My Daughter the Checkout ChickLincoln Donald
"I'm sorry, Angela, but that's the way it is and we can't do anything about it now."
I closed the door of the bedroom we had once shared, leaving her on her knees beside the big, double bed praying in a loud, belligerent voice as though her God could be bullied into granting what she wanted.
Although I had told her it wasn't her fault, in retrospect, I suppose she should bear a great deal of the blame, if there is blame to be apportioned---but I had no intention of telling her that. It had been bad enough having to tell her that Susie, our sixteen year old daughter, was pregnant.
All our problems seemed to have started four years ago when Brian, our fifteen year old son had been knocked off his bike by a hit-run driver while he was riding down the main street of the Australian coastal town in which we live. Brian had been Angela's favourite and, after he died, Susie and I were left in no doubt that he was the only one she really cared about. Her grieving seemed as though it would never end.
In her distraught state she was easy prey for Brother Gideon, as he was known, and his Church of the Walls of Jericho. This weird and frightening sect seemed to base its beliefs on a few verses of the Old Testament, taken out of context, which made it easy for the charlatan who ran it to gain control of the minds, if not the souls, of his congregation. After I attended a couple of times, I tried to make her see what was happening but all this achieved was that she banished me to the spare room and its futon.
Susie, when she turned fourteen, dealt with her mother's disinterest and lack of affection by getting herself an after school and weekend job helping to restock the shelves in one of the local supermarkets. She was relieving on the checkout within a year and, soon after her sixteenth birthday, the manager offered a full time position. I tried to talk her into staying on at school but she wouldn't listen, took the job and soon left home to share a small flat with one of the older girls from the shop. I can't say I blamed her.
She had developed into a pretty, blonde, blue eyed young woman and I sometimes sneaked into the supermarket just to lurk behind the shelves and watch her at work. Good at her job, she had a ready smile for all the customers but especially for the boys who came in simply to buy cigarettes or a can of Coke and chat her up on their way through the checkout.
I decided it was time we had a quiet talk about sex, so I met her after work one evening and we sat on a bench by the beach. She was soon giggling uncontrollably at my awkward and embarrassed attempts to explain the facts of life but, finally getting control of herself, she patted me on the arm and tried to reassure me.
"Don't worry Dad. I always make them wear a condom."
"Them?" I questioned, "How many of them are there?"
"I don't know. A few. I don't keep score."
After that, I changed the subject and took her for fish and chips at our favourite place. Six weeks later, she rang me at the office and asked me to meet her at the beach after work.
She rushed straight into my arms and burst into tears. "I'm pregnant." was all she whispered. I held her close to me and let her sob, guiding her to an empty bench and offering my handkerchief when the sobs became more widely spaced.
"What do you want to do about it?" I asked.
"I don't know yet. I only found out this morning. It's too soon for me to decide. First, I need to get used to the idea."
I found a phone box and rang Angela to tell her I was going to McDonalds with Susie.
There were a few questions like "Do you know who the father is?" which I needed to ask, but McDonalds, half way through a Big Mac, didn't seem to be the place. As we drove back to her flat, I told her that we both needed to think things over and that I would see her again in a few days.
As I was leaving, she asked, "You won't tell Mum yet, will you? Please."
I was only too happy to agree and my task was made easy by Angela's total lack of interest in what we had been doing.
Over the next few days Susie's pregnancy occupied most of my thoughts. First, there was anger both with her and with myself for having let this happen. Then I started to blame Angela, who, by her indifference, had virtually forced our daughter out of the house and into the arms of who knows how many boys in her search for affection. But I find anger a hard emotion to sustain and I was soon thinking about alternatives and solutions.
Why should Susie, who was still only sixteen years old be saddled with a child at this time of her life? My mind finally settled on abortion. It certainly would be the easy way out. I phoned the supermarket and left a message asking Susie to meet me after work.
It was later in the afternoon that the enormity of what I would be asking struck me like a lightning bolt. This inconvenient embryo was my grandchild---possibly my only grandchild; ever. The more I thought about it the more I wanted that grandchild.
I was still in a confused emotional state when I set off to meet Susie at the beach. I was late and, at first, she did not see me as I approached. There were now no signs of the frightened, weeping child of a few days ago. This young woman, who stood confidently gazing out to sea, looked so radiant that she positively glowed. My grandchild was safe.
Copyright ©1998 Lincoln Donald. All Rights Reserved.
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