WAVING

Grandma and Grandpa are standing by a large window, urging two little kids around the ages of 3 and 5 to wave. Wave to Daddy! Here he comes! See him? Wave to Daddy! They have been waiting for two hours for Daddy to come. So many other people have come out one by one, but not Daddy. And now finally, Daddy comes out. The older boy waves like a practiced waver, his whole skinny arm raised as far as he can stretch above his head, and moving all his fingers. He seems to feel it is an important task to accomplish, and his face is very grave. His face lights up when Daddy sees him and nods. He is helping Daddy feel better. And Grandma is praising him. There you go, boy, good job! Little sister cannot quite see Daddy over the window frame. She is jumping, and finally Grandpa picks her up, but Daddy has his back to her now. She bursts out crying. Daddy! Daddy!!

Daddy cannot hear her through the bullet-proof glass. Daddy is not supposed to look at them at all, because he is in jail and has a hearing. The guard has gotten between her and Daddy and is warning Daddy not to turn around again, not to look at her through the window. The guard will not let him out of the locked courtroom because he hit Mommy. Then after that happened, the grownups told them that they would be safer with Grandma and Grandpa until Mommy takes some classes and Daddy gets out of jail. He will be punished for hitting, because you are not allowed to hit. You can go to jail for hitting. Which is confusing, because Mommy spanks and Grandma spanks, but the grownups say that is not the same as hitting. You can punish children, they say, when children are bad. So you’d better not be bad. You’d better behave! Or you’ll get what’s coming to you. You’re lucky you don’t get the belt! You are lucky little devils.

Daddy came over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to tell Mommy he was sorry for hitting her, but then they started yelling again. And someone called the police, and the police came. And the police said he is not allowed to come over. He cannot come over at all. He cannot be in the same room as Mommy. He cannot be in the yard. He cannot call on the phone. If he calls to talk to Sister and Brother from jail, and Mommy is there, they are not allowed to give Mommy the phone. And the phone calls from jail are all recorded. They will all get in trouble if they give Mommy the phone, and they might have to go live somewhere else again. And they might get separated. And they might never see anyone they know again. They will be fosters, and that means you have to live with strangers, Grandma says. And you can get sent to bed with an empty stomach, because the Fosters can take your money for food. So you had better behave! Shape up or ship out, Grandpa tells them. He was in the Navy and he fought for us to be free.

So they have to be careful about Daddy. But they still have to be nice to Daddy, because Daddy loves them very much. Grandma and Grandpa say so, and Daddy says so. And the judge says that Daddy can still see them, because he is safe around the children. He never hit the children. Because spanking doesn’t count. He only hit Mommy. Daddy is wearing a bright red outfit and his hands are tied together and he is in trouble. He is in trouble for hitting Mommy. And he is is trouble for talking to Mommy. And now he is in trouble for turning around in the courtroom and looking at his children through the window. And the guard steps between them and tells Daddy what to do. And Daddy turns back around so he has his back to them when Sister is finally lifted up and waving. And here she is, waving as hard as she can, but Daddy never turns around again. So he doesn’t know. It is so sad.

Sister whimpers. She rubs her eyes. She cannot stop crying. She is choking on tears. She let Daddy down! Grandma and Grandpa had them practice waving to Daddy through the window at home. She practiced over and over. She waited a whole bunch of days to wave at Daddy in real life. They came to court and went through a machine and the guard gave them each a coloring book and a sticker and a box with five crayons. But then Sister was too small, and no one picked her up on time, and now Daddy is gone again, and Sister is crying very hard as they walk back to the elevator. The hearing is over! Here little heart aches, but Grandpa tells her it’s no use crying over spilt milk. Nobody cares about your whining. So you might as well just knock it off, he tells her. And he jerks his hand away. He doesn’t want to hold hands with a crybaby! But she cries the whole elevator ride to the bottom, because that is how she is feeling. Even if nobody cares.