Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Post For Oren Miller

"Dad, I have a question?"

The blue-eyed boy peers over his book at me and I wait.  The first query is, I have found, rhetorical.

"What's 'grace' mean?"

"You know what grace means, Nick," I tell him.

"Well, it's not the prayer we say before dinner, I know that, and it doesn't mean like, you know, not falling down off a balance thing.  It's the other one, you know...?"

I do know.

"What does the sentence say?" I ask him.

Without looking down he says, "Something about 'the traveler was full of grace' or something like that."

"Yes, like God's Grace, maybe?" is what comes out of my mouth.

"He is the good-guy.  So it means, like, God loves this guy?  Or, really, the gods because there are, like, gods of fire and wind and, you know, mythical things," he says.

"Yes, and they are mice if I am not mistaken," I say.

"Yes, Mistmantle books are mice.  So, how can you be 'full of grace' like it says here?"

I can only think of one answer, "God's love for you is more than you could ever deserve, or earn, or... not because you don't want to, but, well it's sort of difficult to explain.  But if you are full of that kind of love, if you know you are beloved, more than you can know, by God, well, that makes you feel happy and proud and good.  You understand?"

"So, 'full of grace' is a good thing, right?"

"Yes, I think so," I say.  "I'm glad you asked about it."

"Yep, sometimes ya just gotta ask for help."  And he buried his freckled face back into Mistmantle and the grace-filled, Mousegod traveler.


"Dad, did you see how the second-graders acted out that story where the guy gets beat up on his way to Jessica and one guy, a priest I think, ignored him when he passed, and another person, like, basically just laughed at him and then a last person came and helped him?  From Samarica, or something," Zack said as we walked toward the truck.

"Well... yeah, I was there.  And it's Jericho, not Jessica and, Samaria, not Samarica," I told him.  "It's the story of the Good Samarian, you know it."

"Yeah, it was funny when the kids beat him up, pretend pushing and hitting him."  He buckled himself in.

"I'm not sure that's really the point they were trying to get across to you there, Zack,"  I said.  "What do you think they wanted you to know?"

"I dunno, don't laugh at others, help people who need help, and, like, don't just stand around and do nothing," he said.

"Well, yes.  That about covers it," I said.

"And the one kid, Evan I think his name is, did an awesome karate move and sort of spun..." 

He went on for a while as I smiled wistfully, and drove us home.


 There's more to these two little conversations, there is always more, isn't there?

You see, a man I will call my friend has been given a difficult journey.  Oren has cancer, there is no way to sugarcoat it, it is a dire diagnosis.  He is the founding father of the Dad Bloggers FaceBook page I am involved with, an active and poetic blogger, and, a decent, strong and loving man, husband and father.  That is not my opinion.  It is a fact.  Please, go read this post about his cancer and you will return here with the same knowledge.

Oren Miller is a no stranger to Grace.  It shines on him like sand at sunset.  He knows his road will be hard and he knows how the journey ends and yet, he began it.

He is that traveler full of Grace.

The whole time I spoke with Nick about Grace, the name Oren sounded simply and quietly in the hallway of my mind.

"... and, like, don't just stand around and do nothing."

That phrase echoes as well.  I cannot change the outcome of things, no one can, but can I ease his burden, can we make the path of his journey as sweet and tender and full of grace as possible?

Yes, hope for Oren.  

And, if you can do more, here is a way to donate funds to help this man, this brave sojourner, this beloved child of God.

Finally, I'd just like to share one more thing.  I wanted Oren to know that two little boys were "hoping" for him as well.  After I explained why I was doing this, the first thought out of Nick's mouth was, "Does he have any kids?"

"Yes," I told him, "A son about your age and a younger daughter."

You can see his mind has not let that answer go in this image:

I think every hope is a prayer.  You know what?  I think the writing of these words is a prayer; I think you reading them is a prayer, whether now or twenty years from now; I think this very moment, right now is a prayer, a Prayer for Oren Miller.

Listen, this may or may not be well, exactly, as things happened, but, there is little precision in memory, but there is great truth in the hope of imagination.

Thanks for thinking of Oren today, let's all hope for him.  Pass this along if you feel so inclined.  My best to you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Not-So-Superball

There is a moment when when you disengage the clutch on the tractor or car or truck and your body is prepared for reverse but, due to operator error, the transmission is still in forward.  It's silly, you throw your body forward to adjust for the reverse force and the opposite happens.  I've done it dozens of times and I've seen others do it and, well, it's funny.  You laugh and shake your head at the realization that you "got" yourself

Life is like that.  Sometimes what you positively know is going to happen... doesn't.

