“I’m sorry I was so short with you on Sunday,” I told Mr. Man.
My fears got the best of me last weekend and I felt like a schmuck.
“It’s okay. You’re probably stressed. I still can’t believe how much you do – you never stop… ever. I mean, it’s just too much for one person to handle and working full-time on top of it… I don’t know how you single moms do it.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how we do it either, but we just do it – I think – because we don’t have any other choice. And we adapt.”
It’s odd because aside from Mr. Man, no one has really seen Benjamin and I in our element morning, noon and night. His first taste of our daily grind came through telephone conversations during the first few weeks.
“I can’t talk, I’ve gotta go again.”
“Okay, call me when you get a break,” he’d say or, “Okay, call me when he’s down.” Our first real phone conversation of the day still comes after Benjamin is asleep.
It wasn’t until a viral infection stole my will to live and my body’s ability to even get out of bed that Mr. Man spent several days in a row – here – in our little apartment. He came up to relieve my mother who had been here for five days. That Saturday morning I woke up to Benjamin’s happy morning bedroom chatter and then drifted back into sleep.
I didn’t wake up again until 11:00 a.m., the longest I’ve slept in since becoming a mother. When I did Mr. Man was lying next to me, watching me sleep.
“You look beautiful when you’re sleeping, you know.”
“Where’s Benjamin?” I muster.
“Upstairs, playing with his trains. He sure loves those trains.”
I tried to move and winced in pain. My body shuddering a bit from my chills.
“God, I hate seeing you like this. What can I do? What do you need?”
“Some tea, maybe, or a bath.”
He drew the bath water, made the tea and kept Benjamin occupied until I could move back into my bed. It’s no coincidence that Mr. Man knows how to be a husband and a father, it wouldn’t be his first time.
A 35-year-old single father, Mr. Man blames his own mistakes for the disintegration of his first marriage. A refreshing alternative to the single fathers I’ve dated who are constantly bashing their ex-wives, Mr. Man speaks very highly of his, “I screwed up. I didn’t appreciate what I had until it was gone.”
“I want you to meet her,” he said one night, “and I want you to meet Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth, his six-year-old daughter, lives over three hours away from Mr. Man so their time together is limited to every other weekend.
“But you need that time for you two,” I sound hesitant, because I am – scared to death of suddenly having the tables turned, of meeting the child of my new flame.
“She’ll love you, it’ll be great. I know you’ll all love each other,” his persistence ends there and he lets me think about it.
Two weeks later, Mr. Man is guiding me to Elizabeth’s driveway.
I can barely drive, my nerves getting the best of me. For the first time, I would be meeting a date’s child. What if she hates me for taking the scant time she has with her father away from her? What if we don’t click? What if she’s a little monster child?
So this is what it’s really like to date a single parent, I think. Not easy.
I let Mr. Man walk in first to break the ice and get some alone time with Elizabeth before Benjamin and I followed. When we did Elizabeth popped down the stairs and ran up to both of us, “Hello, Benjamin – can I show you my room?”
I liked her immediately, all of them – Elizabeth, her mother and her step-father. Major points for Mr. Man.
Later that afternoon, one train museum later and two toys later, all four of us sat at a Bob Evans booth. Elizabeth grabbed her father’s ear and whispered something. He smiled.
“What?” I asked.
“Hey Benjamin,” said Elizabeth, “You’re Mom is hot. Can you say that? Say – ‘My Mom is hot’.”
I am going to kill you – I mouth to Mr. Man.
“It was her idea.”
We’re all laughing hysterically, and suddenly I feel like a kid again.
“Do you want to have more kids?” I ask Mr. Man.
“Do you?” He asks me back with a big smile.
“I’m not sure.”
“C’mon, we could have a whole team!”
He’s such a father, through and through.
Edited for Mr. Man’s privacy and because now I’m freaking out about how much I’m sharing on here. Sorry! I just really want to respect his privacy, he did not request the edit – I’m just making an executive decision.
“Good night,” he says one night on the phone, “And don’t have any of those weird dreams of yours, instead dream of me pickin’ you wildflowers in the summer.”
Okay, I think, now that I can definitely do.
To be continued…
If you can’t get enough Mr. Man stories, click here for more.
[Photo: Mr. Man holding Elizabeth and Benjamin at the Train museum]