I try not to take my eyes off my daughter on the carnival ride but the stranger beside me is telling me things that require eye contact.
I notice his grey hair, blue and white buttoned up shirt, smart shoes.
At his ankles is a little girl as blond as a bee. She’s sitting on the ground wrapping her arms around his shins.
Stop that. Stop that. He shoos her away.
And then he’s back to telling me
The abusive husband
The pot smoking
The court order
The toxicity she dumped on him
Now another little bee is bumbling around him. This one has glasses.
He points to the line forming in front of the ride. That’s my wife and the other little one with her is ours too.
My eyes shift from the blond girls to my girl to the stranger and I pull my husband closer to me.
He’s adopted all these kids, I whisper to him.
I ask the stranger if he has support.
He thinks I mean financial so he tells me about his income and assets and collections and well everything except his bank balance and I wonder for just a moment if I am his support, a random stranger at the fair.
The girls are on the ride screaming as it swoops side to side and I smile at my daughter and give her a thumbs up for being brave.
But this sweet older man beside me, he’s busted through the fairgrounds with three little girls looking for someone to talk to, for someone to see and hear that this isn’t how it was supposed to be.
His daughter was supposed to choose the right guy for her ever after and he was supposed to take his own bride of 50 years straight to Florida to retire in the sunshine, ride his golf cart with his buddies and brag about his grandchildren with pictures he keeps in his wallet. His daughter wasn’t supposed to stay with this loser. She wasn’t supposed to let the constant pot smoking steal her sensibilities but at some point in all that smoke, she lost them and her kids too. People don’t think pot can divide a family but...
Here we stand, the day after 6 tornadoes touched down destroying homes and property and people's lives and yet, this man has no time to mention the weather.
The ride slows to a stop and my girl runs over and tugs my arm to take her to the next one. My husband and I touch the mans shoulder and offer blessings and prayers and thanks for stepping up. Thanks for being what those kids need. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for hanging in there. And then we’re gone. He’s gone.
And the kids get on another ride and hold on tight while the bees buzz in the autumn wind.