Resenting My Father's New Wife

Glenna Gill

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I knew my father was lonely.

He managed a hotel on Deerfield Beach and lived by himself in one of the studio apartments. I was fifteen years old then and spent most weekends at his place where I slept on one of the twin beds. We’d walk to the store hand in hand and load up on junk food like Doritos and Oreos. We snacked as we watched movies together. During the day, I’d lay out by the hotel pool and roast in the sun. My dad would come by every so often and playfully kick my lounge chair so I’d remember to turn over.

I believed my dad was the funniest, kindest man in the whole world. Not only that, but he played the piano like an angel. When I was growing up, he played songs from the 1940s in jazz nightclubs. I knew all the words. He tried to teach me how to play the piano when I was about six, but I acted up and didn’t pay attention because he wasn’t a real teacher, just my daddy.

The day my father told me about Priscilla, the news blindsided me. He told me they had met through friends. His voice sped up as he told me they had been seeing each other. I could tell he wanted me to be excited, too. Instead, I felt the first twinges of jealousy surprising me.

My time with my dad was never enough. The weekends I spent with him seemed to fly by before going home to my mother’s apartment for the rest of the week. Would my time with my dad always include Priscilla going forward? How was I supposed to talk to him about personal secrets and our private jokes if she was there?

My dad informed me that Priscilla would be there next time I came to visit. I tried to feign happiness, but I worried my father would see right through it. I’d never mess up his relationship on purpose. I loved him too much for that.

When I arrived at my dad’s apartment that weekend, Priscilla answered the front door. She had dark brown hair cut into a pixie style. Her eyes were giant and deep brown, but she wore what I decided was too much makeup. Before I knew it, Priscilla threw open her arms, drew me in, and hugged me tightly.

I’m so thrilled to meet you,” she gushed in a Bronx-style accent. “Your daddy has told me all about you.”

My father appeared behind her looking proud. I had to admit I’d never seen him so radiant in my life. When the three of us sat down at my dad’s kitchen table, I asked my dad if we were going to walk to the store for food.

“We don’t have to walk,” my father answered. “Priscilla has already filled up the fridge with everything.”

I gave Priscilla a wan smile as a thank you. We all made small talk for a while. Priscilla seemed nervous around me as if she believed I had the power to reject her and send her away. Even if I did have that power, I never would have used it. I didn’t want to make my father mad at me or leave him devastated from a breakup.

My dad excused himself to go to the bathroom, leaving me and Priscilla by ourselves. I peeked at her and realized she was staring at me all goo-goo eyed. She took my hand across the table.

“I just have to tell you this,” she confessed with a big smile. “I’m in love with your daddy.”

I wasn’t sure what she expected me to say, so I nodded my head and tried to smile.

“Is that okay,” Priscilla asked, “that I’m in love with your daddy?”

“Um…sure.”

No, I really wasn’t sure. Things were moving way too fast, and Priscilla was now a permanent fixture in my dad’s life. She would take the spot in my father’s heart that I had coveted since I was a little girl. I was his confidant and his best friend. The idea of somebody else filling that role was more than I could stand.

What if Priscilla was only pretending to be nice to me? What if my dad stopped inviting me over so they could be alone together. My young girl’s heart was broken at the thought of being replaced.

I returned back to my mother the next day with an empty feeling inside. I didn’t mention my dad’s new girlfriend, knowing my mom would just make fun of him anyway. I called my best friend, Susan, to give her the news. She told me I was overreacting since the relationship was still brand new. I tried not to think about Priscilla, but my mind ran away with stories of wicked stepmothers.

My father called me the day before I was scheduled to come up for the next weekend. He said he had exciting news for me.

“Priscilla and I are getting married!” he shouted into the phone and laughed heartily.

“Wow, Dad, don’t you think that’s a little fast?” The words escaped my mouth before I could stop them.

“Not really,” he answered. “We don’t want to waste any more time apart. You can be at the wedding and give me away.”

It felt like a fitting responsibility, giving away my father to somebody else. My heart ached for our fun times together, believing that with Priscilla in the picture, those days were over for good.

The wedding was held at a country club near my dad’s hotel. My dad said I could bring a friend, so Susan and I got dropped off by my mom at the front of the club. When we entered, I spotted one of my dad’s friends named Frank. He was an old balding guy who made mean jokes, but that night he put an arm around each of us and led us to the bar. Frank said he would bring us drinks if we sat nicely at a table, but when he came back he was holding two glasses of wine. Susan and I glanced at each other and smiled. Maybe we could get through this wedding after all.

