mother and sisters all thought I was obsessed, and I suppose I was; but I saw it as fulfilling a mission and taking care of the gift that God had given me. When Christina moved in with Amado, she took Ally with her, and I was devastated. I was jealous of Amado and resentful of his new role in Ally’s life. In my mind, I was her protector and caretaker, because Christina was too selfish and immature to be so. My husband and my mom tried to convince me that Ally was not mine and that I did not have the right to be resentful. I couldn’t make them understand that God had given her to me. Yes, I knew she wasn’t mine, but I was supposed to see to her welfare. That meant giving her what she needed, but more importantly, I believed it meant that I was to keep her as close to me as possible and to shield her from the unhealthy lifestyle of Christina and Amado, and the constant arguing, yelling, and emotional neglect. To my relief, they allowed me to continue taking Ally to Mothers Day Out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and more often than not, that turned in to her being with me from Monday night until Thursday afternoon and many weekend nights. Christina also was happy for me to take Ally to church with me on Sundays. I did not know that by then Christina not only had another out of wedlock pregnancy to deal with, and no marriage proposal from Amado, but that he had what she later referred to as a “drinking problem”, and that she was often left alone while Amado was out carousing in the sports clubs and strip bars. She did not have the emotional wherewithal to take care of a toddler. I was more than happy to take on that role. Every day I grew to love Ally more and more. My love for her was intense and consuming, and I saw her as my mission to protect and disciple and also to remove her from their dysfunction as often as possible.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my entire life. Many times I had heard the cliché that if you really love someone, you have to let them go. I understood that and agreed. But I never thought I would have to experience it. I admit that it is one of the many reasons I chose not to have children of my own. I didn’t think I was emotionally strong enough to deal with motherhood and the pain that comes with it. Some have called that selfish or a cop out. Perhaps that is true. But at the same time, I never really had that mother instinct. I never even played with dolls as a child. Are there certain things that God simply wants some people to experience, regardless of the decisions they make otherwise? It seems so in my case. My husband and I had discussed having children many times, before and after our wedding. Neither of us was very drawn to the idea. Our perfectionist natures didn’t want to bring a child into this world. Furthermore, we had radically different ideas regarding child rearing and discipline. I suspect that another reason was our fear of failure. We always came back to the notion that we would probably change our minds. We never did. Fortunately, we have never regretted our decision. I do remember reading about thousands of orphaned Nicaraguan children during the Sandinista Revolution in the early 80s. I told my husband that I would be willing to adopt one of those children. I had always had a heart for the Latino people and been drawn to the Spanish culture. He was not too keen on the idea, so the matter was dropped. Not a problem, as I was very busy with my business and my big-city lifestyle. Then, after 20 years of marriage, she came into my life. I didn’t welcome her; I didn’t want her. I saw the whole thing as an inconvenience and an embarrassment. Little did I know what a blessing she would be and just how much I could love someone that I did not give birth to, who is not mine, and who is not even related to me. I was about to be swept away with intense love, compassion, obligation, and a sense that she had been given to me by God to take care of.
Okay, so I’m retired and married to an artist, and I need to make some money. But being “sandwiched” in between taking care of my parents and dealing with kids, I don’t really have the time or energy. I know I wrote that we had no children, but God thought it was funny, I guess, for us to have so flippantly made that decision on our own, so He gave us godchildren. And not just any ol’ godchildren, mind you, but godchildren who have immature, dysfunctional, destructive parents, which is why the poor dears need godparents. But that’s a story for a future post. Anyway, I can’t draw from my retirement yet, and I need some income. I’m too old and tired to start a new career. My back won’t allow me to stand on my feet all day. I need to be available to take my mom where she needs to go (doctor, to visit my dad in the nursing home, etc.). I know there are others in this position, because I hear and read about the “sandwich generation”. But are they all financially stable and/or still working? Am I the only one with an artist husband? Am I the only one who had to leave their job at age 53? Harkening back to the 70s – – follow your passion, check. All you need is love, check. Work hard, check. What was missing? Don’t be self employed and don’t get sick. Oops. Suggestions would be most welcome. Meanwhile, anybody interested in buying some art?