I’d been invincible for almost 9 years before this past January. I’d lost my health card in August of ’98 and never had a reason to use it. Considering that during those years I’d totaled a car, fallen off another one and nearly gotten crushed (thanks, 3-pack), spent about a hundred Friday nights at the Kingdom, gotten into a car with my brother, eaten copious amounts of fast food, and hung out with my friend Ana, it’s really quite a miracle that I never once had to reach into (or had someone else reach into) my wallet to use the little white and red card. For whatever reason, on January 16th of 2007, I had decided to bite the bullet and sign up for a new one. Why this day, you ask? Maybe subconsciously I felt like I was pushing my luck, maybe I have some sort of ESP, or maybe, just maybe, I didn’t want Tiff bugging me about it anymore. Whatever the reason, on that day, I finally went out to get a new one. Did you know they have your picture on them now? It’s pretty cool stuff.
I had the day off that Tuesday, and after the 3-minute drive, the 4-minute wait, and the 10-minute discussion with the ornery lady behind the counter, I was all set to go and in possession of a temporary card to use until my cool new picture one arrived by mail. The rest of the day I had to myself…and to that relentless, evil-minded, and ridiculously cute 25-pound Tasmanian devil commonly known as our daughter, Gabby.
I had plans though, and I was pretty sure I’d be able to get through the day without suffering from exhaustion. First off, it was lunch time by the time I’d gotten back. Lunch is usually good for killing around a half-hour or so. After eating, she usually napped, then by the time she woke up, it would only be a couple hours of playtime shenanigans to get through before it was time to strap her into the car and pick up my wife Tiffany. I didn’t know the reason at the time, but recently I’d been having trouble keeping up with the Gabs, and a whole day with her would often leave me with a headache and an early bedtime (for the record, around that time, just about everything left me with a headache and the need to hit the sack early). I chalked it up to her getting older, and me getting old.
Lunch was good stuff. I decided to stretch out my budding culinary skills by eschewing the usual Kraft dinner and going for the chicken nuggets. I managed to not overcook the nuggets, and I only slightly overcooked the fries. The Nesquik, however, was perfectly mixed. I felt I was growing as a chef.
After the meal, I surveyed the immediate area around the high chair. We’d been watching the end of Evil Dead II with our meal, so I’d placed it in the TV room (or, more accurately for our apartment, the TV “area”). Noticing that most of the chicken was on the floor, and most of the fries were still sitting on the plate, I deduced that Gabby was too busy saying “Hi” to the Candarian demons on the screen to pay much attention to eating her lunch. And yes, you’d be right if you pointed out that I apparently was paying too much attention to the movie and not enough to Gabby’s diet. Does this make me a bad father? Not necessarily. I believe that we have to expose our children to the arts at a very young age, and that’s all I was trying to do.
It was in this spirit that I scooped up what was left of the fries, shoved them in my mouth, decided that Gabby desperately needed a nap as soon as possible (which meant that cleaning up would have to come later) and plunked Gabby down in our bed with a bottle. I slapped Army of Darkness, the third movie in the Evil Dead trilogy, into the DVD player (this kid’s gonna be a genius with all the culture I’m feeding her) put my arm under her head, and snuggled up for some serious daddy-daughter napping/TV time. She finished her bottle in record time, and while it took her a little bit longer since she still felt she had to say hello to a few of the zombies, she soon fell fast asleep in my arms.
Luckily for me, she slept right through the explosions (both of the flesh and fire varieties), the screaming, the adventurous music, and the snappy dialogue (“gimme some sugar, baby”) and literally woke up while the credits were rolling. This might have been because I poked her in the ribs and said “Gabby” in her ear, but you never know. Unlike her parents, Gabs is quick to rouse, and we were soon over in her room, playing with a train set and pretending to read books. By the time we had to leave to go get Tiff, I was exhausted and ready for a nap of my own, but happy nonetheless. I felt good, no headaches, and since I often worked evenings, I loved the nights that we were all home together.
I don’t remember what we had for dinner that night, although for some reason chicken rings a bell. I also don’t remember whether it was the Leafs or the Raptors on TV that night. I do remember watching a game while Tiffany was on the phone, and I remember consuming almost an entire bag of all-dressed chips, washed down with some more Nesquik. Life was fantastic. It was about 3am when I woke up shaking.