The shit hit the fan some weeks ago – so bad it seemed my worst nightmares had come back to life, and I was about to lose my second family.
It’s not my place to go into details. But small rends scattered over a timeline of months ever widened to a climax. I watched in horror as everything unraveled before my eyes. And there was nothing I could do. At its worst, I didn’t even know what was going on, because neither Daddy nor Mama would talk to me. I’m twenty-eight and living on my own. But my life with my adoptive family had become my second childhood – because my first one had been such a colossal failure. And I’d hoped desperately this time would be better.
I kept a calm face and told myself I was all right.
That was a lie.
Finally, everything hit rock bottom. It was over.
I told myself I would be mature. I adjusted my mind to being the daughter of divorced parents. Spending one weekend with Daddy, one weekend with Mama. Lots of kids did it, at ages much younger than me.
A different side of me wanted to throw a tantrum, sell all my stuff, buy an RV, and get the hell outta Dodge – never settling down, and never, ever trying family again. Ever.
That night, Mama posted a selfie to Facebook: her and Daddy at a hockey game. Smiling.
I burst into tears.
For a while, I knew it was my place to give them space, even though the once-abandoned baby that lives inside me was screaming again in her cradle, desperate to be assured everything was going to be okay. Shifts took place at home and at work … and I found myself lost in the shuffle. I told myself to be patient.
Daddy’s work schedule was insane. (One shift lasted 22 hours.) But he and Mama kept making date nights a priority, and I kept seeing selfies on Facebook. I was genuinely relieved. And I knew I would eventually snatch a second somewhere to spend with them – other than a quick, “Hi/bye,” when I came over to take care of the dogs while Daddy rushed back to work … or finally made it home again late at night.
– – –
Daddy’s ringtone blared from my phone. I lifted my face out of my pillow and hoped my voice sounded chipper instead of croaky. “Hi, Daddy.”
“Are you up yet?”
Kinda? I’d been working until three in the morning (night owl) and was just starting to come back to life. “Just waking up,” I said.
“Can you be ready by 11:15? I’ll pick you up.”
I glanced at my bed-side clock. Ten a.m. “Sure. Are we going somewhere?” When I was adopted into a law enforcement family, I quickly adjusted to the fact that plans were typically made last-minute, and only kept if nobody got called out.
“I’ve got some Christmas shopping to do.”
A trip to town with Daddy? I was all for it. I’d hardly seen him in two weeks. I didn’t care what his plans were. Just that I was going with.
– – –
A little over an hour later, I hopped into his car in front of my apartment building.
“Now, I don’t usually plan anything last-minute–”
I laughed. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. “I thought you planned everything last-minute.”
He looked baffled, suggesting to me that he really thought he didn’t. “Well, I thought I had the Star Wars movies on DVD, but I couldn’t find them.”
We’d been talking about squeezing in a marathon before the release of the new film – if we ever found the time.
“So maybe we’ll pick them up at Walmart,” he said. “And then I looked up the show times for that one movie and I thought maybe we’d go see that instead.”
“Which movie?” Star Wars 7 wasn’t out yet.
“The one with the whale and shit. Thought we’d see it in 3D.”
In the Heart of the Sea. The true story that inspired Moby Dick. My face lit up. I love anything with boats or ships. And adventure. And 3D. I’d seen my first 3D movie a year ago when the final Hobbit film released, and I was starstruck before we’d even finished the previews.
I wroked hard not to bounce in my seat all the way to town.
We polished off our Christmas shopping. (Since this post goes live before Christmas, I can’t say what we got for Mama!) Afterwards, we headed for the theater. Daddy chose seats for us smack in the middle of the room. We put on our 3D glasses. The curtains opened, and a young Herman Melville rapped at the door of an old sailor – the last survivor of a ship that was rumored to have been destroyed by a menacing whale …
When the popcorn ran out, I wrapped my arm through Daddy’s and leaned against his shoulder. He tucked my hand in his and rubbed my fingers. Much as I love adventure and a good sea story – and ships – the best part to me of any movie is an excuse to snuggle with my Daddy. Part of that whole “second childhood” thing.
Granted, if you tilt your head sideways while wearing 3D glasses, you miss out on the full effect. But for the first 26 years of my life, I missed out on a Daddy. Some things are just more important than others. Maybe someday, I’ll watch a 3D movie and actually get it in full 3D. But I’m pretty sure Daddy will have to not be there.
For now, I watched ships sail sideways and a ginormous whale awkwardly fly past me, half flattened.
One of the things I love about Daddy and Mama the most is that they know relationships don’t just happen as if by magic. You don’t take the people in your life for granted, or pretty soon you won’t have people in your life. You poke your head up from the hamster wheel now and again, and ask, “When’s the last time we went to a hockey game?” or, “When’s the last time I took my daughter to a movie?” And then you clear the schedule and you go to a hockey game or take your daughter to a movie.
It’s not like it’s complicated – just making time for each other – yet it’s the stuff that holds everything together. For a few hours, nobody cares about late-night search warrants and weird shifts and everything else that’s crappy about working in law enforcement and life in general.
Nothing matters except for us.
And, yes, the movie with the whale and shit was fantastic. Go see it. In almost-3D with your head sideways cuz you’re snuggling someone you love.