This was supposed to be a five day trip. In, three days of work, then out. Back by Saturday, easy. Back in time to take my seven year old daughter to her very first Girl Scouts’ Father-Daughter dance. She’s been literally counting down the days, for almost two weeks now. At breakfast, and then again at dinner, “Only 12 more days ’til the Father-Daughter dance!“ Her Nana had dusted off the poodle skirt SHE wore to HER first father-daughter dance, spruced it all up, add added a new poodle (who really looks a bit more like a Lhasa Apso) and sent it by mail. So thrilled that her grand-daughter would be wearing it. Almost like passing down a wedding dress, to hear Nana gush about it.
I made the mistake of promising her I’d be back in time. I should know better by now in this business.
“Well, we’re not really sure how the scenario is going to play out, Major. We really need you to stick around and help trouble shoot.” From the Colonel. My boss.
So, I have all the next morning to dread and visualize the phone call I have to make. I’d rather charge a fortified bunker with nothing but a bayonet than make this call. But I do.
Mom puts her on the phone. Her jubilant voice all excited to talk to me. “HI Da-deee!“ Drawing out the eeeee like she always does, two distinct syllables. The crushing weight in my chest just bears down that much harder hearing the simple, exuberant joy in her voice.
“Well hon, I’ve got some bad news….” I break it to her, try to explain why, hope she understands. There’s nothing but that awful silence on the other end, a silence which drags on for an eternity. Then, a small, quiet voice.
“But you promised. You promised you’d be back in time.” My heart just crumbles into a smoldering pile of slag.
More silence. I even have to ask “are you there?” after a bit.
“Yeah.” A pause. “Well, do you wanna talk to mom now?” Auurgh. Twist the knife.
She doesn’t cry, she doesn’t scream or throw a fit. That would almost be better. Just the small, half-choked voice, heavily tinged with disappointment and betrayal. And you know what the sad thing is? I’ve had to do this before. My credibility is just about shot. I didn’t miss anything so significant as the F/D dance that time, but still, building their hopes up, then changing the plan because the situation has changed after I get there, and They “really just need me.”
Yeah, well, I’ve got some other people that need me, and just between you and me, I personally believe that they need me more, there Mr. Boss. But it’s not always that easy, is it?
I really hate this job sometimes.