Monday, June 17, 2013
(I wonder if I titled last Father's Day post that? No, I did not, I put a 'The' before it.)
I usually try to write about a holiday or celebration after the fact, mostly because I am using this forum to help make memories for the boys, and, uh... me.
Here's the thing, I've got a couple of cute, fun, adorable crafts from the boys I want to show you, but, first I want to try to explain something. I am a Midwesterner and we don't really like to speak on emotions 'round these parts, but - I think Father's Day is a very difficult day for a lot of men.
It's not just emotional for current fathers, watching with memories so close to our minds, mixing our childhoods with our children's, watching our kids through our father's eyes.
It's not just hard for an at-home-dad like me - to whom the whole notion seems absurd when you realize, as you look at Mother's Day cards, that they'd be more appropriate for you - who must suffer the media stereotyping and bumbling dads mythology so sometimes searingly, heartbreakingly thrust at us.
It's not just painful to men who aren't dads, aren't even considering it, or men who had deadbeat dads or no dads at all, or for men who are still forming, all wondering what is happening, why this journey?
I am struggling with the words today. In a way that's a good thing, it means I am struggling with an idea, with an emotion, with myself.
Simply put: Father's Day expects to much of us. It's a needy, Hallmark holiday, unnecessary and difficult. Do we celebrate our own fathering or reflect on our fathers? It's sort of hard to do both, the first so joyful and sacred, the second melancholy and inviolable.
For me, I absorb the joy of my own fathering every day, it's easy and I make a point of noticing their smiles and freckles and breaks and burgeoning dreams at every opportunity. I notice them daily. Also, I remember my own father in a very deep way, I rely on his foundation for my own faith and, hopefully, integrity, in a way that forgoes time, not in some heady philosophical way, it just exists in an out-of-time plane along with hopes and dreams and demons and sadness.
For me - and I mean this - if the above is true, and I think it is for a lot of men, every day is Father's Day.
So, I got breakfast in bed, toast and fruit and eggs even, and I got a funny card from Marci, and a couple of homemade cards from the boys:
This one is from Zack, I just love the "hammer in a heart" logo, and I do "do much work." I love you, too, Zacky.
Nick had a little more time but he made a fatal design error; he wanted a pop-up guy inside and he wanted a cutout for the cover. Mom rescued him with a piece of a ziplock baggie to line the heart. His poem, heartfelt and accurate: "You love Meat,/ Meat loves you,/ you love me, too!" ..love me, too, meat too. Ha! Great stuff. I love you, too Nick. (All of this he created with his right hand and arm in a cast up past his elbow.)
I am not sure where he got this little photo of me, I haven't been to a Renaissance Fair in a number of years.
I got these nifty coupons good for stuff. I'm gonna use the "giting money" one soon. I am not sure who's going to cut the grass if I use that one. One is good for "loving" and one simply for "LOVe". I think I'll keep those for now
So, that's how I feel about the whole thing and what I got. Thanks for coming around.
From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."
"I ripped it out so we wouldn't hurt it."
It's boy logic, we can't fathom their depths ...
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Sometimes, late at night, when I am squinting at our very old school tube TV - it's flat-screen! - trying to make out the inning on the fuzzy little corner scoreboard as the sound periodically fades in and out inexplicably, sometimes, well, a lot, I truly wish I had a quaking-ass, high-as-hell-def, surround sound, blue-the-fuck-tooth capable television.
Sometimes, when I am at one of Zack's games, I wish I had a smartphone replete with weather apps and games and all that shit so I wouldn't have to actually pay attention to the never-ending final innings which are customarily a walkfest. I could take cute photos and instagram them and post them on Facebook and look important all the while.
Sometimes, when I see a child advocate soothing a child about to get an IV with an iPad, talking and laughing about a silly pratfall on Phineas and Ferb as scary stuff goes on all around, alarms sounding and people asking questions as they urgently scurry in and out, I see how important and to what good that technology can be and can lead, and think, yeah, I'd like one of those.