I came across this ball while cleaning up the basement the other day:

It's a superball one of the boys got at a birthday party in one of those unnecessary gift bags kids are sent home with these days.  I picked it up and threw it down on the cement floor because, hey, I like to see a superball bounce madly around a room as much as the next nine-year-old.  I put a little angle on the throw hoping the ball would end up in the floor joists above and bounce back and forth a couple times there and then careen madly across the cluttered basement.

It didn't.

It wasn't a superball.

It wasn't a superball at all, it was a dense Styrofoam cat toy that bounced only about two feet off the floor.  In my surprise, I sort of lunged toward it trying to catch the little deceiver and, in so doing, I backhanded it across the room and under my makeshift desk.  It ended up behind one of the two filing cabinets my door of a desk rests on, wedged behind some papers.  Some papers I didn't know were down there.  Important papers.

The paper on top of the pile as I could see it, it was wedged pretty far back, was an old hand-typed song sheet of mine - "Puff, The Magic Dragon" as a matter of fact.  What I'd found was obviously the stack of old songs that recently I had retyped for my songbook.  I'd done several and, being nostalgic, wished to save the originals that I had typed the summer of my junior year of High School but had not yet imagined where I might file them.  I grabbed the whole stack and put it on the the table to decide where to put them and I noticed something.

It wasn't a pile of song sheets after all.

It was a pile of memories I'd forgotten to remember.

This was on top and, fortunately, it came back so sweetly...

The boys had been quiet for a while and were in their room with craft-boxes and paper and they were working on a sort of "show," which they've done before, they intended to do in their room.  Finally, they called Marci and I back and, well, let's just take a look, these were laid down the hallway:

The room was a madhouse of stuffed animals and streamers and signs and, whatnot, I think describes it well.  The boys were talking all at once and they both had made placards for their own little shows.  Nick had arranged a number of stuffed animals and this sign was amidst them:

Nick's Partey Plaza.  I don't really know what the rest is about, a long story was related, something about baseball and the "stuffed animal league" but, the details are long forgotten.  You see, this was maybe a couple of years ago.

As I recall, Zack was on the top bunk holding and waving this sign like a guy on the side of a busy road in front of the furniture store:

On the back were a few jokes to get things started I'd guess.

 (Ima a little too short to reach the doorbell.  That's a great punchline.)

I am sorry to say I don't remember all the details of their little carnival.  I remember it was sweet and cute and funny and a little touching in the way that little boys do careful things so, well, uncarefully.  I know it warranted saving, because I'd saved these images, and I knew I had to share it here because the not-so-superball showed them to me again.

There was more to that stack of misplaced memories.  Here are two images I'd saved - and forgotten - a couple of years back that I thought might make fun Christmas cards.  I'd guess they made these around 2012:

I'd forgotten all about these, I am ashamed of that, in a way, but, a curious little ball reminded me they were there, behind a black filing cabinet, under the door desk, waiting.

We are now reading the final book in the Harry Potter series aloud to the boys.  We read maybe fifteen or twenty minutes a night.  Before we started this series, we read The Chronicles of Narnia to them.  So these images are, let's see, doing the math... older.  Yes, from precisely a while ago.  These are images of Aslan, one of the first genuine heroes the boys fell in love with, the character we used, and still use, to help explain Jesus to the boys and whose image was a popular subject in many drawings:

And, I'd forgotten all about that.  Forgive me, Aslan.

I think they were talking about the solar system in the First Grade:

These are done on very thin drawing paper.  Oddly enough, I remember saving them because I was afraid they would not last.  The boys go into Fourth Grade in the Fall.  Maybe they last as long as they need to.  Maybe memories wait until we are ready for them.  Maybe I needed perspective, maybe I needed the right time... maybe, I just needed time.

There was this map that Zack made of Map with a legend.  No, a legend of the map for Map.  No, no Map of the Legend.  This:

I laughed again at this as I found it under the solar systems fading on crinkly paper.  Pretty clear why I saved this one.

Zack also made these sports plays.  It is not clear which sport is represented here:

Still cute, though.  I love how the little "me" looks like a bug or other scurrying beast.

Under that in the hitherto hidden stack of stuff, was this:

Nick, dude, that is not a pumpkin.  I am just sure of that... unless it is a caterpillar named "Pumpkin" which, in retrospect, is a very strong possibility.