I spotted my dad across the room as I quickly finished my drink. I hurried over to give him a hug, not realizing yet that I was tipsy. Priscilla stood next to him and wanted a hug of her own. She wore a knit powder-blue dress with white sandals that showed off her tanned body. There was a yellow flower in her hair.

Priscilla looped her arm through my dad’s arm. “I think they’re ready to start.”

I walked away and found Frank. I told him Susan and I needed two more glasses of wine. He hurried back to the bar to get them, making sure nobody was looking. I rushed my glass down, tipping it all the way until I got the last drop. Once I joined my father at the back of the room for the ceremony, I was much more than tipsy. As we walked toward the makeshift altar, I worried my dad would smell wine on my breath, but he didn’t say anything. I gave him away to Priscilla, as instructed, trying to keep the tears out of my eyes.

By the time the reception was over, Susan and I both had pounding headaches. For me, the day had been emotional and painful, and I was ready for my mom to pick us up and take us home. As Dad and Priscilla walked us to the lobby, I spotted a piano in the corner.

“Dad,” I begged. “Will you please play something for us?”

My father sat down on the bench, and Priscilla sat on the other side. He played an old song called “Here’s That Rainy Day.” I remembered it from my childhood. Every note sounded beautiful as it echoed throughout the lobby. Priscilla leaned close to my father, rested on his shoulder, closed her eyes, and smiled. My father leaned over and kissed the top of her head. They seemed so much in love that even I had to admit it. For the first time, I felt true happiness for my father and his bride.

It was a month before I heard from my father again. When he finally called, he told me that he’d been fired from the hotel because the owners didn’t want two people staying in his apartment. He and Priscilla had been looking for another managing job in the area, but my dad admitted they were broke. I asked if I could see him, but he told me it wasn’t a good time. It was the first time he ever turned me away. I felt completely replaced, and my old resentment for Priscilla popped back up.

“I know it’s mean,” I confessed to Susan, “but I wish she would just disappear.”

My dad didn’t call again for about two months. I missed our weekends together and instead spent the time holed up in my room reading books. One morning, my mother knocked on the door and came in. My room was a mess, and I figured a lecture was coming next.

“Honey,” my mom said in a soft voice. “Your dad called a little while ago. His wife passed away last night from a heart attack.”

I stood frozen in shock with tears welling in my eyes. How could it be true? Priscilla and my dad were still newlyweds. All I could think about was getting to my dad as quickly as I could. My mother had his new address and agreed to take me there. She seemed genuinely sad for my father and didn’t say anything cruel about him.

Some of my dad’s friends were already at his apartment when I got there. They greeted me with hugs in the living room and told me my dad had been in his room for hours. I walked down the hall and peeked through the bedroom door. My father sat on the edge of the bed with his back to me, his head hanging down.

“Daddy?” I whispered. My father looked up at me with a red, teary face. I sat down next to him and put an arm around him.

“I’m so sorry,” I told him quietly.

My dad started to cry again, and I wished I had something more comforting to say. In a weird way, I felt responsible for taking Priscilla away from him, as if I’d wished it into reality. I’d wanted her to go away, but now with her gone my dad was empty. If I was a real daughter, I would have been grateful my dad found somebody to love him and take care of him.

“Are you hungry?” my dad asked.

“Not really.”

My dad got teary again. “Priscilla bought a bunch of food and stuff for you yesterday. She was going to call and see if you wanted to spend the weekend with us. The idea of doing it made her really happy. She loved you. I just wanted you to know that.”

My tears flowed freely then and wouldn’t stop. Priscilla had clearly added to our family, not taken away. All she wanted to do was love me and my father. I felt sorry I realized that too late.

My dad said he wanted to take a nap, so I left his room and shut the door behind me. Then, I walked into the kitchen and opened the cabinets. All my favorite foods were neatly stacked inside, even the Doritos and Oreos. It made me cry all over again.

I’m grateful to Priscilla for the love she gave us while she was on Earth. When my father passed away in 2003, I imagined him playing piano in heaven with Priscilla leaning on his shoulder and closing her eyes. I can almost hear the music.

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I write about lifestyle issues, including such topics as parenting, mental illness, family, substance abuse, marriage/divorce, and inspiration. My hope is that these stories will help people suffering from similar issues by reading about other's experiences.

West Palm Beach, FL
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