Sometimes, when I see an ad for a
Sometimes it sort of pisses me off that I don't have all that stuff, but ...
We don't need a shrine to the television gods and, we already spend enough time worshiping at the makeshift altar we already have now. It would seem invasive and unnatural to us and we'd probably stare until we turned to stone or get too close and melt our innocent wings.
We don't need another phone around here, I'd just cuss at it because I couldn't work it and I'd be tempted to check the Internet or, God Forbid, Twitter, escaping the boys when I was supposed to be enjoying the boys playing, playing with the boys or, in general, just being a boy. With such a wondrous contraption at my fingertips I'd forget that I was already doing something more wondrous, more amazing, more fulfilling, more important than any hand held marvel could ever conjure up.
We don't need another reason to look down around here. I can't imagine the heartbreak that is seeing a room full of family all looking down, isolated in a flock of angry birds or mesmerized by mining digital blocks, grunting monosyllabic answers to loving questions and heartfelt requests.
We don't need a motorized movie theater to get us around. We don't need to see that movie we've seen a dozen times before, perhaps we'll just read the book we haven't read, or notice the golden dome on a new church, dangling from a crane, shimmering against the blue Ohio sky.
If we had a new TV would we still have family game nights and evenings after dinner enjoying a fire or drawing around the table, laughing and singing and joking? Would we still have dance parties? Would we still create and goof and play outside and inside with absolutely no agenda or score.
If I had a new smartphone would we still play hangman and tick-tack-toe on an old calendar page from Mom's purse as we nervously await the doctor or the dentist? Would we still stand, holding hands, looking out at the western sky, wondering if that beautiful, purple thunderhead was coming our way or would miss us?
If we all had cutting edge tablets, would we still take a walk around the neighborhood or go for an evening swim or use the dictionary marveling at all the tasty new words we find on our way to finding out if 'sporange' is really a word or not?
If we had a new car, would we miss the smell and familiarity of the old truck? Would we miss having to have a kid walk around the car to physically 'roll' up a window and the ensuing discussion about the way things were and why we 'dial' a phone and talk wistfully of long ago days and how things were when "you were a kid"?
If we had all I think we should, would we make this?
Yep, a scale drawing, on two pages, of our happy home with great details like "stares to basmint," a "kichen" and "gestroom" and a sort of small "grage" and plenty of "clost" space. Not bad for a right handed kid with a broken right arm.
The second floor is in red, the third is in green, no blue, the first is green, wait ... we only have two floors, whose house is this?
Would we still dream and hope and care and stare out into the cold December rain as it streaks across the window hoping it will turn to snow?
Would we still celebrate innocence and marvel at what we don't know, shaking our heads in disbelief at a book about the human body as the intricate, unbelievable systems reveal themselves to us in pages piling up upon each other?
Would we invent a game in the basement that's "okay to play with a cast because it's just kicking" and, after an hour of that, spend another hour making these?
It's the "Denvill Nashenill Colleg" Daggers against those rascally Pennsylvana Ducks (formally the "Origami Ducks" but they changed it to just Ducks a few years back, it's a Liberal Arts school).
It's a complicated sport, not extreme, but gaining popularity.
My point is that I don't think I'd have the great stuff I document here if we'd have introduced a bunch of newfangled technologies at an early age. Honestly, it takes a little more work, a little more time and a lot more attention to go all Mayberry like we do, but, it works for us.
So, I'll suffer the blurry scoreboard and the old truck and the text only phone and the limping laptop for one reason: I want to extend their childhood as long as I can. It's a messed up, confusing, sad and crazy world out there, but here, right now, it's alright. Why, I ask, would I want to take that away from them?
Oh, and if I had all the stuff I thought we wanted would I ever hear a sentence from the backseat like like:
"Well, they don't call you The Cheetah for nothing."
No, no they don't ...
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Yeah, I was going to get all deep and dramatic today. It's that 'time' thing I got going on, you might remember, my fear of time and how I don't have enough and what I have I fritter away on this stupid blog and on Facebook and cleaning and cooking and sleeping. Yeah, that ...
