After attending UCLA on and off for nine years, it was finally time for me to graduate. This was a really exciting time because I had planned a trip around the world, which would begin one week after my graduation. However, my giddy anticipation of my travel plans was shattered when my father dropped an unexpected bombshell on me.
He had been having an affair for the last 10 years. My mother and father were getting a divorce, and his longtime girlfriend was moving in with him. Apparently Margaret had been a student of his at CSUN where he was a professor of art, and he was adamant that I meet her before I left.
I declined. I had absolutely no interest in meeting her or any member of her family.
Shortly thereafter, I set off to explore the world. My travels took me to wondrous lands: Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Thailand, India, Europe and the Middle East. Upon my return eight months later, I discovered that my parents had indeed divorced, and Margaret had moved in but only to move out again in anxious anticipation of my coming home. My father implored me to meet her. “There is more involved here than just you, Paul,” he said.
I reluctantly gave in.
After all, this was important to him, and he was allowing me to stay in his home. Therefore, my father and I drove to Margaret’s new apartment in Reseda where she met me with a big hug.
I really can’t remember what we talked about. Then all of a sudden, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen walked in. She was Margaret’s daughter, Gabby, and she had brought her two young sons, Lloyd and Matthew, with her.
Gabby was a gorgeous brunette with beautiful brown eyes and she captivated me with her vivaciousness and humor. She also was very easy to talk to, and I remember that we agreed that the greatest rock album ever made was “Who’s Next” by the Who.
Unfortunately, she was living with her boyfriend in Northridge. Damn, I thought.
After our initial encounter at Margaret’s apartment, we saw each other sporadically as my father attempted to merge our two families. At one point, Gabby tried to set me up with one of the single mothers from the home daycare she operated.
Then one day she showed up at our house. She and her boyfriend had had an argument, and it had gotten physical. Gabby had moved out and she and her boys soon came to live with my father, her mother who had moved back in, and me.
In many ways, Gabby and I were opposites. She was outgoing and spontaneous, and I was more serious and kind of quiet; yet I found it remarkable how similar our deepest values were and how we shared many of the same hopes and dreams.
At one point she told me, “No more boyfriends.” My heart sank.
Behind my back, my father asked Gabby not to keep me up at night by talking on the front porch. I had just started a job with Blue Cross of California in Thousand Oaks and I needed my sleep.
Thank God she didn’t listen. I was falling in love with her.
I gingerly attempted our first kiss. She didn’t push me away but she didn’t kiss me back either. It was possibly the most awkward moment of my entire life. A week later, I gathered my courage and tried again, this time with better results. Our first date was seeing “Wayne’s World” with a friend visiting me from Australia. I will never forget what he said to me after the film: “That is one amazing woman. Good luck, mate!”
Because of our living situation, it became necessary for Gabby to rent a house so she could run her home daycare business before she lost her clients. My father and her mother thought it would be a good idea for me to move in with her in case her ex-boyfriend showed up. I thought this was a great idea too. I moved in and I never moved out.
As our love blossomed, our parents had concerns that we might have some sort of ugly breakup, making family gatherings uncomfortable. But exactly the opposite happened. They broke up and never spoke again. Apparently they could have an affair together but they could not live together.
The most touching moment that I ever had with my father was when I told him that I was going to ask Gabby to marry me. It wasn’t anything that he said to me. It was the look of pure joy on his face that became my most enduring memory of him. I was also heartened and relieved that my mother grew to love Gabby as well.
Gabby and I recently celebrated our 30th anniversary of a very happy marriage. We are empty nesters now, as our four remarkable boys, Lloyd, Matthew, Brandon and Christian, have grown up and started lives of their own. The ironies of our wonderful marriage amaze me to this day. I set off to explore the world only to find that my greatest adventure was waiting for me when I got home. I ended up finding the love of my life in the last place that I ever would have looked.
The author is an elementary school teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He lives in the L.A. area.
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