Have a good day at your dangerous job in outer space, Daddy

Buster hates to see a man make an honest living. Anyway, he hates to see a man be on time to the place where he makes his honest living.

Buster loves Daddy all the time, in an off-hand kind of way. But at the moment when Daddy absolutely has to leave for work, Buster loves him like someone who really likes him.

He knows I’ll be home later, but he clings to me as if I’m headed off on a suicide mission. By now, he should know that I’m not cut out for suicide missions. Avoiding the sharp edges of my paperwork is danger enough for me.

On Saturday morning, he won’t need a 10-minute hug. By Sunday, he won’t know what a hug is. But Monday . . . Monday is the first of five consecutive attempts to break Daddy’s heart with a childish brand of parting grief that will make him sorely question his life choice not to stay at home and wait for the government check.

The other morning, Buster was sitting on my bed, wrapped in his blanket, watching cartoons. When I sat at the foot of the bed to put on my socks (the dark ones I wear to work), he scooted down to me, blanket and all, and laid his head on my arm.

When I tried to get up, he grabbed me and gave me that pitiful, longing look that pleaded, “Daddy, can’t you just stay home and run some sort of Ponzi scheme out of the house?” The poor child doesn’t realize that Daddy’s not trustworthy enough to cheat people out of adequate money to keep up with the rising cost of diapers.

At least he didn’t cry and reach out for me, and have to be held back by Mommy, when I tried to leave the house. That made it one of the easier days to leave him.

Buster makes me spend a lot more time not leaving for work than I should. I linger as long as I can, and then I linger a few minutes more. Eventually, my distrust of the adequacy and longevity of government checks spurs me to go. It’s never easy.

Fortunately, I have one of those jobs people reference when they say, “It’s not rocket science.” My long goodbyes to Buster have never caused a moon walk to be delayed. All they’ve ever done is push back my first paper cut until 8:07 a.m.

Nobody else has such trouble seeing me off to work. Big Brother is too busy trying to avoid getting out of bed. New Baby only has eyes for Mommy. I could go to Siberia as long as I leave the milk lady behind. The only other one who occasionally laments my going is the Mommy herself. And she knows I can’t honor her plea when she begs, “Don’t leave me alone with these children!”

Only Buster clings to me in the mornings. It’s awkward. And annoying. And I love it.

the long goodbye

“Don’t worry. I’ll be back from my space flight to save the universe by dinner time.”