Food Therapy

That afternoon was filled with phone calls, dinner preparations, and awkward attempts at conversation with Cara. She had emerged from the bathroom just before lunch, much to my bladder’s relief, but had retreated to her bedroom before her fork had stopped rattling in the sink. I finished the last half of my roast beef and blue cheese sandwich alone, then half-heartedly washed the dishes while I contemplated cancelling on Dawn.
I really don’t do well when faced with multiple problems at once. I get overwhelmed and grumpy and just want to be left alone, which is rarely an available option. That’s one of the reasons I loved being in the ring – a single opponent, a cohesive game plan in place to deal with him, and no outside distractions. Thus the temptation to delay coffee with Dawn until a better, less insane day came along.
Instead I ended up deciding that her company was exactly what I needed. I had no intention of dumping all my problems on her but I knew that I needed some friendly, conflict-free company that night. I also realized that I needed to start dealing with at least a portion of the chaos that was threatening to swallow me whole, so I tried Alex’s breathing trick for a few minutes and then picked up the phone.
“Good afternoon, Prince Joseph Junior High’s principal’s office – how can I help you?”
“I need to speak with the school nurse,” I replied. “Please.” She picked up on the second ring.
“Hello, Isha Sathu speaking.”
“Hi Isha, it’s Nate McDaniel calling… Cara’s father? I was told you’d like to speak with me.” I think I managed to sound reasonably calm.
“Ah yes, Mr. McDaniel – thank you for calling. You have spoken, I assume, with your daughter?” I grunted my confirmation. “Well, that is a start at least. I would like you to come in to meet with me, as soon as possible, because I am concerned that as a single father you are not properly… equipped to deal with this change in your daughter’s life. When Cara informed me that you two had not even spoken of this topic together, I was very distressed.”
“In my defense,” I said slowly, clamping down hard on my anger, “I was an only child, so I didn’t even have a sister who went through this. And, while I’ll admit that I thought this… change wouldn’t happen for a few years yet, I’ve done the best I could for my girl.”
“That was not meant as an accusation, Mr. McDaniel. Please do not think that you are the first single father I have had to speak with. I simply would like to go over a few things you should be aware of and give you a few strategies to support your daughter. She is, after all, the one in greatest need here.”
I had to give her that one. We ended up setting an appointment for the following morning and agreeing that Cara would only attend classes if she was feeling up to it. I very much doubted that would be the case, seeing as I could barely convince her to leave her room. I hung up the phone with more than a little relief. One down, three billion and five to go. I picked up the handset and dialed again.
“Nate, what can I do for you?” Gregor asked with all the warmth of an iceberg.
“Alex will be there on Saturday, crisis averted.”
“Excellent. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing The Killer tear your head off. I’ll see you both in a few days.”
While I wasn’t exactly comforted by his reply, it was another thing taken care of. I made one last call to the gym to let Alex know I would be in a little late because of the school appointment and to set him up with a sparring partner until I arrived, then set about making dinner. There could be no question what needed to be made that day – blueberry pancakes and beef sausage, with apple crumble for dessert. Cara loved having breakfast for dinner, and those had been her three favourite foods for the previous five years or so.
It took the scent of organic beef sausages frying in butter, basil, dill, and olive oil about two minutes to draw Cara out of her room. She sat down inelegantly on her stool, shifting around for a few moments with a look of discomfort and disgust on her face, before placing her elbows on the island and cradling her chin in her hands. She looked utterly, completely miserable.
“Sucks, huh?” I asked after driving the sausages around the pan with a wooden spoon. She nodded and sighed in dejection. “I bet if we got you drunk you’d feel better.”
“Very funny Dad,” she said with a roll of her eyes. A smile peeked through momentarily before being tucked away. “I have to go through this every month for the rest of my life? That is so unfair. Why don’t boys get periods?”
“It’s not the rest of your life, Cara.” God, it’s not, is it? “And boys don’t get them because we’re terrible at coping with pain and faint at the sight of blood. You ladies are the tougher half - don’t let anybody tell you different.”
That seemed to perk her up slightly and I was pleased to have done something right at last. I told her about what happened at the airport with Alex and she was happy to focus on something besides herself for a while. I didn’t ask her for any details of what happened at school and she didn’t offer them. I knew it would come later, once she had finished processing it on her own.
We ate dinner in companionable silence until Cara surprised me by putting on one of the CDs that Dawn had given me. I fetched the crumble from the oven and dished us up as she conducted Bach with her fork. We devoured our first serving and I gave her seconds, a very rare treat in my kitchen.
“You all full?” she asked around a distastefully large mouthful of dessert.
“Saving room for later,” I admitted, biting my tongue to keep from reiterating my ‘swallow first, talk second’ rule. I figured she could use a break that night. “You going to be okay on your own for a while?”
“Oh please, I’m practically an adult now! I’ll be fine – besides, Mel is coming over. She’s totally jealous.”
I had no idea what sort of response that required so I gave none. I had enough on my plate that I felt no need to pile ‘psychological analysis of pubescent girls’ on top. We cleaned up together and then she shooed me out the door – after making me change in to a clean pair of jeans and a fresh shirt. Both of which she chose, of course.
“Good luck, Pops!” she called down the hall.
“Thanks, I’ll need it.”
“No,” she said as she closed the door, “I’m pretty sure you won’t.”

The End

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