I was going to reflect on what I did here last year at the end of first grade and link you to this or that post and generally go on and on about my problems and how I question my talents, both as a parent and a memoirist/diarist/bloggist.
As you know I like to include an image here so I went up to the "keeper box," remembering that they brought something home yesterday. Now, mind you, I was going to lament a little my time here this summer. Full time dadding is sort of time-consuming and, well, I won't have time to post much. And, I have been enjoying writing deeper and longer posts, which takes time. And, what with Nick's broken arm and Zack's somewhat argumentative ways these days, I feel I will have to keep a close watch on them and keep them busy. I was going to show these images as proof that school was indeed out and that I had a reason for not keeping up here.
I found what I was looking for and glanced at it hoping it would reinforce my serious self-serving sentimental slop.
And then? I laughed. Out loud. Twice. Here's why:
It's the cover of a little booklet full of quotes from the boys' class.
That's not why I laughed, "the studints are grate" is why I laughed. It's so perfect. You know Nick's spelling is weak, and that's being kind, but, well ... it's so cute, and naive, and happy.
This is Zack's offering:
I think, I know, he is a happy kid.
So, I'll worry about the rest of it all later. I should be glad that I still find this all funny and adorable and sweet and decent.
I should be glad I don't have a sick kid, I only have a kid with a broken arm, which will mend.
I should be glad I have a safe home, a loving family and a scanner.
From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."
"Hey, that's MY rainbow!"
Well, it looks a lot like mine ...
Monday, June 3, 2013
Some of you may have noticed that, periodically, I have trouble getting things started around here. Often I can't decide what tone to take or which thing to begin with - happy or serious - or which picture I'll use or, well, you get it.
Today it's a no-brainer:
Yeah, that's Nick' wrist. Broken, two bones just above his wrist.
I wonder what you'd write about now, whoever you are, whenever you are?
Would you write about, oh, say, medical technologies? All about the instant x-rays now available hospital- and network-wide. When I was a kid I got an x-ray once, waited like two hours for it to be developed and then was told by a pretty pissed off tech that I had moved and that we'd have to start again. Would you tell how the casts have changed so drastically, although the resetting of a displaced couple of bones hasn't changed much since, well, the Middle Ages? So many colors of casts available, two if you'd like. How soon he'll be in a waterproof cast, as oxymoronic as that might seem to anyone over fifty.
Maybe you would write, cleverly holding in your own pain, about how you knew the wrist was broken. How it wasn't a question of whether to go to the hospital but to which hospital. Would you mention the "S" shape his wrist was in and how you physically wince every time it flashes through your memory? Would you mention the guilt boiling over inside you because you are the one who told them they could play on the shed and who leaned the palette up against the shed wall so carelessly, recklessly, stupidly?
Would you focus on the twin brother, his bravery and his empathy and his goodness as he thought to get a couple of stuffed animals to Nick for the ride from one hospital to the next? His plea for "Bear-Bear" as you rode to the hospital in the first place and how it hurt you nearly as much as his brother's broken wrist. You might go on and on about the twinship they have, the love they so take for granted, the love we all so long for from siblings but don't always get. You could describe the stuffed animal improvs they are having in their beds before bedtime since the accident, recently an aardvark with a broken snout speaking with a kindly buffalo doctor as she explained procedures with simple care and decisiveness. The tender sweetness of the dialogue which brought tears to your eyes, would you mention that?
Or, you might make a reference to time and jokingly say you didn't have time to finish this and then perhaps lament your lack of time to do the things you want to do and that the summer is coming and you may not continue posting and then... an image of a little boy who wouldn't wake up in the emergency room might hit you, a fear never before experienced, and you'd realize how petty and non-sensical are your worries and your wants compared to a black and orange cast and no bike rides.