There was also a drawing of the family Nick made, it is not clear when, but, does it really matter?  I guess maybe it could someday.  It is from the beginning of their third year, on a poster they did about themselves at the start of the year:

I love that stripey shirt I have on, and, he nailed the goatee, and, I like that the cats are represented.

So, I finally reached the bottom of the pile of stuff that the not-so-superball so graciously led me to and, right at the very bottom was this:

Shy guy... well that explains everything wouldn't ya say?

Truly, today I was going write a long, nostalgic piece about the hamburgers of my youth and the ones I love today.  Yes, hamburgers.  But, I put the whole thing in reverse and, well, ended up chasing a rainbow cat toy under a door-desk and finding what I was supposed to do today, or a while back, or... you get it, right?  Life's funny that way.

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

Nana: "I bet that really expands your imagination."

Nick: "Our imagination has no limits."

Fact... no limits.

Thanks for stepping through the unsteady sands of the web and staying with me for a while.  I always appreciate that.  Safe home.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Dandelion Web, Revisited

I wrote a piece a little over a year ago about dandelions.  Today, Marci shared this with me:

I like to share the creator of this sort of thing when I use them, which is rare, but, today I was unable to find an original source for this.

Here is the piece I wrote:

The Dandelion Web

Why do people hate them so?  They are beautiful and harmless and, well, let's find out some more...

(Well, that disproves the whole rant I was going to go on about the internet.)  I learned some interesting stuff in just a couple of minutes.  The word "dandelion" comes from the Old French dent-de-lion, or tooth of the lion because they are so long rooted, or toothy, in gardenspeak.  Cool.  However, in modern french the are called pissenlit (or vernacular pisse au lit).  Literally, piss in the bed.

Why is that and why did it sound so perverse?  Well, the plant, when ingested, is a strong diuretic and is known to aid liver and kidney function, effects that have been known to man since prehistory.  That's cool, too.  Every culture where the plant is indigenous has adopted it into their diet, as well.

When I was a boy, sometime in the Spring, Mrs. B - the Mom next door where I grew up - would send us out with old pillowcases and we'd stuff them full of dandelion blooms and stems.  She had a lot of children of her own and she also elicited the help of all the other kids on our rural road in the farmlands of Ohio.  All I actually remember of the process was the smell, earthy and sharp, on our hands and noses, and the look of piles and piles of that yellow blanketing her garage as she crushed them, by foot, into galvanized tubs.  That last thing I remember is that she put water over them all and they sat for a while.  She was making "Dandelion Wine."  I remember tasting it once and it wasn't very good.  It occurs to me now that she was probably making it for more medicinal reasons that for a pleasure drink.  I did not know that.

I have had them a lot in salads, often with a vinegary hot bacon dressing.  It's actually a classic of French Cuisine, frisee au lardon.

So why do people hate them so in their yards?  I don't get that.  They are the same color as daffodils and everyone loves daffodils.  Also, what if we'd have genetically modified dandelions like we have tulips and tomatoes.  I bet by now we would have something really cool, like broad-leaf dandelions, or bush dandelions, or multi headed ones.  We might have manipulated the colors and now we'd have pink and red and white and even variegated tiger-striped ones as big as a fist.

Where did it all go wrong for the dandelion?  They seem to have a respected history, and a modern importance and yet... people poison them and rip them out of the ground violently and leave them to wither and lose their essence wilting in the summer sun.

I don't get it.

You might remember (although I sort of wish you didn't) that I mentioned how I was going to go on about the internet.  How, you might ask, was I planning to segue from dandelions to the world wide web?  Well, I figured when I went to Google the subject that I would get a lot of misinformation and advertisements and false pages and popups and the like.  However, with "safe-search" on in just a few keystrokes there I was, learning about these friendly weeds.  Cool.

Perhaps the internet is like a dandelion, so misunderstood and not used to it's full potential 

I refuse to bore you with that pedestrian, pedantic and, actually, inane analogy.  I'll  wait on the big internet scoop I've got in my head, it's a secret that I know and you should, too.

Oh all right, I'll tell you:  The internet is one big advertisement.

You know what's wrong with dandelions?  You know what their problem is.  You can't see them, understand them, admire them, because they are lost in that stupid sea of green unending lawn.  Maybe that's how these two seemingly unrelated things are connected.  It is very difficult to see the decency in the web because of this sea of tripe that surrounds it...

Note to self: dandelions and the internet are not analogous.

