“Is she yours?!”
The question would always catch us off guard. There we were, quietly doing our day together: moving through our errands, exploring the zoo, eating ice cream outside Baskin Robbins on a hot day. We were just a little family of three enjoying our time together when some stranger would feel compelled to resolve the confusion they felt about us. They often seemed a little irritated that the pieces they saw in front of them just didn’t seem to fit: short, fair-skinned, blonde mother; average-height, red-bearded, ruddy-Irish dad; and their tall, slim, brunette girl with impossibly long, thick lashes and olive skin.
In response, without feeling a need to educate them about adoption or meet their query with some snarkiness of our own, we would smile, puff up our chests just a bit and say, “Yes, she is!”.
Several families circled around Ellie with love and support after her dad went missing. One of them included a man named Harout who has since moved to Southern California with his wife and two preschoolers to be closer to her parents and his huge Armenian clan. Harout is quite a character. Possessing a larger-than-life personality, he is equal parts loving and obnoxious, generous, and brighter than anyone has a right to be. A teaser to the “Nth” degree, he has discovered the perfect way to connect with Ellie–just like her dad did.
These days, when she is going through a tough time or just needs a break from college life, Ellie will make the two-hour drive to go stay with them for a weekend. Harout tells me that when he and Ellie are out doing errands or grabbing a bite to eat, people will comment, “Your daughter’s so lovely!” (And she is. Lovely, that is, though “daughter” she is not. Well, at least not in the technical sense.)
But I think that, other than their shared olive skin, brown eyes, and dark curly hair, people are noticing something else.
There is a natural ease she seems to feel around him. He refuses to let her take herself too seriously, all the while carrying out his role in her life very seriously: with honesty, direction, time, grace, and love. I am so grateful for his “stretchy” heart, which has made room for Ellie ever since her dad’s death ripped such a gaping hole in the fabric of her life.
So Harout, when you’re walking down the street with Ellie and strangers comment on your “daughter,” I hope you’ll just let yourself smile and say, “thank you!” because, as Ellie tells me, you are “the closest thing to a dad” she has in her life.
You have surely earned that honorary title.
So Happy Father’s Day, Harout!