Before he went under general anesthesia, I had to sign a form stating that I knew my baby might die. While this wasn’t the first moment of my parenthood that carried such risk, it was the first time I’d placed my name on a sheet of paper recording that fact.
To sign is to state the water’s edge of what I know. I knew he would have at least two teeth extracted, but maybe more. I knew there would be crowns, but not how many. It was okay for me not to know, because there was this piece of paper to know for me. To anticipate what would happen while my baby went under, and give directions on my behalf for each eventuality.
I kissed his head and sang to him and they put the mask on.
I do hereby shake death’s hand out of respect. I take the kids
to recitals remind them brush teeth and death alone
thumbs the dance card that can pull us away. I love my children
as a living document of this fact. To become a parent is to sign
daily with and on our bodies.
They called me back.
His mouth, holding four fewer teeth, left bloody comfort circles on my breast. I held him and he stopped breathing. The nurse explained this is normal. The anesthesia was leaving him and for a moment the body struggles to make sense of such a condition.
His body draped uncomfortably over the systems by which his life continued. I drape my name uncomfortably over the future that paper strains to anticipate. He inhales.
You were their father and the children did not die and neither did you but still you told me you weren’t their father now. My child had four teeth but under the cavity those four teeth crumbled to dust and weren’t teeth you were their father then you weren’t. You suggested legal adoption as a safety measure to guard our family from this administration with paper that names us as we already are. You answered to sleepy cries of “daddy” in the night and you left. You extracted yourself from the name they loved you by. The body struggles to make sense of such a condition.
There is only so much paper can know. I release any fault from the fiber of trees. Rotting breadcrumbs thumb their way into the dirt. This is the line for your pen. You are not home.
Featured Image Credit: Jessica Lawson