Tiptoe......................peeking through the gate

Poor Dad, Rich Daughter


        A hero came to work on our house, but he was hard to recognize at first. That's because he was missing some teeth and wore a t-shirt with holes in it. He wasn't trying to be trendy; he was poor. He had what some people call a beer belly. Marv was doing a plastering job for us and spent a few days at it and some chunks of time chatting with me.

        I learned that he would drink himself drunk in his twenties and miss a day's work. When he returned, the boss would stick him on roof work as punishment. Now Marv had a fellow working with him that was pulling the same stunt. He didn't show one morning and Marv was disgusted.

        He was married to Jan, who had three children by another man. That man had money, but he wasn't nice to his kids. Jan's 15-year-old daughter Kerry lived with them and Marv loved her. He loved her so much he worried about her. Kerry was really overweight, he said, but a wonderful girl. He was so proud of her, he said. She wasn't motivated, she sat around the house too much of the day, doing little but eat. But he could see she was smart. He wanted her to go to college, but didn't know how to broach the subject. He didn't want her to feel he was pressuring her; he just thought it would be good for her.

        "You have to be careful when you say things," he said, wiping some sweat off his forehead with his torn t-shirt. "You don't ever want the kids to think you aren't happy with them."

        A few months before, Kerry's biological father had insisted she visit him in another state. She went, but called Jan and Marv a day later and begged to come home.

        Before Marv finished the job, he asked if Ross and I would like an old table that had belonged to his grandfather. It was sitting in a trailer that leaked and he didn't want it anymore.His grandfather had eaten breakfast at the table as a five-year-old in 1920. It might be even older than that, he said. We drove way out in the country to Marv's old trailer and saw the table, a dark oak beauty that needed refinishing and a new clawfoot on one leg. We thanked Marv and gave him $40, which he didn't ask for.

       Warm and friendly Jan appeared. She cleaned houses for people and mentioned that with school about to start it was time to get the kids' teeth pulled. (You can fill in the dots with that last sentence.)

        Not long after this the phone rang one evening. Someone who knew Marv had worked for us thought we should know that he had dropped dead of a heart attack at age 40. Ross called Jan, and she said she would be okay. He didn't speak with the one Marv would have worried about. How does a teenage girl cope when a man who has loved her unconditionally, who has been proud of her and dreamed of what she could be, suddenly leaves? How does a girl go on without her dad?

         Because that's what Marv was. A real dad.