I wanted to show the joys and the worries that raising a handicapped child creates for a parent. In FIRST KISS, ON THE HOUSE, Joel's daughter Adele is similar to my cousin, Jenny. Joel loves her and is grateful to parent her, but like a lot of parents with hendicapped children, he wonders what will happen to her when he dies. And the truth is, thankfully, Adele is a highly functioning child with handicaps.
After he divorces Adele's mother--who thinks of Adele as a burden--he doubts he'll ever find someone who'll be willing to take on him and his daughter. But then he meets Miriam--his idea of an Amazon, who can conquer the world.
He’d made the right choice moving to Mill Pond for a fresh start. He’d bought and fixed up enough strip malls that when he sold them all, he had a secure future whether the micro-brewery made much money or not. At thirty-seven, he could try something fun, and he’d always wanted to make beer.
Iris drove him to the old dairy, on the southeast edge of town. The long, low building had an office near the front door. The place was big enough to suit his needs, and it sat on enough property to put a trailer near the trees in back.
Iris waved a hand. “Well? What do you think?”
“This will work.” There’d be enough room for a dining area and a family room, besides the brewery, and it would be easy to add a patio outside.
She gave him a sideways glance. “Do you think your wife will like Mill Pond?”
Joel bit back a smile. Iris knew he had a daughter. She was trying to find out if he was married. “I hope not. That’s why I’m moving, to get away from my ex.”
Iris lit up. She must consider herself a matchmaker. “We have a lot of pretty girls in Mill Pond.”
“Most of them would run from me.”
“You’re selling yourself short.” Iris looked him up and down. “You seem especially nice to me.”
“I try to be, but my daughter’s nineteen. She can’t use her right side very well, and she’ll always be mentally challenged. Most women don’t want to take on a kid who’ll never be able to leave the nest.”
Iris’s expression melted with sympathy. “Her mother doesn’t help?”
Joel shrugged. “My ex-wife is fragile, troubled, couldn’t deal with Adele. Can barely cope herself.”
“You poor man.”
“I’ve stopped thinking of myself that way. I thank the heavens every day for Adele.” Okay, his marriage had been a bust, but April had given him Adele. He’d married her with the idea of rescuing her, but he’d been young. There are some things you can’t fix. He hadn’t realized the odds were too stacked against him. Then Adele had been born with problems, but how many parents had such a sweet, generous child? True, she’d always be a child, but there was some beauty in that, right?
Iris hesitated. “Mill Pond is a close, giving community. Adele will be well-treated here.”
The same thing people said at the bar last night. After his conversation with them, he realized anything and everything he told Iris today would be known all over Mill Pond by morning, but he was okay with that. People might as well know all of his dirty laundry. Then it would be out there, in the open. “I’m hoping to put a trailer on the back of the property close to the trees.”
Iris frowned. “But there are plenty of nice houses and cabins for sale.”
“I know, but eventually, I’ll probably end up with my brother, Miles.” Might as well spill the beans now and get it over with. “He’s an alcoholic who’s struggling to get himself together. I’d like to hire him as a custodian for the brewery and let him live on site.”
Iris took a deep breath. “Are you going to take in every troubled person you can?”
“Nope, I’ve learned my limits. Only family, and Adele and Miles are more than enough for me.”
She placed a hand on his arm. “I’ve lived longer than you have. Take care of yourself, or taking care of others will drain you, leave you empty. You won’t have anything to offer, not for them, not for yourself.”
He appreciated her honesty. “That’s why I left my ex. I understand what you’re telling me.”
Her shoulders relaxed. She’d been worried about him. That was nice. “So, do you want to sign the contract?” she asked.
P.S. Here's a link for FIRST KISS, ON THE HOUSE. If you wait till 9/3-9/12, it's on sale for $2.99 (at least, on Amazon. Maybe other sites. Not sure).