The Plagued Parent

posts about surviving our children, the Baby Boomers who raised us, and everyone else with an opinion...

The Arrival

bos snoI took the train into the city because of the snow and now I worry about being able to get back home. Boston’s transit system has not aged well and for days many stand waiting for hours to move themselves across town in the arctic cold. The commuter rail seemed to be moving better than the locals but today’s forecast will likely change that. I keep checking my wrist for the time but I don’t wear a watch. Why check then? Nervous tick I suppose. Something to demonstrate I here, in this vast food court between my daughter’s school and the train that dropped me, for a purpose. Unconsciously, I must be pushing up my left sleeve to show I am not just hanging around wasting time like a creep, a criminal or a pedophile. Checking the time means you’re waiting. Checking the time means something is expected too happen, something important. Yet, checking the time can also be a sign of nervousness, impatience or a lack of ease.

My stomach growls. I should have eaten before leaving the house, but I can never eat first thing. This station area reminds me of a shopping mall food court — a bright circle of quasi-ethnic cuisine designed to move in quickly from hand, to hand, to stomach. Technically this isn’t a station at all, really, since the entrance to the subway is outside, but it pretends really well. Again, the growling. Thankfully it’s busy, a throng of commuters rising from underground entering and waves of students descending from their towers above, they all encircle one another intermingling in their decision making as they navigate coffee or meals or find whoever they are meeting on their way to more significant destinations. I wonder if she’ll actually arrive, that is If she even got the e-mail message and there is no certainty of that. Well, I suppose it did arrive in her inbox, I just don’t know. No, she’ll show. Part of me hopes she realizes how long it has been and besides what harm is there in a cup of coffee or a pastry or a sandwich. If it really matters, you can still hold a grudge after a cup of coffee, right? That is her call.

Situating myself in the round court of tiny tables where I can see both entrances, I’m beginning to realize this was a stupid idea. In theory, I should be able to pick her out of a crowd just like penguins do with their offspring. Thousands of minute chattering black and white tuxedoed bodies flapping and squawking and still the damn penguins can find their babies on a desolate frozen tundra. I have greater variables to contend with, though: how do you wear you hair now? Do you still have that stupid floppy knit hat with the blue and green and purple that you like wear inside and out? What are you wearing for a jacket? Do you have a jacket, even? Of course you have a jacket, but still a soft pang of, well, guilt settles wondering if you’re warm enough.

A young couple sits a few tables across from me. I pretend to look at my phone but their tension is compelling. Body language reveals a fight — she leans back in her chair slightly slouchy, arms folded, face pinched. He unwraps a bagel and pushes it towards her bent and wordlessly pleading. She is clearly not happy with him. They barely touch their breakfast. She gets up, heading off brushing a finger beneath her glasses under one eye. Presumably, a tear? He falls back in his chair, heavy, defeated and after giving it a minute tosses away the bagel and her coffee but re-caps his orange juice and then fades into the rest of his day.

Maybe I have it wrong. Maybe you can only hold a grudge if you don’t drink the coffee you agree to meet over, or the meal you agree to have. She probably said to him, Sure whatever, I’ll go with you but I am not eating anything. He probably thought, If I can get her to breakfast, to share a bagel, to sit the morning after and demonstrate that she matters, then forward is possible. Poor kid. Well, maybe he deserves it.

I have been here too long. My stomach agrees. How conspicuous is a middle-aged man sitting alone in a cafe court amongst so many students and transient business people? And why does having a paper cup on the table before you legitimize loitering? I am hungry. But going to a counter will mean turnng my back on this room and it only takes a second for someone to slip by you and melt into a crowd of bodies and faces. Amazing, though when massed together we blend indistinguishably. An irony I suppose that we consider ourselves outstanding, unique, solitary despite this fact. How do penguins do it, I mean, honestly? I really need a coffee. Maybe a donut. The circles on the Dunkin Donuts sign distract me.

Behind me a laugh. You? No, no it is not. An hour has passed. How much more patience can be exhibited in a situation such as this. Nearly five months of silence. 152 days. What’s another half hour, right?

A text comes through, my wife: Well?

I respond: Nothing yet. Still waiting.

OK

I go to the counter to get a latte, that’s what I really want. Something warm, sweet, caffeinated. I pay and wait. The milk hisses and steams. Out of the corner of my eye I see knit stripes on someone’s head. I grab the coffee and step out for a better view. The height could be right but the movement is all wrong. The head wearing the cap is chatting to a companion and the body holding the head moves smoothly towards the doors on the opposite side. If that was her she moved with intention of going, of passing through, and not with the commitment of staying.

My phone vibrates: Leaving? Storm is coming in a few hours.

No, I think, it has already come and passed.

In my rush from the counter I have forgotten the cardboard sleeve for the coffee cup. My fingers dance in alternating steps across the cup’s hot surface. I turn back towards the coffee shop to get something to protect my hand otherwise while standing waiting for the train and run headlong into a woman exiting Dunkin Donuts. We both apologize for not seeing each other.  My hands and sleeve covered in coffee that’s spilled on her briefcase. Sorry I was distracted, I tell her. No worries, she responds. No big deal.  I fumble for some napkins, my back to the crowd. Looking down I’ve spilled on my shoes

From behind me I hear a voice, “Hey, dad.” Frozen, caught off guard I turn, my heart skips. Spinning, facing outward into the crowd, breath leaves me. It is another dad, and another daughter and another reunion not my own.

