Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Thousands of us who are parents to (note, I did not say of - there is a huge difference between being 'parents to' and 'parents of') young children would have had to do a lot of extra comforting over the stormy period that came upon us so unexpectedly last week. And it is not only the storm itself, but the aftermath of no electricity or water.
Where we live, at the terminal point of one official bus route into the lower reaches of the Blue Mountains, the lighting and thunder were especially brilliant and loud, respectively, in the wee hours of Thursday. We are used to heavy peals of thunder that echo in the mountains, but still this was something special. There was the clap, then the roll, then the echo, which hardly faded before the sequence was repeated to seemingly rock the very hills to their core - not to mention the house, of course.
The lightning did some clapping too. Apart from being brilliant, outdoing the high-wattage banks of lights at the National Stadium, where I live it was also sizzling and popping, providing a sound and sight precursor to the thunder, as it seemed we were close to the centre of it all.
Which, I suspect, is how many people felt as Tropical Storm Nicole developed around us.
What concerned me though, was not so much the thunder outside (which I quite enjoy, under any circumstance. There is nothing quite like a benevolent rainstorm.) but the throbbing inside our older daughter's chest. It was hammering, hard and fast, when she took refuge in my arms that morning. Then, as I held her, it gradually slowed down to near normal, until she fell asleep (or it may have been me first, actually). The younger one slept like a log through it all.
They have not been far from me in the very dark nights since. Plus, Ludo games have become very important in passing the days, with a little Kaluki thrown in for good measure.
It has reinforced to me just how important simply being around is, especially for a father, in times of crisis. We can speak about gender stereotyping until we are blue in the face, the fact is that when there is danger afoot the children generally turn to Daddy. So when I was able to make it into Kingston on Thursday afternoon, the main concern was that I come back before there was more thunder and lightning.
I was not around for the west Kingston activities on Labour Day and a couple days after; and while I always give thanks for a wife who can handle just about anything, it was clear that Daddy was missed terribly. It is not a matter of being a 'bad man' or a loud, boisterous figure, but simply providing that irreplaceable male presence.
One of the critical things we spoke about was the importance of not panicking, but keeping a clear head to assess the situation and take the appropriate action,
All this, of course, leads to me thinking about all those homes where the father is absent, for whatever reason. He may choose to be, he may be made so uncomfortable that he feels he has no choice but to go (women are especially good at creating these circumstances and then labelling the man a deadbeat when he can't take it any more), he may be in prison, dead or abroad hustling to make some bread for the family. Whatever the case, he was just not there for those stormy Nicole times and, chances are, he will not be there for other turbulent times to come.
It is very sad, because when those little hearts begin to thunder, Mommy's arms are not quite the same as Daddy's.