Day 4 of our Father’s Day Week celebration in honor of the wonderful men we love and read about is an exclusive from Sawyer Bennett’s book – Offsides.
I take in a deep breath and let it out slowly, letting the warm air escape slowly over my lips. I hit the “record” button on the video camera and turn it so the lens is facing me. My arm is held out far enough away from my face so I’m pretty confident my entire face can be seen. I start walking toward the hospital, oblivious to the certain stares I’m getting as I walk and try to talk to the camera at the same time. It’s not so easy shooting your own documentary.
“So, here’s the deal, Amelia. It’s Father’s Day today and you’re coming home with me and Mommy. And I can’t tell you how excited we are. We have everything ready at home and everyone…”
I trip over the curb leading up to the hospital entrance, and my arms flail about trying to catch my balance. I know, without a doubt, when Amelia watches this one day, she’s going to get motion sickness from that maneuver. I hear someone snicker and I look over to see a little boy of about ten watching my near tumble to the concrete. He’s standing a few feet away from a couple who appear to be deep in discussion, his parents I assume. And then his eyes go round as he recognizes me.
I push the “stop” button, dismayed that my first recording turned into a disaster, but level the boy with a huge smile. “I’m a lot more graceful on skates.”
His face turns red but he smiles back at me. “You’re Ryan Burnham.” His voice is filled with awe and it tickles me. I never get tired of dealing with my littlest fans.
Kneeling down in front of him, I put the video camera on the ground. “Yup. You a fan or something?”
He nods at my shyly, shoving his hands in the front pockets of his jeans. “But Linc Caldwell is my favorite Ranger.” He sounds apologetic and I want to hoot out with laughter.
“That’s okay,” I tell him. “Linc is a great player. How would you like an autograph from him?”
The boy practically shouts, “Really?” I notice that his parents now turn to look at him, and I can see that his dad immediately recognizes me. They walk over.
I stand up. “It seems your son here is a fan of my buddy, Linc Caldwell. I promised him an autograph.”
The kid jumps up and down in excitement while I get his dad’s contact information so I can send the autograph. After a handshake from the parents and a quick photo with the kid, I make my way into the hospital.
When I make it to the safety of the elevator, which is thankfully empty, I turn the camera back on and point it at my mug. “Okay, sorry about the roller coaster ride when I tripped. I hope it doesn’t make you sick. But as I was saying, we have everyone waiting for you at home and I personally couldn’t be happier that my baby girl is coming home on Father’s Day. I don’t think I’ll ever have a better Father’s Day after this one.”
The elevator doors open and I walk to Danny’s room, still talking into the camera. I tell Amelia that it’s okay if she cries a lot because Mommy and I will always be there to pick her up. And if she’s hungry, I’ll sit with Mommy while she feeds her. I tell her earnestly that although I’m not crazy about changing diapers, because I have a poor gag reflex, that I’ll do my duty.
When I reach the door to Danny’s room, I look into the camera with mock seriousness and say, “Let’s see what Mommy’s up to, okay?”
Pushing the door open, I turn the camera around so Amelia can have a peek at what her mom is up to. When I look inside, my heart stutters and then starts a mad beating tune. Danny is sitting in the rocker-recliner, nursing Amelia. She’s already dressed and ready to go home, and she looks amazing. My purple haired violinist. She has her shirt pulled up over her left breast, and Amelia is gently drinking her mother’s milk. Danny is quietly humming a lullaby while she stares down at Amelia.
In all my life, I know I will never see anything as beautiful again.
I turn off the camera and toss it on the bed, because this moment is just for me. It’s Father’s Day after all.
Danny looks up at me and smiles. I cross over to her and kiss her gently while cupping the back of her head. Then I bend down to Amelia and whisper just the tiniest of kisses on her forehead. Her eyes scrunch up and clearly, I’ve disturbed her morning meal. As soon as I remove my lips, her forehead smoothes out and she goes back to pulling on Danny’s nipple. I stare at her for a few more minutes, gently rubbing Danny’s neck.
