I opened my eyes with the first streak of June sunlight that came through the slightly open curtains of my French windows. I am an early bird and never need an alarm to wake up. On purpose, I just leave the curtains a dash open at night, so that I wake up the next morning, with the sun smiling on my face. I consider it to be a good omen. I looked at my joined palms, as if in prayer, rubbed them over my face, looked at Hailey’s picture right in front of me and smiled. “Good morning sweetheart!”
Leaving the bed, I drew the curtains wide open and took a deep breath. The warm morning breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees and enveloped the New York city. It was time to get on with my daily routine, which was a hell of a lot before I actually left for work.
After finishing my bathroom rituals including a bath, I quickly got dressed, with one last look in the mirror, I headed towards Terran’s bedroom. I liked my morning solitude. Once he woke up and was around, I had to forget myself. I peeped in his room to find him sound asleep cuddled under his Spiderman duvet. I gave him a flying kiss and quietly closed the door. There was still time.
As soon as I was in the kitchen, I grabbed my apron, made myself a cup of coffee and started making our breakfast and Terran’s snacks for his tiffin. I have been micromanaging everything around the house ever since Hailey left us. I had to finish everything in record time, as I had only 20 minutes before I woke him up. Terran would take a good sixty minutes to complete his morning rituals and breakfast. I didn’t want to be late for work, realising that I was already getting an hour’s concession everyday because of Terran.
With his cereal bowl in place, just as I kept everything on the dining table, I heard my mobile ringing. Looking at the screen I rolled my eyes, blew my cheeks and growled in the phone,
“Morning Justin! You know you’re not supposed to disturb me at this hour!”
“Good morning Grayson!”
He said cheerily.
“Are you the only single father in the world bringing up a 10 year old son?”
“You well know Terran is different.”
“I know. And I truly admire you for what you are doing.”
“Did you call me up so early to praise my fatherly skills?”
“No. I called to remind you. Don’t forget to bring Adam’s file. The meeting is at 11.”
“I know. Now hang up, I’m yet to wake up Terran.”
“Man, you’re a tough guy. See you in the bank.”
With Justin out of the way, I proceeded to wake up Terran and help him to get ready for school.
I never have time to read the newspaper or catch up with the morning news on the tube. Terran takes up most of my hours and life revolves around him. He is my world, just as I am his. When Hailey left us soon after Terran’s birth, my blissful bubble burst and I was shattered. Much of our stability and happiness went with her. I would have loved to join Hailey in heaven, but looking at Terran reminded me of my purpose on earth. After Hailey he is the most beautiful gift from God. A gift with a difference. He is an imperfectly perfect child. He is not a normal 10 year old. It took me sometime to find this out.
My boy seemed okay until he was three. Later, he wasn’t speaking like a three year old should. His use of limbs wasn’t like the others. They were far laid back. He couldn’t do many things that a child should do at his age. After extensive tests and diagnosis, we were told that Terran was a mentally retarded child. Mildly, borderline. With Hailey taken away and Terran in my lap, I thought the universe was punishing me.
My parents have been a backbone and helped me in my time of distress and in understanding my son and his upbringing. We have literally grown-up together.
It’s a task to wake him up everyday. I thank my stars, the day he gets up without a fuss. I sat on a chair next to his bed and whispered in his ear, “Good morning Champ! Your strawberry oats cereal awaits you. Race daddy to the dining table.”
I thanked my stars today. He opened his eyes wide and flashed a big smile at me.
“Gud mo’ning dad! I’m gonna win.”
I smiled back, ruffled his silky brown hair and carried him to the bathroom. He’s a miniature replica of me. Fair, hazel eyes and umber brown hair. I hope he grows up to be as tall as I am.
Thirty minutes later we were sitting at the table enjoying our breakfast and dad/son time together. Terran was fully dressed except his school shirt. He had a bib around his neck. He drooled and dropped a lot while eating. But insisted on doing it on his own. I allowed him and didn’t mind the cleaning afterwards.
“I don’t want to go for OT today,” he complained.
“We’ve already missed the previous one, we can’t afford to miss today.”
Terran was down with a fever and had to miss his occupational therapy session before.
“It’s boring and no fun at all. I want to go to the park.” He was still nagging.
“Today is not our park day, you know that.” We went to the park only on Fridays and Saturdays.
“I don’t need OT. I’m a big boy.” He was still upset.
“You do need them. We’ll play some fun games at home when we come back. How about Snakes and Ladders?”
