Thank God I was wearing sunglasses so he couldn’t see my eyes well up with tears.
It started on our way home from seeing the Easter Bunny. Ethan was talking about Mike and his drinking.
And after every memory, he seemed to blame himself:
– I knew that beer wasn’t on the grocery list but when I said something, daddy told me to be quiet. If only I would have told you.
– There were only three ways I could wake him up: yell in his ear, poke him with something sharp, or slap his face. I prayed that he would stop drinking but he never did.
– He would forget to feed me. I used to wish he would be more like when I was three or four years old. You know, before he got mean.
– He used to spank me if I said anything about his drinking. Why did he do that to me? I probably should have just been quiet.
– I don’t know that I believe in wishes any more. If wishes came true, he would have stopped drinking.
– I wish daddy was alive so I can ask him why he kept drinking.
My heart was breaking. Was Ethan blaming himself? Six year olds should still believe in wishes and magic, but why would he if his never came true?
I reached into the backseat and grabbed his hand. I pulled over into a parking lot. “Look at me,” I commanded. “this is not your fault. There’s nothing about daddy’s drinking that is your fault or my fault. We couldn’t stop him no matter how hard we wished, or prayed, or dreamed. Daddy was an adult and he made bad decisions, but never ever ever think it was because of you or me or Lauren.”
“Ok,” he said in a little voice, his eyes started to tear up.
“I’m serious. Do not EVER blame yourself, baby boy.”
“Is it okay if I cry now?” he asked.
“Baby, it’s always okay to cry. This is sad and it’s okay.”
As he started to cry, I hid behind my glasses. Still holding his hand, I said, “I love you, Pumpkin Pie.”
“I know,” he said. “I love you, too.”
I took off my glasses and we cried together for a few minutes. Then I let go of his hand, turned around, and finished the drive home.
Lauren was sound asleep in her car seat the entire time, oblivious to the conversation. And (probably) oblivious to any memories – good or bad – of her dad.