“Call when you get home,” he said.
Halfway between my car door and a couple hundred unspoken words for each goodbye stacked one on top of the other from New Hartford to Philadelphia to Stamford to Boston to Columbia, he stood.
Call the rain clouds. The summer storms. The neighbors who are trying to sleep when you bang bang clang up the steps. But him? Call him maybe?
There should be a law against goodbyes on days reserved for Thank Yous and Hellos and It’s Been Too Longs. We ought to give Goodbyes a stern talking to, tell them we have been booked for the remainder of the evening, but do come back some other time when we’ve run out of ways to spend our evenings. Come back when we’ve forgotten the words to our summer soundtracks and eaten the last of the chocolate chip cookie pie and vanilla bean ice cream. When our stomachs are too full and our eyes too droopy.
Then, maybe, we will let you sweep us of our feet and whisk us away.
It is a cruel world we live in. And I am just not sure I will ever be cut out for parenthood. Just not sure who thought up this whole thing called Fatherhood.
Because they raise us good and teach us right. They sit in the same parking lot as they once did when we were tiny tots, just five years old, learning to ride a Tickle Me Pink bike, hoping we won’t break the clutch on their station wagon while stalling out seven times in a row.
And they teach us to sneak cookies for breakfast. Pull our hair out of our faces while we color at the kitchen table. Stir pasta sauce on the stove all Sunday afternoon.
They pat us on the back when we’ve done all we could and squeeze our shoulders as they walk past us, dozing in front of Saturday morning cartoons. They rustle our hair and stay up well into the morning to make sure we make it home from the party down the street. They never say they’re worried or nervous or scared.
And they ask us to ignore the damp corners of their eyelids as we back out of the driveway with cardboard boxes.
That is all they ask. When five hours’ sleep seems longer than normal and when paychecks put them through the workweek and the only thing we do is repay them in Goodbyes and I’m Going Out With Friends.
That is all they ask.
And me? Well, I am fairly good at wishing for words spoken out loud and typed acknowledgements and handwritten letters. I would be fairly horrible at Fatherhood.
At letting go when the world has other plans. At learning goodbyes that mean forever and ones that mean for now.
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