(This is a backlog story written in March 2020.)
I cried real tears today. Crocodile tears.
A couple false starts trickled in this morning, then again halfway through the movie I was watching to pass the time. But then, just before the movie ended, I paused it and sobbed. It was a good, long fit — maybe 15 minutes. I just cried and cried and cried like a dam behind my forehead burst.
My melancholy is rather inexplicable. My antidepressants work. They don’t make me happy, but they make me not sad. I’d just finished off a five-day stretch with my beautiful children — lengthened beyond normal thanks to our COVID19 seclusion. While I might have a twinge of missing them, they’ll be back Wednesday. And we’re four years into this routine.
Work is good. I love my job and co-workers.
So why the fuck am I sobbing?
As the world sits home, avoiding one another to escape a pandemic, I exhale a sense of relief. So long as there are no distractions of other people, I enjoy working from home. No alarm clock. A ball cap. My own bathroom.
But the reality of the new world we’re in is slowly creeping up on me. We could be homebound for months. There’s something odd about the prospects of that and still having to get up and go to work everyday. I’m certain if the world were being invaded by aliens and we all had to retreat to our homes to save ourselves, no one would be interested in work.
Does it matter how big the aliens are?
On the personal side, my children still go back and forth between my house and their mother’s, as per our usual custody agreement. Nancy and I are both cautious, but won’t prevent the other from having the kids unless or until one of us is infected.
When the kids are with her, the situation is less fulfilling. My girlfriend’s approach is more conservative than mine. Other than picking up groceries in the Kroger Click-List line, she and her children are having no outside contact beyond her parents, who live next door, and a similarly regimented family across the street.
I’m practicing good habits — social distancing, hand washing, anti-bacterial wipes before and after entering any part of public — but am not vacuum sealing myself. Because her stance is more rigid, we agreed I should not come during the homeacalypse. I respect that and understand it, even if I don’t agree. But it’s hard to pass 118 people at Target and not be able to see my girlfriend.
Eventually, I won’t understand. Eventually, I may not respect the decision.
But still … sobbing?
Grant turned 15 yesterday. He’s well into the throws of surly teenager-hood. Lost in his devices, his music and his room, he only engages when I ask him to. Or for meals.
His sister, him and me do binge watch Netflix shows together almost nightly. But when someone decides we’re done, Grant is off to Snapchat, X-Box or write his lyrics.
All I can think of when I look at him is how much I love him and how desperately sad I am that he’s growing up and out-growing his dad. Sure, I can take his device level down a bit and manufacture some father-son time. But the only thing I wanted when I was 15 was for my mom and step-dad to leave me alone. So I’m trying to give him that space.
Katie is different, the difficulty the same. Her pre-teen body changes and social pressures, not to mention her parent’s divorce, have created an amplified sense of anxiety about everything. Her mother and I are doing what’s needed — antidepressants and therapy — which seems to help, but not enough.
Since she was a baby, there’s been a disconnect with me, too. We joke that she didn’t like me until she was 18-months-old. It’s not a joke to me. She was a momma’s girl. And still is.
When I look at her, I’m so overwhelmed with awe that this beautiful creature with her mother’s brains and my bug for the spotlight came from my genes. I want to lift her up and show her off to the world. Then take a baseball bat to any boy that lays a hand on her.
All of this can certainly make even the hardest of father’s hearts get misty-eyed.
The movie I happened to be watching when the storm hit was “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” The film is more about the issues an Esquire writer has with his father than anything to do with Mr. Rogers. Daddy issue films, especially those focused on grown men dealing with them, have a red flag affect on me.
Let’s just say I’ll never watch “The Prince of Tides” again.
But my own issues with my father were put to rest years ago. We are best of friends. No, it doesn’t take away his leaving me and my mother when I was so young. Nor does it excuse his inability to be a responsible father until I was an adult. But I let it go.
Mommy issues held on a bit longer for me. But as my children grew, I came to the realization that my issues with her were more my issues than hers. A therapist once told me to just laugh when mom irritated me as if I was silly for even letting her bug me. It helped. We haven’t had a good row in years.
Nowadays the only parent issues I have are the nagging notion that they’re not going to be around a whole lot longer. Years of smoking and drinking don’t typically equate to retirees in their 80s and 90s. Mom and Dad are both 70-ish with varying degrees of health issues. They should live to see 75. I fear 80 is pushing it.
But sobs and sobs and sobs?
Life is an odd playing partner. When you need him to bid Diamonds, he just Clubs you over the head. When you need him to lay a Heart to trump your foe, he pokes yours with a Spade.
I assume today was the perfect confluence of little streams of tears, swelling together for a gully-washer.
So, I dried my face, blew my nose and did the only thing I could think to do to make it better. I wrote it all down to remember it later.