We all have them; our worst nightmare. They vary from person to person. Some are afraid of speaking in public. Some are afraid of driving on the freeway or tripping and falling in front of a group of strangers.
When you are a father of toddlers and are disabled, your nightmares and worries are many. You worry that you will fall and not be able to get up on your own, scaring your children. You worry that that you will drop one of them or not be able to pick them up because your own balance is off.
The worst nightmare for a disabled father is that one or both of your children will run from you into danger. This is Daddy's nightmare. He worries that it will happen constantly. Friday, it happened.
Daddy picks up Gracie and Lukie from day care every day. Occasionally, Grandma or I will pick them up, but mostly, it is Daddy. The day care has fences enclosing the playgrounds and the walkways from classroom to classroom. Surrounding it, though, is a vast parking lot for the attached church. The parking lot is bordered by a small side street and a large, very busy boulevard.
Usually, Gracie and Lukie listened to Daddy carefully. A simple statement of "Help Daddy, please," elicits an immediate and proper response. They hold his hand, walk with him, go to the car and wait.
But Friday, for whatever reason, Gracie decided that she wanted to run. The moment they left the gate from the day care, Gracie took off running across the parking lot. Her path was unerringly toward the huge, busy boulevard. Daddy yelled for her to stop, walked as fast as he could, across the parking lot, calling again and again for her to come back. Lukie tried to get her to stop, too, but Gracie wasn't interested. She just kept running full out toward the busy street.
When Daddy called me, several minutes later, he was crying and incredibly upset. He was having a hard time breathing, both from his effort to catch up with Gracie and the terror he experienced thinking she was going to run out in front of a car. It took me a long time to help him calm down, the terror was still too fresh.
I know how he felt though. When you are in a situation like that and one of your children is rushing head first into danger, their whole life flashes before your eyes. You see them as tiny babies and remember them when they actually listened. You see their smile and their laughter. And all you want to do is stop them so that you can have more smiles, more laughter, and more hugs.
Daddy is still reeling from Friday's events. He was reminded in a huge way about his limitations and how they can and will be tested by toddlers. While he already has plans for how he will get the Twinsies to the car safely in the future, I know that the experience is never far from his thoughts. He holds Gracie and Lukie closer and is working harder at helping them know the limits.
The nightmare can still become reality again. Hopefully, though, it will not be any time soon.