Dad 2

January 29, 2019

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His name is Christopher. He’s 12 going on 13. “Going on” more precisely meaning October 6. When he told me his birthday, I exaggeratedly gasped. “Nuh uh! That’s crazy . . . I’m going on 40, and my birthday is October 5! Isn’t it crazy?!?” He mirrored my own wide eyes as he agreed that, yep, it was indeed pretty crazy. Is that why we bonded today, over balogna sandwiches and milk boxes? Maybe.

Or maybe it’s because both of us were in the waiting game. He was waiting for his “Dad 2” to be released. He got hit by a train. “Whoa! I said. That sounds awful!” He was pushed in front of the train, Christopher went on to explain. “By mom’s ex-boyfriend,” he added. I nodded, sympathetically, as if I understood what that would be like. Truthfully, my own life drama pales in comparison. And as I sat in this waiting room, feeling sorry for myself in this uncomfortable state of . . . well, waiting, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt. Not that I feel like any one person’s life pain is inherently greater than another’s: rather, I believe that we each carry our own burdens, and our own burdens are great enough. Not because of the greatness of the burden itself, but because it is suited to our own unique capacities for burden-bearing . . .

But I digress. I do that sometimes. I was telling you about Christopher.

Christopher, who celebrated his birthday this past year with Dad 2, and who likes to eat ketchup with his mashed potatoes. When he told me this, I shrugged, “That makes sense to me. Like ketchup with french fries, right?” “Exactly!” he said—though the pleased-as-punch expression on his face made me suspect that he may not have actually thought of this correlation before inventing his culinary concoction. 

Christopher, who doesn’t like to eat the crusts on his sandwiches. “I don’t know why,” he said. “No wait, I do! My nanny used to cut the crusts off of my sandwiches!” I didn’t burst his revelatory bubble by mentioning that crust-removal is a rather common occurrence in kid world. I think the Christophers in our midst could use every bit of “I’m special” moments they can get.

Christopher and I shared our meal and I soaked up his presence like the dry soul of a sponge I was at the time. He filled me up with kid-normalcy.

Hours later, I returned to the same spot. I was lamenting the fact that I had not told him how special he was. Our goodbye had come a bit abruptly, as his mom had marched in and asked if he was done yet. It was time to go. But as I thought about him, in bounded the boy himself. I grinned widely and asked if I could sit with him. He nodded. We chatted some more. And then he bounded back out. But this time, before he went, I made a point of telling him that I thought he was pretty cool. And that I was pretty darn pleased that I’d been able to hang out with him today.

I most likely won’t see Christopher again—at least not in the waiting room. His Dad 2 was being discharged tonight and he was off, promised pizza to celebrate (which, he added, was being purchased by his dad’s friend, as Dad didn’t have the money for it).

My own Dad 2 will likely be in for quite some time yet. And the funny thing is that he is in fact my “Dad 2” too . . . for my PaCharley was, for all practical purposes, my dad from the age of 9 on. So I guess “Dad 2” brought Christopher and I together today, for a bit of a happy respite from the chilly reality of life on this chilly January day.

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