A young man was driving to a town almost a thousand miles away. He was on his way to visit his son. He had parted with his wife, four months before, and they now lived far apart. This had been the first time circumstances had allowed him to come and see his child.
The entire drive out, he was filled with anxiety over the reunion. It had been a long time since his son had seen him. He was so young... The therapist had advised that the child might not recognize his father. This made the man wince to think about. It felt as though he had failed his son. "Would he remember me walking and singing him to sleep? Playing together in the park?"
After arriving and visiting with his family briefly, he went out to retrieve his son. Grandpa came along for the ride as well. The thirty minute drive was tense and anxious. This was his son's birthday, today, two years old.
The mother brought out her son, and handed him to his father. They embraced, and the child rested his head against his father's shoulder, like he had always done before. But then, confusion emerged, and he pulled back, looking at this familiar stranger. Then, he turned away, arms outrstretched to Grandpa. As he released his son, the man realized that the lack of recognition he had seen flicker in his son's eyes didn't matter. Just being here with his son, when he could, was all that mattered for now. The boy was beautiful. Golden hair and brilliant eyes. The way he laughed and played with his grandfather was an image he could not turn away from, even had he wanted to. The son was still hesitant about his father, and as they left, he kept his eyes busy looking in other directions, never connecting with dad's. The drive home, the child slept, and was watched with eyes needing this sight, this reminder.
The changes in his son since the last time he had seen him were subtle. He was much more confident and energetic, as he ran around. He played with the huge family dog fearlessly. He played with his aunts and uncles, and grandparents. He avoided the father, but the forsaken didn't mind, and continued to cheer and play with him when possible.
Bedtime was always a trial. As a baby, he had gone through a terrible bout of colic that lasted for the first twelve months of his life. And even after, bedtime was always an ordeal of screaming and crying. Many nights in the distant past, father and son had walked back and forth, baby swaying in arms that held him close, drifting to the singing that slowly lulled him to sleep. Bed time was a time of nervousness for the young man, this night. Either he would coax his son to sleep, or screaming tantrums would lead to sleeping with the grandparents.
The moment the lights were out, the screaming began. The child sat, crying, as his dad sat next to him. The dim night light was enough to see each other by, and the young boy gave his father a look of fear, empty of rememberance
, and began crawling, terrified, to the edge of the bed, to run for Grandma. Sadly, the man did the only thing he could think of; he began humming. The baby stopped, still sobbing, and sat up, listening
obviously. Latching on to this, he elevated the humming to singing.
While I'm far away from you, my baby
I know it's hard for you, my baby
Because it's hard for me, my baby
And the darkest hour is just before dawn
As he finished the song, he noticed his son was no longer crying. He continued on with the first song that popped into his head.
Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday
Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh yesterday came suddenly
As the chorus rose, the child layed down next to his father. His hand reached out to his father's cheek, and he stared into the eyes of this man he was starting to remember. Touching beard, cheek, nose... then grasping his fathers thumb. As he drifted to sleep, holding the hand of the man he recognized now, he never noticed that his father's voice took on a vibrato, not entirely by design.
The young man did not find sleep so easily.
The next morning, his son awoke rapidly, and suddenly climbed out of bed, bolting for the door. He sat up, startled from his sleep, and called to the boy, by name. His son turned, saw him, smiled, and crawled back, to cuddle a while longer. He placed his hand on the small chest, and recited his name. Then, he put his hand on his own chest, and said "Dadda". Small eyes watched intently, as the actions were repeated a dozen times. Then, it was time to go play.
That afternoon, auntie said to him "Who's your dadda?" Confidently, the child walked up to his father, and gently placed small hand on large chest.