Without dandelions I wouldn't have the sweet story of Nick calling them "puffballs" because you blow on them and they float away.  Without dandelions I wouldn't have the memory of their delighted faces as they watched those seeds drift of in the wind, happy and free, both seed and boy.  Without dandelions there were be fewer yellow hands and noses and not so many wildflower bouquets for Mom:

Without them I wouldn't have this memory:

Or known this joy:

Or had tears in my eyes as I witnessed this sweet coronation:

And, if it weren't for the internet, I wouldn't have a place to share this with you.

Wait!  I did it, I at least reconciled the dandelion and the internet, got them to work together, there at the end where...

Oh nevermind, thanks for stopping by.

In eight words and a simple picture more was accomplished than I got done in all those words and images.  That's cool with me...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

No Time For Now

It is Summer here, school's out, pool's in... and, once again, I feel like I don't have much time to get anything written.  I could post some nonsense, but, I like to give what I write a little more time than...


Nonsense.  I can do that.

Nick and Zack had a Economics unit at the end of the year at school.  It culminated with an "Entrepreneurial Fair" held in the cafeteria.  It was a hoot.

Zack made "chatties," a paper fortune teller (see below, from a post called "The Paper Arts") with eyes drawn on it and a mouth that, well, chats.  He teamed up with a couple of his mates, one of whom brought in cookies made by his mother and the other little dude made paper airplanes.  They stood amidst the chaos and barked and cajoled and basically just had a good time carrying on.  Zack put some (read, not much) time and effort into it, and, well, he had a good time.

Nick, on the other hand, took it all quite seriously.  He made "Yarnballs."  Actually, he and his mother made them, lots of them.  Here's what they look like:

He had about forty for the sale and he sold out.  He made twenty dollars for the cancer charity they were donating to, and, well, he learned a lot as well.

And, as always, I learned a lot about him as well.  You see, as his brother barked and yelled and kidded and pretty much made a nuisance - in a nice way - of himself, Nick sat quietly behind his display of shoeboxes and soft-sold the hell out of his product.  Many, many, many girls oohed and awed at them and, by the end of the day, besides selling out, he had about a dozen more special orders to make for many of them in the coming days.

Yeah, that's my boy.  I wonder if his advertising campaign helped?

 "Have you ever wanted to throw a ball in the house, now you can with YARNBALLS  50¢"

That's just good copy right there.

From Marci's "...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat..."

 "I am from Crazy Town. I am the President."

I used to be...

I am glad you could stop by for a little nonsense, sometimes I forget that silly and simple and easy is just fine.  Good enough is still good.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Whit Honea, The Poet Revealed

You may not see a hat that says "Poet" on his head. You may not see her in a long black dress or with flowers in her hair. You may not see him in a cloistered classroom, in a tie and hard shoes. You may not see her words in a beautifully crafted book of verse or in a fancy literary magazine. You may not see him garrisoned away in a tower of ivory, quill in hand, nor in a Starbucks nose-deep in a laptop.

But, you do see them. Everyday. You will recognize them by the wrinkles around their eyes, the slight smile on their lips, the easy ear with which they listen, the light touch of their hand on your hand, the dream that hangs over them, the hope that rolls over you when you meet. They are essential to you and you, you are why they are who they are.

They are the poets.

I know one. His name is Whit and I don't know that he would ever call himself a poet, like that matters, but, he speaks to my heart as only a poet can. Poetry is not the words, but the place between them. It is not the metaphor or the imagery or the message or device - it is where those elements hit you.

The Parents' Phrase Book: Hundreds of Easy, Useful Phrases, Scripts, and Techniques for Every Situation is all it says it is... and more. In it Whit Honea offers advice, with humor and tenderness, on a wide range of topics relating to the everyday dealings we all have with our children.

I just sighed and shrugged my shoulders, I don't know how to get to what I want to tell you about Whit's book. It's wonderful and clever, to be sure. It is helpful and decent and good-hearted. My copy is dog-eared and marked up and stuffed with folded pages and notes because I knew I wanted to tell you about it, but, but...

In a simple, beautifully sculpted story called "The Stars upon Thars" he tells me about a boy who collects stars for other kids in a classroom so they will have some on their own charts. He writes this to end the quiet two-page story, "Stars may be given, taken, or thrown away, and they may twinkle, shoot, or fall, but when stretched forever by small, warm hands, they shine bright on all of us. His smile did that, too."

It is not a story to tell you how to be a parent, it is a story to remind you that you were once a child. I wondered if this were really the place he was coming from with all of this. Underneath all the great advice, between the well thought lines, behind the straight talk and beside the tenderly crafted stories, was he gently reminding me that to be a great dad I should simply remember that I was once a boy? I was thinking maybe it was. I am glad for that.

