Because Craig was the baby, his main chore was turning off the TV at dinnertime. One night he ran full bore to the TV and tripped over a two-foot-long inflatable sword he’d gotten at Burger King. I heard a loud bang as his head slammed against the (real) wooden pirate chest in the living room, and then he was crying, holding his head. It was a gusher, a Panhandle bleeder, a three-quarter-inch gash above his left ear. I turned off the stove, wrapped Craig’s head in a towel, and told the older kids to get in the car. I drove to the emergency room with one hand, holding the towel with gentle pressure against Craig’s head with the other.
“Sit down,” the lady in the ER said. “It will be two hours.”
“Can I have a phone book?”
I called Domino’s and ordered a pizza with pepperoni and pineapple. “We’ll need lots of napkins.”
Javier commented, “This is just like a restaurant.”
The ER doctor had a big needle. I held Craig tight as the doctor stuck his head to numb him. Then the doctor took a staple gun, remarkably similar to one at, well, Staples, and put four half-inch-wide staples in his head. We got home tired at 10:30 p.m.
At 1 a.m., I heard Craig crying in his room. The painkiller had worn off. I brought him to my bed, but he couldn’t sleep, because he liked to sleep on the side of his head with the staples. At 2 a.m., he said, “Daddy, I’m hungry.” Before our snack, tired, stapled, and with dried blood on his ear, he said, “I want to sing my thankful song.” We sang “We Are Thankful,” ate applesauce, and went back to bed.
The human shadow, the boy without momentum, has his own forward motion now. Craig is easily the most curious child of the three. He wants to know why the moon doesn’t fall and how ropes hold the Golden Gate Bridge. He’s the one who makes me want a nondigital spouse the most. Other than seeing me with a girlfriend, my children had no idea what a normal male-female relationship looked like. To Craig, I was the mom and the dad, and there was nothing wrong with that. When he was five, he told me that he wanted to be an unmarried astronaut and adopt kids.
Today he makes friends easily. He loves the attention good grades bring, and he wants to learn more. Other than a sniffle now and then, he has not been ill in many years, and he’s never missed a day of school.
I learned from Craig, about him and about myself. I could have done much better had I known more about parenting. Watching him grow up makes me want to have another baby, but for now, I look at pictures. I’m amazed that we did it. Craig emerged from his chamber and became a boy. I emerged from mine and became a father.
FROM THE BOOK THIS IS US: THE NEW ALL-AMERICAN FAMILY. COPYRIGHT © 2011 BY DAVID MARIN. PUBLISHED AT $16.95 BY EXTERMINATING ANGEL PRESS, 1892 COLESTIN ROAD, ASHLAND, OREGON 97520.