Tag: human relationships
I heard a voice tonight. The kids were in pajamas. We had just said our family prayer and were playing tic, tac, toe, hit me high, hit me low, hit me three times in a row, buddy got hit by a UFO and what I heard was ROCK and so I played rock and I crushed all of their scissors and we walked up the stairs of this big old house and shared hugs and kisses and good solid intentions of seeing one another in the morning.
As I walked downstairs to the box of wine that helps me unwind most nights, I thought about my boy so nervous this morning before his big fourth-grade, year-end race. He was pacing, sticking close to me and SB while his buddies wrestled and threw around a ball and he told us that bubbles were popping in his guts and he wanted to know why it felt like he had to go to the bathroom even though he knew in his heart that he didn’t have to go.
“It’s nerves,” I said.
And he ran away to the bathroom in the school to empty whatever he could that was building inside.
Three minutes later, he was at the starting line, jockeying for position and I heard a voice say, “He’s got it wrapped up. Just watch and enjoy.”
He ran a mile in seven minutes and four seconds and beat out every other kid in his grade. The volunteer parents were impressed. They had been keeping track of the races all day. Our boy was the fourth fastest in school, just seconds behind the studs of fifth grade.
He took the victory in stride. He was humble. He knows that it is only a race and that running doesn’t last forever. That there is much more to come. And none of it can be known until we know it.
“He’s gonna be a star,” a voice said. And there was nothing I could do but believe it.
Poem’s audio below…honey, I even got a little throat clearing in for you at the end.;-)
I don’t post as much as some people do. That’s for good reason. There are too many dummies doing so already. People posting too much shit that is selfish, mean, hurtful, and downright stupid. For instance, I am happy that so-and-so helped a homeless person today, or saved a duck, or paid it forward in some way or the other, but the point of doing good deeds is to simply do them and not draw recognition to oneself. And yet, everyone is look at me. You, S.B., are not like that. Even at our wedding you insisted that all eyes NOT be on you. You just wanted to get married, to be together, and for everyone to have a good time. And that’s why sometimes you’ll catch me just looking at you. I’m amazed.
And then there are the religious geniuses—most of them blinded instead of enlightened—damning people because they are different, spewing evil, nastiness and ignorance. God hates this type of person. This group is going to hell. I follow my husband blindly. I am obedient. His servant. Blah, blah, blah. If they had any inkling of what it’s like to live a good life, they’d be living like you, S.B. You are the definition of kindness. You bring hope. You are the embodiment of strength and independence. And you make me and our kids believe that there are much greater things going on behind the scenes than what we engage on the surface. If people were as selfless and sensible as you are, they’d take more time out of their day to focus on others. The world would be a better place if it followed you.
There are the sickies, always posting how miserable they feel. I saw you give birth to a child, naturally, without shedding a tear. When you are sick, we never know it. You may take an ibuprofen if the pain starts to slow you down. But you’re never asking for attention. Posting about your sniffles or ever mentioning an ache.
There are the titsies—women that apparently can’t refrain from showing their cleavage. Oh, look at the new toaster I got with their boobies all squished together and most likely sharing their best set of duck lips. You, S.B., draw a crowd with your beautiful wide smile, your confidence, and warmth.
And finally, though there are more I could mention, there are the political gurus. We don’t have to go much into that, I suppose. I think most of us should probably follow your politics. Treat people with respect. Help everyone. Act, every day, as if there is an end that’s fast approaching. And that when it’s all said and done every single deed and every word we’ve ever written or spoken—good and bad—will be judged. Maybe not by God, but by everyone we’ve known. And that the tiny ripples of our life make big, big waves.
In summation, Happy Birthday, S.B. I thought I should post this and put it on your page because in the whole scheme of things maybe one person’s love for another will help balance out, and even defeat the shit—all the selfish, mean, hurtful, and downright stupid things—that so many others are putting into this world wide tangled web.
It is more real
than I ever expected—
our life of keeping kids happy,
healthy, and safe.
