Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Daddy Catches Lice

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Even now. The road signs of parenthood are unclear. Probably
this is what the good mothers always knew. Mothering of
human children has always been walking in the woods without
a path. My beloved daughter texts from California. I'm
paranoid. I might have lice. My friend Becky got them at a rock
concert and I had to comb out her hair.

Then I remember her. Miserable. Six going on seven sitting in
the bath. Lice shampoo stings the nose like bad medicine. My
wife Pam combs the nits out of her hair. Endlessly. Laboriously.
This sort of intensive grooming is beyond my abilities as a
parent and father. All I can do is witness this happening like
a ritual. Rosie slumps forward. Miserable. Beyond miserable.
She says, Mommy I'm cold. Daddy tell her I'm cold. Pam says,
Hold on. Hold on. Rosie says, That hurts. Daddy tell her it hurts. I
hate this. When can we stop? I say, Poor Sweet. Poor poor Sweet.
She is so afflicted. Tiny unseeable insects. They are living on her
head.

Rosie texts. We can talk tomorrow, Daddy, or Wednesday. I love
that she still calls me Daddy. Unconsciously. Reflexively. I've
got to write this next chapter. She is so industrious. I am so
proud of her that I could die of it like a disease. My love crawls
over me like those lice. I am infested with father love. No
mother could ever hope to comb them out of me. I sit flat
bottomed and stupid in the lukewarm water of the empty nest.
I don't like it. I love it. Miserable.


Stephen Young is the author of Gioia of 18,000 Cherries, a poem collection about delivering Meals on Wheels to sick and elderly clients. His poems will soon appear in Third Wednesday. For the past 25 years, he has been a family cook to his wife and three children. He has also written poem cycles about fatherhood and mental health, among other subjects.


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