We stopped for lunch at the McD's in Limon. And, given the little procedure I had recently endured, I was medically prohibited from carrying/lifting/holding/throwing/catching any or all three girls. This is a point that I cannot stress enough. Again, just to be clear, I was on doctor's orders and told that in "no uncertain terms" may I ever lift any weight, including luggage and heavy diapers. Funny, skiing would be fine.
This left the entire job to Elise. Which is no big woop for my dainty bride. She got out the stroller for Hadley and saddled her in. Then, one at a time, she unbuckled Mia and Bri and - like a Russian Babooshka - swooped up one 20+ pounder in her right arm, another in her left, and stridently walked into the busy restaurant.
I followed sheepishly behind, pushing Hadley in her little lightweight stroller. With both hands.
I could feel the penetration of eyes from every direction the second I entered. The jaws of Moms everywhere gaped in rage as the Dads wore an expression of both curiosity and, well, awe. I was simply embarrassed. Pushing the stroller to our table felt like walking the green mile.
So I began to limp.
Gave it a bit more flair. I tossed in a wince on every 3rd step and widened my gait. I tried to make pushing the stroller seem like it was, in its own right, a manly feat. But all my drama did little to simmer the stares.
I've tried to recall a time that I've felt like such a puny man. And then I remembered the first time I met "Papa", Elise's grandfather. He arrived at the Cheesecake Factory looking every bit of his 80+ years. When we were introduced, I kindly extended my hand for a shake - thinking at the time that my grip struck just the right balance of confidence and, yet, sensitivity.
It was only after Elise and I were married that I learned Papa was horribly worried for his granddaughter. Turned out that he was of the generation that judged an entire man's character through one shake of the hand. I apparently had a few things against me: (1) I was from California (2) I had never served in the military and (3) I was a pastor with a sensitive handshake.
Consequently, he summarily determined me to be a weak man.
How was I to know that this man was a decorated war hero? That he had broken his back crashing his plane and lived? I mean, how does one shake an elderly man's hand? Apparently, not kindly...
Ever since that dreadful handshake, I always felt like a small man around him. A very small man. One not to be trusted. Worse still, everyone in Elise's family knew it. Word spread like wildfire, "Papa doesn't approve of Dan!" They'd whisper.
"Why?" they'd ask.
"He didn't like Dan's grip!"
"Uh oh," they'd say, covering their mouths.
"I know," they'd reply, making knowing eyes.
Talk about a death sentence.
Things like this can really get in your head. I never knew how to shake his hand after that. It was like I was stuck in my own personal Seinfeld episode - fearing that I would over-compensate and break the poor man's hand. Then I'd get arrested for abuse of the elderly. Maybe court marshalled. The AARP would leave death threats. I'd have to go on Dr. Phil just to tell my side of things.
Anyhow, this is what happens when you feel like a little man. Or, perhaps, it shows the strength of a man to endure such moments, to rise above, to walk proudly through a McDonald's chin up, to extend whatever rehabilitating hand one has to offer.