On the up side, you might remember that even the boy-in-the-cast mentioned that it could have been a lot worse because he "almost busted my head on the fire pit, too." You would, perhaps, show this picture and wait for the laugh, to cut the tension and stop the tears as they run down your face onto the desk below you:
You might spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to go on from here. Would you, maybe, vamp a bit about how irritated he was because people kept asking if it was for the Cincinnati Bengals, a team he has seen maybe four minutes playing in his entire life? How his dear mother made him a Loveland "L" to go on it? Would you banter a little about how he doesn't like to tell the story of the shed and the fall and all that? How it is not clear exactly what happened out there, out of sight, behind the shed. Would you mention how much that scares you? Would you distract from that painful thought by mentioning the playful, wry look he gets on his face as he points to the "I Fell."
Would you speak of the human spirit, bravery, the mysteries of anatomy and pain and stress and humor? Would you marvel at the kindness of strangers, caring doctors, loving grandparents, child care specialists and surgeons eager, willing and courageous enough to pull and bend and sweat to put a little boys arm bones back into the right place?
Would you have the moral fortitude to recall the faces of the parents in the waiting rooms and hallways of the E.R? Ashen, sick children; stunned parents holding infants, scared and anxiously awaiting "the news" as some happy Disney show droned on. Or would you choose to try and forget that side irony and go on with your own story, silently remembering that your heart said a prayer for them as you looked them in the eye and smiled?
You might write of many other things as well, but, what will I right about?
You see, although I think we all tell our kids that life isn't fair and that bad stuff happens, we forget that we are going to be the ones who have to explain it when it does.
It seems daily that Nick realizes yet another thing he won't be able to do and it breaks his heart, again. Of course this all happened Memorial Day and, just two days later, he said to me, "Oh, Dad, I'd had such hopes for this summer."
And my heart broke. I can't make this not be. I can't make an accident "unhappen" as he once suggested. I'd take the broken arm, what parent wouldn't? I will do everything I can to hasten his healing but, he has to wait. He can't draw pictures. He can't jump. He can't climb. He can't ride. He can't run.
In his mind, he can't be a kid.
We all know this is coming, we parents and makers of men; we all know they will suffer the unfairnesses that life so brutally and arbitrarily throws our way. We get that. However, watching an eight year-old boy work through it in his head is very difficult. The other night he was watching something in my lap and his little face got all scrunched up and he sobbed a little and I asked him what was wrong.
"I can't even kick a ball."
I cried with him, cursing God and the unfairness of it all. I held his face against mine as our tears fell together and I tried to protect him, but... I couldn't.
Send a 'hope' up for Nick, any way you like.
Thanks, oh and ...
From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."
"This smells of turmoil."
It does indeed ...
Monday, May 27, 2013
I wish all holidays were as clear to their purpose as Arbor Day. Plant a tree, couldn't be easier. Christmas and Easter get obfuscated through the lens of secularism and commercialism. The Fourth of July seems clear enough, but, nobody studies history anymore, so the reason for it seems to be nothing more than an excuse to blow off fireworks and an occasional finger.
Labor Day, who knows. Earth Day, hippie day, right? We know what to do on Thanksgiving, eat, oh, and give thanks, but, do we know why? Ask any first grader and you will get a doozy of an answer about Native Americans, Pilgrims and pie, and here, oddly enough, a dissertation on pumpkins and mazes. Yes, "mazes," apparently American Indians invented the corn maze, according to Zack.
I could go on but I think you get my point.
Today is Memorial Day. Nick asked me last night what we were supposed to do on this day and ... uh, well, I had to look it up. Wiki says " Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces."
Right. And, what, like one-percent of the population does that? I know there are parades and the like, here in our hometown there is a parade. They throw candy of of floats sponsored by local businesses, the band plays anything-but-Sousa-marches - Star Wars theme songs, and crappy renditions of pop crap - and the local elementary kids decorate their bikes with crepe paper and red, white and blue whirligigs made in China.
Knowing we had a three day weekend and that it was going to be cool this weekend, I got the camper out, popped it up, and the boys and I slept in it the last couple of nights. We played a lot of baseball and soccer in the backyard, had a fire, roasted wienies and generally goofed off.
