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A kid, a Camelbak and carrying the weight of absent dad

Submitted by on Thursday, 4 June 2009 2 Comments

tee_ball_ritualNothing says love like a slip of a 5-year-old toting an eight-pound Camelbak around for 45 minutes at a school open house – particularly when the same kid claims that carrying his own backpack is more than he can endure on a daily basis.

And nothing says lonely like that same kid suddenly balking at his tee ball team’s run-scoring ritual because it involved a salute. “No, salutes are for Daddy,” he said last Saturday to the coach, who up to that point hadn’t known that Daddy is away with the Army.

Saturday appears to be the when the most recent wave of missing Dad hit. It came, I think, because the opposing tee ball team included a number of kids Big Guy had played soccer with the past two years. The inimitable Coach Joey and his son were among them, andĀ  their presence reminded Big Guy of times when Dad was around to watch him play.

For about five minutes, Big Guy watched daddies playing catch with his friends on the other team. “Mommy, can you help me warm up?” It was the first time all season he’d asked.

A few innings later, he balked at the season-long ritual. “Salutes are for Daddy,” he said.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” the coach said.

“That’s all right. I didn’t know it bothered him,” I replied. Chances are, it hadn’t until that game.

The Camelbak entered the equation early this week, as part of a locker-clearing package Dad shipped home because he didn’t want the hassle of extra luggage when training ends. The box consisted mainly of Daily Report letters we’d written – 16 pounds’ worth – but also included the CamelbakĀ  Dad wasn’t using during advanced training.

Big Guy latched on to it as soon as we opened the box – I keep reminding him that his brother gets to use it, too – and soon it was latched, fully loaded, onto him.

It went to baseball practice. “Hey, coach! I remembered to bring my water today!” Enough for the whole team, I thought.

It went to the open house at school after practice. “Are you sure you want to carry that? It’s going to get pretty heavy,” I said.

“I don’t mind. And I want my friends to see it.”

Yes, friends whose daddies were there, oohing and ahhing over the art show, listening raptly as their kids read to them, feigning that the animal crackers offered as refreshments were fine cuisine.

Friends whose Dads were doing what Big Guy’s couldn’t at the moment, which was sharing proud moments with their kids.

It won’t be the last time it happens to Big Guy. Once Dad is assigned to a permanent station, he won’t be the other kid around in that situation either.

I’d worry a bit that the recent developments are a sign for an underlying need to draw attention to himself, except these things tend to happen with memorabilia related to Dad – T-shirts, Teddy bears and weighty canteens.

For the time being, if Big Guy needs to carry that weight on his back as his way of demonstrating why his Dad isn’t around right now, I’m going to go with it.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Leslie K. said:

    Oh great…tears in my eyes before I have to drive home all the way from the Bay Area….this was beautiful, Deb…thank you.

  • Debra said:

    He’s STILL toting it around. We’re on Day Two at school with it. Luckily, he has a very understanding teacher who agrees to it as long as he keeps it in his cubby during class.