Ode to my husband
Every morning, before I’m quite awake, as I become conscious of the furry, sleeping person next to me, my first coherent thought is “Thank god for Dan.”
I have never met anyone more compassionate and patient than Dan. He would have to be, to put up with me & Miss G of course, but he is just… beyond.
I knew he was a gentle soul from the moment our eyes met, but didn’t realize the depth of his capacity until we’d been dating nearly a year.
We were grocery shopping with the girls, and Miss L was standing on the handle-end of the cart, jumping up and down between his arms as he pushed. He told her multiple times to stop jumping and she ignored him. As we left, she launched herself with enough enthusiasm to send her head directly into his chin, so hard I could hear the snap of teeth from across the parking lot. Hell, my jaw hurt.
We all went silent, braced for an explosion, Miss L totally still with big eyes like a hunted rodent. She is all too familiar with her mother’s explosive outbursts, and expected no less from her father. I remember thinking, “Finally, I get to see Dan lose his temper.” (I am not proud of this. In my defense, seeing someone on such an even keel all the time seemed abnormal.)
But after a noise of strangled pain, Dan just said– in a calm (albeit slightly choked) voice– “I really wish you’d listen to me and be more careful kiddo.” And we continued to the car.
Me, I would have flipped out. There would have been yelling and cursing. I think most parents would have responded along the same lines.
But not Dan.
A couple weekends ago, Miss L refused to get on the plane to come see us. No real reason. No special plans. Just wanted to hang out with friends. Dan called every phone line he could think of to reach her, to talk with her about what was going on: mom’s cell, her cell, landline. Every attempt went straight to voicemail. Finally he just left a message.
My voicemail would have been flipped out, yelling and cursing straight up till the beep cut me off. I suspect most parents would have reacted similarly.
But not Dan.
Instead, his message went something like: “Hey kiddo, it’s your dad. I’m sad about what’s happening, but I just want you to know I love you no matter what.”
And he didn’t (as I and the other more petty members of the human race might have) leave this message as a guilt trip. Nope. He really meant it.
Dan didn’t lose his temper till a couple days later, when Miss L finally returned his call with a sulky attitude, angry at him and calling him selfish. That’s when I developed sudden empathy for the insane emotional turmoil that drove Alec Baldwin to leave that nasty voicemail for his daughter a few years back. It’s also the day I finally learned the answer to the question I’ve wondered for seven years now: What will it take to make Dan snap?
I don’t blame him. I don’t think anyone could. Most of us would have lost our shit much sooner.
But not Dan.
Dan’s first meeting with the new Parental Coordinator is today. Miss L’s mom says Miss L cannot continue seeing us twice a month after we move to Colorado, though it sounds like this would have been brought up even without our move. Miss L is (we’re told) too exhausted from traveling so much. Her grades are suffering. She doesn’t see her friends enough. And this is not only her mom’s idea; Miss L is agreeing with every word.
Dan says, okay. I’m not thrilled about this, but I can handle once a month if it’s better for her. We can redistribute the lost days elsewhere. Her mother has over three weeks in the summer and half of Spring Break. We can rearrange.
There is silence from Miss L’s mom. She does not want to give up more days. She just wants Dan to discard his parenting time and be happy about it.
As per the court orders, we now invoke the help of a third party: the Parental Coordinator. The magical gal who’s supposed to wave her wand and resolve all the differences between parents– make a neutral, informed decision about what’s truly best for the child involved.
Dan and I have discussed strategy, pros and cons, potential compromises, outlined defenses for the most likely attacks for over a week now. He feels prepared. He has lists.
Last night he comes home and I ask how he’s doing. He’s silent for a minute, then says: “You know, I don’t even care. All I want is to be a dad to my kid without fighting tooth and nail to do it. I don’t care if I only see her once a month. I don’t even care if she barely talks to me in between visits. I really don’t. I just want them to let me be a dad.”
But not Dan.