Building a relationship
By ROBERT KING
© St. Petersburg Times,
BROOKSVILLE -- Along about the time she took in her 10th foster child, Vertyle Moss cast aside all hope that a man would ever take her by the hand, make her his wife and become a father to her special family.
While her calendar would always be loaded down with birthdays, Moss fully expected that, in her house, Father's Day would never be more than just another Sunday.
Eventually, her brood of foster kids grew to 13, eight of whom she has adopted. Five of them are HIV-positive, and some were born to drug-addicted mothers. Over time, Moss began noticing something about men she met. "They might be interested in you," she said. "Until they found out you have 13 children."
That's what made Ed Favreau so unusual.
A divorced building contractor in his early 50s, Favreau had two grown children and assumed his days as a family man were behind him.
But to him there was something enticing about Moss and her kids.
Maybe it was how she was teaching them to "close ranks" and march single file -- safely -- out of busy parking lots. Maybe it was how she managed a household that consumes 10 pounds of chicken and 10 pounds of potatoes in one sitting.
Still, there were no clear signs of a romance in bloom.
"I just fell in love with the children, and I thought she was unapproachable," Favreau said. "I thought she was so busy with the children that she had no interest."
Under the surface, though, things were happening.
Favreau, who met Moss and the kids through a mutual friend about three years ago, was coming by to unstop toilets and fix roof leaks so often he soon obtained the status of family handyman. He even offered to donate his services as a home builder once the family raised the money for materials for a new house south of Brooksville.
Moss, meanwhile, saw Favreau as a man of strong moral character. And she was eager to see him spend time with her eight boys, who had no male role models in their lives.
"I really didn't have a clue other than I liked him as a person," Moss said.
Then, one Sunday morning about four months ago, as Favreau, Moss and the children sat listening to a sermon at church, one of the kids crawled into the seat between them. Favreau put his arm around the child.
And he put his hand on top of Moss'.
That quickly, the woman who had given up hope she would ever find someone to share in her unique life was holding hands in church with a fellow who obviously loved her kids. "I couldn't tell you what the sermon was about because I was trying to get this straight in my mind," said Moss, 56.
Favreau, 54, was just glad that his bold move met with approval.
"She didn't pull away," he said. "Nor did she slap me."
From there, they talked a lot. Moss made sure Favreau knew exactly what he was getting into. She involved him in all the family activities. Her purpose was clear: to make sure his eyes were wide open to what life with 13 kids meant.
She decided that Favreau was for real when he stopped by to visit on his way back from spending a week on the road. As they were visiting, Moss noticed that her 11-year-old daughter, Sydney, had a swollen face. Soon it was twice its normal size.
Favreau didn't hesitate to offer to drive them to a hospital, even though it was late and he was tired. He even barged into the treatment room after parking the car to check on Sydney.
Eventually, Favreau and Moss told the children that they were an item. Some of the girls -- five in all -- giggled. The only objection came from Elijah, who is 8 and slightly possessive of his mother.
He told her he would marry her instead.
Moss really wanted to know what Julian, who at 13 is her oldest son, thought of the situation. After all, he had been the man of the house. And he was spending more and more time with Favreau doing odd jobs around the house. So she took him aside.
"He said, "I'd like to see you get married,"' Moss recalls. "I was floored that he felt that way. We weren't there yet."
Moss admits to underestimating how much it meant to the boys to have a father. When Favreau finally popped the question over the phone, Moss went to Julian and told him his wish was coming true.
"He's the only father I've ever had," the boy said.
On June 2, Favreau and Moss were married.
"Of all the things I've done in my life, I think this is one thing God truly meant to be," Favreau said.
Though the children brought them together, both agree that their marriage is about more than a family that needed a father.
"First of all, I got a mate," said Vertyle, who has changed her last name to Moss-Favreau. "A very good person who is very understanding."
They honeymooned in New England, Moss-Favreau's first trip without the kids since 1994.
Both admit it is possible that some people will not understand their relationship, and they worry that could affect their efforts to raise money for the house.
Moss-Favreau had set a goal of raising $500,000 for a home that would finally give the children some elbow room, provide a small infirmary to attend to the kids who are sick and give the family space for a second washer and dryer. As it stands, she is washing clothes all day long and burning out a dryer a year.
So far, the family has about $100,000 in pledges.
For one thing, they wonder how people will respond to the fact they are an interracial couple. Then, Moss-Favreau worries that the community will think the family no longer needs their support now that she is married. She says they still need the help.
And, finally, there is Favreau's promised role as builder of a home that, as it turns out now, he expects to live in. She fears some people might suspect her husband has an ulterior motive.
She was heartened that one of the family's staunchest supporters in the fundraising effort, Gov. Jeb Bush, responded positively to an e-mail note she sent him regarding the wedding.
Moss-Favreau met Bush when he named her his first "Point of Light" last year for her efforts to serve foster children. Bush even came to Hernando County for the groundbreaking of her house.
Bush's e-mail came back within four hours. She said the governor thought it was great she was marrying Favreau, whom he had met at the groundbreaking and the Point of Light ceremony.
In a statement his office released Friday to the Times, Bush said: "It's not everyday that someone takes on such a great responsibility. And it gives us even more reason to celebrate Father's Day for his love and devotion to a special family."
The kids, meanwhile, gave Favreau a different kind of vote of approval. They took a vote on what to call him from nominations that included "Pop" and "Father," among others. The winner, receiving 10 of the 13 votes, was "Dad."
Today, the children try out the name on Father's Day, which is expected to include a trip to church, some gifts for Dad and a meal at home.
Moss's efforts to prepare Favreau for his new life were successful.
His only expectation for the day is that it will be busy.
But he also figures that at some point, he will look around in amazement at where he is now.
"I think I'll think I'm a very fortunate person," Favreau said on Friday. "And that God put me here."
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