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No More Mr. Nice Girl: Letter from Dillon, 3 Years Later

My wife is awesome!

I guess I expected to be the one who took care of her and sort of fix things for her and Matthew. All I wanted in return was to be with her. Enjoy her sense of humor, look into her beautiful eyes, and get into bed beside her every night.

But Paige surprised me by being a fixer of grand proportions. She accomplished something I’d been trying to do for years and so much more.

I’d better start from the beginning:

Things were pretty rough for Paige at first. Her in-laws sent an eviction notice and a demand for the return of the van two days after she accepted my proposal. She and Matthew moved in temporarily with Tina and Ted. The hard part was explaining the loss of the home to Matthew. Although I’m not usually on board with lying, I think it was the lesser of the evils in this case. Paige didn’t have the heart to explain to her son that his grandparents were having them thrown out of their house.

Worse, was the way Paige’s parents turned their backs on her and Matthew. I guess once they lost all control, they had no further use for them. Paige was devastated, even though she said they hadn’t been the best parents in the world.

But when my mom and Berta heard what Paige had been willing to give up for me and that Matthew had lost his grandparents, they stepped in immediately and treated them like family. Matthew quickly took to calling them Grandma Maggie and Grandma Berta and they doted on him. Still do, even though he’s in fourth grade now.

Meanwhile, we were planning a very private wedding and needed a house to move into afterward. Paige did the recon while I was at work, but she was getting pretty annoyed with the realtor. The woman knew what we were worth, and insisted on dragging Paige to grander houses than she had in mind, even though Paige was looking for something homey.

One day, she showed her a five bedroom that still managed to have the cozy quality Paige was looking for, but when she walked out to the backyard, the huge lot contained a roomy guest house as well as a pool and game “hut” much bigger than my duplex.

This is when I learned that growing up with the scheming Haddens hadn’t been all bad for my wife. You see, by this time, Paige was pregnant. Just after the engagement, she’d reluctantly said something like, “I guess I need to get on birth control.” I said, “Why?” and she smiled and threw her arms around my neck.

So scheming, pregnant Paige knew I’d been trying to get my mom out of her housekeeping job for years, but she also knew mom needed to feel she was being useful. Next time she was alone with my mom, they had a heart-to-heart chat. Paige talked about how much she wanted the new baby, but confessed she’d also really hoped to get a part-time job to bolster her self-esteem after all she’d been through.

Mom said there was nothing she’d like better than to take care of her grandbaby and seemed truly unhappy that her job would keep her from doing just that.

So, BAM! Next thing I knew, it was a done deal. Mom was going to quit her job and move into the guest house. When she seemed a bit sad that she’d be so far from her best friend in Pasadena, Paige devised a plan to fix that too.

By the time we moved in, Maggie and Berta had made plans to live in the guest house and Celia and her two kids, Maddie and Max, were taking the spacious pool house.

Celia was the hardest sell, not wanting to feel she was a charity case. I was there when Paige pointed out how long Celia’s advanced degree would take to get if she kept working full-time hours and how old the kids would be by the time she got it. And that, at our place, while she was working part-time or at school, there would always be someone who loved them to watch over them.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d won an argument with Celia, so I was chuckling inside as I watched her resolve crumble like a cookie in Paige’s expert hands. In hindsight, I also learned no matter how smart I think I am, I’m no match for my wife when it comes to getting the desired outcome. Lucky for me, what Paige wants is usually what’s best for the people she loves.

The beauty of it all was that everyone got what they needed while feeling they were doing something selfless for people they loved. Mom and Berta would be taking care of our kids and Celia’s whenever we were all gone. Celia could make life better for her children.

See what I mean? My wife is an evil genius minus the evil part.

On a side note, I had to amend my thinking when it came to rich people. After we moved into the new house, a sweet lady named Betsy Landry came by with some pies she’d made herself. Paige said Betsy’s family has been wealthy for a couple hundred years, yet she hugged Paige and told her she was proud of her decision. We got the feeling maybe somewhere in Betsy’s past, she’d wished she’d made a different choice herself.

