The first part our our day together is here
"Can Ray come to family movie night, Mama?"
"Yes, of course!"
Eddie is the driving force behind our family movie nights, when we pile on the couch together, make a popcorny mess, and watch a kid-friendly flick. He is always excited when once of his (frequent) requests for movie night is granted. We had planned one for that evening, thinking it would be some good down time after the excitement of the beach and seeing Ray. Now Eddie wanted to know if his first dad could join us.
Ray was enthusiastic about the idea, as were we; Eddie was beaming. We made plans to pick up burgers for dinner. He decided to run home to change clothes first after our day at the beach, so we packed up our things and parted ways in the parking lot where we had met that morning.
Eddie, still in his carseat, looked to me for reassurance as Ray walked away. "He's coming to dinner tonight, right?" he asked
"He is, buddy. He's just going home, then he's coming to our hotel and we'll spend more time with him."
Eddie buzzed with happy excitement. We cleaned up the hotel suite a little. Eddie got out his special blanket and stuffed animals and arranged them in the overstuffed chair by the television. We queued up the Netflix movie he picked out. As the time came for Ray to arrive and call to be let in to the complex where we were staying, I saw Eddie--my little boy who normally fights every single bath--take himself into the bathroom on his own initiative to bathe before Ray came.
Todd's cell phone rang. "He's here, buddy!" I called out to Eddie.
Only he wasn't. Something had come up with his mom, he told Todd over the phone. He wouldn't be able to make it.
I felt my heart sink. It would be months before we saw Ray again and Eddie hadn't even gotten to say goodbye.
I was the one to break the news to Eddie, the one who saw every inch of him crumple. Hugging him on the bedroom floor as he wailed, I looked over his back at Todd. "Get Ray on the phone. Now."
Ray and Eddie had a brief conversation that would break your heart. The chance to at least say good bye, to say I miss you, didn't make the disappointment less, but it was something. We cuddled as he cried some more and then quieted down a little. We moved out to the front room and Eddie curled up with his blankie in an armchair while I sat on the floor at his feet, rubbing his back.
Eddie is just five years old. The quintessential oldest child, he has a definite way he wants things to be and often does not get his way, in additional to the regular disappointments that crop up in a child's life. He's disappointed a lot in the course of the day. We've witnessed how he processes being let down, have learned how to come alongside him and what seems to comfort him. This time was...different. The sorts of reflective things that normally help him regain his emotional footing ("You were really looking forward to tonight. I was, too. It is so sad and disappointing that Ray can't come. You don't see him often and when he went back to his car you didn't even get to give him a hug.") had helped some, but he was still troubled. We sat without speaking for awhile, Eddie curled into himself, sad and unsettled.
Something told me maybe this was about something bigger. Not just sadness about cancelled plans with someone very special, but about the way things are.
"I bet it's hard to live so far away from your birth dad," I said into the quiet. The response--it was immediate, it was powerful. Like a water breaking through a dam. Eddie fell on me with huge, gulping, visceral sobs. We clung together for a few minutes like that.
And then it was over. I felt his entire body release as he sat up on my lap and said, "I want to watch the movie now." The sadness not over or resolved or behind him (how could something so big be), but back in his grasp enough for that moment that he could relax into the couch with us and laugh at a favorite movie.