My 13-year-old ran up to me with the exact news I wanted to hear.
“Dad, there’s a dead squirrel in the yard.”
To be honest, there’s a lot of news I would have welcomed. “Dad, I just found a winning lottery ticket,” “Dad, rich alien ladies in bikinis have landed and asked me to take them to our leader. That’s you, right?” “Dad, a beer truck had a flat on our street and the driver said you could take what you want.” The list is endless.
But “dead squirrel” meant something better than all those, something specific. Offutt Parents Sitting on the Couch in Sweatpants Night suddenly became Date Night (to clarify things, I felt badly for my deceased squirrel brother because in a world of pet snakes and Floridians, we mammals need to stick together).
My son took me to it; the poor orange poofy-tailed thing lay unmoving on the crabgrass. Don’t laugh. If it weren’t for crabgrass, we wouldn’t have a lawn.
I patted the Boy on the shoulder.
“Thanks, son,” I said. “You’ve made your mother and me so happy.”
There are plenty of life changes people go through when they become parents. Sleepless nights, stretch marks, loss of the ability to say words containing more than two syllables, and Cheerios. Cheerios everywhere.
But the biggest change is no longer getting 15 minutes to spend alone with the person who got you in this situation in the first place. Sometimes it takes a dead squirrel to bring the romance back into your life.
“Hey, honey,” I said walking into the living room while she attempted to pick up toys our toddler seemed to be erupting like a Lego volcano. “You got about 10, maybe 15 minutes?”
I smiled. “There’s a dead squirrel in the yard.”
It’s interesting, when given the proper motivation, how fast a parent can go from not trusting children who leave their homework at school to giving them total control of the house.
“Don’t worry,” my wife told the kids as we rushed toward our small truck, she tucking uncombed hair underneath a cap, me with a shovel full of American red squirrel. “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Then we were off – alone.
There’s something freeing, yet frightening about leaving the children. When we left our son for the first time – a few months old and with Grandma – we called every 10 minutes to make sure he was OK. We were at a friend’s house two blocks away. That slowly graduated to going out for dinner, staying overnight out of town, then to where we are today – using a stiff Tamiasciurus hudsonicus as an excuse to run away.
Don’t tell me you haven’t been there before.
The drive on the country road near our house took longer than it should. We were on a date, after all, and the squirrel was in no hurry.
The best part was we talked. My wife and I had a 15-minute adult conversation that had nothing to do with video games, pop music, something gross a classmate did at lunch. And the words “hey, watch this,” weren’t uttered once.
I pulled over and dumped the squirrel in a ditch. My wife said a few words from the passenger window. It was over, our little date.
But it was nice, and we held hands on the drive home.
– Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for the Apocalypse,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.