I had occasion to have a brief chat with Whit on the innerwebs a couple of days ago. We crossed paths in a cyber hallway and we had a nice conversation about him and his book.

I wrote: I really have enjoyed it.  Besides being a great resource, I find great poetry in it and also, somehow, a nostalgia for my own past.  It reminds me that I was a kid once.

Whit answered: I was just typing that! I really wanted parents to remember what it was like when they were kids. The publisher wanted a book on how to talk to kids, but my theory is we already speak kid, we just forgot it along the way.

Me: Yes, an empathy for childhood which somewhere became exhausted but is rekindled in you... why?

Whit: I think this is my midlife crisis. Other guys need models and sports cars, I need innocence and wonder.

Me: Damn, that's nice. I "need innocence and wonder" as well. Nicely put.

Whit: I thought you might.

Me: Well, obviously, I am working on a writeup about your book. Remembering childhood through the door you opened for me was the angle I was planning on... for now.

Whit: Honestly, I didn't write the book for parents, or I should say "only" parents. I wrote it for anyone that has been a child and has an ounce of hope for a better tomorrow. Corny as hell, I know, but that's what I really hoped for, was that people would try to understand and respect each other more while also learning to better value themselves.

I went on a bit more about how much I enjoyed the poetry in his book and his website, The Honea Express, and I asked him a little about himself and his hippie sensibilities.

Whit:  Ha. I'm 43, and I grew up in a rural, Harper Lee-ish sort of town, but with more shag carpet. I didn't embrace my inner liberal until college. I didn't even know I had one, but the Beatles collection and late night poetry should have been a clue.

We spoke of other things, kids and editing and mowing and writing and wisdom and waffles. I was struck by his gentleness, humor and grace. We follow each other on the web and I know his life has been sad at times, and I know he has known great joy. He is a dear father to two beautiful sons and a loving husband who seems to understand love in his very soul. What more could you ask for in a poet?

A little later, as we were finishing up, I said: You are wise before your time Whit, that is a very beautiful character trait, hard-fought, I know, but it serves you well. My very best to you and your fine family. Peace.

Whit:  Ha! Thank you, Bill. And thank you for that last bit about the character trait being hard-fought, it really is a bloody, winding path isn't it?

Me:  Yes it is, less taken, slinged and arrowed, and beautiful and hopeful, long and winding.  Yes.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Whit:  And there's the closing to your post.

I wrote this not to hawk Whit's book.  It would make a great Father's Day gift, to be sure, but, I can't say that is why I did this.  His book is a great guide for parents, but, it is so much more. He is so much more. No, more than anything I wanted him to know that he spoke to me, he touched me, he made me look inward.  He turned his life, his wisdom, his experience, his love and his hope into something I needed to hear, needed to know.  He made me better.

Yes, what more could you ask for in a poet?

Go visit Whit at his blog, The HoneaExpress. (Honea rhymes with pony.)  And, you can purchase his book on Amazon here.

Thanks for stopping by today. There are so many voices in the world - the songwriters, the bloggers, the essayists, the memoirists and diarists, the waitress, the cashier, the homeless man, the CEO, everyone really - listen to them, listen for the poetry that surrounds you in the Spirit Wind that blows through us all.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tough Summer Break, Revisited

It is Thursday and many in the digital community re-post or re-share or... whatever, things they've done before.  I've never much liked the idea so, it seemed showy to me.  However, I realized that there are folks coming around these days who have not been visiting me for very long, so, I figured I would give them a look at something new to them.

I decided to rerun a piece from either one or two years ago as close to today's date as possible.  Today I will take a look back at this piece.


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 write about?

Broken hearts.

Broken hopes.

Broken dreams.

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 ...


I am glad I chose this today.  It's funny how much things change in a year.  Something that seemed so impossibly difficult and scary and insurmountable was worked through, and, here we are, ready for another summer.

Thanks for taking a fresh look at this, or for looking at it for the first time.  I like this piece and am proud to be the father of two great sons.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

That Telling Moment

I guess any moment fully examined will show you its secrets. I watch and think and ponder over the boys far more than I would care to admit. That seems funny really, I was once an extraordinarily selfish person... oh, it wasn't as bad as all that, I just had a pretty high opinion of myself, still do I'd say.

So, if say, I look back on this long day at the incredibly crowded pool, and wish I could recount the comings and goings of dozens of boys and girls, mingling and playing and learning and sometimes hurting and alone. I look back and realize the complexity of it and I step away. I fold the memory up and slap it in my brain and file it away haphazardly, never, probably, to see it again... unless I need it.

