Life was pretty simple for Tom in the fall of 2004. He owned a tiny, unkempt home in Van Nuys and his three dogs happily roamed the huge yard filled with knee-high weeds. His roommate Travis was a barrel of laughs and they’d have cigar-infused poker games beginning at 10:30 pm on Friday nights and lasting until the wee hours of Saturday. Tom spent his free time watching ballgames and blaring Black Sabbath as he tooled around in his little sports-like car.
It never occurred to me that I might be that nice girl.
In 1995, I became friends with Tom and his soon-to-be wife, who became his soon-to-be ex. My ex-husband and I split up in May of 2004 when my daughters were 3 and 7 years old, and six months later, I was frustrated that I couldn’t get the internet to work. I knew Tom was great with computers, so I asked if he could set up my Mac and offered to make him dinner in exchange.
Apparently he could run rings around a PC, but he’d never touched a Mac. Tom’s roommate gave him a crash course before he came over so he could fake it.
Tom never did get me online, but a year later we were married, and three months after our wedding day I was pregnant. I was already 43 and in perimenopause. He was 38 and apparently had some tenacious swimmers.
Suddenly Tom had a new home in a different part of the valley – one where the lawn was expected to be short and the mess shouldn’t be chokeable to young children. He became an instant step dad to my two little girls, and his life was no longer his own.
There were constant play dates, slumber parties, and endless backyard karaoke performances with pop songs and show tunes that would make his ears bleed. Tom knew nothing about decorating Barbie’s Dream House, putting on Fashion Polly gowns, or watching predictable Disney Channel sitcoms with overbearing laugh tracks. But he learned.
Today Tom is blaring the brand new Black Sabbath album, but now it’s from his family-friendly mini SUV. The late night cigar-infused poker games are few and far between, but he attended one last night and won a whopping 70 bucks. Tom still has 3 dogs (2 of them replaced the other 2 that died), but he now has 3 kids added to the mix.
Tom became the treasurer of our local elementary school even before his own son was a student, and the assistant den leader for Jake’s Cub Scout Pack. It’s a fairly odd turn for a man whose favorite song lyrics come from a guy known for biting the head off a bat. He also became the head coach for Jake’s Toluca Baseball team. Tom even built a batting cage in our backyard driveway, complete with enclosed netting, and he pitches wiffle balls to Jake after work.
His life has become much busier than I’m sure he ever dreamed it could be. Tom started his own blog Middle Age Metal Head – Parenting With a Heavy Metal Twist. Although I doubt that he’s fond of Talking Heads (probably too conventional), the common theme running through his blog seems to be like the band’s Once in a Lifetime lyric: How did I get here?
Tom doesn’t spend all weekend watching ballgames anymore. Instead, he mows the lawn and takes out the trash. He washes the dogs, shaves the Australian shepherd’s hairy, poopy butt, and fixes anything that breaks, including the 83-year old brass doorknobs that fall off weekly.
He sets up our above ground pool in May, takes it down in October and plays water volleyball with Mary and Jake most summer evenings. He’s teaching Emily how to drive and play guitar. He makes us delicious, healthy meals and guides us in 20-minute workout sessions. During family dinners, he has us each go around the dinner table and say the three things we did well, the one thing we wish we could do better, and what we could do to get better at that thing.
Tom has a twisted sense of humor, and never ceases to make us all laugh. We never get sick of him saying, “We’re off like a prom dress,” or his friend Joe’s line, “Don’t sweat the petty stuff; pet the sweaty stuff.” Tom doesn’t hold a grudge, always tries to get us to look on the bright side, and has a never-ending faith that no matter what happens, together we can walk through anything.
How lucky I am to have become his nice girl.
Note: Thank you to someecards for their inspiration for the title of this blog post. For Father’s Day, I sent Tom their “Happy You-Knocked-Up-Mom Day” e-card. He thanked me by saying he’s happy to oblige any time.