Monday, July 28, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: Unexpected parent: A young bride becomes mother to a teenager

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 5/16/2014

Joan Oen learned her fiance had a 15-year-old daughter two months before their wedding. Her fiance had his daughter with a teenage girlfriend, and now he only saw her on birthdays and holidays. He revealed all of this to Joan, who was only 24, as he broke down and cried. He was sure she would leave him.

As Joan wrote in her story “That’s What Moms Are For,” published in our book on mothers and daughters, she didn’t leave her fiance. It’s a decision she’s never regretted, but also one whose implications she didn’t fully understand.

Joan Oen learned her fiance had a 15-year-old daughter two months before their wedding. Her fiance had his daughter with a teenage girlfriend, and now he only saw her on birthdays and holidays. He revealed all of this to Joan, who was only 24, as he broke down and cried. He was sure she would leave him.

As Joan wrote in her story “That’s What Moms Are For,” published in our book on mothers and daughters, she didn’t leave her fiance. It’s a decision she’s never regretted, but also one whose implications she didn’t fully understand.

A few months after the wedding, Joan was introduced to her fiance’s daughter, Savanha. “Nice to meet you! I’m Joan,” she said as an introduction. “I know,” the girl answered and then hugged her. “That was the moment I realized I was a stepmom,” Joan wrote.

Over time, Joan saw more and more of Savanha, and she grew to care about her. “But it still didn’t feel completely right,” she wrote. “When, I wondered, would I start to love Savanha?”

As Joan’s story shows, sometimes love can flourish in the strangest ways. One morning, as the family was getting ready for church, Savanha called to Joan from the bathroom.

Savanha’s extensions were coming undone, leaving her hair a goopy mess. Joan went to work helping: She pulled out gobs of glue, reorganized Savanha’s hair into a bun and pinned Savanha’s real hair over the glue-covered parts. She wasn’t finished by the time they had to leave for church, so she kept working with hairspray as they drove. She finished just as they arrived.

Later, Joan and Savanha went to the bathroom to touch up Savanha’s hair. Joan told her she’d enjoyed helping with her hair crisis. “That’s what moms are for!” Savanha replied.

“My eyes welled with happy tears,” Joan wrote. “It was the moment I felt something I had never felt for her before: a surge of maternal love.”

I’d say it was the moment that Joan became a mother.

•••

When Phyllis married Harvey, the couple had already lived for a combined 164 years and been married six times. They’d both been widowed after their 80th birthdays. And then they found each other — on Match.com. In her story “Love Online,” published in our book for the young at heart, Phyllis W. Zeno shows that it’s never too late for love.

Phyllis had been widowed two years when a friend suggested she join an online dating service. “Don’t be silly,” Phyllis had said. “I’m not that desperate!”

“But I was,” she wrote.

She created a profile and expressed interest in meeting men between 75 and 85 who lived near her home in Florida. But all the responses she got were from distant parts of the country and, on top of that, she didn’t feel a connection to any of the men. Then she found “Harvey1926.”

“His profile matched mine exactly,” Phyllis wrote. But there was a hitch: He lived in New York. When she voiced this concern to him he wrote back, “We’ll meet in Paris!”

“Hmm,” Phyllis wrote in her story, “he had definite possibilities!”

So she kept the correspondence going. They shared the details of their lives, and Phyllis tried to paint “as dazzling a picture of [herself] as she could.” Then she felt compelled to make a disclosure: “I walk with a cane,” she wrote to Harvey.

“In which hand?” he responded.

“The left.”

“That’s good,” he answered. “I walk with one in my right hand. We’ll fit together perfectly.”

So, he was funny, too.

The romance blossomed from there. Harvey visited Phyllis at her home in Florida. Then she made a trip to New York to see him. She was charmed by the sing-alongs around his player piano that he hosted for friends and by his romantic gestures. Once when she was visiting her daughter, the phone rang. When she picked up she heard a piano playing and Harvey’s off-key voice singing, “I just called to say I love you.”

“He’s a keeper, Mom,” her daughter said.

Six months later they were married — and they made that trip to Paris for their honeymoon.

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

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