Here are some highlights:
They are "craftsmen crafting," at least that is what Nick said. It pretty much amounted to them pulling shit out from behind the shed and beating on it, peeling bark, getting splinters and generally making a mess of themselves and the yard.
At one point, Marci and I were watching the fire and Nick came over and gave her a rose from the bush by the shed. There was some fighting a little later and she went back and Zack wanted to give her a rose as well, but there was some confusion involving Nick and ... well, I still don't get it, but, Mom ended up with two cute little roses.
They are hanging from a chip-clip drying on the fridge right now:
A few minutes later Zack, riding piggy-back on Mom's back (again I'm at a loss as to why), came and gave me something from the crafting project they had been working on.
Remember when Charlie Brown and the gang went Halloweening and all he got was a rock. Well, I got a brick, this brick:
On the top there, written, primitive man style in charcoal, it says "Father" and on the front it says simply, "I love you."
Beats the hell out of her roses, dontcha think?
Anyway, I am not trying to be down about this holiday, nor do I question its validity, but for a generation not torn apart by world wars, it seems a little, well, distant. Someday, after the boys have had the horrors of war and the slaughter and grief it rains on society explained (if that's even possible) to them, maybe then I will take on the solemnity and the true meaning of this day. Perhaps we will go to a Memorial or two, see the parade in the right light, make this day into the proper Remembrance Day it started out as.
But for now, we will roast hot dogs and beat on logs and sleep in the camper and write on bricks and present roses and we will do all these things in the quiet freedom of our own backyard.
The quiet freedom that men and women sacrificed their lives to afford us.
Maybe, just maybe, we are celebrating this day right. Celebrating our freedom, our wealth, our prosperity, our love and our lives, all made possible because others knew we should be able to.
And maybe, I get it more than I thought I did.
From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."
"That was this morning, when I was a monk."
Well, there you have it...
Thursday, May 23, 2013
I don't have a bar to call my own anymore. You know, where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.
I suppose that's sort of a surprising thing to say, like admitting I'm a drunk or something of a barfly or a cad. No, and guys back me up here, it's nice to have a place to go and watch a game and shoot the shit with some other guys and, well, I miss it.
As most of you already know I was a long time in the restaurant business and, by and large, my bar was usually the one at the place I worked. For about ten years I was a bartender and stood on one side and when I was done, often, I sat on the other side. Sometimes, though, I went somewhere else, somewhere to get away from the place I'd been for ten or twelve or fourteen hours, often a place where other restaurant types hung out.
I lived in NYC for a number of years in the nineteen-hundred-and-eighties and I had a bar there, on Second Street I think, called Kennedy's. I initially went there because it was open late, like four in the morning late, and I could get there after I closed the bar I was tending. It was a great place, the bartender knew my name, I had a tab and I knew a lot of people there. In fact, one night, I was in a heated conversation with some old fart sitting next to me, it was a political battle and I have no memory of the specifics. It was all good-natured and he bought me a couple drinks. As we were winding down, a driver, capped and uniformed, came through the doors and the fellow I was speaking with shook my hand and said he had to go. He left an unusually large tip, smiled at Manny, the enormous Irishman behind the bar, and he left. I watched as he got into a stretch limo and rolled away.
I asked Manny who the hell that was and he said...
... in his perfect Irish Brogue "Dontcha know who that was, laddie?" I confessed that I did not.
Whaaaaaat is it?
Well, I don't really see what this has to do with Nick and Zack. I mean really, bar stories...
I don't remember asking you. Anyway, we decided that stories and stuff about me is appropriate for this space because it will show them who I was once, the kind of fella I was when I was younger, that sort of thing.
Uh, yeah, well, actually you decided that. I thought we were going to talk about the end of the sports season and how you missed coaching and, you know, those picture of the boys in their uniforms. Remember? They're so cute...
Maybe some other time, listen I'm right in the middle of a story here, do you mind?
Oh, by all means go on, bespot your reputation, name drop, all that self-serving crap. Go ahead.
Well, as it turns out my intellectual sparring partner was none-other than Senator Patrick Moynihan and man, he was drunk and ... Wait, what do you mean by "self-serving crap?"
