I remember the day my husband told me he had a daughter who lived in Mexico. We had only been dating a few months when he sat me down at one of our favorite restaurants in Galveston, Texas. We were at The Spot located on 3204 Seawall Blvd. seated upstairs where a casual, screened in patio gave us a beautiful view of the Gulf. I was still becoming acquainted with his communication style. Ramon got serious and I immediately felt sick to my stomach. He glanced down at clasped hands before looking up. “Maria, I have something to tell you.” He sighed and paused….for what seemed a long time. I didn’t yet realize that his manner of informing or story telling was punctuated by a considerable number of question marks. Even back then it was evident that Ramon was an expert story teller. I often thought his writing would be so much better than mine. His ability to build suspense and leave you hanging has since become legendary in our family. Even now his “Maria, I have something to tell you” causes me to hold my breath.
So I sat across from him that day almost 17 years ago at The Spot and allowed my stomach to rumble as a delicious, freshly made burger remained untouched on my plate. I had taken time to select my favorite toppings at the burger bar and even cut it in half to make sure everything wouldn’t ooze everywhere once I took a bite. But this seemed really important, so I just held on to my glass of sweet iced tea and waited. I stared back as he revealed, “I have a daughter in Mexico.” I wasn’t sure at that moment what he expected me to do or say. But he was shocked by my response. “How old is she?” Ramon said, “I think she is 6 years old. My memory for birth dates is not very good.”
I did not run for the nearest exit. I did not yell that he didn’t tell me when we first began dating. I was not jealous or upset or disappointed. I discovered that he was not married and had found out about the child after he left Mexico. Do you know what my first concern was? I wanted to know if he had ever seen his child. I asked if the child’s mother was being cared for and if he was involved. Most important of all, I wanted to know her name. At that moment, something inside of me felt very protective and interested in this child’s well-being. I felt compassion for her mother. I wanted Ramon to be involved. He was shocked that I was so accepting of this piece to his life’s puzzle. He was miles away from his little girl in Mexico and filled with guilt that he had was unable to return to help at that time.
There were many, many, many road blocks that prevented him from helping during the early years of our relationship. Cultural barriers regarding his perception of what was expected of him versus what he was able to do, guilt, and avoidance of personal, emotional pain created years of loss that we can never get back. Over time, I continued to talk with him about his daughter. I prayed for her and her mother. I hoped that her mother would find someone to love and care for her and the baby the way that we could not due to several issues we were facing. Reuniting Ramon with his family was a prayer that remained in my heart for many years. It took time, reassurance, and on-going conversations to finally get him where he needed to be all along.
I always made sure to remember that his child is my child too. When our first child, a daughter, was born almost 14 years ago, I insisted that his first daughter would have a place in our home and hearts. Our children would know her and love her too. We talked about her to each of her siblings as they grew older. We prayed for her each night before bed time. When they began school, they knew to include her in their history by saying, “I have a sister who lives in Mexico.” Finally, my husband got the opportunity to find out where she lived and visited her shortly after I found out we were pregnant with our third child. At that time, she was the same age as our first born is now; almost 14 years old. Since then, he has made more effort to remain in contact; aside from some rough moments when he relapsed. It makes my heart feel proud and full of love when I hear that he has spoken with her on the phone or connected with her through social media.
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