Waiting for Dad

November 19, 2017

It is Sunday before Thanksgiving.  Jan went to New York to bring his mother for Holiday.  I have cold for the fourth day now.  That means that I haven’t studied with Robert for the last four days afraid that I would spray my germs at him. That change in the routine left Robert slightly confused and deregulated.  That was not a problem during the last three days as Jan was home and could take over.  But today, my cold and Jan’s absence become troublesome.  I want to keep a distance from Robert so we don’t study.  Instead, Robert keeps calling, screaming,and demanding that dad comes home.  As he doesn’t understand all the arrangements – dad took the train to New York but is supposed to come back in Robert’s grandmother’s car.  Robert doesn’t grasp that, so he wants me to put my shoes on and drive to New York for dad.  He wants it.  He screams for it, he demands it over and over.  Sometimes, he takes a few minutes break.  I am lucky if the break  lasts 5 minutes.  Mostly it is a minute or two.  Then he calls and asks again.  Over and over.  The words always follow each other in quick sequences but the pitch and the volume change.  When that happens, I have to stop writing.  My thoughts are shattered into pieces and words escape me.

Robert gets quiet, then makes siren sounds of alarm and protest.  That pierces my ears and my soul, or whatever it is left of it.  If I felt better I would occupy Robert somehow.  We would study, sing, do puzzles, or play Trouble.  But my short, forced breath leaves me drained.  So I just watch Robert from the distance.  Currently, he lies down in a bed and watches something on Netflix on his IPAD. I stopped writing.  I don’t know what to write.  I am waiting for the next scream or the sequence of another dramatic crescendo  “dad, dad, dad, dad”.

There are a few minutes of calm.  Robert went to check laundry in the basement.  He also opened the garage to check on the car.  He tries to figure it out. Now he comes and asks again, “dad home, home, home”.  I explain that dad is somewhere on interstate 95.  Maybe still in New York State.  Maybe already in Connecticut.  I just called.  They are still in New York State.  Four more hours of his anxiety.  Four more hours of my confusion. Or his confusion and my anxiety.   Time seems to stay still. Robert is worried about his dad.  I worry about Robert.

Robert’s grandma call.  They are already in Connecticut.  I showed Robert on the map where they are.  He took the information calmly.  For now.

Since Robert started watching Home Alone on TV, I decided to wash some of the refrigerator shelves.  I was supposed to do that on Thursday in preparation for the arrival of frozen or fresh turkey.  But I got sick and didn’t do it.  So I started now.  Robert soon came to the kitchen looking over my shoulder.  The only thing to do was to keep him busy so I asked him to wipe dry each shelf.  And he did.

Hour later.  Robert continues to ask for dad, but in a calmer way.  No more dramatic crescendos. I keep showing him on the map where dad and grandma are .  I reminded Robert that we usually stop at the service area close to exit 40.  That rang the bell.  Robert got calmer.  Now, I told him that dad and grandma are already in Rhode Island.  Robert wanted to bring me my shoes.  Now, I understood the reason for that. Robert  believes that since dad traveled in the train he has to return in the train, so he wants me to drive to the station for dad.  The idea of the third car, grandma car, as the mode of travel somehow didn’t register yet.

I took out kale from the refrigerator. Robert said, “Dad, dad, dad”.  He wants me to cook knowing that this is the dish his dad likes.  Cooking food for dad assures that he will come soon.  So let me cook.  I do that while washing my hands every few minutes.  The most importantly, Robert is calmer.  He keeps asking but not screaming and he continues answering my questions. Calmly

-“Dad, dad”

-“Dad is in Rhode Island.  Where is dad?”

-“Rhode Island”

-“What is he doing?”


-“Yes, driving with grandma.”

After, I understood why Robert wanted us to put on shoes (to get to the station for dad), I was able to explain to Robert one more time that dad is not coming on the train but is coming in the old grandma’s car.  Robert must have understood because he stopped asking for shoes but instead he wanted to write in his journal about last four days. Then he decided to take the bath.  Now he is in the bathroom getting ready for a tub.

Robert’s ability to calm down gradually, to express his anxiety in a composed way is a new development.  I have not expected that. I expected 4 hours of dramatic calls and sharp sounds.  I don’t know what helped this time.  Maybe maps I kept showing Robert which I connected to his memories of our past trips to New York and back.  Maybe regular calls from his grandma which informed us where they were.  Maybe it was my resigned attitude he might find calming. After all, I still have cold, although it is getting better.


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