I simply mean that you go on and on about loving and honoring the boys and yet, today, you haven't even mentioned them. That's all. It's cool. You're good.
So, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, I don't have a bar of my own anymore. I don't have a place where I can just be myself, say inappropriate things to my friends, eat chicken wings, do shots, flirt a little, pretend to be interested in a game, that sort of thing...
You're right, this sucks... How's this?
If I had a bar to go to I would show all my buddies there pictures like this:
And, I'd have someone to tell how much I wished Zack could hit a little better, maybe get some advice for lefties. I'd have a couple of pretty girls notice me and say how cute my boys were and they might mention that I was a great Dad for worrying so about my son's hitting.
I might say that my other son is really a great ball-handler and that I wish he took a few more shots on goal but his coach said he was a middle-fielder and maybe someone would be able to explain what a middle-fielder was and what offsides was and what "mark up" (which all the cool parents yell at games) means.
If I had a bar, that's how it would be, supportive and caring and...
Yeah. It is self-serving and crappy.
No, no it's not. I think you are on to something. Go on.
You're just saying that...
No, I'm not. What else would you like in a bar of your very own?
Maybe I could buy that guy who makes LEGO videos a beer and maybe he'd tell me how he does it and offer to help me with the the video I want to make of all the boys stuffed animals. I could look him in the eye and tell him that I really love those stupid videos and I'd tell him why. Probably after a couple of shots or...
I don't really think the drink tally is necessary, we get it, your tipsy, (read drunk)...
Well, I'd look him in the eye and I'd tell him I admire those videos so much because I can feel his love for his boys through them. Through all the layers and filters and programs and apps; through all the lenses and digitization; through the blogosphere around the wires and cables; through sheer nothingness, through all that I know he does it out of love. I can feel it. I'd imagine he'd thank me, and maybe when he went home he'd give me a hug and say he'd see me again soon.
I'd like that.
Oh, a lot of guys. That guy who talks about his precocious daughter. He seems like a great guy. He's sorta young with a wise soul. I'd say I love his blog and I think he should write some serious prose because his soul has something to say. I'd tell him that he gets it, that I can see him glow, somehow, with nothing short of Grace. Oh, and maybe he'd hand me one of those stick-figure aprons and the bartender would steal it and wear it for all time.
Do guys really act like that in bars? That's cute...
If I could stand next to them all, shoulder to shoulder, I know I'd know the mettle of the men there. There would be mechanics with wild imaginations and dreams as big as mountains. There would be pious men to guide us and and tease our madness, shaking there heads at our happiness. There would be writers and artists and photographers, memoirists and plotters and hope-mongers and desperate, broken-hearted dreamers. We'd cry rivers and laugh storms, we rage at injustice and we'd suffer the losses.
Yes, well, that's very nice, but, specifically, who else?
That gay guy. I'd like to buy him a drink, shake his hand and thank him. Not for being gay, or being a great designer or having such an insightful and loving blog. No, I'd thank him for being - simply being. I'd tell him that this is a better place, a better world, because he is in it , I know that. I could tell him that I cried when I heard his song and vowed to help him someday; tell him I'd play guitar for him if he ever needed and he'd say now and we'd borrow Bob's guitar and stand and sing "My Two Daddies (Can Beat Up Your One)®" to the hoots and hollers and cheers of a room full of teary-eyed manly-men, who'd lustily sing the chorus with us.
I'd tell that one guy with the funny accent that I really admire his leadership skills and I am glad he's in my bar. I could tell him that it was because of him that I forged forward when I felt that I was flagging, because of him I opened my eyes wider and began to see the new world I'd entered. I'd tell him if anyone was doing it right, it was him. Yeah, I'd buy him a beer.
And old Aristotle would be hanging out in his pink bathrobe and straggly-ass beard and ...
No dead dudes.
Who says? And anyway, it's a real dude...
New rule... Wait, is Bob Dylan there?
Uh, maybe, he was just playing some tunes in the background.
