I’m tiptoeing and watching tonight. Because he’s on the couch, with those two blue-eyed tinies that look like him but kind of look like me, too. When we were making out in the baseball stadiums of Tulsa, we’d joke and say “Let’s get married tonight! And then let’s have lots of babies!” And – blink – 12 years later, here they are. He’s reading Curious George, turning pages, a stack of worn and creased “Daddy-don’t-forget-to-read-this-one-too” books piled beside them.
It’s how every time they say, “Look at me!”, he’s already watching, that they are the centre of the room for him and he hardly misses a twirl, a made-up song or a wrestling match or a lame knock-knock-joke. (Knock knock. Who’s there? Banana yucky! Banana yucky who? Orange you gonna let me in, I have to go poop! *cue the dissolve into giggles*)
His son wears football jammies. His daughter wears a pair of pink jammies that don’t fit her anymore. But she won’t stop wearing them, threadbare shorts, showing off legs that are thickest at the knee, because the shirt reads: “I <3 my Daddy.” For Christmas, she wanted to get him a matching jammie but I managed to talk her out of the pink pants. So she and Joe picked out blue plaid jammie pants and a plain grey t-shirt. We took it to a dumpy little store in the mall where they screen printed “I <3 My Tinies” onto it for $7.45 plus tax.
He wears it almost every night.
He carries her to bed like a princess with his boy tossed over his shoulder, fireman carry. They are tall, taller than me, when he carries them up there at the 6’5″ altitude, taking in the world from his angle. He blows raspberries onto his son’s stomach until they are both screaming with laughter. He carefully tucks all of the little girl toys, the Barbie accessories that somehow look absolutely minuscule in his hands, into the pink plastic playcase. He observes every ritual that they need – every kiss, every prayer, the order that blankets go onto the bed, which side Jarome Iginla (remember him?) gets tucked into, the all-important Blankie still around and the repeated drinks of water followed by dashes to the washrooms. He shushes and quiets, he says “Guys. We need to settle down.”
I like to give them this time, alone with him, sharing him only with each other. Father-love is a different thing than Mumma-love and they are swimming deep, filling their lungs with the smell of him for those nights when they are grown-up and missing his everyday presence but remembering his heartbeat thudding.
To me, love looks like him, stretched out big next to little bodies, making the mattress sag which rolls them right into his side like magnets. It’s knowing that he is drawing letters and spelling words onto their backs with the lightest of back scratches, sowing love into their nerve endings with his calloused fingers.
It’s how he emerges from their darkened room smelling of their heavy sleep-breath and wet hair, blinking at the lamplight. It’s how he grins and shakes his head when he says, “Man, Sarah-Lynn. Those babies you’ve given me….”