Given how bizarre our life together was, part of the responsibility I felt as Dash's mom was to not do to him the things his father had done. So, no pressure. No manipulation. No lies. I piled on understanding and love and gave him, each day, a commitment I believed he privately relied on: that I would always keep trying to see him and I would love him no matter what had happened in the past or would happen in the future. Whenever Dash cancelled, he saved it until the last minute, as though waiting until the last possible moment to face the disappointment. His cancellations were as hard on our household as they were on me, because all four of us would have geared up to see him, the boys would save up their stories for him, but have only a couple of hours or a night's warning that he wouldn't be coming. The weeks became months; months became a year, and by the time Dash was eleven, I had stopped telling the boys he was coming at all, because he invariably didn't, and I couldn't bear their disappointment on top of mine.
Whenever I did get Dash, it felt like a military coup. I would call Dave and Mimi from the car, and all I needed to say was, “I've got Dash with me.” I kept it casual, because Dash was sitting right next to me, but it was code, and they knew what it meant. Other plans were summarily cancelled, Mimi would stay longer, and Dave would come home early to occupy the boys. When Dash and I walked through the door, and for the entire time - a couple of hours usually - the household revolved around him.