"Boys, now, some things are going to change," she said. "Daddy isn't going to come home for a while. He loves you, and will be coming home in a few weeks to see you. He's on vacation in a far away place. Daddy loves you."
Later that night, my brother, Ethan and I were laying awake in our room and being the all-knowing older brother that he was, he told me about how Mom and Dad were getting a divorce and dad wasn't coming back home. I cried and told him it wasn't true, that he was a liar.
After a few weeks, it was apparent, however, that Ethan was being honest that night. A few weeks turned into a few months, and Dad still hadn't come home, or even called to talk to us.
Once or twice, while at the store, I would spot a tall man, with jet-black hair and a shaggy beard like my dad had, standing by the deli counter waiting on some sliced ham, but Mom would tell me to stop staring at people, and then she would pull me away into the dairy isle. Other times I could have sworn that I'd seen him in the next aisle through the shelves, but the man on the other side always disappeared before I could run around the corner to see for sure if it was Dad. I told Ethan about seeing Dad, but he told me I was crazy and that Dad was in Hawaii or Alaska, maybe even France with a new family.
After about four months or so, Mom started bringing home other men. Uncle Brian was the first.
"This is Brian, um, Uncle Brian. He's a friend of mine." Uncle Brian spent the night a few times, and we heard Mom yelling his name at night. Ethan informed me that they were making more kids, but weeks went by I never got a baby brother or sister, so I concluded that they weren't making anything except noise.
After a while, Uncle Brian became more of a babysitter to Ethan and I than anything else. He would come over on Friday and Saturday nights and help Mom pick out an outfit, tell her she looked lovely, then she would leave. He would stay and play Sorry! or Monopoly with us. He was in charge of getting us supper and putting us to bed.
Sometimes, Ethan and I wouldn't be able to go to sleep, so we would go to find Uncle Brian, but he would be in Mom's room, wearing one of her dresses. We never wanted to disturb him, mostly because we didn't know what he was doing, so we just went back to our room. We would wake each other up and then indulge each other with the details of what we saw Uncle Brian doing. We would laugh, as quiet as we could, then fall asleep talking to each other.
The next guy Mom brought home was Ben. She never made us call him Uncle Ben, and we were fine with that. We had gotten a little older and a little wiser about her ways, and we knew that Ben was her new boyfriend. He was a slob of a guy, always with the smell of sweat on him. I remember never really seeing him without dirt under his fingernails, which were long and over grown for a man. He had a messy mullet and was mostly seen in white undershirts with grease stains on them. He worked a lot on cars and Mom told us his day job was building houses. Neither Ethan nor I really cared for Ben much, but he wasn't that bad of a guy.
After a while, Ben stopped coming around the house, but Mom still had Uncle Brian over to watch us for the major part of the weekend. Occasionally, Uncle Brian would bring his friend Eddy over. After we were supposed to be asleep, we would get up to see if we could catch Uncle Brian in Mom's clothes again, but instead we would find Uncle Brian holding Eddy's hand, watching t.v. while sitting on the couch. Sometimes we would catch them kissing, so we would hide behind the kitchen table, watching and giggling about the sight. Ethan told me that Uncle Brian was a fag, but I didn't have any clue what that meant so I just dismissed the notion.
After a few more men coming and going around the house, Mom brought home Allan. Allan was a big man, and the first time I met him I was sure that he had to be a professional football player or a professional wrestler. I was six and a half when mom brought him home the first time, and I hurt my neck from looking up at him so much. For a few months, Mom still had Uncle Brian come over and watch us for the weekend, but by the time winter rolled around, Mom and Allan pretty much stayed home with us. He was nice to us, and bought us neat toys to play with.
Once in a while, he would bring his daughter, Isabella, over to play with us. She was a little over two years younger than me. She was a tom-boy with short hair and played with a Womble Doll that she got when her mom took her to visit her Aunt Dorthia in Britian. We would show her around the neighborhood, and tell her how she had to stay out of our secret hide-outs because they were boys only.
When snow came for the first time that winter, Allan took Ethan and I outside and we built our first real snowman with him. Ethan complained that he was getting kind of old for that type of thing, but after watching Allan and I have fun without him for a while, he joined in.
On Christmas morning, after Ethan and I were done opening our presents, Allan told Mom he had a special gift for her. He got down on one knee and then asked her if he could marry the three of us. Looking back on it, I admire his question so much because not only was he wanting to make her his wife, but he wanted to make us his children also. Mom put her face in her hands and started crying and when she stopped crying, she said "Yes, of course." Then Allan hugged her and then motioned for Ethan and I to come over and join in the hug. His big arms embraced all three of us, and I felt extremely safe with this man, even safer than I did with Dad.
That night, Ethan and I laid in our beds and talked about what Allan's question meant. Ethan explained that it meant that Allan was moving in and was going to be our new dad. It excited me but scared me also. It finally made me realize that Dad was never really coming back, but also it made me realize that I was getting a better dad to replace him. I didn't know much about Allan, but I knew enough about him to know his name and what kind of snowball he could make. Tight, compact, big, but soft enough that it didn't sting too bad if it hit you in the face. I knew that he was nice to Mom, and that she smiled differently when he was around. I knew that he bought Ethan and I toy airplanes and took me to see the Muppet movies. And that was enough for me.
In the morning Ethan and I woke up extra early to find Allan making us breakfast. In our little boy voices we told him in our most adult manners that we were giving him permission to marry our Mom. He laughed at us and thanked us, that it meant a lot to him to have our permission. He pulled a couple plates out and slapped some French toast on them, then sat them down on the table. He poured some sugar over the French toast then told us to eat up.