Today's Image

Eric and I spent the last two days trying, intermittently, to explain to Sam what was going to happen today. "Daddy's going to get on an airplane," we said, "and you and Mama are going to wave goodbye. Then, in two weeks, Daddy will come home!" Sam didn't seem to understand, or else he was deliberately ignoring what we said in the hopes that it would go away. He played with his toy airplane as we spoke, smiled, and went off into his own little world.

Today we took Eric to the airport. I took Sam's airplane with us, holding out hope that it could be used as a teaching tool, or else to give some sort of explanation as events progressed. Sam thought the trip was a lark; he grinned out the window at the planes and the airport trucks, waving and identifying all the vehicles he recognized. "Tractor-trailer!" he yelled, though it came out "tractorator." "Pickup truck!" Eric tried to cuddle him at the gate, and Sam willingly gave kisses and hugs, but he really showed no comprehension of what was about to happen.

After we left Eric at the boarding gate, I took Sam back to the lookout window. He continued to play with his airplane, which uses batteries to run in circles about the floor. He waved to the trucks and the pilots entering and leaving the planes. And then a plane took off.

Sam had his back to me, so I couldn't see his face. I did see his whole body stiffen, and he stopped moving. It was as though something had suddenly clicked in his brain, and fun-time was over. In a low, serious voice, he demanded, "Where go?" I told him that the plane was going to fly way, way up in the sky and go to someplace far away. This was not the answer he wanted to hear, unfortunately.

"Daddy?" he asked.

"Daddy's on an airplane," I answered. "He'll be back in two weeks."

"No! I can't! I two weeks old!" He was beginning to panic.

"Honey, you're not two weeks old. You're two years old."

"No! Not two years. Two weeks. I too little!"

I tried to comfort him, but things got worse as I took him to the car. He didn't want to go - not without Daddy. When he was finally in his carseat, he began to scream, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" My consolations that we would see Daddy soon didn't make him feel better, and he yelled, "I can't!" once more. Two weeks might as well be two years, I suppose, when you're a toddler.

We got home, and he immediately went into his room and refused to look at me or be near me. For nearly an hour, he completely ignored my presence. Finally, he came to me for a long hug. I guess he forgives me for "misleading" him, or for whatever ill he thinks is my fault.

It's going to be a long two weeks.

The hard part about being a temporary single parent is that, no matter what, you're the one in charge. There's no backup. This afternoon, for example, I was, um, indisposed. Frankly, I was on the toilet - obviously not in the best position for hands-on parenting. Sam was in his room, I thought, until I suddenly heard small noises from the kitchen. The fridge door opened, then shut, and then likewise did the door to the trash can. "Sam, what are you doing?" I called. Silence.

Well, any mom, or anybody who's ever watched a family sitcom, knows what silence in that context means. I hastily finished my business and leapt out of the bathroom. Sam had fled the kitchen, and I found him standing in the living room, enjoying the fruits of my absence. In his hand was a stick of butter, which he had unwrapped and was now cheerfully eating. (At least he had put the wrapper in the trash can.)

My kid eats butter. Is that better or worse than my cousin's child, who hid behind a sofa to eat a carton of sour cream with a spoon?

As I told my mother, now I'll be unable to comfortably use the bathroom for the next two weeks, wondering what mischief he's accomplishing without my watchful eye. I'd get a lock for the fridge, but, well, we actually had one and neither Eric nor I could remember to use it. It frustrated us to no end to yank at the fridge door and end up with nothing but a sore elbow. Besides, it was nice to have a child who felt free to help himself to the child-friendly snack foods in the fridge without help. I suppose the problem lies in reaching a joint definition of what constitutes "child-friendly."

I want my backup back.

To be honest, though, and completely predictable, it's not mainly for his backup skills that I miss Eric. Right now, I am so lonely that I could cry. I've called my mom twice today, my mother-in-law once, and Alysia as well. I've knitted, watched movies, cleaned the oven, and taken a bath. I put the baby to bed twice (he misses Daddy enough to have it disrupt his sleep). I'm already bored, and I still have two weeks left.

I don't do well at the living alone routine. Adding a toddler to the mix doesn't improve matters by much. I need my husband for companionship, dialogue, meal-sharing, bed-sharing. I need the sound of his breathing, even in another room of the house. I need somebody to ask when I'm coming to bed, or else I don't feel like going at all.

It's not just somebody that I need, though. It's Eric. Two weeks without him feels like a lifetime. I have no idea how I used to get through the summer months without him when we were college students. We've been together for over ten years now, and he might as well be an extension of me, for how I feel right now. It might as well be my right arm that got on an airplane and flew to Wisconsin; I'm just as incomplete, and feeling the lack just as keenly.

The house is too quiet; it needs his television shows, his music, his idle whistling, to fill it up. I built a train track for Sam today, and all I could think was that I make a pretty poor excuse for an engineer compared to my mate. Sam drove a car over my leg and announced that Daddy was in the car, driving home. I joined with him in his wishing.

I don't know how we're going to get through these next two weeks without Eric. Seeing my lonesomeness mirrored in Sam's eyes makes the pain almost palpable. I feel like Sam: I can't.

previous one year ago:
I realize that our family's health is more important than a mouth-watering meal or two, but I was really beginning to enjoy cooking.
two years ago:
I think we just weathered our first Honest-to-God temper tantrum.
three years ago:
While we stood there awkwardly, holding our trembling, limp pet, he began to speak of euthanasia.
four years ago:
Hearing my mommy in such poor condition shakes my world in a most disconcerting manner.
In the ears:
Dead silence

On the Bookshelf:

Gratuitous Sam

Playing computer with Daddy

Caught in the act!

Snuggling in his blanket-bag


©1999-2003 C. Richmond.