Working every day
so ends not only meet
but overlap just enough
to keep us
comfortable and warm.
It has been a great lesson
this art of marriage.
And where we’re at now
is right where I want to be.
Just you and me
living our small important
life in our big old house,
just a couple blocks
from the mighty Lake Huron,
on the 45th parallel,
in Alpena, Michigan.
Looking out for our son,
to do the best we can
to make this place
than it was
when we got here.
And you know what, S.B.?
We’re doing it.
We’re doing it right
and I am awed
you have chosen
to spend your precious time,
Happy Valentine’s Day
January 21, 2016
It is all here. Somewhere. In between my nine-year-old boy pounding drums in the basement and my daughter watching Scooby Doo on TV. It is out there in the cold night. Crunching under my wife’s feet as she walks home from work. It is in the sky affecting the earth’s gravitational pull. And it is in my right eye—the one that’s been twitching on and off for a week.
I am not even sure what it is, but I know that it is big and small and knowing and forgetful, and that it makes up everything and nothing all the same. Hemingway and Fitzgerald knew about it. Francis Ford Coppola knew about it. Elvis and Robin Williams and my grandparents and my dead aunts and uncles and all the ghosts that make up the past—they knew about it. And I like to think that we know about it too.
Me and you and us and them.
It is in the stories I have started but did not end. In every good intention that’s never received its due follow through.
It is in profanity and love and hatred and bullying and hugs.
It is everywhere.
In damning God and falling to our knees at night, drunk again, to pray.
It is in the soap bubbles, on the sidewalk, on your toothbrush, and wedged into the bark of a tree.
There is so much of it around it’s hard to gather all of it up and turn it into pictures that make sense. Or, at the very least, to make bits into pieces that will wake the few believers that have fallen asleep and become comfortably imprisoned by the suffocating, silencing routine of the day. And because the task is so daunting, the reality of it so haunting, it is much easier to ignore it and carry on instead of dig deep and make differences.
In the way boys beat drums without rhythm, the girls giggle at the flickering TV, and how wives take slow, measured strides as they move through the dark and the cold toward home under a sky trembling with gravity.
He’s angry at work because customer orders are going late again and again.
She’s mad because the waitress brought her a fork instead of a spoon.
Every moment, the scale moves to and fro. Negativity. Positivity. Evil and good. An unbearable state of grey. And every day we move closer to the grave. That big, secret ending working its way toward us with each step we do or do not take.
None of us get out alive. That’s what the cynics say. The realists. The smart, sometimes condescending people that don’t need faith or love or God or hope—not anything at all—because they’ve got it all figured out. Everyone is stupid. Plain and simple. Easy to wrap it up nice and tidy and forget that where we’ve come from and where we’re going is magical. Something only kids seem to understand.
As I write this, my daughter appears. She’s made me a drawing.
To dad fum Oogie, it says.
There is a sun at the bottom of the page and a sun at the top. There is a flower growing out of the sky and a flower growing out of the ground. In the middle of the page is a giant, smiling frog.
For about fifteen minutes tonight, my little girl sat on her bed thinking of nothing else but making something nice for someone else. Her dad.
What did I do for even five minutes today that made that much difference in the world?
What did you do?
It’s hard to believe that a dead baby was found in a dumpster today.
That there was a double-homicide just fifteen miles away.
That a man climbed a giant TV tower to freefall through the sky only to discover his parachute wouldn’t open.
It is chaos, not God, they’ll say. All randomness and nothingness and science and facts and proof and theories and psychology and whatever else they can come up with to make themselves feel like that’ve got a handle on life. That they’re in control.
And tomorrow, they’ll be angry again.
Frustrated because equipment was delivered to the wrong dock.
Disgusted because the cashier at the counter was chewing gum.
But the magic will continue. As it always does. In mysterious ways.
A girl will paint a picture. A boy will share his lunch. Children will keep trying, again and again, to overcome the bad, the evil, the negativity with nothing but innocence and good.
