When I tell people I’m getting married for the second time, they ask how my kids feel about it. I have four of them, three girls and a boy, ages 11 to 22. What people want to hear is, “They’re fine with it. They love the woman I’m marrying and she loves them.”
A few months after we started dating, I knew that Kim was someone I could spend the rest of my life with. With my being the father of four and Kim having no children of her own, I knew we had a lot to talk about. I was what you might call a “package deal.” When my first wife and I got married, all we had to worry about was getting along with each other’s parents. And I’d been lucky. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother- and father-in-law.
When I look at Kim, I see the face I’ll be happy to look at every day for the rest of my life. That’s a future the two of us are choosing together. When I look at my kids, I see the best parts of me and feel a connection that’s deeper than I can explain. I try to keep in mind they didn’t get to choose me in the way that I got to choose them.
I asked Kim to marry me just after midnight in the first minutes of December 31, 2012. We went to a New Year’s Eve party that night feeling like we were the shiniest people on Earth. We shared our big news with everyone as we mixed and mingled. Friends congratulated us and said they were happy for us.
Everyone we talked to that night followed up their congratulations with the questions, “Have you told the kids yet?” and, “What do you think the kids will say?” Kim and I had come to the party with what we thought was joyful news. We answered people with, “I’m sure they’ll be happy about it.” By the end of the night, that answer sounded forced, even to us. Would the kids really be happy?
Two days after the party, I summoned three of my kids, Andie, Griffin, and Truly, to a place in town called the “Wow!Zone” so Kim and I could have lunch with them. It’s got all the family entertainment you could want under one roof: bowling, laser tag, game arcade—even miniature golf. Why go to the Wow!Zone to share such important news? All I can say in my defense is that if lunch didn’t go well we knew the kids could work through their feelings with a good game of laser tag.
We ordered lunch and I um’d and ah’d a bit but managed to deliver the news: I had asked Kim to marry me and she’d said yes. The kids began studying the tabletop, the salt and pepper shakers, their hands, and anything else that kept them from making eye contact with me.
Andie spoke up first. She just asked, “When?” Kim told her we didn’t have a date and weren’t in a hurry. I remember adding, “Next year, sometime. What we know for sure is we want to be married and it would make us very happy if you kids are part of it.” Then their faces lit up. Andie said, “Cool.” Griffin laughed and said, “Great!” And Truly asked, “Do I get to wear a dress?”
The rest of the lunch went by without any drama. Kim asked the kids about school. The kids asked about how I proposed and what she’d said. Between chewing and listening, I had time to think about the two years I’d been with Kim and the years that were still to come.
In the space of a weekend Kim and I had gone from being two people living together to being an engaged couple. I had no more worries about how my kids felt about their dad getting married a second time. I looked around the table at the faces of my kids and Kim, my brand-new fiancée. It felt like I had everything I could want.
And it felt like I was learning something new. That life is good as soon as you stop worrying about whether it’s good or not. That it gets better when you stop waiting for something to happen. It’s the kind of knowing that comes from the gut.
I was starting to see that families aren’t created by two people making one good decision. And they’re not destroyed by one bad one. We make and remake ourselves and our families every day, moment by moment.
And in the restaurant at the Wow!Zone, without declaring it out loud or putting it in writing, we made an agreement that we were some kind of family. And that this is a family that will grow and change as each of us grows and changes.
After I paid for lunch, the five of us sealed the deal by going bowling together.
Barrie Evans works as a security guard on the overnight shift. He has worked as a technical writer, managed a group home for adults with developmental disabilities and worked with both adults and adolescents as a counselor. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato, in 2013.
Photo by David Ulicni