I Wish It Were As Simple As Changing a Diaper

The sadness gets to be too much. 

I wish it were a simple fix. If my four-month-old is sad, I change her diaper and give her a smile. She lights up–everything. For a moment I forget, but as she goes on cooing, I start crying for the parents who missed out:

“Hey!” Mr. Arizona interrupts me from grading. “Hey, Miss, when a man proposes, does he need to bend his knee? Is there a certain knee he’s supposed to bend on?” This triggered a memory from my wedding planning days, and I told him I’d check. In the meantime I conjectured that as long as the man was below the woman, the humility of asking was honored, as in my case. My husband had planned to get on his knee, I explained, but I foiled his plans as I’m wont to do, and he had to improvise. (“I would’ve drowned [if I had bended my knee],” exclaimed my husband, when I told him the story later.) The conversation wended in and out of weddings and marriage and finally landed on his lost child.

“Have you ever proposed?” I ventured on a hunch.

“Yeah,” he paused. “Remember the girl I told you I lost?” He was referring to a daughter who died in the womb. I hide my feelings when he mentions her because I always think of my own daughter whom we welcomed into the world only three weeks after his was due–so I know exactly what he is missing by mere days. He continued, “I proposed to her mother.”

“That would’ve been hard for you two to recover from,” I sympathize with him losing both mother and child.

“Miss, I remember when I had to tell my parents. Telling my mom was easy, I can tell her anything. I’m a mama’s boy,” he adds sheepishly. I start to understand why he might be talking to me then. “She wasn’t surprised, but she wanted to know how I’d tell my dad.

“I have never been so nervous in my life. It probably took me three weeks to tell him. I waited one night until my brothers and sister were asleep and I went downstairs. He was lying on the couch watching TV, but he was usually asleep by then. My mom must’ve told him I had something important to share. I figured this was it, so I sat down next to him and said, ‘Pops, —— is pregnant.’ Then he laughed. I didn’t know whether that was good or bad. My Pops asked me, ‘So what are you going to do?’ I told him that he knew I’d keep the baby.” I sit still, not wanting him to stop.

“You know, I thought I was ready–not financially–but I was going to be there for her. It’s crazy to think that, I was only 15-years-old. But my parents were willing to help.”

“How old was she?”

“14.”

“Did the pregnancy break any rules or lessons your parents tried to impress on you?”

“Naw. They let me do my own thing. They were so tired of disciplining me that they were letting me (and my siblings) learn from my mistakes. I just wouldn’t stop fighting. That was my big problem, fighting.”

I let this sink in. We’ve already talked about my views of parenting and discipline; suddenly his position is much more clear, but I’m struck by the fact that his parents gave up on him.

That’s what I wrote last year. This morning we got on the topic of forgiveness and he told me about the child yet another girlfriend aborted without consulting him. Well I was hot, but I tried to keep cool as he told his story. When he was finished, my patience was ripped to shreds, it being a little worn thin over the past eight weeks. “Are you going to stop sleeping around when you get out?” I smirked. He looked up in surprise at both my words and my tone. 

“Uh, yeah, I’m done with that.” I give him about three weeks when he gets out. Maybe they’ll let me tattoo a warning sign on him. 

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About hey miss

A teacher. A prison guard. I used to think that was like oil and water. Like lightening and metal. Some days it is. Some days it's magic.
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