When I pull back, Danny gives a pointed look at the camera. “What’s up with that, Mr. Spielberg?”
I shrug my shoulders. “Just thought I would record some stuff…for Amelia to watch later.”
Picking up the camera, I lay my body across the bed, facing my two girls. Danny cocks an eyebrow at me. “Just remember, buddy…the camera adds ten pounds so until I lose the baby weight, try to keep it off of me.”
Turning the camera back on, I hit “record”. Pointing it straight at Danny, I say, “You have never looked more beautiful than you do right now. In fact, I think you’re so damned sexy right now, this video will serve as my own personal porn stash. This is way better than any of that bow-chicka-bow-bow shit out there on the internet.”
Danny snorts. “You better edit that stuff out. There’s no way Amelia can watch that.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” I tell her as I zoom into Amelia nursing at Danny’s breast. “She’s not going to be allowed to date until she’s twenty-one, so I think I’ve got the over-protective, dad-thing down.”
Danny doesn’t say anything in response and I zoom back out a little so I can see what she’s doing. She’s back to just staring down at Amelia, her fingers lightly rubbing Amelia’s little tummy. I keep the video on Danny’s face, entranced by the serenity of this moment.
And then I realize something important.
Danny didn’t even bother to laugh at my joke—well, it wasn’t really a joke—I would like Amelia to stay innocent and untouched until at least twenty-one. But her focus on Amelia and lack of acknowledgment of my stellar humor makes me realize that my days of having Danny’s undivided attention and love are gone. In fact, I’d say that I am now firmly in the number two spot in her life.
And you know what? I think that is absolutely beautiful and my heart swells to near bursting over this thought. If there is one person in the world who is allowed to take Danny’s attention from me, it is Amelia. That is the way it should be.
Danny has no clue she’s getting ready to walk into a trap as she opens the front door to our apartment. She’s holding Amelia’s sleeping form and I make like I’m fumbling with the baby bag slung over my shoulder, but in reality, I’m getting the video camera ready. I hit “record” just as Danny steps into the apartment and laugh as everyone whispers “Surprise!” It’s the quietest shout of surprise I’ve ever heard and I’m happy to see that Amelia sleeps right through it.
Danny’s smile is a mile-wide as she takes everyone in. I follow her around with the camera as she makes her greetings with everyone. Emily is the first to come up and give her a big hug, then she swoops Amelia out of Danny’s arms.
Recording the exchange, I talk quietly into the camera, as if I’m filming a safari expedition. “That is your Aunt Emily who just stole you from your mommy. I have a feeling she’s going to be doing that a lot.” Emily walks over to the couch and sits down. I record Nix sitting gently beside her, reaching a finger out to Amelia. Even though she’s still sound asleep, her tiny hand grasps onto Nix. He has such a wondrous look on his face and I know that sucker is going to be as big a putz as I am when it comes to the kids I know he and Emily will have one day.
Swinging the camera around, I search for Danny. She’s in the middle of giving Sarge a hug. This is the first time he’s seen her since our wedding and damn if the old goat doesn’t have tears in his eyes. I can’t wait to give him shit about that later. I step in closer so I can hear the exchange between Danny and Paula as soon as she releases her hold on Sarge. Paula always provides the best entertainment.
Before Paula says anything to Danny, she glares at me through the camera. “You better keep that fucking thing out of my face, Burnham.”
I just smile and keep filming. Danny pops Paula lightly in the back of the head and says, “You owe me one of your cigarettes. Pay up.”
Paula turns and finally gives Danny a hug. Then she pulls back and grins evilly at Danny. I know this is going to be good so I zoom in. “No can do, Buttercup. I fucking quit smoking fucking last week, so I can’t give you one of my fucking cigarettes when I say the word ‘fuck’.”
Not in the least disturbed over the slew of filth Paula just unloaded, Danny squeals and hugs Paula again. “That’s wonderful, Paula. I’m so proud of you. And I’d rather you cuss any day over smoking.”
