I suggested that we have lunch as a family since I was taking the boy up to a Pastors and Spouses Retreat. It was my final requirement for our denomination’s ordination, which happened in June. I had to attend our conference’s (i.e., region’s) retreat. It worked best that Bryce attend since they had childcare, since Dawn had class on Tuesday evening, and since she couldn’t get away from school or work. It would have proved difficult to find childcare for that weird slice of hours before our grandmothers arrived on their given days to be with the boy. Dawn leaves for work two hours earlier than they’re used to arriving.
We picked up Dawn and had lunch, as we’ve done a few times before. It was cute that Bryce knew we were outside his mom’s building. He pointed and called for her. Two or three times. He yelled and yayed when she opened the door to greet him.
After we ate, Bryce began a slight melting; let’s say softening. He transitioned to a full meltdown after Dawn exited the car. His hand was pointing, following her, his screams were screaming, and she had turned to see what my life was to be over the next who knows what while I drove to Lake Geneva. I thought to myself, this has to be easier.
We were passing Garrett’s popcorn by the time I pulled his cup from the holder under my arm. “Want water?” I asked.
His arms reached out, thankful to have something. He knew that I wasn’t into the pacifier movement his mother and his other loved ones participated in. He quieted down for most of the commute, delaying his I’m bored whimpers for the last fifteen minutes.
People love my son. Well, people probably love most kids his size. After all, those kids tend to belong to someone else so that it’s easy to enjoy a cute-faced boy or girl in five-minute increments. When we got to Covenant Harbor, Bryce was loved. And I remember thinking what I’ve thought before about my denomination—that I’m grateful I get to be in ministry with others who care so well. I knew that these folks weren’t the type to love for a little while. These pastors and ministers and staff workers had been practicing love for the long haul.
Bryce got his name tag. He went around introducing himself, in a language only other babies understand. I laughed at my colleagues who tried to listen for his words. We’d debate meanings between us, and I’d give up trying to know what he meant. We unpacked and went to dinner where Bryce was preoccupied with getting more milk than I would allow and where a lovely woman and minister, Rev. Slaughter, went to get him a banana when he reached for hers. She also brought a slice a pie (Bryce likes whipped cream now) and a plum and a pear, whispering, “Just in case.”
We were about done with dinner by then. The banana finished him. He had eaten less than I’d liked to see him eat. But he has been doing that lately, eating more at breakfast and lunch than dinner. He was waving and talking so much to Kathy behind him that she left her table to sit across from us. He insisted on being in my lap, which he never does. Kathy tried to ask me questions, tried to engage Bryce.
As I think about it, my responses to her conversation probably sounded like baby language. I could hardly hear what people at my table were going on about, much less have a direct conversation with another person with Bryce doing stuff he never does. It was enough to pay attention to the boy. It was harder than usual, when he’ll eat what you put in front of him and when he’ll turn around when you tell him to and when he’ll happily devour his meal in his seat.
After dinner I let him stay up a little later than routine. We were supposed to hear music and sing together. But the worship started with reports and talking, so Bryce started his own talking in the large gym. He ran to greet the other kids. He sang to himself, trying, I think, to get the show going since I explicitly told him there would be music. In the end, we had to leave after a half hour without singing. He did have to go to bed. So while we walked down the hill from the Jackson Activity Center, night time sweeping us into a cool embrace, we sang our little walking song. Don’t ask me to sing it. It’s our song, and actually it really does sound like language only babies understand.