Monday, December 22, 2014

More Than Just a Voice

Evie has a three-story dollhouse in her room. She LOVES it.

We got it for her a few Christmases ago. Daddy Santa spent several hours putting it together on Christmas Eve. In looking back, we realize now that we probably gave it to her a little too early in her life. She honestly didn't even play with it much until last year. But now she's all over it.

There are several girl dolls that live in the house - about six big girls, two little girls, and one baby. Usually the scenario is that they are all sisters living in this ginormous mansion with no parental supervision. They do things like try on each other's clothes, bake all kinds of goodies, and have dance parties. They even have a pink unicorn that lives on the bottom floor.

And sometimes they have visitors. BOY visitors.

Enter Ken and Kirk:

I'm not exactly sure where we got Ken, but he's been around for a while. Only recently has he begun to interact with the girls though. It's probably because Kirk started coming around in the last few weeks, and now they're buddies. (Kirk is actually Captain Kirk - long story short, I'm a Star Trek fan, and my mom found my old Kirk doll in storage a few weeks ago)

When it's time to play dollies, like a high school drama teacher Evie hands out the dolls making sure you know the personality assigned to each one, and gives a rundown of the scenario we're about to enact. She is usually always the oldest sister who bosses everyone else around and determines what the group's next move is. Nana or I are typically assigned the role of the little sister who pretty much just whines all the time. And Daddy is ... you guessed it ... the boys. Both boys. Because each boy has a unique voice. Kirk's is deep and manly. Ken's is higher and rather effeminate.

When it's just Evie and Daddy playing, Evie does the hands-on work while Jeff does the voices. On the rare occasion that Jeff mixes up the voices, Evie the puppeteer gives him a scowl, and reminds him in a monotone growl, "This is Kirk, not Ken" to which Daddy abruptly changes to a deeper tone.

Their interaction is really quite precious. Sometimes I join in their play (where I am usually lucky enough to get to play one of the bigger girls, though I oftentimes have to endure Kirk's highly inappropriate advances). Sometimes I eavesdrop from the hall and just listen to them. Other times I enjoy their jibber jabber in the background while I do other things.

It makes my heart smile that Jeff can still play with Evie. That he's found ways to interact with her, and that she accepts those new ways without question.

But just behind my heart's smile is an ache. An ache that is only a shadow of the ache Jeff feels in his heart.

Last week, Jeff wheeled into the kitchen after a doll-play session with Evie, and I could immediately tell something was on his mind. I made him a tea to warm him up, and asked him what was wrong. He didn't answer right away. He sipped his tea while his thoughts churned. Then he looked up at me and said, "I wish I wasn't just a voice, you know?" I gave him a sad smile and a little nod. "I just want to grab her and tickle her."

We sat together in silence both feeling the terrible weight of this reality. We didn't break down in a sobbing mess of tears. We have before. But not this night. Sometimes the sadness of a situation simply washes over you quietly, leaving you feeling emotionally exhausted.

I tried to warm him with reassurances that the one-on-one time he now spends with Evie voicing her dolls is just as meaningful as the tickle sessions they used to have. That every day when Evie gets home from school, he is waiting for her with an I'm-so-happy-to-see-you smile, and she reciprocates with a big bear hug. That his presence in Evie's life has not been diminished by his injury. That he is a good dad.

But no matter how much I reassure him, how many scenarios I outline for him, I'll never be able to give him the thing he misses the most. No longer having the ability to physically touch your child has to be one of the cruelest consequences of this injury.

But I see first hand the way they interact. How they are so goofy with one another. How their laughter fills our home. How Jeff helps her with her homework. How Evie was so excited and proud to see him at her school's holiday performance. How Evie has to ask Jeff if she can be excused from the table, and waits for his determination on whether she can have dessert. How Jeff is still a commanding presence in our house, and how Evie respects him and sees him as her father first, a silly companion second.

I see the way he loves her, and the way she loves him back.

Being able to touch your children doesn't make you a good parent. Being able to connect with them does.

And Jeff and Evie have a most amazing father-daughter connection.

I can't wait to see how it grows over the years.

1 comment:

  1. I recently stumbled across your blog and this post really struck something in me. Especially this: «Being able to touch your children doesn’t make you a good parent. Being able to connect with them does.» I couldn’t agree more. I can’t even comprehend how difficult it is for Jeff not to be able to touch his child, but he seems like an amazing dad that has a great connection with your daughter.

    I think it struck me because I’ve never had a connection with my dad. In my childhood he was always preoccupied with his job and a very time consuming hobby. He spent most evenings and weekends on his hobby. He rarely spent time with my sister and I. He rarely helped us with homework or play with us. He left that to Mom. He hardly ever showed up at school performances. He didn’t come to my high school graduation because he put his hobby first. I wish it was different. I wish my dad had taken the time to get to know my sister and I. As an adult I watch with sadness as I realize he’s just as uninterested in getting to know my nephew, his first grandchild, as he was in getting to know his own children.

    Evie is blessed to have a dad that is able to and wants to spend his time with her.


    PS! Just read your post from Sunday. I hope the medications are doing their job and that Jeff is feeling better. Sending good vibes all the way from Norway - hope the horizon is coming into sight for you.