“No one will listen to me! They keep ignoring me!”
My youngest screams through his weeping
as he gets out of the pool at the hotel
where his five close friends are staying.
I feel a wrenching inside – like an organ has come loose.
My throat is dry and tight.
My chest constricts.
It is difficult to breathe.
Not from fatherly-empathy; from panic.
Was it me? Did I ignore him?
Please God, don’t let it be because of me.
I am notorious for this particular transgression.
I am in too much debt over this and cannot take on any more
without slipping into daddy-bankruptcy.
“I keep asking them to play games, and they’re ignoring me!”
Deep sobs wrack his tiny body.
“They,” he keeps using the word “they.”
This is a good sign. My debt is now at least half –
perhaps less, depending on the number contained in “they.”
I walk over.
“Was it me, buddy?”
He gurgles up through the sobs,
Waves of euphoria enter me.
The Hallelujah chorus plays somewhere
in the ethereal realm surrounding the pool.
The chlorine has seeped into my soul
and cleansed me of my sin.
My son is still sobbing. And I am still an ass.
For the first time since he began crying,
Oh God, am I really this selfish?
Panic again, shame, self-loathing.
I reach out to hold him,
but his mother has beaten me to it.
I push away the cycle of self-hatred with
a noble effort of sheer will (if I do say so myself).
I allow myself to pay attention,
and begin to see the scene before me for what it is:
the woman I married is transfigured
on the paved pool deck provided by Courtyard Marriot
into the goddess of motherhood –
the oldest of the gods.
I become her fumbling disciple,
offering a lowly hug to my son
once she has completed her work.