I drove out to the middle of the desert, stopped the car, and left my son.
…with his Aunt.
I wasn’t ready. When she first made the offer to babysit him for a few days I was a little hesitant. I didn’t know how he would respond to being away from home for so long. I always wonder if people can handle him. He’s like an unstoppable ball of energy with an engine that never stops. Eventually MM rightly convinced me to let go and allow us all a small break from each other. I made grand plans to party like the good ole days. Free and unattached with little regard for curfews or sobriety. I planned to golf all day and drink Cadillac margaritas every night. I envisioned staying up late with my wife watching movies and eating pizza straight out the box. I planned to pack up the house in preparation for our big move all while blasting my favorite albums with the curse words left in. Then the day came to drive him to the meeting place in the middle of nowhere halfway between our house and his aunt’s. When I woke up that morning there was a knot in my stomach. I felt sick and my mind was racing in all different directions. A feeling I am all too familiar with. An anxiety attack. As I drove through the mountains with my son in tow I desperately racked my brain searching for the source of my anxiety. Some stressful impending situation? No. Money problems? Not at all. Guilt? Nope. Then it hit me. I was heartbroken. I was giving my son away. The long drive felt like we were having our final long and drawn out conversation before we went our separate ways. It would only be for two nights, which I know makes me sound slightly pathetic, but this was the first time he would spend more than a night away from me. Far away where I couldn’t get to him the second I thought something was wrong. He would be independent of me. I felt this odd combination of fear and sadness and I had no idea how to make it stop. In the past, once I could narrow down the source of my anxiety it was easy to squash. But this was different. This was deeper. When I finally arrived at the meeting place everything happened so fast. The exchange was a blur without giving me a chance to think. My sister-in-law had beat me there and the minute I got out of the car she came at me with a million excited questions. She can be quite the chatterbox. Her own daughter was there with her children. One of which is very close to Donny in age and he was excited to see her. She practically taught him how to walk the day of his 1st birthday. He looked eager to learn some new tricks from her. I secured Donny’s car seat to Grace’s(MM’s sister) car while trying to keep him from wandering in the street and making sure I did not forget anything. I briefly spoke to Grace’s daughter while Donny eagerly hopped into the car seat and settled in his auntie’s car. I gave a few last instructions and made sure Donny didn’t have to potty before they hit the road. I was trying to do so much at one time that before I could catch my breath they were gone. It all happened so fast. I only remember telling him to listen to his Auntie and be a good boy. I don’t even think I kissed him goodbye. It felt like we had just arrived 30 seconds ago and now I was already on the dusty road trying to find my way back onto the interstate. I felt alone and empty. Not whole. When Grace drove off she not only took Donny away from me, she also took a piece of my heart with her.
When I finally arrived back at home I went straight to bed. My buddies were waiting for me at the golf course but I needed to lay down and collect myself first. I felt horrible. I could have stayed in that bed all day watching reruns of The Golden Girls and eating ice cream out of the container. After about a half an hour of cat videos with the curtains closed I came to my senses. This was silly. He was just going to be gone for a couple of nights. He was with people I trusted and with kids his age. It was like a slumber party. He was going to have fun. He was going to be fine. What was my problem?
I eventually made it to the golf course that afternoon. And again the next morning. It was great. I went running on my schedule and showered late in the afternoon. I met up with old friends and got a haircut. One of the nights I managed to get in a few margaritas. But nothing made me as happy as waking up the morning he would return to me. I was anxious again. This time it was a good anxious. I couldn’t wait to leave the house to get him. I arrived 30 minutes early to our same dusty meeting spot in the middle of nowhere. When Grace showed up I tried to play it cool but I was so excited I was shaking. When she lifted him out of the car seat and handed him over I kissed his face and squeezed him tightly to me. I literally felt whole again. I even brought him his favorite peanut butter crackers and a juice box for the ride home. As if I had to bribe him to restore his affections. Silly, I know.
I’ve had my heart broken before and I’ll always remember what a friend told me then, “Don’t worry, it only hurts like this the first time.” I sure hope that’s true in this case as well. I know eventually his first day of school will come. Then summer camp, college, space travel, and marriage. But for now I’ll just focus on his next adventure without me, Grandma’s house. This weekend in fact. He and I will make the 400 mile drive up to my Mother’s house where I will leave him for 3 nights. I’ll be worried again. Mostly for her this time. He’s a wild child and my Mom is going need all the energy she’s got to keep up with him. I hope she has some back up in mind. Once I drop him off and begin to head back home, I wonder if the feeling of helplessness will shift. Not to Donny, but to my Mom. I wonder if a small piece of her heart will long for my safe return. I think I’m more sensitive and emotional than my mother, or maybe she’s just better at hiding it.
This whole parenthood thing is a trip. It’s so emotional and challenging. Sure it’s rewarding but it definitely comes at a cost. I think the whole left side of my head has begun to turn gray following these last two years. I can honestly say that Donny owns a piece of my heart. If you could break it into little pieces he at the very least owns a third. I can’t imagine having another kid. That would be insane. That would be two-thirds of my heart gone. Claimed. Owned. Who can live like that? It’s not physically possible. Right now I still have the two-thirds majority. Which is the only thing keeping me from crying into a bowl of fruity pebbles whenever he goes away.
- Thing I learned today – I love being a Dad. But it’s not the end all be all. I miss playing golf every week and staying up late at night. I miss hanging with my friends and traveling. I love my life and wouldn’t change anything about it. Parenthood is amazing. Having the freedom to do YOU is equally satisfying.
- Random Thing – I have had a pet turtle since I was 13 years old. This will be his 11th change in residence. Time to settle down and buy a house so he can relax and kick the bucket in comfort.
- Sports Thing – With 73 wins and a(soon to have) Championship… remember when I said that? I don’t feel so good anymore.
Thank you very much for stopping by. This is the twentieth 20 2-0 twenty-twen-twen Daddy Day By Day. And it only took me 2 years to do so. If you have any questions, rants, feelings, anything positive, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply comment below. Please click on one of the two “follow my blog” links on the right. For you mobile users the links are at the bottom of the page. Talk to you soon…