From the StevieLovesEvie.com archive:
Last Thursday, June 10th, 2021, was the first time since September 23, 2019 that the Walsh family let Evie 'see' her Dad. Over the past several weeks, debates raged in the courts as to whether Evie could even handle seeing him. After so much time, he was a "stranger" they argued and Evie would be very upset to be away from her mother. They demanded Dad first do a few calls on Facetime or Zoom to get reacquainted...but later showed nervous and denied even that.
This tactic of feigned concern for Evie at reconnecting with her father had played out again and again over the past three years after every manufactured delay. But each and every time they reunited, the fears proved warrantless, and the bond between father and daughter instant and magical.
Over the last few weeks nearly every day, Dad attempted to connect with his daughter. And every day he was ignored; a point being made. Made too when Mom had asked Grandma Linda to drive six and a half hours from Punxatawney to Chappaqua, only to have Grumpa turn her around. Not a fair point, nor one particularly complex, or even an interesting one. Attempts to reunite with Evie would be met with pain; pain that matched the torture of their unreconciled reality and cognitive dissonance.
The Walsh family's demands had very little to do with what was best for Evie, and everything to do with extracting the maximum of pain for every moment spent trying to reunite with her. On June 10th, the Court had removed enough wiggle room, so that now Grandma Linda would get to spend a full day "unsupervised" with Evie.
Dad would be there too on a screen and in spirit.
True to form, the Walsh family could not help themselves, and tried to upend the day. They failed (a full post on this is coming soon). The truth is the Evie they characterize to the Court, the one that is fragile and fearful of strangers, does not exist. Evie, like her Dad at that age, loves everyone and never met a stranger who stayed one for long. With Mom and Grimma around, however, she can be timid and cling her mother's leg. But it's Grimma and Mom she looks to nervously, not wanting to upset them, never the "strangers."
Evie jumped in the car with Grandma Linda and driver Mike that day without concern or hesitation. She was handed and tablet and on it was Dad. From that moment on to the moment she was returned to Mom, Evie was nothing but smiles and that tablet never left her side.
The Court experts had warned Dad. "Don't push it. At that age you probably won't keep her attention for more that five minutes. If she gets nervous or antsy, just let her go off. That is what children do at that age. We bill by the hour, but you will be lucky to get 20 good minutes. Remember you are a 'stranger' to her."
Dad smiled. "I'm not a stranger. I'm her Dad."
For the next eight hours, Evie walked with Dad, talked with Dad, and played games with him. She clung to the tablet, like a favorite stuffed animal; sometimes propping it up to show off her jumping ability and other times dragging it across the floor like Hobbes.
Evie took Dad into the closet and pulled the door closed to play Hide 'n Seek. Grandma opened the door. "Do you want me to leave the door open?" she asked.
"No." Evie closed it again.
Grandma opened it. "Well if you get scared just let me know."
"Ok," said Evie, quickly pulling the door shut once more.
Evie and Dad talked in "privacy," though the conversation could clearly be heard by Grandma Linda. And I, of course, got to eavesdrop and peek occasionally over Dad's shoulder. Evie was sitting in one corner of the closet and had Dad propped up on her knees. She had so many questions for him. She stumbled over words and sometimes forgot to breath as details and thoughts poured out of her.
At one point, she cocked her head to the side and asked. "Are you sick Daddy?" It was clear from the look on her face that Daddy didn't seem very sick to her and something wasn't making sense.
"No honey. Who told you that?"
"No one," she said looking at her feet.
Dad took a slow breath and relaxed his face and shoulders. He smiled calmly and waited for Evie's tension fade before answering. "No," he chuckled. "Your Daddy isn't sick. Your Daddy is healthy and strong. Other than you my dear, your Daddy might just be the strongest person in the whole wide world."
"I am strong," Evie agreed smiling. "Really, REALLY strong."
After another pause, she cocked her head again. "Don't you miss me?"
"Of course honey. I love you more than anything and miss you very much, but we will be together again very soon."
That seemed to satisfy Evie and the day went on. Up and down elevators together. Lunch and snacks together. And as the day became later, they napped together. Daddy was tired too.
At one point, Evie sang Dad a song from from the movie frozen. She was quiet at first, but with the smallest prodding began to sing louder. She knew every word.
Dad proudly listened. When Evie was done and appropriately praised, he asked, "Would you like Daddy to sing you a song?"
"Yes," she said flatly. And so, Dad started to sing.