Sunday, October 4, 2009
In praise of single parents
The task of folding female underwear always reminds of that incomprehensible game of 3-D chess Spock played on the rec deck of the star ship Enterprise.
I stare at it from different angles. I puzzle over it. I contemplate my next move.
Eventually I just sort of surrender, ball it up and toss it down into the hamper.
My wife went away for a four-day trip with friends to Bald Head Island, N.C. She’d never been away from me and the girls for that long and she needed a break.
To be fair, she should go away for about eight months to compensate for all her hard work, but then I’d surely expire from the duty and she’d have marginally more work to do upon her return.
I have no idea how single parents do it. I just did it for four slim days and it nearly killed me.
The disruption to my soft little routine was brutal. If she’s the jet engine that runs our home, then I’m the drink cart. I provide momentary refreshment to the journey while she sees that we all get where we’re going safely and on time.
My little life is very satisfying in that way. I love tickle time with the girls and I love alone time spent at my shabby little office above the corner tavern where I meet my friends for frequent inebriation.
Her being away causes the entire house of cards to collapse. I spent nearly every waking second with our daughters, Josie, 9, and Lucinda, 3.
It’s impossible to calculate the joy those little darlings give me. But being a single dad for four days -- oh, woe is me! -- throws the balance of life in a dreadful lurch.
It’s one of life’s cruelties that many of the situations that could most benefit from alcoholic diversion require at least a modicum of sobriety.
I’m talking about things like church, employment and parenting.
Val being away from her family for four days was one record. Me being away from the bar for that long was another.
I kept thinking I’d have time to sit and watch a ball game and drink a big glass of bourbon, but the girls didn’t cooperate.
They’d cry themselves to sleep because mommy wasn’t there to tuck them in.
The wailing went on for so long and was so godforsaken that I thought of making them both guzzle big glasses of bourbon, a parental action that would ensure my induction into the Bad Daddy Hall of Fame.
But once they went to bed, so did I. I didn’t get to drink my soul-refreshing bourbon, watch my ball games or enjoy the divinity of having the TV remote all to myself.
The sum result was I spent the whole week feeling like a failure. The kids feasted on junk, the house became a shambles and the long to-do list Val left me was the only thing more neglected than our children.
Still, it was great fun and great bonding. It firmly and forever more established my role as the family drink cart.
The girls know they can count on me for giggles. This became apparent after I’d labored over a huge basket of laundry. The little socks flew like mismatched snowflakes, no two were alike and then there was all that tiny female underwear.
Truly, it baffles me. I can’t discern if it’s inside out or if the tiny waist is really disguised as a leg socket. Some are so small they could be mistaken for flamboyant pirate eye patches.
But I felt driven to accomplish something so I persevered. I folded it all with painstaking care and stacked them all on the bed.
I left the room to charge myself up for trying to figure out which clothes went in which drawer.
I honestly had no clue and it was going to be like a treasure hunt with only half a map.
But the week was destined to be bereft of any accomplishment I could point to with fatherly virtuosity.
This became apparent when little Lulu toddled into the kitchen and told me she’d pushed all the clothes off the bed so we could have some tickle time.
I never did get that drink I needed, but I still got to enjoy many happy hours measured in precious tickle time.