TUESDAY, August 24 – I had a premonition. Despite a hug here, a giggle there, it was a quarter of an hour before I actually shut the door behind me. Even after I again promised that I’d be at the baseball field at the stroke of six and not a second later. ‘I’ll be on time for your game. Honest!’ He still looked at me as if he didn’t quite believe me.
I’d laid out his uniform on the bed. His new glove on top and the new shoes next to the bag with helmet and bat. Bottle of water. All this so he won’t have to worry about that when his coach comes to pick him up. Good preparations are half the work and yet this proved to be the herald of an unexpected relapse.
Eamonn called just after lunch. He wanted to know, ‘why can’t I get home sooner?’ Patiently, I explained that I had several appointments at work and that later in the afternoon I had to go to Amsterdam for another meeting; but, I assured him that I’d be at the field on time. He went on grumbling. I began to lose patience and spoke to him in a gruffer more-businesslike manner.
Less than a half hour later, I had good news. One of my appointments had been cancelled, so I knew for sure I’d be there well before the start of the game, maybe even during the warming-up. Telling him the news, he burst into tears. ‘I miss you, Papa’.
Sigh. I told him I missed him, too. On my way to Amsterdam, he called again. Couldn’t I get there a little bit earlier. Impossible. Could I tell him what time I thought I could get to the field. No later than ten to six, I promise with my hand on my heart. This was getting to be annoying, but in a way I understood. The first game after the Summer break. Of course, he’d be nervous after five weeks off. It’s also only a couple of days before school opens.
Triumphantly I set course for the field. With any luck, I should be able to make it in half an hour. Then, suddenly, I got a text message from Sander. Could I call him back right away? Something had happened at home. I’d barely gotten through when I heard Eamonn ranting and raving in the background. A bit of a crisis, I was told.
The phone was handed to Eamonn who was crying in long, anguished gasps. Then he said something.
‘I’m sorry, Eamonn, I can’t understand you.’
‘What did you say?’
Again, I couldn’t make head nor tails of what he was saying.
‘Calm down, Eamonn! Take a deep breath and repeat what you just said.’
For a moment he was silent.
‘Papa,’ he began, and then he told me what was bothering him, and what he’d been thinking about.
A brief pause on my end.
‘Son, do you really feel that bad?’
‘Papa, I’m so terribly angry.’
‘I know, son, I know.’
‘No, you don’t, Papa. You don’t know how angry I am.’
He was probably right. This morning I left the house thinking he was going to have fun with his baseball buddies. It was only normal that he was a bit nervous. But so angry? And so distraught?
I kept him talking until I got home. The front door flew open and he came running. The phone fell on the doormat. We held each other tight and without saying anything, walked inside, went upstairs to my bedroom and lay down on the bed, still holding each other tight. We still didn’t say anything. I didn’t feel anger, but there was fear.
‘Were you really that angry, Eamonn?
‘Yes, Papa, terribly angry.’
‘That surprises me a little. I thought things were really improving.’
‘I’m angry every day, Papa. Every day.’
‘Yes, a little bit. Sometimes a couple of times a day. But I usually know how to deal with it. Until today. I just got angrier and angrier and…’
I decided it would be better not to go into what he’d said on the phone. Earlier this year he’d promised to come straight to me. That was now. He had come to me. And I was there.
‘What are you angry about?’
‘Are you mad at the motorcycle cop?’
‘A little bit.’
‘Are you angry because Mom isn’t here anymore?’
‘Yes, that’s part of it.’
He buried his head in my armpit and nodded. ‘A little bit.’
‘Are you angry because I’m at work, and not here with you and your brother?’
Damn it. He had every right to be angry. Damn it.