“Daddy, hold my hand!” Janey’s soft voice reached his ears, and in a moment he was there at the balance beam, taking her little hand in his as she made her way up. She was rather timid about heights, but seemed to be comfortable as long as there was someone around to catch her, “just in case”.
Dan had made her a solemn promise just that morning, right before they drove to the park.
“Janey,” he said, “I promise you I will always be there to catch you. Cross my heart hope to die.”
“I know you will, Daddy!” she said, her face lighting up. They had played hard all that afternoon. Some other parents gave them weird looks. The kind of parents that didn’t have anything to do with their kids unless they had to, then wondered why their kids never cared about them. Dan swore he would never be that parent.
So they played tag, then he pushed her on the swings, hearing her shrieks divided between fear and delight. He led her to the top of the slide, then ran back to the bottom to wait for her. He held her up as she crossed the monkey bars, and then they came to the balance beam. He heard it was good for kids to get a good sense of balance while they were young, so he had her walk as far as she could before she finally reached out for his hand.
It was a long day, but a good one, and when the sun started going down, it was time to go for ice cream.
Sandra watched the man cross the playground with distaste.
“What is wrong with him?” she asked her friend Beth quietly.
“It was terrible,” she said. “He brought his daughter to the park a couple weeks ago, but he got distracted by a phone call from work. He left her on the balance beam and she fell off and broke her neck.” Beth sighed. “Something must have snapped in him. He’s been here every day, acting like he’s playing with her again. Poor man.”