When I was a kid, just seven or eight, and it was bitter cold like this—the wind killing our cheeks, icing our eyes, and easing through even the most solid surfaces of our double wide—I woke every morning to the sound of Dad crumpling and rolling newspapers to light a fire two hours before the rest of us were up so that when we finally got out of our warm beds we wouldn’t be shocked by the cold.
After he lit the fire, he’d pack his lunch. I’d hear the delicate clink of a knife against the butter dish. The cap of the horseradish jar coming off, a spoon rattling around the glass, then the cap screwed back on. The clunk of the lunch meat drawer in the fridge. The rattle of a paper sack. Then the long pour of coffee into his tall gray thermos.
After he scribbled notes for all of us—mine was typically a list of chores: KJ, empty the ash drawer, feed and water the dogs, bring in kindling, bring in firewood, straighten your bed, and shovel the porch—he cranked the old Chevy Nova to life, scraped the windows, then roared away to Besser Company. The place he’ll go to tonight. Forty-three years later. To work a midnight shift.
It’s hard to find loyalty like that today.
And hard hands.
And a strong back.
And shoulders like iron from caring for a wife, three sons, and carrying loads and loads of silence—the heaviest thing a man will ever handle. Because good advice is given quietly and without judgment even when you see your sons making the same mistakes you made over and over and over again.
They don’t make men like Dad anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try. So tonight, I showed my boy the art of crumpling and rolling newspapers to start a fire. The importance of proper spacing between kindling and logs, and that sometimes to keep a fire going it just takes time. And as my son ate his apple sauce and watched my every move, I remembered to say nothing because actions speak louder than words.
(Here’s to May 2015, Dad…retirement is soon.)
I want to write about the bitter cold and how pretty the snow looks over everything. I want to write about the twenty-three brown apples hanging from the tree in our backyard and how my five-year-old daughter noticed them.
“There are more apples that won’t let go than there were last year,” she said to me as I mixed together chopped pickles, mayo, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and tuna for sandwiches.
“I know, buddy. Last year there were eleven. The year before that nine. Now, there’s twenty-three.”
“Why are so many hanging on?”
“I’m not sure,” I said.
“I bet it’s because they don’t want to die,” she said. And she ran away down the hallway to play cops and robbers with her brother. Something they started doing over Christmas break that really has a hold on them and has surprisingly brought them closer together.
I spent a long time mixing together the ingredients for my lunch. My wife thinks I’m crazy with many things and one of them is the amount of time I put into the preparation of food. Whatever I make—breakfast, a simple sandwich, dinner, or even BBQ—I have to start early because the process is like a ritual to me. Sometimes things need to be just so before you can move on.
Maybe that’s what the apples are waiting for.
Maybe my daughter needed that break in her day—looking out the big kitchen window when she was supposed to be arresting her brother for burglary. And maybe I needed her. To stop and remind me that time is running out and that there’s nothing we can do, but hang on and hope, even after the last bit of sunshine is gone, the nutrients are no longer working their way up the roots toward us, and all we can do is wait it out—the bitter, wintry cold that is inevitable and keeps coming, working us toward the end by way of snowdrifts that sparkle like diamonds, lopsided snowmen with crooked smiles, and a soft white blanket that covers the world.
(for B.K.: enjoy the otherside, big guy…we’ll miss you)
My son is eight, but looking like he’s twelve. He’s grown four inches since April. He is lean and strong and already getting too old for things like piñatas at holiday parties. Last night, my wife and I watched as he lined up with the other kids—there must have been ten of them—and he took his turn swinging a wiffle ball bat at a Minion from Despicable Me that none of the other kids could crack. He was not the oldest or the biggest. He does not play baseball, but has a natural feel for all things athletic, so when he gripped that bat like Ty Cobb it took some parents by surprise. With two swats he freed the treats locked inside and for forty-five seconds, as the other kids crawled around on the garage floor snatching candy up and putting it in paper bags, my boy was King.
