I like to think I’m a pretty rational fellow. I don’t believe everything I read, I have never purchased a can of Spam or the more health-conscious Spam Lite, and despite his recent resurgence in popularity, I remain creeped out by movie star and poster boy for herpes: Mickey Rourke.
My point (and I have one here, somewhere in my wallet): I’m a pretty calm fellow. I don’t panic easy. But sometimes…when it comes to my children…even Hollywood cliché-sounding dialogue throws me into an irrational state of alarm.
Picture with me, if you will, that you are about to head out with your family to a wonderful night at the theater. Everybody is giddy with the anticipation of Broadway songs that will stick in your mind for days to come so that later that weekend, when you are about to go out with your wife to a party and she asks how she looks, you inexplicably blurt out in song, “You’re never fully dressed without a smiiiiiile!”
Anywhich, we were all about to head out, when Connor, my 8 year-old snuggles up on the couch and admits that he’s feeling crummy. I check the temperature of his forehead and get an accurate reading with the back of my hand: Definitely Hot. He’s buried under blankets, slightly delusional, and says he just wants to stay home. He’s 8. He’s a responsible kid, and we’ve left him before. But not this late and not with this much distance between us. But I can tell he feels yucky and doesn’t want to leave the comfort of a blanket, hunkered down on the couch and, for the first time in his young life, fully and totally in control of the Disney movie selection for the evening.
He reassures Katie and I that he’s fine. She leaves her cell phone with him and we explain that he can call or text any time. And we roll out.
The show was sold out, and so not all of our seats were next to each other. I sat on one side of the theater with half the kids, Katie on the other with the other half. We were told to turn off our cell phones as the play started, but last I checked it is STILL a free country, and I had an 8 year old at home that needed to be able to reach me. So up yours, Summerlin Library. If that is your real name!
We were in the final act of the play, and if memory serves, despite a Hard-Knock Life (I think because of the close-minded 1933 prejudice towards red-heads) a young girl was being adopted by a prematurely bald Daddy Warbucks, and all looked to be wrapping up pretty well.
When I began a text messaging exchange with Connor that will chill you to the bone. Please read at your own discretion. This is not for the faint-hearted.
CONNOR: Dad, can I eat some toast?
ME: Sure, bud. How you feeling?
CONNOR: Bad. I feel like I am not alone.
ME: (A shot of fear to my heart.) You feel like you are NOT alone? Or you feel like you ARE alone and lonely?
CONNOR: NOT alone.
ME: (Remaining calm, despite a trepidation crawling up my spine as I picture my son sitting alone for his first time in a large, empty, dark house with a silence he isn’t used to as he’s never alone…and irrationally worrying there could be a 2% chance he isn’t alone. “The text is coming from inside the house!”) You are ok, bud. We locked all the doors before we left. You are safe. We’ll be home soon.
CONNOR: I hear footsteps.
ME: (Swearing to hunt down and kill anybody that ever hurts my son.) You aren’t used to the house being so quiet, so you might think you hear something upstairs.
CONNOR: No. I hear them right behind me. But I can’t look.
ME: (Grabbing everything and heading for the door.) We are leaving right now. But I promise it’s your imagination. Everything is okay. Nobody else was there when we left, and we locked all the doors so nobody else could have come in. You are safe!
CONNOR: I don’t know.
ME: (Feeling like I am bordering on melodramatic) I DO! I promise son. You are ok and you will be ok until we get home! Say a prayer and ask Heavenly Father to help you feel safe and calm.
And man, we split! We ran to the car, threw kids in, and talked to Connor on the phone almost the entire ride home to reassure him that we would never let anything happen to him – EVER.
He has since recovered and has shown no signs of any long-term affects. Could have been the quiet of the house. Could have been the raging fever. Could have been his overactive imagination. But one thing is for sure: It wasn’t the result of watching Mickey Rourke movies while eating Spam. Because that kind of fear will not enter this house – not on my watch!