16 June 2024

Darkling at Dawn

I was adopted.

No, I don’t mean I was abandoned or orphaned, although strictly speaking, most of us are as parents pass on.

Melayna plays the horns
Melayna as Valkyrie

My adoption happened a mere 3-4 years ago. At the time, not only was I supposedly, theoretically adult (adulterated?), but so was Layna. Words like putative, ostensible, and purported might be useful here when talking about grown-uptitude.

Before we met, Melayna told her mother not to expect her to like me, but soon my charm, my wit, and my bountiful modesty won her over.

Frankly, she won my respect and admiration. I’ve mentioned elsewhere she saved a man’s life one stormy night at no small risk to herself.

Convenience Store

While she was pursuing her medical education, she briefly worked the night shift at 7-Eleven north of Orlando’s main airport near the East-West Expressway. I worried about her safety and picked her up one night.

She puzzled me by spending a few minutes buying a hot sandwich, a cold juice, chips, a candy bar, and an apple. I knew her mother had dinner awaiting her at home, but I said nothing.

As I headed toward my car, she swerved toward the dumpsters. There she handed the food she’d bought to a homeless man, a derelict who thanked her by name. He was a man others mistreated, but not Layna. I thanked him for keeping an eye on her.

Melayna as biker chick

Grocery Store

So here’s a girl, my polar opposite in many ways, an Illustrated Woman whose fifty-some tattoos could have inspired another two Ray Bradbury novels. This photo from an earlier article shows one side, but she’s one ruff-tuff creme puff.

When she grocery shops, she enquires what I might need. She’s even careful about date stamps on milk.

On forms that ask for emergency contacts, I list her as number one. If hospitals want to pull the plug, Hell will freeze before she allows that to happen. As Erma Bombeck noted, as we age, the child becomes the parent and the parent the child.

My friend Steve is the same way. His ancient, creaking, blind and deaf dog was like a pet out of a Vincent Price reanimated movie. The line between living and taxidermied became thinner than a microtome slice.

Daddy Tissues

I’m not sure when Melayna began calling me Dad… Daddy. The first time, I wasn’t certain I heard right, but I was flattered.

Lil Darkling baby vampire tattoo design

I skipped the Terrible Twos and dodged the Know-It-All Nines. I didn’t suffer through those fractious teenage years. I missed all that floor-pacing at 2am wondering where my child was. Arguably I’ve unduly benefited.

Or course when I say we’re opposites, it’s only superficially true. I admire her kindness and consideration. She loves animals. Like my brother, she knows music well beyond her decades.

We share the same twisted sense of humor. Many times, one of us will remark sotto voce. Nobody else gets it, but I catch her eye in the rearview mirror, a quiet joke shared. Her mother thinks we should DNA test to be sure we’re not related.

For her birthday, I tentatively created a tattoo for her. Her mother opposed tats and had made her promise not to increase her art count until mama was long gone. So I showed her mom what I’d created and braced for the firestorm. The conversation went,

Never, ever! Over my dead body will I allow… Oh, my God, it’s so cute. It’s her! She’ll love it. Yes, okay this once, yes.”

I assigned the Lil Darkling baby vampire copyright to Melayna to share or not as she wishes.

Follow the Bouncing Balls

Josh, Katrina, Ezra infant trying to talk cartoon

Melayna came with a couple of hatchlings of her own. Her XY offspring recently adopted an infant. I sketched a cartoon for the happy couple. Before giving it to them, I asked others to critique and comment in an effort to nail the humor. To my dismay, no one got the joke. I began to consider adding a caption, when someone sent a draft to the parents… and they got it immediately. They’re the ones who counted. Yay, win!

And me, I’ve leapt from zero kids to a multi-generational great-grand-something. And that’s great-great.

Just in case you have a life outside of texting on your phone, many message apps, sensing the person on the other end is preparing a message, display an indicator of three dots rotating on the screen. For this article, I animated the dots, an advantage my poor test subjects didn’t have.


  1. Tattoo design is indeed very cute!

    1. Thanks, Janice. I went with a costume design I liked and then spent most of the time on the expression. It's vector art so she can scale it as needed. Now she has to find a shop capable of handling vector graphics.

  2. What a sweet post, Leigh! Happy Father's Day! Melodie

    1. Thank you, Melodie. It was fun and Melayna is such a wonderful character.

  3. Congratulations, Leigh! My husband and I have adopted a few students, so that we now have multiple families, including multiple grandchildren, from them, as well as adopting a few ex-cons with THEIR families - one of them's parents recently adopted US as part of the family in return, which is a fairly big deal in Native American circles. Happy Father's Day to all!

    1. Thanks, Eve. I was thinking of your childhood as I was writing this, but I didn't know about your more recent adoptions. Right now Kristi Noem is squirming, shouting at aides, "Why can't I get adopted? If Eve can do it, why not me? Damn, I feel like shooting something."

  4. Oh, I love the image of Kristi pacing up and down screaming, "Why can't I get adopted? Why? Find me a Texas billionaire that'll adopt me NOW!"

    1. Poor Corey Lewandowski. He'll be heartbroken.


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