I pivot back on my heels, my face pale, and the stranger, she is gone. My phone buzzes then stops and I stand forgetting for the moment this dull heat coursing across the paper cup into my fingertips or the cooling dampness of my shirt cuff soaked with coffee.

 

Updated: March 3, 2016 — 7:56 am

52 Comments

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  1. Oh, my heat was right there in the moment with you . .

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you Crystal!

  2. My goodness, this is written with a real heart jumping out waiting to find out what happens. I have just read your ‘story’, I cannot imagine having your family go through this. As parents, all we want is for our children to be safe and loved by us but sadly it doesn’t always turn out that way. I hope that one day your daughter comes back to you. Thanks so much for linking up with #twinklytuesday x

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you for reading and for reaching out, we appreciate the kind words and cyber support 🙂

  3. Oh you write so beautifully. I have just read ‘Your Story’ and I am so sorry. My biggest sister is 18 and she has had a difficult time, with depression too. Thankfully, she didn’t run…… x

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you for reading and your kind words. It is hard on everyone when a loved one suffers from mental illness. Thankfully support is available 🙂

  4. Such wonderful writing. I was there in the room too. I could see everything, and feel the emotion.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      I am so glad this piece reached you. All a writer can do is expose the emotional truth of any moment.

  5. My heart skipped! :(. You write so beautifully that I felt I was just there watching you waiting.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thanks for reading. I am glad the story reached you.

  6. Wow, your writing makes it easy to imagine how you felt. This is really heartbreaking.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      This is the greatest compliment any writer could receive.

  7. This was so gorgeously written! All of the anticipation is palpable and gut-wrenching. I am sorry for the hard times, but I am glad that you have found a healthy approach for coping <3

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      That is the blessing of the craft. It offers us opportunities to heal…

  8. You write from the heart. It is great to share your experiences.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you for reading. I appreciate the chance to share this work with others

  9. I felt as if I were right there with you, you’re an awesome story-teller (even though it did happen). I’m sorry she didn’t show 🙁

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you for reading…actually it was all fiction, wishful thinking on my part. Appreciate your kind comment though!

    2. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Hopefully, one day soon, things will reconcile themselves. Until them all we can do is share our stories.

  10. It must be very tough for you and your wife. I read your story and I could only wish for things to get better and that she’d come home to you guys. Stay strong and keep going.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you, and we will try to stay positive and strong. From this whole ordeal we are leaning how to suffer and that is the foundation of survival.

  11. You were able to create a vivid description of the scene. I hope it ended positively though but I guess, it’s just how the story goes.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      We still wait patiently, sometimes impatiently, for reconciliation. It has been a long road. I fear it just keeps getting longer…

  12. This post is full with emotions. I love your writing style. I can imagine the scenes like a movie in my head.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you for your kind words.

  13. I love landing on good reads. I need to poke around your site a bit more to see what other goodies I can find. I just starting writing fiction as well.

    Good stuff here.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Well, thanks for stopping by. Enjoy and let us know what you think.

  14. So many emotions, and I totally felt my heart with you on this post as well. Thank you for sharing.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you for reading, it is appreciated.

  15. Your writing is beautiful. The way it’s written kept me wanting to read more.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      I appreciate you saying that. Many thanks.

  16. Beautifully written. Being a parent is so tough. We’ve had a tough time with my teenage daughter of the last year so I definitely understand the emotion.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      I’m glad that you responded to this piece. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope things smooth out with you and your teenage daughter.

  17. This is beautifully written! I can feel each moment with you!

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you for saying so.

  18. I love your writing style. It’s truly from the heart. Thanks so much for sharing this <3

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thanks for saying so.

  19. omg I have to say you are a very good writer!!! You made me feel I was right there with you! Such an emotional piece.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thank you for the compliment and for reading.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thanks for that Terri.

  20. Oh, dear God, I can’t bear this for you. I do relate to many of these emotions–for quite some time my daughter’s way of dealing with her devastation at her father’s abandonment was to punish me, the one who stayed, the one who would never leave a child behind. She would alternately lash out at me or cut me out of her life to certain degrees. It’s worse than having the flesh torn from your bones, worse than having your heart pulled out of your chest. Maybe the next time, she’ll show…wishing all good things for you. P.S. Gifted, gifted writer!

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      You’re story is heartbreaking, I hope things with your daughter have improved or at least are on their way…

  21. Beautifully written. Very evocative – can really picture the scene & the emotions.

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Glad you enjoyed it Silly Mummy.

  22. You have a book (or two in you for sure!!

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Hopefully you’re right Michele…

  23. Exquisite writing. The imagery is so clear the reader may well be standing next to you. Heartbreaking. Heart-stopping. Outstanding post!

    1. plaguedparent@gmail.com

      Thanks Jimmie.

    1. You have my apologies… One more broken heart too many…

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