I saw it too. I saw him walk with his head held high, across the field heading for the bleachers, three curly haired children in tow. I saw him stand cheering as his boy collided in the dirt, tumbled and twisted around teammates.
Another parent tapped his arm, "Excellent job!" Talking about his son.
He spoke for a moment then answered his phone. One of the cherubs skidded past the man into the aisle and plodded down the stairs. The man looked up, glanced over and went back to his phone. The child knocked into another, fell down and began crying.
"Mommy, MOMMY..." the child part cried and part moaned.
Another parent, seated nearby reached for the child, glanced at the man, picked the child up. She looked over again. The man was on the phone.
"It's work," he mouthed to her.
The child nestled into her still crying but more softly, "I want Mommy."
At no time did the child look towards his Dad. He was on the phone. The woman turned around, the child on her lap, seeming to have forgotten that he fell down, that was why he was there, seated on a woman's lap, that he had never met. She looked directly at the man. His call had ended. He was tapping at the screen.
Working on a Sunday... it was unusual. It stood out. It was not true, she felt. The child grew restless and sidled off her lap.
"Be careful," she said and smiled.
She glanced again at the man. He was on his phone, he seemed to turn away from her before she caught his eye.
He spoke very loudly. In the open field and noisy crowd his voice bellowed, took over, was noticed when he spoke to the children.
"Wipe your hands first," he boomed to a child right next to him.
Then he looked around as if to see who else was looking. Who was taking note of the things he said to his children, when he wasn't on the phone, watching his child play a team sport, on a Sunday afternoon when he wasn't working. He smiled at no one in particular. It looked strange. As though the smile did not belong to him but had landed there by accident.
A child fell down. It was hard to see. A collision of young bodies, spinning with a ball, on the grass. The parents watched then moaned as the pile up of children moved to the side. The injured child sat still on the field. Two men in a stretcher straightened out his body, collected him with care and moved him. The mother had run, appearing out of nowhere. She was by her child's side. She waved desperately and shouted into the crowd. The children saw her. One and then another poked their Dad. Their brother had fallen. Mommy was motioning that he was ok. She wanted to tell Daddy. He looked very strange. Hunched over, his chin on his chest. He was asleep. His smallest child pushed past him, into the aisle he teetered by the stairs where his brother had just fallen.
The man's head bobbed then jolted. He grabbed at his phone, vibrating in his pocket. Wide awake too quickly, his voice was clear and loud.
"Work," he said out loud to no one in particular.
The woman looked wearily at the child near the stairs. The man crouched over and turned away. Then he stood up, not noticing the child.
"You might want to watch him," she said directly to the man.
The man smiled, looking around. "Thank you," his voice louder than before.
He smiled at no one in particular. His smile seemed broken, collapsed, ill at ease. He made no move toward the child with his eyes or his body. The child looked at his father. He lost his footing. He tumbled down the stairs. He scraped his chin along the way.
The man changed tone. His voice became syrupy and thick. He talked about his family day, his child's game. How great it is that he could be there to watch the boys game with his children and wife. He talked loudly as though addressing someone far away, across the field. He did not mention that his son had been injured.
"He's doing great James. We are so proud of him." He told his father-in-law.
He didn't say that his son had fallen down. That he was right now in the bleachers, with paramedics. He did not say his wife was anxious and twisting her hands as they peeled off the boy's clothing slowly. It was probably a sprain. He didn't tell his family.
His phone rang. The man hit decline. He tapped on the screen. A woman skipped quickly up the stairs. The children greeted her happily and took her hands. He looked at her quickly, before she led the children away. She said something that he did not hear as he turned and reached for his phone. It was vibrating, on silent. A text had come in. He lifted it to his face and turned away.
"It's work," he mouthed to the woman who was not looking at him.
His smile was crooked and shy as though it was embarrassed to be on his face. Unnaturally smirking. I saw it too.