A couple of moms from the school also came by with housewarming gifts and sincere good wishes. They reminded me of some of the kinder employers my mom had over the years, and I was ashamed that I’d remembered the nasty ones so much more clearly.

I guess there’s a lot of anger that comes with growing up poor and feeling powerless.

Anyway, now Paige keeps a giant calendar in the kitchen where everyone writes their schedules so we can make sure the kids are watched over and taken to their activities. Mom and Berta cook us Irish stew, tamales, steak and guinness pie, and enchiladas until Paige or Celia manage to elbow them out of the way and make some smoked salmon or Italian chicken breasts so we don’t all get fat as ticks.

Since Paige only works part-time at the new children’s art museum and I have a teacher’s schedule, Mom and Berta have free time they never enjoyed before. They’ve experimented with all kinds of classes and activities, and, on vacation, we even got them to try zip-lining. Afterward, mom quietly said she was glad she did it once, but never again. Berta screamed like a horror movie victim all the way down, then wanted to go again.

As for Tonio, with all the food we have around the house, he’s here for dinner time several nights per week. He was jealous at first about the living arrangements, but both his mom and Celia told him he couldn’t live with them unless he stopped dating the crazy women he tends to attract. For now, he’s chosen the crazy women.

I know this set up won’t last forever, since Celia’s finally opening up to men again and on will probably take her away, eventually. But I think all the kids are benefitting from the family we’ve put together.

In fact, another unexpected fringe benefit has been Tina. Like Tonio, she was showing signs of annoyance at our arrangement. I guess she was worried about losing her place in Paige’s life. She insisted all the kids call her Aunt Tina, takes them out for ice cream (then complains she’s gained five pounds from it), and has become pretty chummy with Mom and Berta.

On Thursday nights, I stay with the kids while Tina takes Paige, Mom, Berta and Celia out to some Latin dance-exercise class. They come back hopped up on endorphins, giggling like teenage girls.

I get a kick out of seeing my mom so carefree and downright silly after all those years of struggle and hard work. But the best part about Thursday nights is the time I get with my little Sophie--without a mom or aunt or grandma to steal her away. Of course, Mom claims she looks just like my baby pictures, but when I look into her sparkly blue eyes, all I see is Paige.

And as the older kids finish homework or play games, I take my little girl out to the patio and hold her tiny hand in mine. Together, we point at the stars and I tell her their names as she tries to repeat them in her lispy, two-year old version of English. We trace the constellations in the night sky. Then she stares up at me with rapt attention as I tell her a story, always with a funny ending. She giggles and throws her chubby arms around my neck. My breathe catches in my chest and there’s no sweeter feeling in the world.

Then, I give her a bath and put her to bed before those wild women come home and converge on our kitchen.

Later, when the house is quiet, Paige goes upstairs to our very private master suite at the end of the hall and gets in the shower. I casually tell her I’ll be up in a while, but I’ve calculated the precise amount of time it takes her to bathe and get her hair mostly dry.

I enter the bedroom, strip and go into the master bathroom to find her in a towel, sitting at the vanity. I take the blow-dryer from her and lift her hand until she has no choice but to stand. Slowly, I reach up and untuck the towel.

Yeah, she still likes it when I undress her.

But sometimes, if we haven’t made love in a few days, I’m too impatient. I take her in my arms, lay her on the bed and cover her body with mine. When I slide my hand down her bottom to my favorite parts of her thighs, she wraps her legs around me. I fasten my lips to that special spot on her neck and we go at it, fast and furious.

But other nights, when I can control myself, I take her place in the chair and she straddles my lap. I lean in and hover very close, then tease her lips with the slightest brush from mine until she turns into a wild thing and attacks. She thrusts her sweet tongue against mine, and when I reciprocate, she sucks so hard I swell to near bursting down south.

She releases me and smiles victoriously, drunk on power. Then I reach behind her for my old cowboy hat that she keeps next to her jewelry box. I set it on her head and say, “You’ve got this, Candy Cane.”

And she proves me right every time.

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