I noticed him glancing briefly to the side and past me, when we sat down for dinner tonight. But it's not like my husband to let his eyes wander. On the periphery were twentysomething girls, I thought, with tiny shorts and gorgeous beauty, I was sure. Maybe it was just a moment of weakness.
But I was wrong.
Those girls were very young--certainly under 16--and although they were beautiful and had much-too-short shorts on, my husband didn't have a staring problem. Rather, he had caught onto something that the rest of us failed to notice.
"Are you, OK?" he called out, as he immediately jumped from our table and headed in their direction. One of the girls was bursting into tears, her hands over her mouth, and my memory quickly reminded me that she had been pacing back and forth. Was she OK? What was going on?
Thankfully, things weren't as bad as we had imagined. (Or, maybe you will say that this was worse!)
"I lost my retainer," she whimpered. "I accidentally threw it out." And then she pointed. She pointed into the deep, dark, cavernous pit that was the Extra Large Restaurant Trashcan.
Within its wooden walls and down through the hinged flapping door was all the leftover trash and Japanese food from an entire day of eating, producing a smell and a warmth that was both repulsive and expected. The girl and her friend had peered into it several times, a look of horror crawling over their faces each time.
My husband is an incredible man. You know this already. And so, with his dinner half-eaten and his hands bare, he plunged heroically into that dark, cavernous pit of rubbish, his head and both of his arms completely within the hinged flapping door thing. Only his back side remained.
Liam and I watched with equal parts fear and amazement. The girls did, too. All of the restaurant patrons seemed to hold their breath, in the hopes of helping him hold his.
Twenty minutes and several "Don't worry; I'll find it!" declarations later, he had found ONE HALF of the missing dental doohicky. He held up the tiny, clear plastic thing in victory. Our 15-year-old friend was thrilled. But then, of course, she told him that there was more to find. I saw the sadness on his face.
By this point, I had already convinced her to call her mother and was thinking that maybe Michael could carry the whole trash bag out of the mall for her. And it was then that the manager wanted to know what was going on.
We explained. More tears from girl. No call-back from Mom yet. Panic swells again. Are they $100 a piece or $500 total? Nobody is sure. But we are quite certain of Grounding.
Now the manager is getting concerned about appearances, so she ushers Michael into the nearby restroom, pushing him and the trashcan quickly behind closed doors. "You can finish there," she quickly says in her accent.
Liam panics. Where is Daddy now? I try to explain, but he screams and cries and flails. The girls look even more horrified at the trouble they have caused. The whole restaurant is on high alert.
"He'll find it," I assure the girls, loud enough to be heard by all. "It will just take him some time, but he will find it."
Meanwhile, Liam cries. Food gets cold. Appetites get lost. Eyes stare. Another twenty minutes pass. I begin to wonder if my husband has been eaten alive by the rodents that surely live at the bottom of these trashcans.
"Thank you again," the girl's friend tells me.
"He's a great guy," I understate. "This is why I married him."
Finally, he emerges. The plastic prize is in hand. The girls thank him and then run off, like two deer in headlights who had just been spared their lives.
My beloved husband, gross with germs and now nauseous from all that he's seen, was not about to finish his dinner. He scrubbed his hands and arms until we were certain that every last virus, bacterium, and food particle had been washed down the drain.
And then we left. I assured him that this good deed just earned him an extra puffy cloud in Heaven. And I told Liam that he's got the very best Daddy of all.