The day to pick-up my kid from school and have him for the weekend was quickly approaching. I was so happy and so excited for some uninterrupted time with my kiddo.
My surgery-recovery had for some reason gone from looking up into a sky of excitement (and singing Celine Dion to myself in the mirror) to staring into an abyss of the worst pain and agony and hellish gore yet, all in the course of a few hours.
My recovery was, apparently, not as far along as I had so eagerly let myself believe.
So, I did what I had only done once before as a father, and I told my child’s mother that I would not be able to take my son as scheduled. The first time that had happened was two days prior. I felt like I deserved a trophy.
Something like… This perhaps?
That was Day 1 of the usual three days we have to spend together.
Day 2, his mother was good enough to make sure he got to me, even though I’m supposed to pick him up. Reality says I really shouldn’t have taken him. I was mostly bed-ridden. I was a moaning, awful, sometimes still bloody mess. I could not sit for more than 10 minutes at a time. To listen to me through the closed doors as I used the facilities was akin to listening to the sound-effect track of a horror movie. You’d think someone was being slaughtered in there.
To have at least Day 2 and 3 with my son, I had to go back on the pain pills I had tried so hard to remove from my steady diet of foods that don’t make me scream murder later on.
Day 2 was a hard day. Sure, the pain was hard. But my son’s growing disappointment was far harder on me. He is used to a very involved Dad. He is used to a Dad who can wrestle, and who goes out into the world seeking adventure, and who is strong, and with whom he can go swing away at a heavy bag, and who can stub his toe and do nothing but scrunch his nose and grunt a ferocious grunt through the pain.
He isn’t used to hearing the phrases, “please be more careful when you touch me,” and “I’m sorry, there’s no way I can do that right now,” and “can you please pick that up for me? I can’t bend over.” He isn’t used to a panicked Dad telling him to hurry because the pain pill is wearing off and he needs to get back to the apartment NOW. He isn’t used to a cranky, and irritable, and terse Dad. He isn’t used to a Dad who won’t pick him up high into the air when he hugs him. He definitely isn’t used to a Dad who has to make a special trip to the store to buy himself maxi-pads. And he certainly, most definitely, 100% isn’t used to a dad who skips out on time with him. Like, ever.
At first he was very understanding of it all. But, as I would completely expect it to with any eight-year-old child, his disappointment grew like a marshmallow in a microwave. Day 2 was a hard day. By the time he went to bed that night, he had spent far more time with his Wii and his iPad and Captain Underpants than he had with me. Most of our interactions had come from my bedside and were more business than fun. His usual chore count had quattuordecupled compared to usual.
Day 3. More disappointment. More guilt.
And there was guilt for feeling guilty.
My mind was a constant ping pong game of this is good for my son, this is not good for my son.
It is good for my son to see that the strongest people in his life have moments of great weakness and frailty.
It is not good for my son because he could be having so much more fun and being so much more productive elsewhere. Here, he was just bouncing back and forth between being my slave and being my neglected child.
That morning I was a little better than the prior day, but not much. Too much thinking and too much involvement with anything was making me overly ill for some reason. The thought of another pain pill was queasiness-inducing at best. And when I realized I hadn’t seen my son for over an hour even though we live in a two-bedroom apartment, I sent his mother a text asking if she could take him back much earlier than planned, which would cut out nearly another ⅓ of our scheduled time together.
I hated that text. So much.
I looked over at the bottle of depleting pain pills, thought about my son, and texted her back before she could respond. I told her never mind. I’d make it work. And I took a pill.