Angie was in bed early. She was bathed and dressed in clean pajamas. Her teeth were brushed, her hair was combed and her bedtime books were fanned across the blankets.

Her father said he would call, so we were both ready.

I read all four of her books, slowly with one eye on the clock. Then, when the little hand was on Hannah Montana’s elbow and the big hand was on her blond hair, I put the books away and tucked Angie into bed. I kissed the peachy-soft skin of my daughter’s forehead and said good night.

The phone had not rung.

Perhaps there was a good reason why he never called. Or maybe there wasn’t. I’m not sure that matters.

After our separation and, eventually, our divorce, Angie’s father was pretty good about calling. He phoned at least twice a week, usually before bedtime. Angie looked forward to hearing his voice and telling him about her day. Some nights she talked a lot, pretending to read him a book or even singing him a song. Other evenings, she just wanted to hear him say good night.

“Sweet dreams, baby girl,” he said to her.

“Sweet dreams, Daddy,” she replied.

Back then, there were nights when we called him. Sometimes we got his voice, and sometimes we got his voicemail.

As the years have gone by, the calls have become more sporadic. They have come in fits and bursts. He calls every night for a week, and then we hear nothing at all. Days stretch into weeks. Weeks turn into a month.

I always wonder what Angie thinks when the phone stops ringing. She is only 5 years old, so time is a blurry concept for her. At this stage, the way she tells one day from another is by looking at the cartoon character on her underwear.

But one day she is going to know how long a week is and how long a month is. She will notice who calls her, who wants to hear about her day and who doesn’t.

For three years now, I’ve been watching my daughter for signs of a child struggling with the divorce of her parents. I haven’t seen much, thank goodness. Perhaps I’m lucky that she was only 2 years old when her father and I split. She has no memory of her family living together and, at this point, has lived more than half her life with divorced parents.

I’m not sure what to tell her when the calls stop coming. Daddy’s job is demanding. He travels a lot. We live far apart.

Those things are all true, but telling her so is simply covering for him. I don’t want to hurt my daughter, but I am beginning to see that making excuses is not helping her. And it is not helping me either.

The person most bothered by the silent telephone isn’t Angie. It is me. And I struggle to understand why it is as upsetting as it is.

Part of me wonders how anyone could go so long without hearing that squeaky voice, that stutter of excitement on her tongue when she talks about what she learned in school.

Another part of me thinks it is a rejection that I take personally. It’s been almost three years since our marriage ended.

I long ago gave up the notion there would be any future for the two of us, but perhaps feelings of rejection stick around longer than you would like them to.

To be honest, sometimes I’m a bit relieved when he doesn’t call, only because it means I don’t have to hear the voice of the person with whom I spent 12 years, had a baby and made a home. I don’t have to hear the voice of the person who caused me so much pain and radically altered the course of my life.

But for Angie, I’m just sad. It’s her father, after all.

I don’t doubt that he loves and misses her, and I wonder if the reasons for his sporadic calling are more complicated than I could imagine.

Angie and I were not the only ones whose lives were changed by divorce.

The morning after I read Angie her four books and tucked her into bed, two boxes showed up on our doorstep. They were from Angie’s father. One of the boxes held photographs of me when I was a baby, which I left behind after we separated.

The other box was for Angie. Inside were eleven birthday presents, each one wrapped in plastic so it wouldn’t get wet in the mail.

The presents were four weeks late. But I’m not sure that matters.

Wendy Fontaine’s Party of Two column appears every other week. Her email address is: [email protected] Follow Party of Two on Facebook and read her blog at PerseveringParents.com.


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