Lewis’s Birthday – Every Now And Then I Fall Apart
I have an image of myself as an eighty-seven-and-a-half-year-old sitting in a cushion-less cane chair outside a single bedroom commission home on a creaky old porch covered in chicken shit and dead flies. I’m mumbling to myself and throwing darts at ants as they emerge from the gnarled lump of an old tree and as my heart beats one of its final beats my eyes are shocked wide by the one regret that has followed me my whole life and will now settle forever among the ashes of my urn – I spent my son’s third birthday crying like a baby in the toilet.
The cubicle is clean and free of graffiti and although I am physically exhausted I can still appreciate that the place I have chosen as my retreat is unexpectedly free from the smell of urine and unburdened by messages such as CALL BARRY FOR A GAY TIME as this allows me a brief interlude of clear thought – the future is not fixed and I only have to change my actions today to earn a happier end.
This disaster started last night. I had a dream that a tap was leaking a slow and steady drip and when the monotony of it finally roused me I discovered that it was actually my nose that was dripping and my pillow was as sticky as an unfinished Paper Mache balloon. Damn it all to hell, I thought, as I stuffed tissues up both nostrils and turned the pillow over, this Phuket adventure has fucked me.
I woke a few hours later – the day of Lewis’s third birthday party – stricken, and the tissues I had shoved up my nose had become so soggy with snot that they had slid down my face and neck during the night and solidified in my chest hair with all the strength and consistency of day-old chewing gum. As I was drinking a very strong coffee and working my chest over with a pair of scissors Reservoir Mum informed me that my pillow was also stuck to the back of my neck and from that point on I knew I was in for very bad day.
I am now at an IndoorPlayCenter and despite taking twice the recommended dose of cold and flu tablets my joints are screaming like the rusty hinges of an old gate and my head feels as heavy as a 64kg kettlebell . Outside this cubicle there is a series of multi-colored tunnels teaming with children. There is a pit full of plastic balls, two super-fast slides, a jumping castle, several toddler-sized bikes, mesh for climbing and other play equipment I do not have the names for. What concerns me is that at some stage Lewis will want me to play on some or all of those things and the effort required to do this may be beyond me and I feel an unavoidable dread at the thought that I will have to deny him the pleasure of my participation. There is also the dozen or so mothers gathered around Lewis’s birthday table and the effort it will take for me to converse with them.
Dead people, amoebas and even St Kilda supporters feel better than I do right now and this, coupled with the disappointment I feel at not being 100% present at Lewis’s birthday releases a flood of raw emotion and I find myself fighting back tears as I fan my stiffly spread fingers at my flushed cheeks and when I start hyperventilating through my gaping mouth I am left with no choice but to slap myself several times in the forehead so that I can stop comparing myself to Halle Berry at the 2002 Oscars.
As the fever works to fry my brains and the dull but constant pain behind my eyes intensifies I have an image of Lewis sinking slowly into the ball-pit. He’s calling out for me as he passes through the balls-only-layer into the balls-plus-once-edible-food-layer into the balls-plus-once-edible-food-plus-lost-socks-and-nappies-layer and finally into the layer-solidified-in-a-bed-of-crumbs-and-urine-where-all-items-including-children-will-be-trapped-for-centuries-until-a-team-of-archeologists-dig-them-out-and-display-them-in-museums-so-that-people-can-speculate-on-their-daily-lives-and-the-circumstances-surrounding-their-deaths, and I find myself heaving with love for the little guy and I know that I must somehow rise against this illness – while I am still free of pustules and lesions – and be there for him on his special day.
I stand and pull up my pants at the same time that I realize there was no need to pull them down in the first place and I flush the toilet just as I remember that there was nothing to flush and as I lower the lid – just like Reservoir Mum has taught me too – I notice a scribbling by the side of the cistern. Graffiti! It reads
every time you masturbate God kills a kitten. Please, think of the kittens
and I realize two things – there is no such thing as a clean toilet and there is no way that any illness could ever stop me from making sure that Lewis has the best third birthday of his entire life and as I reach for the door, shaking and at the point of delirium, I see a more positive image of my final moments –
I am an eighty-eight-year-old man sitting in a vibrating recliner inside a two bedroom retirement home that smells of new carpet and roast chicken. I’m mumbling to myself and throwing darts at a dartboard engraved with the words Happy 80th Dad as Reservoir Mum busies about the house talking to one of our grandchildren on the phone and as my heart beats one of its final beats my eyes are shocked wide as I remember all my children and all the birthday parties and all the fun and my only regret is that I have to leave everyone and all of this behind.
Happy Birthday Lewy
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‘If David Sedaris had got married and had kids, he would have been Reservoir Dad. Fall-on-the-floor funny, sharp, witty and just a little bit sexy.’ ~ Kerri Sackville, Best Australian Blog 2013 judge
A sharply funny, fresh and irreverent chronicler of real life in today’s parenting trenches, Reservoir Dad is a stay-at-home dad whose award-winning blog has already won hearts and minds all over Australia and beyond for telling it like it is and making us laugh out loud – and sometimes cry, but in a good way.