October 21st, 2010 - Tommy Dean
There’s a line, quite invisible but present that demarcates the years before and after parenthood. October 21, 2010, I’m yet to be a father. This is a date from the time before. Before the late night feedings and the diaper changes, the checking for breath, and the laying on the floor with my arm arched so my daughter could hold my finger while she drifted off to sleep. The time when I only worried about lesson plans, and my grad school classes; what to do on weekend nights, and how to entertain myself. Before the sonogram's monochromatic colors, the purchasing of cribs and dressers and non-toxic paint, and heavy decisions, hypotheticals almost more than I could bear. The unknowing a chrysalis of love looming.
And still yet, in 2010, I would have been wishing for this unknowing. Oblivious, yes, but so desperate for the experience. Grad school was ending, the timing felt right. Married for three years, a move from Indiana to North Carolina, and our marriage felt both solid and blooming. But timing isn’t often in our control. Birth Control that was supposed to run its course on its own, stayed in the body, relentless, making that line a wall, keeping us from that other side. Parenthood.
But there is a now. Now, when the kids don’t want to go to sleep, when they want to run down the hall, and bounce on our bed, demanding just one more story. Now, they're no longer babies and I don’t have to lay in the dark waiting for them to cry or cough or choke on their spit as it rushes to the back of their throats. There’s a sense of relief that they will make it through the night, that we all can finally sleep for as long as our bodies will allow, and while this still isn’t long enough, it’s better than waking up every two-three hours.
Lived in minutes, moments of extremes, joy and sorrow, exasperation, and goofiness, the leaden legs of sleep-depravity, and the comfort of clutching hands, voices rallying behind tears and giggles, feeling wanted and consumed, my head occasionally looks back over my shoulder across the line to before, when my fears were new and as sharp as blades. Now those anxieties are dulled into the soft ache of easier times.
Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Editor at Fractured Lit. He has been previously published in the BULL Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was included in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020 and the Best Small Fiction 2019. He won the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. Find him on Twitter @tommydeanwriter.