I sit on my recliner idly browsing through pictures on my phone. Marking a particularly nice one as favorite, I turn to show it to Saathi only to find his seat empty. I instinctively turn toward the kids and he is on the floor, Pattu on his lap. The three kids are enjoying their homemade popsicles as he looks upon them with a mixture of tenderness and love. I wonder if I should take a picture and then let it go.
A picture cannot capture everything that moment is about. The particular way he leans supporting his child while directing the other on how not to let the ice drip. The tenderness in his voice as he addresses Laddu. The care with which he wipes down Ammu’s elbow after.
In the minutes after we put the kids to bed, before I retreat to my world of words and him to his Chess, we stand in the silence, the semi darkness masking the emotion in our eyes.
“How did we manage to get so lucky?”
The question hangs in the air before we brush it aside and part ways. I walk downstairs and spend a few minutes with Amma. The conversation reaches a lull and I reach for my phone out of habit. She is reading off the menu of a local restaurant while I look through the pictures I took today in the yard. I scroll further searching for that one evocative photo that can nail how I feel about my children’s dad.
He is all heart, giving everything of himself when he is with them. He is present mentally and physically as he plays ball or reads or feeds them. He takes it to heart when they do not acknowledge his presence retreating into silence until they cave. He walks away, his face set, unyielding when upset, only to email a note asking for the child’s forgiveness. He peeks in, his face radiant as he watches Laddu hop, skip and jump to him. The two of them walk jauntily to the mailbox and return taking a detour watching birds and deer.
He sets off every once in a while, kids in tow, shopping and returns with happy children. They crowd around the island, gasping over berries or the solitary pez candy dispenser. He settles on the picnic blanket, his brood around him, laughing loudly at the jokes on screen, his hand reaching out to ruffle their hair. On rare weekend mornings when all of us are cuddled on our king size bed, he is a child alongside them, jumping on the bed and trying somersaults on the carpet.
With each passing year, I see him engage and connect with endless reserves of patience. I see him dote on and smother them with love. I see him fall in love, his eyes seeking mine long after the home falls silent.
“I am lucky” he says and I can’t but agree.