The Father of My Children
When I decided to accept the proposal of my college sweetheart, I called my grandmother to get her thoughts. My grandmother has always been a sort of personal sage, quietly guiding (and oftentimes redirecting) my steps as I navigate life. She asked me two questions: Is he good to you? Will he work?
At the time, I did not realize the profundity of both the questions she asked and the answers I gave her, but now, eight years and three children later, I realize how much affirmative answers to those questions have kept me and my family happy.
I remember many years ago asking my then boyfriend to go with me to watch the sunset. He replied quickly with a “no” and proceeded to articulate how he found nothing at all stimulating or enjoyable about watching something that happens every day with a sort of wonder or sense of newness he could tell I expected by such an enterprise. Moreover, how could he, a starting defensive lineman for the college, ever live down the humiliation if anyone were to happen upon us? I was utterly deflated and sad. I wanted the romance I read about in novels or watched in movies I rented from the school library. I said nothing, though, and went about my day as usual. After a meal plan sanctioned dinner, he grabbed my hand and insisted I go with him, instead of back to my room, for a walk. We ended up on a hill overlooking the soccer field. There we sat on a blue blanket facing a descending sun talking about nothing of consequence. I knew that night for sure that he loved me and wanted to make me happy.
I often think about that night on the soccer field when my husband drags home from a double shift he didn’t know that morning he would work. He looks tired. He takes off his tie and grabs the trash to take out to the alley.
“Daddy,” the girls scream when they hear the customary bag changing. With ninja like stealth, they fly through the air landing in his arms.
“It is past your bedtime,” he says, hauling bodies much too heavy to carry through the kitchen and to their bedroom.
“But Mommy said we could stay up until you got home because we don’t have school tomorrow. Can you watch a movie with us?” I can tell that he does not really want to watch the latest Bratz movie or the Power Puff Girls again, but he playfully tosses each girl on the bed and squeezes his frame uncomfortably on a twin bed next to them. He asks questions, feigning engagement, about whatever program they are watching, and soon, I hear him snoring.
I inch into the girls’ room and smile. He’s laying there with little feet propped up on his belly.
“Okay, girls. It’s time for bed,” I say, turning off the television and lights.
“Is Daddy going to sleep in my bed tonight?” the Daredevil asks, snuggling in next to her sister.
“No, Daddy is going to get in his bed, and you are going to get into yours.”
I gently rub my husband’s face to rouse him from sleep. He immediately goes back to the kitchen to take out the trash. When he returns, I am changing the baby’s diaper before I give him a bottle.
“I’ll feed him,” my husband says when he comes back from washing his hands.
“You can go to bed if you want. I got him.”
“No, I want to,” he explains as he reaches for both baby and bottle.
He takes his son and coaxes him awake.
“I missed you, Little Man.” The baby flails his arms and legs excitedly as his dad positions him for a feeding.
“Did you miss Daddy? Yes, you did! Yes, you did!” he teases in the manliest of baby talk.
For a few moments I watch my husband, exhausted but happy, interact with his son. I take this children-free opportunity to wash dishes and pick up a bit around the house. I wander back into our bedroom and smile when I see our newest addition sleeping contentedly on his daddy’s chest. And Daddy? Asleep too, with arms wrapped protectively around his child.
I take the baby from his arms to place him in his crib. When I return, my husband is still fully dressed but sleeping on the bed.
“Come on, Baby,” I say. “Take off those clothes.”
“I will in a minute,” he says. I know, though, that it will be morning when those clothes finally come off.
I put his shoes in his closet and turn off the television program he ambitiously thought he would watch. I settle in next to him in the darkened room, rubbing his face gently, an “I love you” when words alone are not enough.
“Grandma was right,” I muse to myself for the umpteenth time.