April 7, 2017
I’ve been away from my son for six days. I’ve only had tiny emotional breakdowns like half of those days. Nothing major. Two nights ago my wife sent me a photo of the boy and everything got blurry. One blink sent tears down my cheeks like a compromised levy. On Thursday I think I just had a run of the mill anxiety attack. My heart was racing and I felt helpless about being so far away. With tunnel vision I stared for 30 minutes at family photos and videos stored on my phone. If my coworkers asked me questions, I wouldn’t have known it.
So what the hell? I’m not that good at missing people anymore. Since I migrated from the proper west to the middle west, I’ve adapted to being a little bit of everywhere such that I don’t feel very distant from anyone or anything. Plus, Instagram and text messaging has shrunk the distance considerably. Even if I haven’t talked to someone in months I am caught up on their lives. But, to be everywhere is to be nowhere.
I’m just not used to being everywhere anymore. I’m used to sleeping in the same bed and seeing the same two faces each day. Airplanes sent me away from my new normal. No first class upgrade can compensate for days away from them. Although the free whiskey helps.
I’ve noticed it’s not just my wife and my son I’m longing for. I miss my own father. I am my father’s son, and my father is his father’s son. That’s an obvious biological fact, as well as a way to say that we don’t miss people often. Or at least we don’t show it. My grandpa rarely talks to my dad. My dad rarely talks to me. And I return the gesture in kind. Shermans just sort of have a way of believing things are generally fine and if they aren’t, we’d know. We communicate by exception.
But I miss my dad all the time, despite that he’s only a phone call away. I feel the distance much more now that I have a son of my own.
I’d see my dad every other weekend, and it always felt like a vacation. My brother and sister would stay with my mom, who never seemed to be okay letting me leave– even for two nights. He’d pick me up and we’d do weekender types of things. We’d go bowling. We’d go to basketball games. We’d go to his band rehearsals where I’d get to hang out with all my cousins while my dad played guitar and keyboards (my aunt, and two of my uncles would also play in the band). I’d get fast food happy meals from Hardee’s, Burger King, or Warren’s. Every Sunday night we would wrap up at my grandma’s and grandpa’s house. During those get-togethers I learned the art of sarcasm from my uncle and comedic timing from my grandma. My grandpa always had cool novel things like portable 5″ TV’s, Atari computer games, a fire pit, and as my cousin and I eventually found out, Playboy magazines. We’d all spend time together before 7 o’clock rolled around and my dad would drive me back to Clearfield until our next weekend together.
To see my dad every other weekend was just what I did. It wasn’t weird to me because I hadn’t had any other experience. We saw each other more around the holidays and during Junior Jazz rec league basketball. Dad coached me, so I’d go months seeing him every weekend, and once during the week. Once our Saturday games were over, sometimes I went back to Mom’s, sometimes I went with Dad. I always felt great about my situation and couldn’t picture it any other way.
It wasn’t until I had my own son that I realized it was my dad who probably got cheated. My dad would see me twice a month. A month! Just a blink of an eye. The thought of seeing my son twice a month hurts me. And this was my dad’s version of normal.
This was visitation rights for fathers in the 80s and 90s. It probably hasn’t changed much. He paid his child support and got his standard visitation. I look back now and see all his attempts to get me to come live with him in a different light. I never took the idea of moving in with him all that seriously because I knew it would kill my mother, and honestly my dad would’ve been more strict. I was given free reign with my existing situation, and while I can now see that my dad would’ve given me the chance to be more of a kid, back then I just saw what was in it for me. I eventually moved back in with him when I went back to college and we had a great time. I really loved forming daily rituals with him, taming his excitement for me when I’d bring a new female friend over, and watching Jazz games with him in the front room.
Now the thing I want most in the world is to have him here in Wisconsin while I go through fatherhood. I want my son to have the same paternal leadership and love from him and my grandpa that I got from him and my grandpa. It’s harder now though. He has his own life. He lives a few states over, and he can’t be here whenever I want. I’ve been really frustrated and saddened by it, even sensitive to it. We’ve talked about it, and I don’t think he realizes how much it means to me. And I spend most time wondering how he managed to only see me two dozen times a year and not lose his mind. Because now I’m feeling that way about not seeing him.