Standing at the threshold

Published 9:37 pm Thursday, February 19, 2009

About four years ago, my wife and I were settling into the home we’d bought in Portsmouth, enjoying a peaceful life at the end of a street that dead-ends at a marsh. The home we’d bought just a few months earlier was perfect for our small family. It had a huge yard where we knew our dog would enjoy playing, and the house itself was just the right size to feel cozy without being cramped. The two of us were satisfied with our new lives, content to exist in our own little world with the birds and the raccoons and the muskrats and whatever else made its home in the marsh next door.

As is so often the case when one gets too settled, though, change was on the horizon. A family that had been separated by bad decisions and the circumstances that flowed from them would reunite under our roof, as my wife and one of her daughters renewed the relationship that had been broken some time before. Soon, I heard myself saying something I never thought I’d hear: Why don’t they move in with us?

Those fateful words set in motion some of the biggest changes I’ve ever experienced. I had gone from bachelorhood to married just three years earlier; now, I would go from childless-at-40 to grandpa-at-40, as my stepdaughter moved in with her three children. What was I thinking? I sometimes wonder.

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The years since I spoke those fateful words have been at once a blur and ploddingly slow. I see photos from when Jessica and her children first joined us, and it seems they were taken only yesterday. Then I hear the children being scolded for the 976th time about something they’re doing wrong, and I wonder how this impatient, often-grumpy man has lasted so long in this situation.

As I sit here today, though, with the knowledge that one more truckload of personal items is all that stands between my wife and I and our next big change, I can’t help but thank God for putting the words in my mouth the day I made that invitation. I’ve been richly blessed to have been able to share my home with these children and their mother, my stepdaughter. Having spent most of my life avoiding the thought of children, I’ve found myself enriched by the love of three who call me Grandpa, whose eyes light up when I walk through the door at the end of a long day.

Their mother will get married next month, and this weekend Annette and I will finish moving out of our home to give the new family the space and independence that every family needs. We’ll be moving to another peaceful spot, this time in Suffolk, and I’m sure we’ll find contentment again there.

Still, though, I can’t help but wonder what I’ll do without those children around. My wife loves me dearly, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for her to greet me by running up and jumping into my arms as I stand on the threshold.