No celebrities either. You're short on time and this is getting sorta long. You should probably wrap it up.
We'd show each other pictures and we'd tell stories. We'd all bring in those little envelopes of pictures you used to get developed at the drugstore before there was another choice and we'd show each other ones like these of the vines we planted and later I'd have little bags of fresh tomatoes for everyone.
I could show them this little picture I took of the snapdragon and zinnia the boys insisted on buying and we planted by the porch step and someone would ask me "why the hell ya take a picture of that" and I'd answer that I know the poor little things have got no chance, what with the soccer balls and baseballs and trampsing in and out, no chance, so, I took a picture.
I'd look at some guy's grand-kids and someone's new son, we'd gush about how beautiful so-and-so was at her preschool graduation and laugh as we discuss breast-feeding and feeding our kids dreams and feeding in general.
I'd show them this and tell them the complicated rules of the game they are playing and we'd all have a laugh and think wistfully back on our own lost and - sadly - rarely remembered childhoods:
To cheer everyone up I'd show them the pictures the boys drew at school of flowers in a vase and jokingly admit that I wanted to have them scanned and printed and hung in those very frames and actually use them as the art in the dining room and everyone would encourage me and we'd have a laugh ten years later when the picture were still up, and still making me smile.
Closing time, let's go.
But I'm having fun, all the guys are here and...
We gotta go, we gotta get up early and, well...
Just one more thing?
Oh, all right.
So, you know how sometimes my dear wife hears things the boys say and posts them on her FB page. Well maybe, in my bar, there could be place, like in the hallway to the kitchen, where you could post-it a little thought you needed help with, or support with, or, perhaps just a silly thing your kid said like, say:
"Hey, you stole my catchphrase, is my new catchphrase," Z said.
Alright, lets get going.
You planned all this from the very start, didn't you?
Yeah, sort of, but it would have been too long if you hadn't interrupted.
It is still too long.
So, uh, who are you any way?
I dunno, you haven't been too clear on that, either...
Oh, good God, that picture of Nick's still life is upside down. You should fix that.
Too late, the door locked behind us. Oh well... G'nite, uh, other-one-me... it's been fun.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Nick had soccer practice the other night at one of those sports parks you see everywhere. Zack went along and when he does we usually take our gloves and he and I throw ball while N practices. Nick doesn't like me watching practice so much anymore, he's sort of trying to find his way on his own a lot more these days. I try not to let it hurt my feelings, but, it does a little.
At the sports park there were a couple of Little League games going on, not club baseball, but U10-12 rec stuff. Zack and I couldn't really find a very good place to toss so we wandered over to one of the games, Reds - Brewers as I recall.
We sit and watch a little warm-up, standing behind an extremely, absurdly, I remember thinking, tall fence and before long the game starts. We sit through a couple batters and I ask him if he wants to move down a little bit so he can see the batters box a little better. He says yes and we begin to walk around the Reds bench and ...
... a ball comes out of nowhere and is headed right at Zack. I have no time to react although I lunge clumsily towards the ball, and it hits that sweet boy right in the face. And it took him down. Have you ever heard someone say "and it happened all at once?" Well, it happened all at once.
I feel certain I thought and felt all these things at exactly the same time and in no discernible order:
How did a kid get a ball over that fence?
Where is the nearest emergency room?
What is the protocol for broken teeth?
What am I gonna do with Nick?
Is he knocked out? No he's screaming.
I'm gonna need ice.
I'm so sorry son, why couldn't it have hit me?
How could God let this happen?
This is gonna ruin our lives.
How could I have let this happen?
I thought all these things and ran a gamut of emotions and felt the fear and adrenaline absolutely surging through my body, energizing and focusing me. But, and I hate to admit it, the very first thing out of my mouth as I ran towards him was:
I cursed skyward. I am still not sure if I was cursing the batter or the wind or Fate or the now too short fence or God or myself.
