Gratitude in third person

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | ,

1. His child's best friend fell on the way into preschool yesterday, cutting his little head open against the concrete, requiring him to be shuttled away to a doctor. Since then, if he even mentions the the words "injury" or "blood" around his daughter, she shrieks with an uncontrollable rage of terror. She sits on his lap and draws pictures of herself wondering where her friend is and "hoping he is okay."

2. Her father broke his toe yesterday. He feels stupid and doesn't even want to reveal how it happened, but goddamn it's ugly. If this were a war movie he'd gruffly order some private to sniff it and tell him if it smells like cheese. It hurts like hell whenever he wears shoes. But at least it's only a toe.

3. There are few things more pathetic than a stay-at-home dad with a freshly-broken toe trying to run errands with his kids all around town. You should see him: dragging one foot behind wherever they go with a squirmy 9-month-old under his arm while trying to keep the other one out of the path of fast-moving motorized wheelchairs and cars. Little old ladies open doors for him and offer their assistance. "Can I carry that for you?" they ask. "Yes, thank you." And here he thought this life hadn't left him with a shred of masculinity to lose.

3. He takes his kids into a store that advertises itself as the "Doll Hospital and Toy Soldier Shop" though it contains no recovery wards full of morose infants with third-degree vinyl burns nor enough recruits for a new legion to reinforce the troops reenacting the Second Battle of Capua on his living room floor. But it's still an incredible mom & pop toy store. His daughter is there to select a few things she'd like from the obese, red-clad Nunavutian sweatshop owner who terrifies her so much. He picks up a Santa puppet and uses a ho-ho-ho voice and she screams while clutching his legs as if he were talking about her bloody best friend. His nine-month-old son stares at rows and rows of baby dolls his own size, and then looks at his father with concern and confusion. Who are these silent, unmoving colleagues? Why are they in glass cages, boxes? You're not going to put me in there with them, are you?

5. He picks a crusty yellow booger from under the left nostril of his son and stares at it on his fingertip. What should he do with it? Flick or wipe? Where? It has only been a few years that he's had the good sense to do the right thing with his own boogers, and now he is responsible for the boogers from not just one but two constantly-leaking noses that aren't his own? Sometimes the awkward responsibilities of parenthood threaten to overwhelm him completely.

6. They figure as long as they're up in the tony suburbs, they should stop at the best French bakery in the area to buy some buttery treats. Afterwards, he hands his daughter a fresh croissant that silences her in the backseat. He sees gasoline selling for $1.55 and stops to fill up the tank for less than $20.00. While pumping, he watches his children in the backseat though they cannot see him. She is picking tiny, soft bits from inside the croissant and handing them over to her brother, who fumbles for each morsel in her outstretched hand while she patiently waits for him to get it. He watches their hands together, the baby boy smiling at this small generosity, and when the tank is full he opens his daughter's door just to kiss her on the cheek.

7. His favorite time during the day is when he gets to put his son down for a nap, sing to him and feed the boy his mother's milk from a bottle and watch him ebb from the inquisitive, mobile boy he's become back to the stillness of what he once was and so rarely still is: this baby, this sweet sleeping baby.

The boy fights it more this morning, laughing through the bottle with his hand outstretched, touching his father's mouth, grabbing and twisting the fat on his father's neck, his chin. Laughing. What is this Mummenschanz shit? Sleep baby. Please sleep. Your pops needs to write something for the internet.