How many special people change?
How many lives are living strange?
Where were you while we were getting high? – Oasis
As Dylan and I walked over to Pam and Amelia’s where Eric waited, I thought about everything I had learned and discussed about this introduction. Dylan had seen a therapist while he was sick and still saw him occasionally. I thought when Dylan met his father that the appointments might have to become a bit more consistent again, so I had mentioned it and got some advice on how to broach the topic.
Obviously, I wouldn’t push it. I would speak only in facts and avoid telling Dylan what he should do or what he should feel. The only person in charge of that was Dylan. I also had to be sure to allow Dylan the opportunity to talk, not force him or make him feel overwhelmed.
There were many rules to this introduction. I would go through every single one, though, if it was the best thing for Dylan.
“Who we meetin’?” he asked, swinging my arm as we walked.
“Well, you know the man who’s been living with your aunts?”
“We meetin’ him?” He asked. Excitement was clear in his voice. He had wanted to meet ‘the man at Aunt Pam’s house’ ever since he found out Eric was living there.
“Yes,” I answered, and that was all I said. Everything I had planned to tell Dylan suddenly escaped my mind.
I sure hoped it came back…sooner rather than later.
We went in through the back door and Dylan called out, “Honey, I home!”
I had no idea who to thank for that.
Eric entered from the living room and said, “Hi.”
He walked toward us slowly and stopped a good bit away. He obviously wanted to be just as careful with this as me. That appeared to be a very good thing. Instead of greeting Eric with his usual little outgoing personality, Dylan hid behind my leg. That was something I was not used to when it came to my son.
I wondered if he was remembering the first time he had seen Eric. He hadn’t wanted his Aunt Pam to go and talk to the yelling man. This might be harder than I originally believed.
I knelt so I was close to the same height as Dylan. I didn’t attempt eye contact since his eyes had not left Eric once he appeared. “Dylan, this is Eric,” I told him. Both Eric and I agreed to start there. “Can you say hi?” Dylan shook his head no, also something I wasn’t used to with my little guy.
I noticed the struggle on Eric’s face. He tried to keep his face happy and smiling, but Dylan’s reaction was not helping. I wanted to reach out, give him a hug, and let him that everything would be okay, but Dylan was my main concern. It was something Eric and I had discussed and agreed upon. No matter how much comfort Eric might need, Dylan and his wellbeing had to come first.
“Eric has been living here with your aunts and he’s a friend of mine,” I continued trying to explain to Dylan. With his reaction, I wasn’t going to dive in and say that Eric was Pam’s brother. That would come in time, just as the fact that Eric was his father. There was no instruction manual for something like this. I had to make decisions based on Dylan’s reactions and my instincts as his mother.
I don’t know if it was his instinct as a father or if he did it because he noticed my own actions, but after my words still hadn’t elicited a response from Dylan, Eric knelt, too, careful not to come any closer.
“It is nice to meet you, Dylan,” Eric said softly. Now, that, in turn, made Dylan respond, but, unfortunately, it was not the type either of us wanted. After Eric spoke directly to him, Dylan turned his face into my body, so he didn’t have to look at his father.
Eric looked to me with expressions I could only describe as both hurt and stuck. Of course, he was hurt by Dylan’s reactions of being both seemingly scared or, at the very least, uninterested, and he had no idea what to do. He wasn’t the only one, and I was the one who knew our son.
I knew that I had to end what seemed like torture for the three of us. “Dylan, why don’t you go and play with your toys? Eric and I can sit and watch you,” I suggested. I wanted to give him some warning that Eric would still be there. Maybe just being in his presence with little to no interaction would help in some way. That was all I had to go on at the time.
So, I slowly stood while Dylan readjusted his grip on me where he was now just holding onto my leg. It was painful to experience for more than one reason. The first was that it was not how I had wanted Dylan to feel when he met Eric. Secondly, it was something so out of character for my son! He was usually Mr. Personality who spoke and interacted with just about everyone. The only time he hadn’t was when he was sick in the hospital. So, that one uncomfortable experience at Pam’s house seemed to have triggered memories of another uncomfortable experience. Still, I had to soldier on. I couldn’t just throw in the towel, letting Eric believe he would have to avoid his son for the rest of his life. I hoped some inspiration would hit me once Dylan started to play, but the only thing I was sure of was I would not force anything.
I moved Dylan so he no longer clutched at my leg, but rather my arm. I was short enough so whenever he clutched my leg and I tried to walk, we had major problems. I led him down the hallway to his playroom. Yes, he had two spaces dedicated to him in their house. I heard Eric when he started to follow us, and Dylan didn’t run, screaming in terror nor did he look back to see how close Eric might have been.
