Oliver visited his daughter, Ashley, who lived a few states away, but she turned him away at the door. He was heartbroken, but someone special was waiting for him back home.
On his 80th birthday, Oliver took an early flight from New Jersey to Orlando, Florida. He was looking forward to seeing his daughter, Ashley, her husband, and their children, who he had not seen since his wife’s death more than five years ago.
The older man was excited at the prospect as he walked up to his daughter’s door. It was still too early, but he couldn’t wait any longer and rang the bell. Hopefully, since it was a Saturday, they wouldn’t mind cutting their sleep and spending time with him. But Oliver had to ring several more times before someone finally turned on the light inside.
“Ok, ok… who’s out there?” Ashley said as she swung the door.
“Hey, honey!” Oliver cheered, trying to hold his arms out for a hug. But he was carrying a bunch of things already. Even though it was his birthday, he had purchased gifts for everyone and was looking forward to making memories with them.
Don’t get him wrong. Oliver was not alone back in New Jersey. His other daughter, Betty, lived a few blocks away, and she was the sweetest woman on Earth. Her husband, Tom, was also insanely kind, but both of them had work events this weekend and had no time to spend with him on his birthday. Oliver was happy to make other plans and surprise Ashley instead.
And she certainly looked surprised, but it wasn’t for the reasons Oliver hoped. “Dad? What are you doing here? And at this hour? You’re going to wake up my kids,” she said with a sullen look.
“Honey, I wanted to surprise you guys this weekend, and I thought I should come by,” Oliver explained.
“You should’ve called,” Ashley muttered, crossing her arms and still not inviting her father into the house.
“Well, yeah. I’m sorry I didn’t, but we can still have some fun,” Oliver continued, his smile dwindling because of her attitude.
“I’m sorry. We’re all swamped this weekend. My husband has work stuff, and the kids all have events, recitals, school stuff, etc.”
“I know, but all their extracurriculars take up all my time. We don’t have time. Listen, why don’t you go back and call next time. We’ll arrange something,” Ashley stated and closed the door, leaving Oliver in shock outside.
He didn’t know what to do, but he placed everything he bought on her front porch and started walking away. During his walk, he thought about his relationship with Ashley over the years. It wasn’t a secret that, for some reason, she wasn’t that close to him or his late wife, Clara. Betty was much more of a daddy and mommy’s girl. But that might be for one particular reason: she was adopted.
Oliver and Clara got married when they were both 25 and tried to have children for a very long time. But at 40, they decided to adopt and got pregnant by surprise. Almost two years after Ashley’s birth, their neighbors died in a horrible house fire, and they also had a baby girl, Betty, who survived. Therefore, they decided to adopt her. They never told Betty or Ashley the truth, but Oliver always thought they knew instinctively.
Although they were almost the same age, the girls never got along. They fought horribly no matter what Oliver and Clara did. Therapy didn’t work, bonding time was useless, and eventually, Ashley begged them to stop. They never understood why she was like that. When she turned 18, she left for college and barely called a few times every other month.
Meanwhile, Betty stayed home and went to a college nearby. But even when she moved out, she always came by for dinner and was never far away. When she told Oliver that they were busy this year, he thought seeing Ashley would be perfect. But clearly, she disagreed, and the fact that she closed the door in his face was heartbreaking.
However, Oliver had to move on. He was an old man and didn’t need anyone to celebrate his birthday. It was time to go back home.
Luckily, he was able to change his Monday flight to that same afternoon and got home later that day. When he got off the cab in front of his house, he saw his door burst open, and Betty was right there.
“DAD! You’re finally here! Where were you? We’ve been waiting so long!” she exclaimed with a huge smile. Then Oliver saw her husband Tom coming out with a big birthday cake full of lit candles. Both of them started singing Happy Birthday, and Oliver couldn’t help but smile. After the heartbreak his other daughter had just delivered, this was a considerable balm for his soul.
He blew the candles when they finished, and they all hugged each other. “Thank you, Betty. You have never treated me like a second thought. I can’t believe you’re my adopted daughter,” Oliver said, pulling away from his daughter. Then upon realizing what he had said, his eyes widened in panic.
He looked at Betty, and she smiled up at her dad. “Don’t worry, Dad. Mom told me about it before she died years ago. But it never mattered to me. You raised me. You’re my dad. Now, what’s that about treated like a second thought?” she asked as they walked back into the house.
Oliver told Betty and Tom everything that happened with Ashley, and both were shocked by her reaction. “I don’t know what I did for her to treat me that way. I know we weren’t neglectful, but maybe, we played favorites?” he wondered to himself.
“You didn’t, Dad. I swear! She was like that all the time. You gave her attention, love, money, education, therapy, and everything else she wanted. You treated her just like you did me. Ashley is a mystery we might never unravel,” Betty consoled.
He nodded, and Tom suggested playing a game of charades to lighten the mood. By the end of the day, Oliver had so much fun despite his earlier encounter with Ashley and was insanely thankful to have Betty in his life. He loved both his daughters, but for the sake of his mental health, he never saw Ashley again.