In the latest “Love, Recorded,” it’s Mother’s Day, but what about teh fatherz?
I do not say, What about teh fatherz? as my wife lies in bed, enjoying some time to herself.
Of course I do not say this. I have told myself that today will be fine, that I will take care of the baby and everyone will survive and even be happy, without Mom; I have told myself that I can give my wife what she wants for Mother’s Day: herself back.
What I say is, “Do you want eggs or french toast?”
“You used to surprise me,” Cathreen says.
I say, “Now I’m trying to satisfy you.”
The day before Mother’s Day, I watch my Twitter feed fill up with mothers who want the day off. I understand this impulse completely; still, I can’t help but joke in my head about how the celebration of motherhood is fatherhood. My father, on Father’s Day, used to answer, “Peace and quiet,” to the question of what to gift him.
You wouldn’t be a father without a son, I used to think. Or without Mom.
I fill the anxious space in my chest with clever little gasps.
Now I make french toast for my wife and realize we are out of syrup. I make bacon and eggs without cheese, then eggs with cheese for Grace, who says, “Cheese! Cheese!” as if the word might save her life, who tries to go in to her mother while I try to keep her in the living room.
A part of me is banking on Cathreen missing us, on her coming out and pulling Grace into her arms and wanting to do something together.
On the other hand, I know I am toeing a line.
Cathreen is trying to forgive me. Let’s just say I did something hard to forgive. If I am being cagey, I’m sorry. But I must do what I must do to keep writing these columns. Let’s just say: I am in the wrong, and flowers are not enough.
I have a “Grace” playlist on Spotify filled with Raffi songs. We have developed a series of movements to “Biscuits in the Oven.” What makes Grace laugh more than anything is when Raffi sings, “Gonna look both ways before I cross the street,” and we look left and right. She thinks it is hilarious to turn her head. I have no idea why. The mystery is what I find hilarious.
I occupy my daughter. I do not say, Occupy Mother’s Day.
All the laughter brings my wife out. She wants to go to the mall. Instantly, I feel untethered with hope, like someone is snipping the strings to a hot air balloon.
In the mall, we are surrounded by families. Everyone has their kids. “Looks like Children’s Day, not Mother’s Day,” Cathreen says. I say I like a shirt in J. Crew, and Cathreen says, “Mother’s Day, not Father’s Day.”
Grace runs through the mall. She walks along the side of the tiles, next to the wall. She likes patterns. She likes curbs, sewer grates, the red brick of the Freedom trail. I remember walking on walls as a kid—my genes are to blame. I take responsibility now, to show I can take responsibility, but of course this will not save me.
I keep thinking I have been a bad husband, and how I can I make this up by being a father?
We buy a dress for Grace to wear to a friend’s wedding. We browse baby furniture. I do not say, Putting the Mother back in Mother’s Day. I stop myself from tweeting this. Before the mall closes, we spot a sign that asks, “How much do you love your mom?” It offers three sale options, three levels of love.
We eat a simulacrum of Chinese food. Grace lets me guide her away from the dark-colored tiles if I wait patiently. There is a place for teh fatherz, I remind myself, if teh fatherz b fathers. I am a grown up, with a baby and a wife. We all used to be someone else. We got better by improving, without abandoning, who we are. I wait for Cathreen to remember I love her at a level even beyond her being our daughter’s mom.
When the mall closes early, the elevator we came up in closes, too. We have to find another way into the parking lot. We have different ideas about where we are. I feel lost. I feel like being found. I feel sorry for trying to be right in ways I knew were wrong. In the end, Cathreen leads us to the car. She has her sense of direction, thank God. Enough for us both. I get everything inside and buckle our daughter in. Then I drive us home.