Carter Gaddis of DadScribe writes about two of my favorite subjects, sports and fatherhood. I was introduced to his work through the Dad Bloggers group. This is a post he originally published on 10 Jan 13. Enjoy.
Just Me and the Mouse, Home Alone
The Mouse at 4.
I sometimes wonder how the events of 2008 affected our younger son. I mean, aside from the fact that he was born that year.
And aside from the fact that he spent two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit with pretty serious jaundice issues.
And had to wear a blindfold taped over his eyes while he underwent light treatments day and night.
And was accidently fed another mother’s bottled breast milk the first night we weren’t there with him.
And had to have his little stomach pumped when they realized they’d given him the wrong mother’s milk.
And had to have more blood drawn for the HIV test they had to administer after theygave him the wrong mother’s breast milk.
Aside from all that, I mean.
We brought him home healthy after a few weeks and I immediately gave him a nickname: Chris Mouse. I don’t know what it is with me and nicknames. His big brother is Jay Bird. I mean, why nicknames? I had a say in choosing their actual names, after all. Maybe I’m trying to be like Hemingway, who gave nicknames to everybody, then shortened the nicknames to new nicknames. I don’t know. But Chris is the Mouse and Jay is the Bird. They just are.
On my first day back at work after we brought home the Mouse, I got laid off during my drive into the office. Oh, the actual words weren’t said then, but the phone call came before I got out of the neighborhood. The managing editor and assistant managing editor needed to see me in human resources at 11 a.m. There had been a round of layoffs at the paper shortly after the Mouse was born, but our inside sources assured us that MomScribe and I were safe – this time.
Our inside sources were wrong, and after 16 years at the paper, I was out. When I pointed out to the caller – the assistant managing editor – that I thought they had finished with this round of layoffs, he told me they had waited until that day because they’d heard my son was in the hospital and didn’t want to make it worse.
So kind of them, don’t you think?
So, it was me and the Mouse, home alone for a while. I was barely there. Betrayed. Abandoned. Unappreciated. Disposed of like the ejected contents of a pumped stomach. Replaceable. Replaced. Fungible.
Depression set in, I think. I was virtually immobile, anyway. There was motion, sure. I bought a laptop, joined Facebook, pursued freelance gigs. I got some good ones, too.
I’m not trying to be all dramatic here. It happened three months after I was laid off. I thought I might die. Not that Chris understood that. He was much too self-absorbed, trying to figure out what those five-legged creatures on the end of his arms were all about. And, you know, fighting off the onset of PTSD related to the pumping of his three-day-old stomach.
Chris was born. He spent two weeks in the NICU wearing a blind fold and getting his stomach pumped. He came home, and his dad was laid off two days later. Three months after that, his dad nearly died.
Here we are four years later, and we are such a strong family now I can’t begin to appreciate it enough.
There were hard times. Our support system – neighbors, friends, family members – carried us through. But MomScribe and I reached the end of our tether. We had our boys, 2 years old and 4 months old. Our world shrunk around us, and it was just us, and us, and us.
Were we, as parents, mentally and emotionally “there” enough back then? Parenting children that age is challenging enough without all the extra obstacles we encountered. I’m pretty sure we suffered some PTSD of our own, of a sort. I’m not entirely sure there aren’t echoes of that, even now.
How did it affect Chris? I’m not sure we’ll ever know. I just know he hasn’t complained, and he seems happy and smart and beautiful. He loves his brother, and he loves us. He is.
It’s just me and the Mouse, home alone tonight. MomScribe and Jay went on a mother-son adventure to a magic show downtown. I’m writing this now, but in a minute I’ll go tackle that Mouse and laugh and play with him until he’s ready to settle down for the night.
I ask him, “You know I love you, right, buddy?”
“And you love me, too, don’t you Christopher?”
“Why do you love me?”
“I just love you. That’s why I love you. I. Love. You!”
And he grabs a broken-down Lego car and shoves a brick or two awkwardly into place, and drives that car out of the room, into the hallway, up the stairs, and into the night.