My earliest recollection of father's day took place in 1983. I was four years old and I was I was having my tonsils out. It was a traumatic experience for multiple reasons. I remember being ripped out of my mother's arms to be taken into surgery.
I was holding onto my Raggedy Ann doll for dear life and screaming at the top of my lungs in protest. Even more distressing than going into surgery, however, was coming out, and realizing for the first time, that my father did not belong only to me.
It started out ok. My father had come to replace my exhausted mother in the recovery room. I don't remember how this transition happened, but I do recall seeing my dad standing at the entrance of the children's hospital ward and feeling pleased. I sat expectantly waiting for him to sweep me out of bed and entertain me with his usual juggling act and jokes.
But. Alas. My dad did not come to me.
I don't know what was going through his head that day. He was probably just being himself, generous in his desire to want to make everyone laugh. Maybe the boy in the bed across of my own looked particularly sad that day, or maybe he had a hot mother my dad wanted to impress. I don't know what motivated him, but rather than coming over to me, he walked across the hospital room and started talking to the boy instead.
The said child was older than I, and looked like a mummy. His legs, arms, and body were wrapped in layers of white cast. My dad told me he was run over by a drunk driver and had to be in the hospital for close to a year. I don't remember this detail but my dad reminded me of this recently when I brought up this story. What I do remember is my rage. I was incensed at the injustice of it all. My dad -- my dad! -- was cavorting with this mutant mummy boy and was ignoring me -- Me!
My father was one of those dads who was a "co-parent" before the term became popular. He would take us to the park each day when he came from work and would throw us around the living room in gleeful abandon as me and my older brother choked hysterically on our laughter. When he went away on business trips, I would sit at the top of the stairs holding his picture, gazing longingly at the door, sobbing and waiting for him to come home. And now, this dad, my dad, was talking to some other kid.
I tried urgently to get his attention. I waved frantically and recall contemplating whether I should throw Raggedy out of the bed. But I was too loyal to her and couldn't bear the thought of her out of my grasp. Since the removal of my tonsils made it impossible for me to speak, there was only one solution. I had to go and get him. This was no easy mission. I was very small and the bars of my bed were very high. And, after surgery I was groggy and on the verge of hysteria.
I willed myself up and felt as if I had been smacked on the head. I was spinning and I had the oddest sensation of being flattened. I looked over the vast expanse of the room and saw the grin on the child's face as my dad entertained him, and I knew, I knew more clearly than I have ever known anything in my short life -- that I had to move. This was serious.
In increments, I got myself to standing position in the bed and began to scale the rails until I managed to hitch one leg over the barrier. I think I may have fallen on the floor. I sat there for a moment, stunned and groggy and looked over. My dad still hadn't noticed me, which made me even more desperate. I grabbed the railing and stood up. As I was about to take my first ill-fated step to get my father, I felt pressure on my shoulders and the familiar sing-song voice of the nurse who had taken me into surgery.
"Qu'est que tu fait, Leeatie?", she sang. "You should be in bed!". She picked me up, put me back in my prison and wrapped me tightly in a blanket. Before I could manage even a squeak, she was gone.
Maybe the nurse went over to get my dad, or maybe he heard the commotion and came over on his own, but the next thing I remember, he was there, his smiling face shining down on me curled in the bed. I cried first, the tears flowed down my face, my body racked in sobs in an eerie post surgery silence. And then I got mad. Very, very mad. The insult; this injury; this horrible betrayal. I refused to talk to him again until the next day.
He came swaggering in the next morning with a pile of presents in his arms. I knew it was him before I could see him. I didn't move. I listened to the click click click of his shoes on the linoleum floor of the children's ward, the assertive walk was unmistakably my aba's- my dad's. He came around the bed and I, with my childish, open heart, held out my arms to him and laughed.