I took that as two very small, yet good signs. I felt I would have to take what I could get in the situation.
We made it to the playroom, and I was surprised when Dylan let go of my hand and went right over to his toys. I thought he might have dragged me along with him or tried to crawl on me after I sat down. The fact that his cars won over whatever the hell he was feeling about Eric gave me hope that this possibly might not be a complete clusterfuck.
Eric seated himself on the couch next to me, careful to keep space between us. Dylan watched him carefully once it was obvious that Eric planned to sit beside me, and then stared at him for a second or two afterward. Then, he went right back to his cars.
“I do not know what to do,” Eric said softly. I was unaware if Dylan heard us, but with the noises he made as he drove his trucks around, I doubted it.
“Join the club,” I replied.
“You know him, though.”
“Doesn’t mean I know how to navigate this,” I explained. I felt completely useless. I was the one with the most information here. I knew my son well. I knew Eric well. I was left feeling like a failure because l couldn’t get these two to talk.
We sat there in silence for a few more minutes. We planned to first introduce Eric and then, once Dylan was comfortable with that, bring up the not-so-tiny bit of information about Eric being his father. Dylan didn’t seem comfortable, though, so should we not raise the topic of Eric being his father? Should I bring it up anyway, just give Dylan two things to work through in his little mind? Which approach was best for my son?
My mind was still drawing a blank when Eric stood beside me and said, “I have an idea,” and then he disappeared from the playroom. Was his idea to just pack it in and try another day? I hadn’t taken Eric as someone who ran when things became complicated, especially now that he was sober. I was left on the couch to wonder just what he could be up to. Dylan watched him when he left the room, but never said a word about Eric’s disappearing act, so I had no idea what he may have been thinking.
“Eric seems nice,” I said, trying to gauge where my son stood on the situation. The shrug of the shoulders I received in reply told me nothing. Eric sometimes shut down, too, when he became overwhelmed. It wasn’t such an uncommon of a trait, but I wondered if it could be something father passed down to son.
Eric slowly entered the room again with something in his hand, but I couldn’t see what. Eric moved toward Dylan instead of returning to sit on the couch with me. I had a moment, okay, maybe more than just one moment, when I imagined all the negative responses my son could have.
Fortunately, after Eric took a seat, still a respectable distance away, Dylan either didn’t notice or just pretended to ignore him.
Eric looked at me for what seemed like some sort of encouragement. I doubted the shoulder shrug I gave helped, but it was all I had.
“Dylan, may I play with you?” Eric asked. Even though he didn’t receive any verbal response, Dylan stopped playing with his cars and looked at Eric. “I brought my own cars,” Eric added, showing Dylan what he had in his hand.
Dylan seemed to like something he saw and said, “Wow,” moving closer to Eric. “Those are cool,” he said.
I wanted to see what was so cool about Eric’s cars, but gave the two their space. This was basically Dylan’s first acknowledgment of Eric, so I needed to let the two have it.
“The doors open, too,” Eric said, handed one to Dylan. Our son went right at it, opening and closes the doors on the little antique car Eric gave him.
“Where did you get these?” Dylan asked, reaching for another. Eric handed him a second car.
“These were mine when I was little,” Eric explained.
“You so big,” Dylan said. Obviously, he was referring to Eric’s height. “How could you ever be little?” He asked, holding up the two cars with no space between him to show his size comparison.
Eric laughed a little and said, “I meant when I was younger, like when I was your age,” he explained.
“These must be really old then,” Dylan said, and I couldn’t stop the laugh that escaped me.
“How old do you think I am?” Eric asked. I noticed he tried to look stern and upset, but the interaction with his son made that difficult.
Dylan looked Eric up and down. He took the question very seriously. Since I knew how old my son thought I was, I had some idea of how old he would say Eric was.
I was sorely mistaken, much to Eric’s detriment!
“A hundred and thee!” Dylan said with excitement.
Eric looked to me, confusion clear in his eyes. “Don’t look at me,” I said. “Not the answer I expected.” I turned toward Dylan and asked, “Dylan, how old is Mommy?”
“‘Leven,” Dylan said with a smile.
“I was ten,” I told Eric with a smile of my own, “but then I had a birthday.”
“So, how the hell do I end up being a hundred and three?”
“Shh,” Dylan said and, again, I had some idea where Dylan was about to go but, given how wrong I was last time, I wouldn’t be placing bets on it. “We don’t talk about the bad place,” Dylan told Eric. “At least, not when Mommy is around,” he added. It was clear he thought he said this in a way I couldn’t hear him, so I wasn’t going to deter that thought. If my three-year-old son knew that Hell was where the Devil lived, it certainly wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
“I am sorry,” Eric said quickly and looked to me. He looked scared at what my reaction might be, but I just shrugged.
