“Gonna be sick,” London called from the hallway, so I rose from the couch where I had just sat down with my wife Lala.
She had been home with our son for two days, so the least this dad could do was tend to our infirm child.
London and I rushed to the bath-room and, as is the custom in our religion, he knelt in front of the porcelain god. Even though this was not a glamorous scene per se, I recognized some bonding elements.
Later in his life, when his college pals commiserate about vacant or absentee fathers, London will surely brag about how lucky he was to have a proud papa who not only took him to soccer games, but also bravely crossed gender roles and nursed him when he was ill.
“Oh, God.” London moaned like his paternal grandfather and proceeded to paint the toilet bowl a mustard brown. He wears his hair in messy dreadlocks and braids, and some of the strands near his face are reminiscent of Australian-hat hanging-corks meant to shoo away outback flies.
These Rasta bangs swung ter-ribly close to his hurlage, so I reacted like any other college room-mate after a night of “Edward Fortyhands”: I carefully gathered his locks and held his hair away from his face while he booted.
“It's OK,” I cooed. “I gotcha.” I realized his epic “my dad is so awesome” story now might be triggered in a coed bathroom as his dorm mates Mandy and Alicia call Huey down the big white telephone, but that was fine by me. The nar-rative would essentially stay the same, even if the setting changed.
My back started aching, so I had to kneel behind London, still clutching his hair in my hands like a midget hairdresser. If Lala had left her perch and grabbed a camera, our creepy altar-boy-man pose would have surely made it into the next installment of awkwardfamilyphotos.com.
Unless my daughter Poppy wiggles her loose teeth in front of me, I'm not usually a squeamish guy. Being so close to London chundering, however, brought back unfortunate memories from my own college experience.
On the third floor of the fraternity to which I belonged lay “Pebble Beach,” a deck on which members hit golf balls or launched water balloons onto unsuspecting freshmen. After sun-set, Pebble Beach became a different type of launch pad. During a night of heavy celebration, soon-to-be captains of industry leaned over the railing to try to vomit onto a target painted on the asphalt long ago by some legendary brother.
God save a pledge's car if he happened to leave the vehicle in what he believed was rock star parking. As London continued his own target practice, my gag reflex came back to visit me.
“Glorpe.” I choked, trying to suppress whatever mechanism is in our throats that makes us do that horrible thing. “Dad?” London turned to see why his father sounded as though he were swallowing a tube of golf balls. “I'm OK,” I said, holding my breath. “You keep, um, going.”
I dared not utter any connotation of a word related to the reason why we were huddled like devout wolverines in the water closet. If I was going to be sick, which was a distinct possibility, I needed to get to the nearby sink. Not letting go of my son's hair, I half-stood and leaned to my right, a “now, spit” motion not unlike ones I' d experienced in dentist offices before they invented those phallic sucking wands hygienists enjoy thrusting into your pie hole.
“That hurts,” London cried as I yanked on his braids. “Sorry,” I said, the saliva flooding the “S” in that all-too-familiar word. This pathetic Twister game I was playing with my only boy was on the verge of collapse when London whispered, “Thanks, Dad.” “You are very welcome,” I said, trying to keep my mouth closed.
Robert Wilder's most recent book is Tales from the Teachers' Lounge. Daddy Needs a Drink appears the first Wednesday of each month in the Santa Fe Reporter .