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...I left one world and entered another.
"Daddy! Daddy!" he squealed with delight. As soon as the cyclone fence gate closed behind him, he ran towards me--the way only two-year-olds can run--with utter abandon. I suddenly wished I had a movie camera; here was a scene to be freeze-framed in my memory. He rushed into my arms, and I swept his face with kisses. His hair, red-brown like his mother's, shone like jewels in the late morning sun. Just as quickly as he'd wanted to be in my arms, he clambered out of my embrace. There used to be a time when I could hold him for hours, I thought. Now, independence ruled his actions. Already, I have to let go.
"Hi, honey!" my wife exclaimed. Her arms were encumbered by an ice chest and two bags. "Quick! Grab this!" She pointed with her chin to the heavier bag. I grabbed both bags, and she sighed with relief.
"Good morning!" I said with a smile, and gave her a quick kiss.
Our little boy was already climbing the steps to the trailer. He could just barely stretch his legs high enough to reach the next step. I opened the door for him, and he plopped right in. After my wife stepped in, I turned around and watched the man and woman in blue uniforms walk away. I squinted as I surveyed the tower next to the trailer. The man up there looked bored. Just another day.
I entered the trailer and closed the door behind me...and by so doing, I left one world and entered another.
"I'm in Daddy's house!" The little sport was already exploring the living room and hallway. That gave me an opportunity to give my sweetheart a big bear hug and a more lingering kiss.
The energized dynamo came running out of the children's bedroom with some toys he'd found. "Look, Mom! A truck!" It was my cue to end the loving embrace.
"I'll keep him entertained while you make lunch, hon," I said. She gave me an appreciative smile.
"Come on, son! Let's make a slide. You can help Dad, okay?"
"Okay!" His face beamed with anticipation. That priceless smile. It'll keep me going when nothing else will.
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...love waxed abundant in the tiny trailer.
I removed the mattress from the single bed in the children's room and dragged it into the living room. Then I had my son help me put some pillows on the mattress. I propped one end of a coffee table on a sofa and situated the other end at the tip of the mattress, thereby creating a makeshift slide. I covered the sharp end of the table with smaller pillows from the sofa in order to protect his back from scrapes at the end of the slide.
He giggled as I helped him walk up the slide in his stockinged feet. He sat at the top, perched like a king of the mountain.
"Okay, you count with Daddy, okay?"
Together, we counted. "One--" Lord, make this one special day last a lifetime "--Two--" He's only two, Lord; help me be a good father to him "--Three!--" Please bring the three of us together again soon!
"Whee!" my little boy exclaimed as he slid down the four-foot long coffee table. It was such a short ride, so he asked me to help him go for another. "Again, Daddy!" he kept saying at the end of each slide.
Finally, it was time for lunch. My little guy and I helped set the table. My wife had made a simple yet nourishing meal. I was prepared to say grace, but she stopped me short. "Honey, he can give the blessing." Well! Good for him! Another landmark in his development.
I listened intently. I even opened my eyes so I could watch him pray. In a tiny voice, with his hands reverently clasped and his face adorned with a grimace (as a child is inclined to wear when he is intent on keeping his eyes closed), he said, "Thanks, Jesus--"
"For this food," my wife prompted.
"--for this food. Amen!"
"Amen!" we proudly echoed.
"You know," I said as I patted his head, "I am so proud of you!" He dove into his broccoli, but I could tell he was pleased.
In the evening, he asked me to make a house for him.
"Okay, son. Here we go!" I took two chairs from the kitchen and placed them on either side of the mattress in the living room. I then spread a sheet over the two chairs. The result was a modified pup tent.
"Come, Daddy, Mommy. Come inside my house!" he said. We joined him underneath the linen canopy. Ah! That joyful look on his face! "Mommy, Daddy, me!" he piped up. My wife and I looked at each other, understanding in our eyes.
Under that flimsy tent, we sang a host of children's songs--some secular, some learned at church. We clapped and moved our heads according to his lead, and love waxed abundant in the tiny trailer.
Soon, it was his bedtime, so my wife prepared a bottle of milk for him. I watched as she changed him and put on his pajamas. So much--I'm missing out on so much.
She said a prayer with him, and I added words of my own. I kissed his forehead.
"Hey, tiger," I said with a smile, "did you have fun today?"
He looked up at me with sleepy eyes and nodded. In between swallows of milk, he said, "Mm-hmm."
Soon, he fell asleep. My wife and I leafed through a hymnal and harmonized a few songs. We felt it was an appropriate way for us to bid him a good night. Dream of angels tonight, son.
My wife and I did not have the luxury of undisturbed slumber that our little boy enjoyed. We were awakened at 2 AM and then again at 6 AM by the uniforms.
"Count time!" they shouted and rudely banged on the side of the trailer.
After I showed my face at the door so they could acknowledge my presence, I returned to the master bedroom. On my way, I looked in on him. The poor little guy had kicked his blanket off, so I gently covered him up again. I watched him as he slept. This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. He had his mouth set in a cute pucker. His legs were sprawled every which way. How long he is! I mused. He was 20-1/2" long at birth, and now he's over 37"! A typical Dad, sizing up the stats...
Wasn't it just yesterday when I talked to the infant not yet seen or known, my head gently pressed against his mother's tummy? Wasn't it just yesterday when he came to visit me for the first time, barely a week old and looking like a grumpy old man? Wasn't it just yesterday when he took his first bite of solid food? Or walked his first wobbly steps? Or blew his first candle out? Or spoke his first sentence?
I have a thousand and one yesterdays to cherish--yet only one special day to look forward to...
...the day I can go home...
9 AM came all too soon. The dreaded knock at the door got my adrenaline going. I picked up our garbage and dirty linen bags and deposited them in the appropriate barrels outside the trailer. I then returned to carry my little boy and a couple of bags out of the trailer. My wife followed with her things.
We had just a few precious seconds to say our goodbyes. I gave my wife a loving hug and kiss. "Thanks, honey! I had a great time!" She smiled. I knew her thoughts were already racing to the practical concerns of her world out there, just as mine were reverting to the primal realities of my world in here.
The final tug came when I looked at him. He was bundled up in a warm hooded jacket. He looked up at me with a look beyond his years. It shook me to see that look. The look said: Dad, do you have to go?
"Son, I love you so much! We had so much fun! I'll see you soon, okay? Now say 'Bye' to Daddy, son!"
"I love you!"
"I wuv you!"
And before he could see me cry, I turned my back on him and headed, under escort, towards the prison compound.