Many years ago, my daughter, Mel, and I had a Saturday morning routine that involved us dancing and playing imaginary instruments to the song “Early in the Morning,” by the Gap Band.
My wife, Eva, would be cleaning in other parts of the house while we were supposed to be doing our part. Instead, I would put on my Skoal tobacco cap and play the air guitar. Mel would be the drummer and organist. I would play the imaginary organ sometimes. We would have a great time.
When my son, Daniel, came along, Mel was almost 11 years old. She was a little unsettled about her role in the family. Mel, actually my stepdaughter, feared that she would be competing for attention with my biological child.
She had forgotten already the vow I read when she stood next to her mom when we got married. I vowed that I would love her as my own from that day on. She had smiled, but she didn’t see this coming.
During her teenage years, Mel and I had great moments and tiffs. Mel did not discriminate with her tiffs, always willing to share her feelings with me, Eva, her biological dad and anyone else that “tiffed” her off.
Once, at her bedside, I told her that no matter how angry she got with me, I would always love her and that it was unshakeable. She smiled. I don’t know if she believed it. After all, she was a teenager.
Years later, after almost completing her college degree at Southern University, Mel broke the news that she was pregnant. My wife and I asked her to get a life plan together because everything was about to change in ways maybe she didn’t comprehend.
But Mel did what Mel does. She fought through it all. She had her baby, Evan, began raising him and worked to earn a master’s degree while working part time.
She has dealt with good and bad relationships, incredible setbacks and the daunting struggles associated with being a single parent and being Mel.
Melanie was a committed mother. And, for any man who thought seriously about being in her life, Evan had to be a major part of the equation. That was non-negotiable.
She took Evan and struck out on her own in Dallas. Then shortly afterward, they moved to Bryan, Texas, where she started to work on her Ph.D. at Texas A&M. While there, she helped recruit students into the same Ph.D. program.
With the odds of success against her, she continued to raise Evan and plod along on the doctorate. Some of her protégés finished the program before she did.
At a party for her when she finally got her Ph.D., one of those protégés said, “I know it must have hurt you to see me graduate before you when it was you that brought me in. But I respect you because I know how tough it was for you to raise Evan by yourself while trying to go school.”
Even I had to shed a tear on that.
Almost a year ago, a man Melanie had been dating asked me to step outside because he had something to ask me. “Mr. Pratt, I love your daughter, and I would like to ask you if I can marry her,” Royce said.
I was not surprised that they were headed toward marriage but stunned that he asked my permission because they are both in the 40-year-old club.
The past year has involved planning for a big wedding, and it was done in spectacular fashion this past Sunday. Mel was beautiful. Evan, now a high school senior and star athlete in Wiley, Texas, looked handsome, mature and happy.
When we got to the daddy-dance-with-daughter portion at the reception, Mel took off her shoes and put on some sneakers. We walked out then stood looking at each other on the dance floor as the crowd waited with anticipation. Then the disc jokey cranked up a booming song and off we went. You guessed it. The song was “Early in the Morning.”
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is email@example.com.