I think about the span of this their third year of elementary school, the boys I saw off that first day cannot be these same two gangly, cheerful, openhearted, well, man-cubs. You can see the men they are to become just under the skin. You can see their minds grasping deeper meanings and wondering more difficult thoughts, growing, hardening, like the muscles of their long legs and backs. It is not my story to tell, I feel. It is mine to watch and consider but it is not mine to tell... unless I need to.

I see them both making faces into the mirror when they think no one is watching. Mean faces, silly faces, a single eyebrow arched, a perfect monkey face. I think about how essential that is, I relate it back to me and am afraid to think about it too hard. Childhood is weird and confounding and damnably difficult at times. The complexity of meaning and import that goes along with a boy making faces in a mirror is more than my heart can bear... unless I need to.

But I want to, I want to share a moment, two really, that, selfishly, I want to remember. But each is wrapped in the longer story that is my story, your story, Nick's story, Zack's story.

It happened in a baseball game. Zack was in center-field and a pretty good hit was arching his way, to his right and coming down fast. He ran toward it and slid open-gloved to snag it. We practice these over and over in the back yard, he loves sliding on his knees, it's a catch he's made dozens of times... he missed it.

A little later, I am fairly certain the bottom of the same inning, Nick fouled two down the first base line, barely missing the ump once - he apologized profusely - and then smacked one over the head of the fielder in center. Some classic cartoon bumbling and an overthrow found him rounding second and the third base coach was sending him home. He slid, the throw was late and... he hit an in-the-park home-run. No one saw that coming.

Two moments - the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory - in one inning, two brothers and two beaming, heartbroken parents.

Here's what else happened, what else I learned, they learned, we learned... there's more to every story which is why every moment has a story to tell.

After the game, Zack was upset. I wasn't sure if it was the mishandled catch or the fact that his brother got a serious hit. I asked him, my heart told me it was the catch. It was. He knew he should have snagged that ball.

"We've practiced those over and over Dad. I should have caught it."

 A lesson, a hard lesson, one of life's toughest - sometimes things just don't work out. Sometimes practice doesn't make perfect. Sometimes we fail, blatantly, obviously, fail. A lesson in humility that feeds the lesson of persistence that feeds the notion of self that reaches out, across the space between us, and sees the heart in front of us.  He will remember this missed catch when he sees someone else miss theirs, when he sees another struggle, when he sees an unfairness that cannot be changed, he'll remember this missed catch.

I asked him if he was upset about the home-run and he said, "Oh no, I'm glad he got it, it's just that, if only, I just wish I..." and he trailed off, his voice breaking, with a look of curious resolve. He'd accepted the lesson and the memory and had made it his own. A moment, brief, fleeting... telling.

Nick was proud of himself, he enjoyed the boys running out to smother him at home. It is rare to see jubilation as the one who invoked it. It is a nice feeling, and he let it sink in. Marci went to give him a hug and she said he was beaming. I went over to see him and he was happy, that glowing, barely contained joy that children so often express. They seem to quiver and hover. They are brighter, shinier from within. You can hear the dancing heart.

"Good job, Nick," I say quietly, looking him in the eye. He knows I am proud of him.

He bursts into a smile, wipes it away with a twinkle in his eye and says, "Well, looks like I'm outta my slump."

I know what he doing, it's exactly what I'd do, he's deflecting. The joy and attention are almost too much for him, he has it now, the moment, the memory and he needs to go on. He knows he can get back to it later - joy deferred, distilled, spread out over time, is still great joy.

Later, just before bed, Zack was brushing his teeth and Nick and I were alone at the table. I smile and say, "Dude, a home run?"

He doesn't really smile but his eyes do, just there, around the corners, as his mind caresses the moment. He gets serious though and says, quietly but with emotion, "Dad, it's over." And it is, for now. I doubt he said anything to his teachers, maybe he told a few friends, he's not said anything else about it in my presence.

Sometimes these boys are bigger men than I - that's the truth.

I while back Zack made a popup baseball field.  It's pretty nice:

And Nick made a nice campfire one:

I don't know, I just wanted a couple of images.  You know how I roll...

From Marci's "...things you don't expect to hear form the backseat..."

N:  Dad you are my minion.

Dad:  No, I don't want to be.

N:  Well, you are.

I feel more like a house-elf...

Thanks for thinking of me and stopping by. See you again soon.