I have come to realize I was little more than background noise in my children’s life. To my wife I must have seemed like static. I am not sure when I lost my grip, started to drift away. I only just found out it was so. I cannot even be sure if I was ever involved, fully involved. If you are wondering if I love them, loved them, I cannot honestly say.
I am sure from the outside looking in, we were the perfect family. We had all the trapping of an upper-middle class family all the requisite status symbols. We went about our lives as if scripted. A fifty’s sitcom family in the twenty-first century. We did not sit down to dinner every night, each with our own schedules, but who does anymore? I worked and played hard, my wife kept herself busy with her mothering and her committees. My son had his sports, his friends, his schooling, my daughter her music, her friends and her cheerleading. If we were not out doing our own somethings, we were home, hiding behind our electronics. We were like small satellites, worlds unto ourselves, orbiting around the house, avoiding collisions. Because of this we were unable to work together, because of that we were unable to help each other.
I decided we should leave and went to the car, assuming they would follow - after all, I was the dad, head of the household. I got there, to the car, they didn’t.
My son with all his football skills, was over matched by this hideous opponent. Had he been a running back he may have artfully dodged the carnivorous neighbor, but his training had taught him to hit and grab. Probably the last thing he should have done. He took his assailant down with technical precision that would make a coach proud. He slammed the ghoul into the ground as demanded by his training, but there was no air to be knock out of it, nor was there any sense to pound out of its head. My neighbor of eight years, my occasional golfing buddy, allowed his head to be pounded into my well-manicured lawn. But it bounced right back, as if on springs, and he buried his yellow stained teeth into my son’s exposed neck.
My daughter’s training was indeed right for this situation, nimbly and quickly she avoided the growing crowd gathering on my lawn. Avoided the outreaching hands and snapping jaws of the unruly mob and glided gracefully into the back seat of the car, slamming the door shut behind her. I doubt she ever considered that her brother might be following. We all had our own priorities.
As for my wife, her vanity had gotten the best of her. She had paused in front of the hallway mirror, as she always had done before leaving the house. She would check her hair, confirm her makeup, adjust her skirt, smooth out her blouse - general preening. As experienced as she was at this, it could not have cost her more than ten or fifteen seconds, assuming she had found perfection, but it did cost her dearly. Streaking, in all senses of the word, across my walkway came the neighborhood beauty queen. Stunningly beautiful, scantily clad and augmentedly breasted, she was the fantasy of all the long married men in the neighborhood. Seeing that woman naked, watching her near perfect body wrap her arms around my wife, pulling her blouse off, bringing her lips to my wife’s now exposed breasts had been so much like an occasional thought I had secretly entertained. Right up to the part when the blood started to gush. Suddenly it was less erotic.
All I could do was stand and watch. I could blame it on shock or on my inability to comprehend what I was seeing, but . . . Some of it was my own cowardice. Yes, I was flat out afraid, scared to death and also glad it was not happening to me. But, the deep down, inside truth was that I felt nothing for the victims, my family. Emotionally they were somewhat familiar but I felt no direct connect. I had minimal reaction to the perils facing my son and my wife, totally detached from their fate. As I got into the car and drove away, I felt no real relief for my daughter’s survival either, just a general appreciation for the companionship. I would not have to travel alone. Could she be my shot at redemption, I doubt it. I know I should be ashamed, but I am not. Some may call it disassociation. I would not. If it were, it seems to be a chronic condition.
To each his own . . .