These are the things I remember. The moments I want to bottle, save, and sip during later days when S.B. and I have the house to ourselves, more padding in the nest, and we’re living a life without kids. I will be writing. She’ll be painting. We’ll travel, socialize, be active in the community, but nothing will replace being Mom and Dad. And even though the path of parenthood is not lined with accolades, roses, and opportunities for rest, I’ll miss it.
I will stand at the big front window one Christmas Day waiting in silent excitement because he and his wife and kids are coming home for the holidays. It will have been months since I’ve seen him, hugged him, heard him say, “Dad.” And the wait will almost be too much. I’ll pour wine or mix myself a drink and pace the long living room keeping my ear tuned to the quiet street so as soon as I hear tires crunching snow in the driveway and car doors slamming, I’ll shout to S.B., “They’re here!” And as he walks up the steps onto the porch I’ll remember.
Pushing him on the swings, teaching him how to move his little arms and feet. Back-and-forth. Back-and-forth. So he knew what it was like to be free. Just a boy in the world in mid-air. Smiling.
Training wheels off and holding the back of his bicycle seat as we travelled up and down the sidewalk in the hot sun. Sweat pouring out of me. Running and running alongside of him as he tried again and again to master the art of balancing on two wheels.
My unstoppable smile as I watched him cast and reel at the break wall of the boat harbor. His practice making perfect as the sun set and bass surfaced and he threw lures with confidence and accuracy and told me he never wanted to go home, that he wanted to just be there with me. Fishing.
The shot of warmth deep in my gut after he spent two hours trick or treating in blowing snow and cold only to come home, turn on our front porch light, and pass the candy he earned out to kids still brave enough to be making the rounds that night.
Every day, little surprises. Hope and faith. A building up of belief in the midst of all the hard work of raising a son in a world that I know will not be as kind to him as he deserves. And when it’s all said and done and he has gone off into the world to succeed and fail and do all those things I’ve done, as selfish as it seems, I just want him to remember me as his Dad. The guy sitting in a metal folding chair at the back of the crowd getting a little teary-eyed—filled with joy—as his boy takes a perfect swing at a piñata.
It’s hard to give up when you think of someone else. It’s not as easy to pity yourself when you consider your kids and parents, your siblings and strangers. All too often we exaggerate the severity of our aches and pains, misfortune and loss because we’re focused on our own desires—our so-called needs and wants.
If we could just remember the others.
The smiling young man working the cash register at Wal-Mart. Scanning groceries, tallying totals, bagging everything up, as he talks with my wife, jokes with my kids, and I put full bags into the cart. When he hands me the receipt and wishes me Happy Holidays, I finally notice he’s got only one arm. My kids and wife have not let on as if they’ve noticed anything, so as I load groceries into the backseat and everyone buckles in, I look long and hard at my fingers and hands and I ask my family, “Was that kid missing an arm?” All of them groan and roll their eyes and wonder at my lack of perception.
The woman in the rusted out minivan with the half-flat rear left tire. She stops suddenly and parks across both lanes of traffic on Washington Street so she can pick a dying, big fluffy cat from the pavement and walk—tears streaming down her face—from door to door, asking each person she meets, “Is this kitty yours?” Cars buzz around her van and honk and people shout out their windows, but she does not hear them. She wraps the cat into her coat, sets it on her lap and drives to the vet to have it put down.
A four-year old girl up before the sun on Christmas morning. She walks across the cold, dirty floor, down the hallway toward the living room. Mom’s told her that she doesn’t think Santa’s coming this year, but she knows better and has hope even as she walks past her Mom, passed out and snoring, cigarette still burning in an ashtray balancing on the arm of the couch. The small plastic tree is lit. The red and blue lights twinkle and warm her and she sits down quietly to pray—not for gifts or candy or for a cure for the cancer that’s eating away her bones—but just to capture a glimpse of Saint Nick coming to her home.