It is the expression on their faces when they’re watching their kids play that incinerates me.  I can handle the strollers and toys.  I can deal with the carseats.  But the dreamy smiles and passively proud way they stand around the sandbox pierces my defenses before I know what is happening.

I was stoic in the sand.  I played with our friend’s son and enjoyed it, but I had to have tunnel vision just for him.  I couldn’t lay my eyes on the newborn wrapped up with that mom over there.  I couldn’t hear the names of the other kids with their pails and balls.  Most of all, I could not get into a single second of a conversation with any of those blissed-out parental units floating through a gorgeous spring day, idly hovering over their prides/joys.

Or maybe that look is just lack of sleep.  We’ve been babysitting the last two nights and I am definitely not used to a 7am wake-up followed by all day activities.  Hell, I even took a nap!  The 4 year old we are watching never slowed down for a moment until he passed out amid tears of missing Mom & Dad and pure overtiredness.

We volunteered to watch their son while they were away.  We’ve known him since he was born and we think of him as a friend and nephew.  He’s a great kid, really fun and funny and it’s a pleasure to spend time with him.  Obviously he reminds us of what we don’t have, but it’s a bit removed because we’ve known him since before Silas.  And he loves us lots, too.  We know that and it feels good.

The weekend has been great, but the park was not.

The knowing smiles on other parent’s faces;  the easy bliss of their playground interactions with their kids; their strollers and bottles and the shouts of their kids for “Daddy” to “watch me!”  Apparently it was Dad Day at the park, and I felt like a fucking impostor.

Every instant out there cauterized my soul.  I was numb with pain and denial.

I could feel the conversations that could have started, conversations I avoided by averting my gaze.  My aloofness must have been apparent, but I didn’t care.

“Huh, that Dad is kinda an asshole,” I could hear them think.  I wondered if the grimace on my face that was supposed to mimic their happiness appeared as weird and strained as it felt.

Probably not.  I think I pulled it off pretty good.  I just pretended this wasn’t actually my life and that hanging out with our friend’s son was as natural and correct as it should have been.

We climbed the jungle gym.  We went higher and higher on the swings.  We tried to knock down the ancient trees and compared dinosaur notes and then took a walk by the river before heading home for lunch.

Out there in the sand, I realized something that I’ve sorta known for a while now, but it only fully hit me today.

I will never be completely happy, ever again.

No matter what wonderful things come our way down the line there will always remain an untouchable sadness that lingers in the cracks and corners of my being.

So far, though, it more than just lingers.  Playing in the sandbox the sadness burned me with a fiery flush that radiated out from deep within, to the point that I could not believe the metal bar of the jungle gym gripped tight in my hand was not melting away to nothing.