“Not the worst thing he might hear,” I said. With Pam and Amelia as his aunts, it probably wasn’t even the worst he had ever heard.
“What’s this do?” Dylan asked after he shoved one of the cars in Eric’s face, so Eric could see what he asked about.
Eric gently moved Dylan’s arm back a bit, so he could actually see what his son was interested in. I couldn’t see what had captured Dylan’s attention and although I was curious myself, I was not about to interrupt the moment between the two.
“It is a switch,” Eric told him. “If you turn it on, the lights shine,” he added. “Or, at least, they used to,” he said while he flicked the switch, and nothing happened.
“Does it need battries?” Dylan asked, missing the second syllable in the word.
“It is old, so it might not work at all, but we could try to switch out the batteries,” Eric explained. “I do not have the kind that fits in the car, though.”
“Aunt Pam has battries!” Dylan exclaimed excitedly. He had no idea the batteries Pam had around her house were probably not the ones that would fit in the car. “Aunt Pammy has battries for her and Aunt Amlia’s special toy that I am not allowed to touch.”
Yes, that did mean exactly what Eric thought it meant.
Again, Eric looked to me and this time his expression was disbelief, as if he couldn’t believe what I had exposed our son to. “She’s your sister,” I told him.
“I had no choice in the matter,” Eric said.
“She very quickly learned to keep her drawer and door closed,” I explained.
“How long ago was this?”
Toddler memories were trickle. They didn’t always remember long-term things, but what they did remember was pretty much exactly what you wouldn’t want them remembering!
For instance, the sex toy found in his aunts’ drawer.
“A few months. He seems to be reminded of it whenever batteries are brought up, though. Your sister said she had the drawer open to remind her it needed new ones.”
“Battries!” Dylan whined when he tired of our conversation. “If not here, can we go get them?”
I looked to Eric. I wasn’t against the field trip, then again, I didn’t want to be the one who broke up this bonding session, although it could have been safe to say Pam’s toy had done that already. He shrugged and said, “Sure.” He then looked to Dylan and said, “It still might not work. The car might be too old for it to work, but we could still try.”
“Yay!” Dylan screamed before he was pretty much pulling us out the door. I buckled him in, closed the door, and waited while Eric hesitated at the back of the car.
“Here are the keys,” he said.
“Do you not want to drive?” I asked.
“I did not know if you would want me to with Dylan in the car.”
“Eric, if I thought you would do anything to hurt our son, you would never have met him. If you want to drive, it’s fine.”
“Okay,” he said with a smile that lit up his entire face. With that, we climbed into the car, Eric in the driver seat. This was the first time the three of us were in the car together.
“Eric?” Dylan asked from his carseat in the back row.
“Yes, Dylan,” Eric said in reply. The smile on his face only widened.
“You Aunt Pammy’s sister?” Dylan asked.
I hadn’t realized what I said after I said it to Eric. I told Dylan Pam was his sister at least twice during our conversation. Dylan must have misunderstood when he repeated the one I used, but he obviously had some understanding about their connection.
I didn’t want to keep things from my son, but, again, he was only three. I didn’t want to overwhelm him, either. Still, he had asked and there was no reason why he shouldn’t be given an honest answer. I nodded to Eric after he looked to me for direction.
“Not quite, Dylan. Pam is my sister. I am her brother.”
“You had the same mommy!”
“Yes, we had the same mommy,” Eric said with a laugh.
“Was Aunt Pammy the one who got you the cars?”
“No. When I was little, she was little.”
“Did your mommy get you the cars?”
“No.” The tense way Eric answered made me see that their conversation might have been headed for dangerous territory.
“Who then?” Dylan asked.
Eric hesitated for a second before he said, “My father.”
Dylan was quiet for a few seconds before he said, “I don’t have a fader.”
“You do, Dylan,” I said almost automatically while I turned in my seat to look at my son. “You have a father. You just don’t know him yet.”
“Who?” Dylan repeated.
Eric pulled over to the side of the road. This was not the way I had envisioned telling my son. I figured he would be in my lap, feeling safe and protected, and then we gently would tell him. I had learned since he had been sick that I had severely underestimated my son’s capabilities while trying to protect him. I still needed to protect him, but not at such great detriment.
I looked to Eric who had gone pale, but he slowly nodded. He shifted in his own seat so that he could see both Dylan and me. I took Eric’s hand and looked to my son, saying the words before I changed my mind.
“Eric. Eric is your father, Buddy.”
Well, that only took 30 chapters! I do hope you enjoy it. Now, we just have to see how Dylan reacts.
Thanks so much for your patience and your well wishes. I’m feeling much better and hope that continues.
Thanks to MsBuffy for all her help and support!