May 2010: On the way home from church, Payten asked ‘where are my mommy and daddy?’ I told her I didn’t know and asked, ‘where do you think they are?’ She said, ‘I think they’re gone.’
The girls burst through the front door and race down the hallway. Andrew calls out, “Girls! It’s lunchtime.” I open the French doors of my office and stub my toe on a gigantic box of Otter Pops.
“What the hell is this?” I howl, grabbing my toe and pressing down.
Andrew drops a pen and notebook on the counter and says, “It’s a gift from Ruth and David. They said all the kids can share them.”
I snort. “Really? That’s… nice of them.” I shake my head; what an odd gift!
“I can’t see! I can’t see!” Payton shrieks that evening.
“Just a sec, Payton. I have to stand in front of the TV to get the video set up.”
“I can’t see!” she howls as though I haven’t spoken. She melts into tears.
“Geez Payton, calm down. You’re not going to miss any of the video,” I explain through clenched teeth. Payton continues sobbing. I ball up my fists and take a deep breath, wondering how much more I can take.
Since visits with Ruth and David started, she’s been in a constant state of crisis.
“Payton, you look adorable!” I sit down on the couch and smile. She’s wearing a light pink sweat suit and her fine brown hair is pulled back in a ponytail. She had a visit with Ruth and David that morning. “Did Mommy and Daddy give you all these things?” I swoop my arm towards the purple jelly shoes she is slipping on her feet and the flip-flops scattered on the floor. Payton nods. I sit awkwardly for a moment longer and then ask, “Do you want to go for a walk?”
“Yes!” She perks up and races outside.
We set out around the block, Payton running ahead. “Wait, I don’t want you going too far ahead!” She ignores me. “Payton, STOP!” I scream when she approaches the corner, still going top speed. “Well, at least she stopped,” I mutter. “Payton, honey, if you can’t stay closer to me, I’ll have to hold your hand.” She stays next to me until we stop at a house with two cats outside.
The short-haired, orange cat is named Courage. He hides from us. Samba is a Maine Coon with long, thick gray fur. He rolls around on the pavement, sunning himself. Payton plops down next to him and begins scratching his ears.
After five minutes of crouching next to Payton and Samba, I tell her it’s time to go. Patting Samba on the head, I stand up. Payton doesn’t move. and standing up. “It’s time to go,” I repeat firmly.
She stands up and follows me, dragging her feet and refusing to keep up. After telling her to keep up a couple of times, I grab her hand. She whines and rubs her eye. “I’m sorry you’re upset, but you need to hold my hand if you can’t keep up.” Payton amps up, in the throes of a temper tantrum by the time we get home.