When Dove finally joined us on Saturday, since she gets dropped off much later than the older kids, we quickly changed clothes and headed off to a park nearby with a small beach. The kids wasted no time hitting the water, and I stood in the shallow water near the shore to play with Dove and her collection of new friends who were building and demolishing a sand castle over and over again with the intent concentration of distinguished architects.
Gary was in the deeper water, entertaining the kids by lifting them onto his shoulders and letting them leap off into the water. Then he was picking them up and tossing them like beach balls, which was apparently highly amusing, since they would surface with a breathless, “Do it again!” amid chants of “My turn! My turn!”
Every time I looked up, Gary was covered with kids, hanging from his neck, dangling down his back, standing on his shoulders. I started to really laugh, though, when the collection of kids began to include other people’s children, lined up in the water like they were waiting their turn on an amusement park ride. Every last one got a chance to dive from Gary’s shoulders or be tossed in the air, and long after his arms had to be numb or sore, Gary kept hoisting them up. He was completely circled by laughing, smiling kids reaching for him.
As I watched, I couldn’t help but think, yes, here he is, ladies and gentlemen…the one repeatedly accused of being a vicious, abusive drunk, an easy lie to fall back on since he is so tall, since hey, we all know that big guys are bullies, right? Yep, here is the very same terrible ogre, known to induce uncontrollable knee-trembling among all women because his favorite pasttime is knocking them senseless (relative to the sense they possessed to start with, I suppose), a beer-swigging, fist-swinging, horrible monster…
…standing there with a little boy on his shoulders, laughing, asking the other kids to clear a spot so the boy could dive from his shoulders, a sea of little kids waiting their turn to play with him (okay, on him, preferably his shoulders), patiently giving each one a turn and making sure they enjoyed themselves.
Yeah. What a bad guy. Four little kids in particular have him wound tight around their little fingers, and each of them want nothing more than to be with him. Dove eventually abandoned the sand castle project and ended up in her daddy’s arms, and I watched the kids around her age who cried, didn’t want to explore the water, wanted the safety of the sand, while she giggled fearlessly in her father’s arms, comfy and safe and happy right where she was.
The lies will never stop. This I know. Some people simply misplaced priorities long ago and refuse to set them straight now. Hurting Gary, at any price, is the name of the game, and if the kids need to be lied to, brainwashed, and dragged through hell to do it, then so be it.
The people who falsely accuse him of abuse have had years to watch, just as I did, the way kids are drawn to him, the way he will sacrifice to bring a smile to their faces, the way kids literally line up to be near him. The absurdity of a lie, however, clearly does not prevent it from dripping from a bitter mouth.
When the kids finally emerged from the water, shrivelled like prunes, they were beaming, asking me excitedly, “Did you see me? Did you hear me yell to you? Did you see me waving at you?”
After a day of playing in the water and then on the playground, everyone was soon ready for a nap…well, except for Bear, who seems to be solar-powered and certainly does not lack in energy. We headed home, sleepy but happy. Dove tucked herself into Gary’s arm and fell asleep, using him as a pillow, holding his arm like a security blanket.
Yeah. Real scary guy.