Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Honey, Salt 'n' Butter

In my last foolish post I promised to "get back to my regular programming."

I wonder what that is?

Is it these silly drawings the boys made the other day, finally putting away their tablets, feet warming in the fire, sketching away?

Nick drew the inexplicable light-bulb demon and Zack the swirly-scaled-bull-nosed-flying-rising-dragon thing - in green.  I could say how proud I was, so pleased, to see them crafting and taking their time working on these.

Is that what I do around here?

Is "regular programming" a couple of images like this.

Is this the part where I tell the story that while I was away the boys and Marci went out and, as she shoveled away the heavy wet snow, Z made this snowman and N the foundations for this fort, or couch, I'm not sure which?  Should I say that this was the first time they'd been out in the right kind of snow for this sort of thing?  How I am sad I wasn't there to shape the snowballs and shore the foundations?  They are pretty sad little things, aren't they?  Should I tease and poke and then take it all back remembering the tender heart of ten-year-old?

Would it be what I usually do around here to post a link to a song I recorded and put out on the web?

Would that seem as selfish as it always does?  Would I back up my selfishness with a long paragraph about sorrow and hope and pain and journey's end and faith questioned?

Or would I just say Oren died... and leave it at that?

Is it regular programming around here to tell the story of the day Nick wore a hat all day.  Just a silly prop hat that lives in a chest downstairs most of the time?  He really embraced it, we played That Game for half an hour or so and he had it on the whole time, wondering whether it was a "good luck" hat or just a "regular, plain luck hat."  Do I wrap the banal in the essential, throw a picture on for verisimilitude and call it another day?

I sometimes post a picture I don't understand, like this one, a selfie I don't remember taking:

Do I admit that it is not a picture of me but it is a picture of a sweatshirt?  The sweatshirt Zacky wore while I was gone, that Marci wore so the boys could give me hugs, the sweatshirt I wear every-almost-morning as I make the lunches, snacks, pancakes and omelets?  The sweatshirt that I wear when I weep in the dark nights for families broken and cuss at God gone mad?  The sweatshirt that my sons may find, long after I am gone, tattered and stained in the back of an old rag drawer in the cold basement of a now quiet ranch house?

Often my regular programming entails elaborate, nonsensical tangents in which I tell the rest of the story because I do not fundamentally understand how where when why a story ends.  So, I should probably tell the story of the two paintings Marci did with the boys while I was gone.  They taped out geometric shapes and painted the areas.  The boys had a lot of fun and she put them in the "frames of honor" (I think Nick called them that) in the dining room.

That's N's on the left and Z's on the, uh... not left.

If I were to continue on that same tangent I'd go ahead and show you these:

I have forever been drawn to dropcloths.  When I was younger, as a kid and into my college days, painters used canvas ones, not the plastic folks use today.  Every family had one, theaters and workshops had them everywhere, schools and churches had them folded in utility closets and stuffed here and there.  I always thought they were pretty - no, actually, it wasn't until well after I'd been initially drawn to them that I saw a Jackson Pollack painting.

It is hard to explain why I always have liked them.  Maybe it is the wildness of it, maybe the Presbyterian practicality of it, maybe what struck me was the honesty of them - or, probably, I like that they seemed to tell a story.  This light blue was the babies room, this cream the family room, a yellow bathroom, the black of a high backed table chair, the rungs still distinct.  The edges of a poster there, the spill that ruined the science project you'd worked so hard to make perfect, an unfortunate red that makes the cloth look like it was used in a crime scene, though blood usually fades to a brown, like that stain right there from when we did that chest of drawers.

These paper towels are like that, I am sure.  They could, and do, really, tell me the story of that snowy winter day when dad was in San Francisco and I missed them and Marci distracted them with love and understanding.

Yeah, that feels like what I usually do around here.

Another foundation of my regular programming is stuff that comes home from school, my beloved "take-home folder."

I often show things like this, a page from Nick's math test on which both boys got 105%.  Amy's struggling with decimals:

Nick struggles with spelling:

If this were my typical stuff, I'd start to fret right about now, worried that this is growing too long, that the flow is gone because I've had to do it in two sittings.  I'd start feeling the weight of time and responsibility, knowing the laundry needs starting, the dinner needs considering and the boys will be home early as a preemptive strike against a snowstorm that may or may not happen.

And then I'd realize I had more to say and that I'd never really gotten to my point... and wonder if I really ever had one.

Oh, yeah, I'd say, I think a lot about straying from my formula - formulas - here, about what I maybe should be doing.  So many of the good guys are posting about important things, like this campaign to get Amazon to stop doing something hurtful to dads.  These are the "dadvocates," the men in this community who, unlike me, are making a difference.

I should go on about this, but I won't.  Right now my voice is unheard, without Twitter and social media skills and a big audience, none of it would mean much.  I don't think the few dozen folks I reach who don't already know of these campaigns and such really care much about the state of things in the dadvocation community.

So, I'll move on.

I'll try to finish.

But, why do stories end?  Where does this one end?  When?  How?

Wait, I remember how:

With this note I pulled out of my pocket just before I started this a couple of days ago.

Nick was having an early breakfast by himself, a nice chunk of bread I'd made the day before and some fruit and yogurt.  "There's nuthin' better on bread than honey, salt 'n' butter."  It is important to note that I add just a pinch of salt in the butter we use on the table, he's seen me do it many times.

I smiled and told him that I thought it was a nice turn of a phrase.  He was pleased and asked me why I liked it.

"Well," I told him, "Everyone likes butter.  It's fat and we humans crave and find comfort in fat."

"Why?" he asked.

"I dunno how to explain it, I guess if we are eating fat, like butter, we are safe and taken care of... the hunt was good and successful.  Does that make sense?"

"Yeah.  Man this is good!" is said, his mouth too full.  "Whaddabout salt?"

"Salt has long been used as a metaphor, as a symbol.  Bible references, knights and round tables, lots of times it comes up in books and in chemistry and, well, it is pretty important stuff."

"I get that," he said, "What about honey?"

"Well that's a no-brainer, Nick.  It's probably the first sweet thing humans ever found.  Sweetness speaks to us like fat - butter in this case.  Honey makes us happy, sweet things make us happy, sometimes we use it as a nickname for someone, a "term of endearment" it's called..."

I choked back a sob at the realization, a wave of sadness hit me as I remembered.

"Oh, Dad, what's wrong?"  A look of concern and sadness reflected mine on his little, dear face.

"You know my friend died."

"Yes, Oren.  I'm sorry, Dad."

"When Oren's wife posted that he had passed away she said something like: "Today my sweet Honey lost his long and grueling battle with cancer."  I told him, trying to make him understand a sorrow no one can understand.

"Her Sweet Honey..." he paused.  "That's sad, but kinda sweet.  Will you think of Oren every time you think of honey now, Dad?"

"I hope so, son, I hope so..."

Regular programming is hard.  Thanks for coming around today.  Life is rich like butter, spiced with salt and incredibly, sadly, sweet.


  1. Thanks, Bill. I think you just effectively described how each of us is feeling right now, even if we don't verbalize it.

  2. Always heartwarming, Bill. Just when we need it.

  3. First off, again, I think your kids are very gifted artistically.
    These days when the wound is so fresh - many things remind us and bring us back to sadness. We can only hope we will one day smile at the memory of the deceased even when it seems to have happened far too young.

  4. WOW.....beautiful words!!! What a wonderful way for you to remember Oren.

  5. Why would you ever say your voice is unheard. Mr. Peebles I am going to shake some sense into you... :)

  6. great words to end with Bill --thanks for the share