Paula looks so proud of herself. She thinks she’s just gotten a free pass to drop “F” bombs all day long. I keep the camera zoomed in, because I know this will get even better.
“However,” Danny says, her voice now stern. “You are in the presence of the great and wonderful, Amelia Grace Burnham, and when in said presence of the princess, you cannot say the “F” word. It’s strictly prohibited in this house and within hearing of our angel.”
I never thought I’d see the day, and I’m so glad I kept the camera zoomed in on Paula, but she’s actually blushing brighter than a cherry. I even step in a bit closer, and put the camera right in her face. She glances from Danny, to the camera, and then at me. I can’t help but taunt her when I sing, “Na-na-na-na-nah. You got in trouble.”
Paula glares at me and flips me the bird, but she keeps her “F” bombs unexploded. I’ll have to definitely edit out this piece of the video, but I’m thinking it will make a nice, little YouTube short film.
I leave Danny to catch up with Paula and Sarge. The camera is now on my mom, who has managed to wrestle Amelia away from Emily. This also deserves a zoom-in. Because my mom, Celia Burnham, has become an entirely different person in the last six months. It’s hard to believe that this was once a vain, cold and narcissistic woman. But as I watch her hold her first grandchild, my heart explodes with love for my mom. She has proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that people can change for the better if they want to. And my mom clearly wanted to.
My video of the surprise home-coming party is complete when I watch my dad take Amelia in his arms. Congressman Alex Burnham has a lot of experience kissing babies. It’s a politician thing. But there’s something uniquely different when it’s his grandchild he’s kissing.
I finally turn the camera off and settle into my recliner. Danny lays Amelia in my arms and I put my nose next to her head. She smells like powder and sweet, new baby. It may be my new favorite smell in the world. Amelia is still sound asleep, and everyone is sitting around chit-chatting. I let the soft voices around me seep in, loving the knowledge that my family is sharing in this most special day. I let my eyes close, and I drowse.
The hour is late and Danny walks back into our bedroom, wearing one of my t-shirts. I’m reading Sports Illustrated and I put the magazine down when she slides into bed next to me. I turn on my side and she does the same, so we are practically nose-to-nose, staring at each other.
“Is Amelia sleeping?”
“No, but she’s happily just cooing to herself. I swear…I could have stayed there all night just watching her.”
I pick up Danny’s hand, kiss it and lay it back down between us. “You need to get some sleep. I’ve heard a rumor that we won’t be getting much from here on out.”
As if to prove the point, Danny gives a tiny yawn. “I don’t want to go to sleep just yet. I want to lie beside you and talk for a while. I’ve missed you.”
I’ll have to admit, it’s been torture not being able to sleep next to Danny the past few nights. And although my girl can’t have sex for a while, it still doesn’t stop the hard-on I started sporting the minute I saw her walk into the bedroom. She’s all soft, womanly curves and her breasts are heavy with milk. I wonder if I’m a freak that that turns me on, but then I decide, no. I’m turned on by the fact that my wife just went through excruciating pain to give me a precious gift. Now, that is a turn on!
I reach out and run my fingertips across her jaw. She watches me with soft eyes, a small smile on her face. I trail one finger down her throat and over her collarbone. Her skin, as always, is amazingly soft. I bring my hand down, and trace my finger around the side of her breast, dragging it along the underside until I gently cup it in my hand. This is not sexual and a quick look at Danny’s face reveals that she’s not taking it that way either. This is about me touching life’s miracle. Because Danny is my miracle.
Leaning in, I give her a kiss. It’s soft, and tender, just the way my feelings are for her right now.
“I love you,” I tell her, hoping my voice contains the strong emotions I’m feeling for her right now. I pull Danny into my arms and roll on my back, so she is laying half on top of me. Her head is resting on my chest and I drink in the smell of her lilac shampoo. I cannot imagine my life being any better than what it is right now.
As I gently stroke her back, she says, “Happy Father’s Day, Ryan. I love you, too.”