Every father at one time or another feels like a failure, but every now and then at the end of the day he knows, this day, he did it right.
No apology made for the self serving story to follow.
“Hi sweetie, how are you doing?”
“Are you scared?” Her head nodded, those blue eyes starred back in relief. Someone was paying attention to her; after all, we were there because of her! I had arrived a few minutes earlier, having driven almost two hours to find, Melinda talking a blue streak with mundane small talk to her friend Toni. My daughter was lying next to them in a hospital bed, a drab curtain circling the group gave off a semblance of privacy.
The frivolous adult conversation created an emotional barrier leaving the child alone with her fears. My anger spiked. Pushing it aside and leaning close, “You say you’re scared, what are you most afraid of?”
“What is the doctor going to do? Is he going to give me a shot or hurt me, what is wrong with my foot?”
Fear, often is not knowing what is around the next corner and it is highlighted when we feel alone. A few days earlier my daughter had some minor foot surgery and after two days at camp, it now had become infected.
I tuned out the adults and there in those next few minutes it was just a father and his daughter.
“Well, sweetie I am not sure if he will give you a shot – does that scare you?” Another nod and now a tear rolled down her check. “What is it about a shot that scares you?”
“The last time I got a shot the doctor told me it would feel just like a little pinch and when I look away he stuck me, it hurt real bad. The doctor lied!”
“So, you need to know how bad it will hurt? Is that what you are saying?” Again the nod came with those blue eyes fixed on mine. “Okay…, and no surprises or lies?” Again, the nod but this time there was unbelief in her look. “If he gives you a shot I will make sure you know when it is about to happen – will that help?” She nodded. “What else are you afraid of?”
She reached for my hand, “I am afraid you will leave me alone with the doctor.”
I hesitated speaking decisively and slowly as dad’s can, “I promise, I will not leave you alone with the doctor.”
“Okay,” her head tilted back on her pillow relaxing, but her small hand still gripped mine. It wasn’t long and the next swirling thought came to the surface, head coming back off the pillow. “What is the doctor going to do to my foot?"
“Well, I am not really sure. He will probably change the band-aid and probably clean your foot where your stitches are. But, I will be right here with you. I promise I will not leave you. And, I will make sure the doctor explains everything before he does anything. Will that help?” She nodded again and let her head fall back on the pillow.
We sat there her hanging onto my hand until the doctor came. He asked everyone to leave. And, I told him I would be staying. He looked straight at me. A long silence spanned the equally long stare. In the end he looked away deciding not to argue. “Doctor, my daughter is afraid and she needs you to tell her everything that is going to happen, she has had other doctors trick her and she can handle whatever you need to do but she needs to know what it is and when you will be doing it. Can you do that?” He said, he could and he would.
Just so you know I was right there reminding the doctor and keeping him honest.
The doctor did great, my daughter did great. My daughter and I took the long drive home; I drove and she slept. All these years later, I can still remember carrying her into the house being careful not to bang her dangling foot. I don’t know if my daughter remembers that night but I sure do.
As a dad we do it wrong so many times. It is nice to have at least one memory of doing it right.