When the kids are sick in the middle of the night, that’s when I miss having an extra set of hands to help. Or when one has a baseball game at the same time as the dance recital for the other. Sometimes when they have no one to go to the Daddy-Daughter Tea or Father-Son Camp-Out with them.
It’s not so much that I miss him. It’s that I miss having someone.
A nanny could help with some of it. But there will always been that space. That part of their hearts that will just remain vacant. Because he’s gone.
No use thinking about it now. The stomach bug has hit both kids. Which means I have to call in to work. One less vacation day for us. Not that we can ever go anywhere anyway. Now I just have to pray that I don’t get sick. Mama doesn’t get to be sick.
Anthony wasn’t a bad father. Wasn’t a bad husband either. He just wasn’t really there. He always seemed so far off. Like there was something else he wanted to be doing. Someone else he wanted to be with. So I let him go. I told him to. We didn’t need him.
He didn’t call my bluff. I guess he really didn’t want to be with us. We haven’t heard from him in a real long time. But the child support checks still come. That’s all he was ever good for anyhow. Just money.
Now that I think of it, he’d be no good with a barfing child or at a tea. We’re better off this way. At least that’s what I try to tell myself. But there are days when a strong arm around my shoulders would be so comforting. Not necessarily his arms. He was never all that strong.
I need to keep my mind off him. No more Anthony barging into my thoughts. I flip on the tube and zone out.
I slept for about 4 hours. On the couch. My contacts still in my eyes. Reruns of TV sitcoms that never quite made it have been playing for hours. A few worked their way into my dreams.
Groggy, I get up. If I call work now I’ll get the voice mail. I won’t have to talk to anyone to explain why. My boss’ kids have a live-in nanny. She never has to worry when they’re sick. Whatever. Good for her. But she doesn’t understand why the rest of us can’t just get a sitter when our kids are sick.
The ringtone is a lulling sound. I’m so tired I could just fall back to sleep with the phone to my ear. One ring. Two rings. On the fourth the voice of the receptionist will invite me to select a mailbox. Instead, someone answers.
“Baynes and Associates,” the voice. Female. “Can I help you?”
“Yes. Good morning.” I’m set off balance. It’s, what, 5:40 am. Why is anyone there already?
“Good morning. What can I do for you?”
“Well, I thought I’d get the voicemail. But, that’s okay.”
“Who is this? Is this Marley? If this is Marley, then don’t even think you’re calling in sick.”
It’s my boss.
“Hey, Sheri. Yeah, this is Marley.”
“You’re not calling in sick. Are you? You can’t. Remember, this is the day Corporate is coming. I can’t do this without you.”
“Sheri, my kids are sick. I was actually thinking of taking them in to see the doctor.” Okay, that was a lie. “It’s been coming out both ends all night.”
“I don’t care what’s going on with your kids. You need to get here. And soon.”
“I can’t. What am I supposed to do with my kids?”
“That’s not my problem. How old are they?”
“6 and 8.”
“That’s old enough to be alone for a couple hours. Just leave them a note and get your butt over here.”
“No. That’s not old enough. Not even close. Especially being sick.”
“Just take them to school. There’s a nurse. Let her earn her money for a change.”
“Hey, I’ve got an idea.”
“How about I take them over to your house and let your nanny watch them.”
“Marley, don’t get snippy with me.”
“Sheri, I don’t have any options.”
“Well, neither do I.” She sighs. “If you don’t come in today, then we’ll have to discuss your future with the company.”
“I’m going to have to consult my lawyer.” Another bluff. He’s a divorce attorney. But she doesn’t know that.
I hang up. I’ll worry about that later. One of the kids is stirring. Hopefully not to get sick again.
They kids are camped out on the couch. Thank goodness for my endless supply of DVD’s. But I know they’re really not feeling well. They aren’t laughing. Even at the really funny parts. You know, the part in all kids’ movies when the dad gets hit “there”. That isn’t even getting a laugh. Poor kids.
Sheri called back. She apologized. Said that they’d figure things out. My job would still be there for me. Told me to take the rest of the week to make sure the kids were okay. It won’t count against my vacation.
This time the bluff worked.
The things that a single mom resorts to. How many cans have I dented just to get a few pennies off at the grocery store. Or how many times I screamed at bill collectors to get them off my back. I’ve threatened, cheated, lied, manipulated. What else could I have done? I’m alone in all this.
The kids ate a little at lunch today. Some broth, crackers, a little soda to calm their tummies. If they get better, maybe we’ll spend the rest of the week at the beach or at the zoo.
How often do you get a free pass from your boss? And during the most stressful season of the work year.
The doorbell buzzes. Probably a salesman. I ignore it. But the buzzing doesn’t stop.
“Mom!” my son calls. “You want me to answer the door?”
“No, I’ll get it.” I walk to the living room and fling open the door. “Listen, I’m not buying anything…”
I stop. There’s no air left in my lungs.
“Anthony?” I say.
(to be continued)