Pronouncing ‘R’ is a difficulty for him.
“Promise. Now finish your cereal and lets get going.”
After a final cleanup and Terran fully dressed, we left the house. Forty minutes later, after dropping him to school I was in the bank.
“Finally you are here. Thank you!”
Justin came up from behind his desk and gave me a pat on my shoulder when I peeped in his cabin. Justin Turner is an internal auditor at the bank, where I am the DPO. We are not only good colleagues but even best friends. He is like a brother I never had. He has seen and been with me in my worst of times, alongside with my parents.
“You know what a mad rush it is in the morning. Even if I try, I can’t come earlier than this,” I reasoned with him.
“I know and I don’t envy you at all. Now let’s discuss Adam’s case and put everything in place before the meeting begins.”
With that my day at the bank began. I like my job. It isn’t a lot of fun, but it definitely pays my bills and gives me the flexibility of time needed to be with Terran.
I had an arrangement with my mother. She picked up Terran from school every evening and kept him at her place, till I got from the bank. Terran liked being at his grandparents’ house. He had his snacks, chatted with them and played with Toby, their cat. On OT days, my mom took him for the OT sessions and I picked up Terran from there.
Just as I entered the institute where Terran was having his OT sessions, I saw my mom in the play area, sitting and reading a book. Gracy Martin, invariably, she’s always well dressed and impeccable. She wears a bun and never have I seen her salt and pepper hair disheveled. Mom takes great care of herself and has aged gracefully.
I noticed Terran was playing with some blocks and he was not in the therapy room.
“Evening mom. Is the session over already? Am I late?”
I had reached after juggling through heavy traffic.
“Evening Grayson. No you are not late. The session was cancelled for today.”
“You will have to speak to the lady at the reception. I think the therapist has resigned.”
This was news to me. We were not given any prior notice.
Terran came and hugged my legs. I grinned, patted his cheeks and went to find out what had happened.
Just as mom had said, I was informed, the therapist had resigned and a new one was going to join soon. We were asked to call before coming for the next session.
This didn’t sink in well with me, as Terran took a lot of time to adjust to new people. Not to forget he wasn’t a huge fan of his OT sessions anyways. Feeling helpless in this regard I strolled back to the play area and announced,
“How about a quick half hour at the park?”
Terran yelped with both hands up in the air, “Yippee!”
* * * * *
Mom stood next to me, while I helped Terran climb the steps to slide down. He loved the slide and swing. He wasn’t very fond of jungle gym. Simply because he had to put in a lot of effort to get through it. I didn’t want to force him to do anything which he was not comfortable with.
“Grayson…” mom began mildly.
I knew what was coming. She saw my expressions, understood and picked up a higher tone.
“You may not need a wife, but Terran needs a mother.”
It was the umpteenth time we were going to have this discussion.
“Mom, Terran has me and you and dad. That’s enough. Nobody can understand him or do for him what is truly required.”
“Grayson, the world is not undergoing a drought of good women. At least keep your mind open and look around.”
“You know he doesn’t take kindly to new people. Nobody can take Hailey’s place.” My love for Hailey was still deep down.
“Hailey was a wonderful wife. But she never got a chance of being a mother. Terran has never known a mother’s love. He needs that Grayson.”
“He has you for that.”
“Am I going to be around forever?”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself my son. Because of Terran, you have lost your life as well. I know Terran means the world to you. But don’t forget yourself.”
I didn’t like what she was saying. Terran was my everything and I was living only for him.
“I’ll think about it.”
It was the best way to end the topic.
After dropping mom to her place, we headed home. Terran had dozed off in the car. He became tired very soon and I didn’t blame him. I carried him in the house and just as I was about to put him on the couch, he rubbed his eyes and looked at me.
“Are we home?”
“Yes Champ. Sandwich or strawberry milk?”
I chuckled, “Strawberry milk and then brush and then bed, okay?”
“After a sto’y?”
“After a story,” I repeated.
He followed me to the kitchen and sat on the stool at the counter. I started telling him ‘Tom Thumb’ while making his strawberry milk. He finished his milk and I, my story. After the night rituals, I tucked him in bed and sat by his side with my hand in his hair, till he was fast asleep.
When I hit my head on the pillow, my thoughts went to the conversation I had with mom.
Did I need somebody in my life? Will she be a good mother to Terran?
I looked at Hailey’s smiling picture and smiled back. “Good night sweetheart.”
My day was over.