My youngest Sebastian was going on so many growth spurts it freaked me out. It was obvious he would be taller than both of us. He had inherited the male gene on my side where my father, uncles and cousins were all pretty much over 6 foot. We had started him on athletics as he didn’t show an aptitude for tennis like his brother.
He resisted at first, and would stand like a shag on a rock not engaging with the other boys.
We persevered and persevered. Volunteering and helping with the running of the Saturday competitions that took up most of our day.
Then one day it clicked for him and he loved it.
It has been four years now since Jeff took the high paying job in Sydney working for the head office of a corporate miner.
Four years of grief..anguish..stoicism..frantic calls from me at lunch time saying I can’t do this anymore.
He being solid. Trying to placate.
But the assignments got better and better and he was building a good reputation as a designer.
We go into the office and each anxiously outlines their side. Jeff begrudgingly..me clinical then emotional..
And the counsellor who would be no more than 26 says what we need is “to find the fun and romance back in our relationship…”
Write things on slips about what you would both really like from each other. Then draw one out each week. She exclaims enthusiastically.
I look at Jeff and he knows the strain and huge problems we both face. So this will be the panacea for years of silent resentment and marriage draining arguments going over and over the same ground. Stuck.
We both know it is useless advice. But clutch onto it and agree as we have no other avenue we can see.
We awkwardly embrace outside the nondescript 70’s building then he heads back to work, me back in the car for the two-hour drive to pick up the boys from school.
The next day I chat with some of my friends at the school annual athletics carnival and realise in horror I have missed my eldest in the 200 metres..I frantically try to manoeuvre the camera to get him as he approaches the finish line.
He came 4th! My friend Marie says smiling, knowing I missed the whole thing.
That’s ok, he’s not an athlete but more into classical guitar. At least he tried his best.
I run over to the house team tents amidst a cacophony of team chanting, a sea of red, blue, green and yellow for all the house teams finally track him own as a teacher removes a tall plastic devils fork from him, to go with his red devil’s outfit to play a key role in the team chanting, and hug him quickly.
Well done honey..you ran really well. Give me that darling even though it’s plastic it looks lethal.
His teacher nods..Yes please..just could cause a hazard. Like poke someone’s eye out she smiles at him.
OK thanks Mum.
He shrugs off my embrace worried about his mates nearby and reluctantly hands me the pitchfork.
Come meet me for lunch you know where I am, just over there and I bought sushi your favourite for lunch, and put more sunscreen on!
Mum! He protests as I try to grab a bottle of sunscreen. He is so fair and refuses to wear the school hat, I am convinced he will end up really burnt and get skin cancer.
I see Sebastian starting to lineup for his 100 metres and wave and give him a thumbs up.
You can do it darling! I give him a big smile and return to the parent side to watch his race.
This time my friends make sure I know he is starting, I run to a good spot on the sideline and grapple the camera, sunglasses and take away coffee to deal with the glare and freak out at the pace of the race. He strides out well, running down the middle lane then arching around the bend, now well out in front. His team roars as he comfortably pushes well out in front to push his chest over the finish line, rewarded by a grinning mother waiting with the blue ribbon that he pins to his chest.
Seb! I cry out, he spins around smiling and I capture a nice natural short, red shirt, green grass and other kids in background, the blue ribbon held up.
No Jeff to see. The photo I will message to him so he can get some sense of the day and Sebastian’s special moments.
I call him to tell him, and listen to his excited response as I think of all the years I have attended the boys carnivals, holy communion nights, special nights…alone.
Big price to pay to miss out on your boys growing up to be men. I feel a loneliness as I look around to see other parents sitting together, not a lot, but there are a number of fathers who have made the effort to be there, if only for part of the day.
I don’t think I can keep actually doing this.
Sebastian goes on that day to win Champion Boy for his year. His crowning achievement so far in primary school. I take snatched photos in the usual disorganisation of a school event.
We all happily head back to the car, people good-naturedly congratulating him on his achievement as he clutches the golden trophy proudly.
The next night Jeff tiredly climbs the stairs after another nightmare commute from Sydney in peak hour weekend traffic.
Before he has a chance to put his bag down, I say
I think we need a family holiday, and one place I have always wanted to go to is Egypt.
He looks at me, eyebrows raised, then knows better than to argue.
Egypt. Well it will be a good education for the boys, but how can we afford it…
We are going, I say definitely. We must have time together as a family. Away
He nods in agreement as the boys finally recognise their father is home and acknowledge him from tv and headsets.
Egypt it will be…to save our marriage. Away from the brutal reality that our lives have become.