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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Our Minds Were Made

Our Minds Were Made

Our minds were made. We had secretly taken advantage of a Valentine weekend getaway package at Atlantic City’s Tropicana. And we had become engaged. No one was any the wiser as to what this widower and widow would really be doing.

Upon our return, the business of making our plan work would, in fact, begin. First, our four children must be told what was in the future for the six of us. We had all been through one of the worst things that could happen to a person — the loss of a spouse for Geoff and me, the loss of a mother for 7-year-old Keith and 2 year old Kari, and the loss of a father for Jake and Lenette. Geoff’s wife died in a car accident. My husband drowned in a fishing accident—Jake, 11, was with him and survived. Lenette was 10.

A year later, I took a new job, and we moved three hundred miles away. I went to the mountains to heal with my kids’ to a little village where I – Mrs. Wagner – became the high school principal and where I also met Geoff.

More years passed, and our kids were now 5, 10, 14, and 15 years old when, after dinner, we gathered them in my living room to discuss our new family’s future together. I began the conversation, “This past weekend, while we were in Atlantic City, we became engaged to be married!”

“This means we’ll be planning a wedding, and we want you to be a part of it. In the meantime, we’ll sell each of our houses and buy a new house big enough for the six of us. We want each of you to have your own room, and we want you to help us pick our new home here in this same school district. Then we’ll have to move—all before the new school year in September.”

The first comment came from my 14-year-old, Lenette, “Why do you have to marry him; why can’t you just live with him?” She had always been an independent kid who usually said what was on her mind.

Stunned by her comment, “Because I love him,” I replied. “We also live in a small town where I’m the high school principal and a role model. As such, I can’t just live with someone. Geoff’s wife was a 4th-grade teacher before she died; everyone adored her and her family. He can’t just live with someone either. Most of all, we both want a whole family again for all of us.”

This seemed to reassure Lenette; having said her thoughts, she would soon settle into our new life. Jake and Keith didn’t have much to say. Jake, the observer, told me his thoughts later. School, sports, and two part-time jobs kept him focused on going to college in two years. Geoff’s kids, Keith and Kari, had two grandmothers living in our village, so they would have the additional support needed to help them through this transition.

Wide-eyed, curly blond-haired, and 5 years old, Kari asked, “Can your dog Pepper be my dog, too?” She knelt down and threw her arms around Pepper’s neck. Pepper looked back at her in mutual admiration.

“Of course, she can,” I responded. “You can even brush her long, wavy cocker spaniel fur.” Kari readily accepted Pepper as her pet and me as her new mother.

Telling the rest of the community about our upcoming plans turned out to be relatively easy; Kari did it for us. The next day at Show-n-Tell in Kari’s kindergarten class, she anxiously waved her hand and exploded with, “My Daddy and Mrs. Wagner are getting married!”

The other kids didn’t really understand what had just been said. After calming her visible shock, the teacher started clapping. The class joined in the joyous celebration. “We’re so happy for you and your new family, Kari!” her teacher said.

Soon, I received a call in my office to confirm my soon-to-be daughter’s announcement. There would be no turning back now. Thirty-three years later, our minds are still made.

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