Monday, October 11, 2010

The Why of It All

“Daddy, stay here.”

While the FTM deals with her ordeal – also known as her pregnancy – I’ve taken the lead role in the care and feeding of the FTS.

I drive him to “school” (daycare) every morning. The shouts of “move your car, grandpa,” as I’m trying to maneuver my way through the perpetual traffic jam in the facility’s cramped parking lot are a bright start to my day. I know I’m older, but Grandpa? Really? Some of the other parents look like college students, or, in one case, high school seniors. It makes me wonder if their children weren’t the result of too much beer on prom night. (Truth is, they're all very nice and no one actually calls me "grandpa." I just feel really old.)

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, I have the pleasure of bathing the FTS. (Yes, he gets three baths a week, with many a “warm wet” washcloth in between. Not enough for you? Call social services.) The bath is like the shower scene in Silkwood. You’d think I was trying to get the FTS to confess the names of the other toddlers in his terrorist cell.

I also tuck the FTS into his newly acquired big-boy bed each night. The one and only time the FTM tried -- at 7 months pregnant and right after the FTS graduated from his crib -- she could barely get back up. So for now, this duty is mine and mine alone.

The FTS and I have developed what is now a well-defined routine. We read two or three books – Tractor Mac, Little Dump Truck, and the very timeless Very Hungry Caterpillar, are the tomes du jour – turn out the light, lie down, and talk.

The conversation is usually a combination of deciding what we’ll dream about (friends, family, and Lightning McQueen), telling stories (often spur of the moment inventions), and/or singing songs (Wheels on the Bus, Happy Birthday, and Seven Spanish Angels). Then we close our eyes and try to sleep.

When I hear the FTS’s breathing fall into a slow and even tempo, I know he’s ready. I start to back off the bed. That’s when he says it:

“Daddy, stay here.”

It’s a few minutes on either side of 8:30 p.m. when the FTS utters this magic phrase. It’s the end of a very long day:

The FTS and I left the house before 8 a.m. to go to daycare and work respectively. I spent all day in the service of independent bookselling, not arriving home until after 7 p.m. And from the moment I walked in the door until the moment I’m making my move to back off the bed, I’ve been a full-time dad, with little room or patience for distractions.

It’s also the beginning of a very long night. On my list of things to do:

  • Eat dinner
  • Wash laundry
  • Answer work email
  • Write
  • Watch television
  • Other

It'll be midnight before I even think about sleep.

“Daddy, stay here,” he says again.

I can’t, I think to myself. I really have to go. I’m hungry. I have no clean underwear for tomorrow. I have 548 emails in my inbox. I have an editor willing to read my manuscript if I can finish it. I really want to watch the new DVD of Chuck Season Two that Netflix has today delivered.

(Spoiler alert: If, like me, you're only on season two, you might not want to watch this.)

“Daddy, stay here.”

I look at the FTS, his face just visible in the ochre glow of the nightlight that provides warmth and security from across the room. His eyes, inexplicably blue, are a few inches from my own. They are windows thrown wide, allowing me -- and only me – a view into the very deepest part of his being. I’m struck with a feeling of privilege that I should be allowed such a personal glimpse into the soul of another. What I see is undiluted love.

The hunger vanishes. Laundry and email can wait. I’ll write later. I’ll catch up with Chuck another night. I put my head down, put my arm around my son, and close my eyes. I’m not going anywhere.

“Daddy stay here?”

“Yes, ok.”


Next up: My wife the High Priestess.

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