As we generally do, my extended family gathered at my parents’ house to celebrate Father’s Day. Madison was rolling through the garage on a Razor and eventually she and I made it out to the street and the garage of the uninhabited home across the street. It was the first time she was allowed to use the scooter on the street. Matty and I served as lookouts for cars. We gave Mad the all-clear, then she’d roll down our driveway, cross the street, and pop up the opposite curb and coast into the vacant garage.
At some point she went into the house to get a drink or something. Matty and I were still in the garage; I was taking pictures of the partially demolitioned home. All of a sudden, I heard my uncle shout “Madison, no!” I jerked my head around in time to see Madison coming off the curb, headed into the street. No one had given her the all-clear. No one was close enough to stop her. All I could do was watch. Since I was in the garage, I had no view of the street. Madison floated across the street in slow motion, yet I didn’t have time to form a coherent thought. It was completely out of my hands. If a car came down the road, there would have been nothing I could do to stop it, to save my daughter.
Luckily, she made it into the garage where Matty and I stood. My first emotion was relief. It quickly transitioned to rage. I took a deep breath and asked her why she did that, why she didn’t look before crossing the street. “I don’t know, dad,” she said. She looked down. “No,” I said. I grabbed her chin and lifted her head to look at me. “You know the reason and I want to hear it now.” “I was too excited,” she said, tears forming in her eyes. “I know,” I said. I placed my hand on her shoulder. “When we get excited, sometimes we forget what we’re supposed to do and we just do whatever we want,” I said. “I’m sorry, dad.” “What do you do always before crossing the street?” I asked. “Look both ways,” she said.
This is the most humbling, sobering part of the story. Lynnette and I had done our jobs. We taught her right from wrong, if not morally, then at least procedurally. And it didn’t matter. In this single instance, my daughter simply ignored something I’ve told her countless times and made a choice that could have had disastrous consequences. I have lived in this heightened state of fear and paranoia since 2008. It will never go away. Somehow my father and mother navigated this emotional prison over the course of three children. In a few months, I will find out what that was like, I suppose. But in the aftermath of yesterday’s scooter incident, I thought of all the stupid things I’ve done in my life, all those decisions I made which directly defied the teaching of my parents. I thought of how they all could have easily gone the other way. Then I thought of Madison and the 11 years between now and adulthood. I said something riddled with expletives that I don’t feel like writing here. I shook my head, took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly.
About 10 years ago, my dad would fall asleep at about 10 AM on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Since there was no baseball field to get to, he’d wake up earlier than everyone else in the house, make breakfast, then clean up. If there was nothing pressing, he’d eventually find his way to the futon near the kitchen and slump into a mid-morning nap with Bijou laying at his feet. Now, my dad is the most efficient mini-napper I have ever seen.He falls asleep before and after meals; in the middle of our viewings of movies or sports games; on the couch or out in the garage in one of our plastic chairs.
Now in his mid-fifties, my dad is much more relaxed than I remember him growing up. That would certainly lend itself to more and longer naps, but I think it’s a by-product of being finished with his life’s work of raising three men. He no longer has to yell, threaten, command, discipline, etc. I found a woman dumb enough to take me off his hands, Matty married a saint of woman who can read things to him, and he hasn’t worried about Paul since his last B-minus in the second grade back in OLGC.
It probably isn’t true, but I like to think that my dad’s relaxed state and the ease with which he falls into naps are the results of fatigue stemming from spending his 20s through his 40s in that constant, enhanced emotional state. Often, my dad’s naps creep to that point of the soft snore which means only that his trademark harder snoring is on its way. It is like an alarm to my mom. She’ll come around and rouse my dad from his nap. Sometimes I wish I could tell my mom to let him be. I think about the way my heart stopped as Madison glided across the asphalt. Then, I think of my dad spending over half his life watching and guiding his boys, stumbling on the way to adulthood. “Nah, leave him,” I want to say to my mom. “He’s good.”
Happy Father’s Day, dad.