I spent as much time with Kari as I could. I loved her so much but didn’t know how to show it. I didn’t know what to do with her so I took her to McDonalds.
We shared hamburgers, fries and a soda and she played in the playground.
I saw forlorn dads doing the same with their kids and I felt like a failure.
On one long weekend off, I called my ex-husband, James, to see if I could get Kari.
A woman answered, “Hello.”
“Uh, can I talk to James?”
When he got on the phone I asked, “Can I get Kari for the weekend?”
“She’s at her aunts.”
We didn’t have any relatives in the area, so I asked, “Who is that?”
Winter came in cold and blustery. I felt like a dead leaf as I tumbled around the streets of Memphis. Barely functioning, I had called in sick so many times I was about to lose my job. One afternoon I overheard the staff chaplain say “Earl.”
I interrupted, “Is he the Earl who was here before?”
“Yes,” he said.
“How long has he been back?” I demanded.
“About a week.”
“You tell him to get his ass up here right NOW!”
Earl arrived without calling. After “Hello,” he said, “About your message. I wasn’t in the office when John got there so he wrote down what you said and put it on the message board for all the chaplains to see.” (I might have said something about my cowboy boots.)
I hadn’t thought about everyone knowing what I said, or how he would feel. I hesitated then said, “I’m sorry,” and followed with, “Why are you back here?”
“I’m doing a second CPE unit.”
We didn’t hug, or even touch, but started eating supper together again.
As Christmas approached, I made sure Earl knew about the party on our floor. It was on my day off so I took Kari, who had just turned four, with me. When she met Earl, she leaned against his legs and chattered to him to keep his attention focused on her.
The day after I took Kari back to my ex-husband he called, “Who the hell is Earl?”
Photo courtesy of Flickr