With the twins fed, bathed, and hopefully—oh please God—down for the night, I enter what was once my office. It’s been another one of those whirlwind evenings and I’m not really in the mood to clean up, but alas, I find my chair has been mistaken for a laundry basket. I turn on the lamp to more surprises. My antique desk is buried beneath the clutter of construction paper, crayons, magazines, and other arts and crafts.
I unearth my laptop, but in doing so I knock
over a tube of glitter that falls to the floor like fairy dust. It just never
ends. I sink into the chair of clothes and wait for it to boot up. From the
sound of things, Ella is on the couch in the den watching The Biggest Loser.
With the kids in bed we no longer have to play nice or even speak to each
The picture on the wall catches my attention. The
one from my childhood home. Dad is pushing my sister and me on the swings,
we’re maybe eight and five, all breeze and smiles. It’s my favorite picture of
him even though I always notice how my dad’s eyes are set on Stacey, his
boundless love captured forever in time. She always was Daddy’s little girl.
I log into facebook and start the mindless
stroll through my feed, feeling my mind liquefy as I stare at the pictures of
other people’s kids, plates of food, cars, selfies, skimming over the thoughts
on the midterm election. Wait.
With a flick of my finger I scroll back to my
sister’s throwback Thursday picture—the same photograph sitting in the frame on my
wall. Only in her picture Dad is looking at me. Same soft eyes, same loving
glance, but looking left, not right. I stand up and compare it to mine.
Everything is the same, even the trails of her swirling blonde hair in the
wind. But now, in the picture on my wall, Dad is looking directly out to me, reaching.
My hand rattles as I punch Stacey’s name. It’s
not until the third ring that I realize we haven’t spoken in nearly two years.
“Stacey, how are you?”
“I’m uh, good.”
A horrible silence falls between us. I squeeze
the bridge of my nose, looking to the wall. I sit up straight. Dad is nodding
in the picture. I think about popping a Xanax.
“You still there?”
“Yeah, sorry. Hey look, that picture, the one
you posted of Dad. He’s looking at me. Did you see that?”
She sighs. “Um, yeah Eric, of course he is. You
were always the favorite.”
I turn to my photo. Dad’s eyes are once again
locked on Stacey. I can almost hear the squeak of the chain as he pushes us.
“Eric, are you sure you’re okay?"
“Yes, uh, I don’t know. Hey, was Dad
When she laughs it reminds me of those summer
trips to the beach, when we were bored and I’d make up jokes trying to get a
chuckle out of her. “No, I don’t remember him that way.
This time the silence is warmer.
With my foot I trace the glitter on the floor. In the other room a physical
trainer screams about a weigh in. I think about the man I’ve become. Snapping
at my wife, always in a rush to get away. When did I stop smiling?
“God I miss him, Stacey.”
“Me too.”I look back to the picture of my
father, selfless and caring, enjoying a moment in the sun that he never could
have known would mean so much to his two children. Or maybe he did. I don’t
know. I just know that it’s my turn to do the pushing.
I decide to buy a swing set.