Sat, 30 Dec 2017
"I'm tired of people."
He could hear his mother's voice in the back of his mind as he turned down a dark stretch of Route 718. Looking out through the dirty windshield at the solid yellow lines streaking the pavement ahead of him, a vision from childhood interrupted what was supposed to be a joyous event. The memory of the haggard woman with long, dark hair streaked with grey in a worn blue robe hunched over the counter fluttered in and out of his view. During this particular evening that came to mind, he had been a small child eavesdropping and the crack created by the partially open door had allowed a decent view of his mother. At the time, she had been talking on the phone with her friend Elaine who lived down the street and as usual the topic of scorn was his father.
He gripped the wheel tightly as he felt a small wave of anger building inside him. Reaching up with one hand, he rubbed his eyes in an attempt to refocus on the road ahead. It irritated him to think of her tonight. During the years that followed his childhood, he tried not to think of her because he had learned that his mother’s judgement wasn’t reserved just for the man that had left them. As he grew enlightened and understood life’s truths, he had uncovered that she had long since stopped trying to see the good in her own child as well as her husband. It had been years since she called or visited the boy that she had brought into the world. He knew that she believed that her service as parent had been dutifully fulfilled and completed, leaving him on his own. He hated her for not trying harder to see the good in her own son and had vowed that he would not make that same mistake as a parent. He took a deep breath and steadied his hands on the wheel as he exhaled. His fingers relaxed inside his gloves. He would not let her mar his initiation into fatherhood.
Without signaling, he turned down Willow Drive and neared his destination. After a mile on the street in the new development, he turned off his headlights and pulled off to the side of the road in a patch of blackness between street lamps. Here, they had only just broken ground on one of the new family homes. Sitting in the darkness after turning the ignition off, he blinked his eyes shut trying to erase the picture of her.
“You will not ruin this night,” he whispered.
A slight smile crossed his lips as he relaxed in knowing that he would be a better parent. He had long ago realized that the main different between the two of them was that she was a pessimist and he was an optimist. She had seen only the negative over the years as she harped on his faults. She could never see him in school for who he was but rather only for what he wasn't. He wasn't doing his homework like Sarah, he wasn't on the soccer team like Jack, and he wasn’t on the Honor Roll like Rachel. Instead he was a thoughtful child full of love, but that apparently didn't count for anything in the eyes of his mother.
He opened his eyes and pushed open the car door. A navy sneaker one size larger than he usually wore hit the pavement. Love was something he knew— and he had so much to give. He loved the idea of being a father. And now he would hug his own son every day and reassure his child that no matter what happened over the years, the boy's father would be there for him. Because that's what parents should do. Love should be unconditional. He very quietly shut the door and walked around the front of the car and set off into the woods next to the graveled site.
He moved quickly past the ground broken for someone’s future home as he thought about all that he had learned in his recent readings. These books were helping to prepare for the next stage of his life. The first thing that had struck him as he poured over articles was there was so much he didn't know about raising a child. Not just the diapers and formula, but other things— like you actually brush a baby's teeth with a little baby toothbrush. And there were a million things to do with your baby to help them develop (he had never previously heard of “tummy time”).
The second thing that he learned in reading was that his mother and father could be blamed for their poor parenting from the moment he was born. He had realized this when he came across some articles online that talked about "Sleep Training" and "Attachment Parenting". Shaking his head, he crept over the underbrush making his way between trees. He didn't have to ask his mother which method she had used. It made him so angry to know that his mother and father just left him to cry himself to sleep at night. The image of himself as a tiny baby left in a crib in the darkness screaming was forever imprinted on his mind now as he now planned to raise his own child.
He tiptoed carefully as the lights of the back porch were now in the distance. Grinning, he thought about what a good parent he was already in preparing his son’s nursery over the last year. No expense had been spared. Each delivery had brought immense joy as the crib, dresser, changing table, and other purchases arrived. And now, the blue painted walls adorned with images of unicorns and bears awaited the new arrival.
So much work and so much time had been put into preparing for this moment. There had been the whole matter of the paperwork of course, but it turned out that this was not as hard as he had expected. A few trips into Chicago and a large amount of cash eventually got him everything he needed to ensure that school wouldn’t be a problem once the time was right.
Now, he was ready. Taking a deep breath, he studied the house ahead of him. The home was dark of course. He had done his homework and left no detail unattended. The night had to go exactly as planned; there was no room for error.
The back door was only steps ahead of him now. He smiled as his heart filled, nearly about to burst. Inside, his son slept soundly. He quietly slipped onto the porch just as he had during the practice run a week ago and the back door was unlocked again. He slowly opened it and slid through the entry into the kitchen.
Moving deliberately, he took each step without making any noise. Looking up, he saw a picture of the couple and sneered at them. There wasn’t an ounce of pity that he had for them. They could not do the job that he would; tonight proved that they were unfit. And they would soon have another child as they forgot about their first; he was sure of it.
Shaking his head, he moved on. He had no time for them and couldn’t afford to let his anger surface again. This time, there could be no mistakes. He had felt bad of course about the way things went before, but he felt confident that this time would be better. The door to the nursery was open and he continued forward. Fighting the urge to run to his son, he instead carefully crept across the carpet.
Arriving the crib, he looked down and smiled. There was the most beautiful sight in the world. The tiny babe was sleeping soundly with his back steadily rising and falling. Tufts of black hair were scattered across the top of his head. The innocence of the profile of the babe’s face brought a tear to his eye as he stared down at perfection. The tiny mouth turned to the side inhaled and then exhaled. He pulled the cloth from his right pocket and the small brown bottle from the left. Opening the bottle, he carefully applied the contents— this time, he was more careful in the amount. A second tear formed and then ran down his cheek.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “But I promise it won’t hurt.” He reached down and covered the lips with one hand as he scooped up the infant with the other. The tears flowed. The temptation to flee as quickly as possible was there again, but for the love of his son he had more patience. Slowly, he made his exit from the nursery and returned to the kitchen. He then snuck out the back door.
Once in the woods, he put the cloth in his pocket and took a moment to wipe his face. He looked down at the bundle he held in his arms that would soon be in his newly purchased car seat and smiled. “I love you,” he cooed and his son stirred slightly. His heart leapt knowing that the child clearly recognized his father’s voice.
Making his way across the moonless sky cradling the boy in his arms, he was thankful. Thankful that he had done his research. Thankful for the meticulous detail that he had put into planning. It had all paid off. But most of all, he was thankful that this time he would finally be allowed to show the world just what he had to offer. He had so much love to give.