The first thing Zack said heard me say was "I know it hurts, Zacky, and I'm sorry this happened but, I gottta get a look at it." He was screaming and, again all at once, I ascertained that he was going to be alright. I knew it. There was blood, but it wasn't gushing. Although there was some blood on his teeth I wiggled them and they were intact. His nose was untouched, his eyes, though full of tears, were clear and focused.
"Does any one have some ice?" I shouted and someone said they were on it.
I looked back and tried, physically, emotionally, viscerally to take his pain from him. I held his head and stroked it and said soothing things to him.
I looked him in the eye and, with confidence and assurance, told him that he was going to be alright - which I don't always do the instant a child is hurt - because, in this case, I knew to be true.
I used the bottom of my shirt to wipe the blood and keep a little pressure on the wound on the inside of his lower lip. It slowed quickly and I was handed a bag of ice and we got that right on the place the ball had hit him and, well, he stopped crying.
Thankfully, only a few people had gathered around, one the father of the umpire of the game who I knew by sight, he'd given me the ice, and another couple watching their son's game. They all stood in just a way, purposefully, that shaded the boy and I. I appreciated that.
Zack said later that he didn't even hear "the ping off the bat" so he didn't know it was coming and neither had I. I think he was mad because if he'd of seen it, he could've caught it, I could've caught it too, I mean with both had gloves on. As it is, it's a good thing he had no idea it was coming, because the ball just clipped his bottom lip with such surgical precision that it just, basically, bruised and slightly abraded it. You couldn't really take a popup foul to the face any better.
I said before that I thought everything all at once. I thought a broken nose, broken teeth, a cut lip or tongue, stitches, black eyes, shattered cheekbones, grisly stuff I know, but, you have to go there sometimes.
And yet all he got was a fat lip.
There's a little more to the story, the part that come with retrospect and consideration.
Just before I cursed the fates I remember that the woman who was standing near us, correctly calculating the trajectory and wind and all, seemed to anticipate the impact and, just before it struck Zack she said:
"Oh my God"
A few minutes after it happened, Zack was calmer, just sort of just sobbing a little bit, in fear I'd guess, one of the guys providing our shade asked if he was going to be alright. Zack nodded and said he thought so.
And, together in one voice, both men said:
I have been thinking about the whole thing, trying to not blame myself, considering how I reacted, how I handled things and I am alright with it all. But, for some reason what left an imprint is this.
"Oh my God." A prayer for intercession.
"GODDAMMIT!" A prayer for strength and courage over fear and hopelessness.
"Thank God." A prayer of thanksgiving.
I wonder what happened beyond this realm that day. Did that "oh My god" wake the wind just soon enough to blow the ball off track so that it didn't hurt him as badly as it could have? Was my unorthodox and perhaps disrespectful curse enough to get God to curse back at me the power of calm and purpose, because that's how it felt? Don't two men simultaneously moved to utter the same words at precisely the same time constitute a choir of angels in celebration?
I don't quote bible passages, except when I do. In Isaiah, God says “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." I never feel that way, I don't feel that God knows me by name. I guess I wonder why he'd bother, or that he's too busy, or ...
For some reason, that day, in the shade of two kind men, under the blue spring skies, holding a scared and injured little boy, I felt that God does knows me by name, and Zack by name, and Nick by name and Marci by name and, well, you by name.
I heard an affirmation once that I sometimes use to combat the frustration of that feeling that God doesn't know who I am: I am (insert your name here), a child of God, Lord hear my prayer.
I have noticed the little prayers people unknowingly send up all my life. When I saw a fire break out of the window of a brownstone in Brooklyn one time and I heard like twenty people say "oh my God." A prayer. I've seen a boy get up after a hard fall at a soccer game to the collective and audible murmur of "thank God." A prayer. I've seen a woman, bent over her injured son, cursing and cajoling God, simply trying to get His attention as her son suffered from injuries in a car wreck. A prayer.
There is one more I have heard, it's more subtle, but I do it everyday and perhaps you do as well. We hope. When we hope, we pray. A hope is always a prayer, I promise.
I am Bill, child of God, Lord hear my prayer. ThankYouthankYouthankYouThankyou.