My mother worked in a nuclear medicine department at a hospital for forty years. She’s still there, inching her way towards retirement. My father was an operator at a nuclear power plant before he retired.
I used to tell people that I glowed in the dark.
I remember visiting the hospital or the power plant (pre 9/11 years) and being amazed at the concept of radioactivity. Somehow this substance could kill you if you were around it too long.
I called my dad after 9/11 and would hear the stories of increased security, guards with automatic weapons and armored vehicles. Every year the township distributed iodine tablets to help against the possibility of exposure from a fallout event.
We all have our fallout events.
This week, we took Carter in for some testing. He’s been complaining of a rapid heart beat and some chest pain here and there. His emotions are erratic and we decided to talk to his doctor. For two days we’ve wondered about results and the call came in today.
So I look at him and wonder why? What changed and what can we do to help?
The other night, after he had flown off in a rage and finally calmed down, he hugged me. I told him I was sorry, that I wanted to make him feel better.
“Daddy, you don’t hug me enough anymore. You give me more high fives than hugs,” he said.
Feelings came crashing through. I’d seen him from my lens and not his. I’d assumed he would be mild mannered, like me, and not this vibrant, active, and emotional kid. I had parented him by attempting to attach the influence of my past to a person who had not known what it was like, one who never glowed in the dark.
It was an amateur parent thought:
He’ll be cool and low key, just like me.
I was wrong.
He has parts of me, yes, but he is his own person. One who needs more hugs than high fives, freedom and the chance to grow. He’s Carter, not me. One day he’ll be a father and I want him to know I’ll be there, with love and support at whatever level he needs.
This is Carter from last Sunday. My reason to keep fighting to get this fatherhood thing right.