Cities In Dust

“African boys and girls
Set down your Nintendo joysticks right now
Unplug the television
And make way for an old vision
Which will now be a new vision…”

–Arrested Development, “Children Play With Earth

We went outside today.

Earlier this week, after a wonderful day, full of friends and excitement, a family that has been friends with my family for nigh on 4 years now, gifted us their  water table–one of those play stations made to Rube Goldberg a trickle of water to splashing fun and amazement for the under eight year old set.  Both the kids were over the top excited by the prospect of going out to the back patio of our rented bungalow and playing in the water:  pouring, splashing and dancing like staff-burdened nymphs of lore and mythology.

The kids went outside, and pounced on the water table.  While they were appropriately distracted, I put out a couple of chairs, a small table, and the pop-up awning.  We had lunch (or rather, I trotted between back porch and kitchen while the kids had lunch), and later, I sat and tried to read a well loved novel while they played.

They played outside.

They played outside in the dirt, in the water, and on the Mons Pubis patch of green that we call our back lawn.  They played outside, dug into the Earth, and filled the little table with dirt, and leaf; blossom, and rock; until the little blue table turned brown with silt, and dust, and lord knows what else; it filled with giggles and dust, and they built a hut, a city, a town of brown liquid, and steeples of mud.

They giggled.  They shrieked.  They laughed.  They smiled.  They ate, and (to my parental horror? Joy?) supped on the mud.  They played with Earth and Water and bathed in sunshine, and wind, and danced on concrete and stone for Mother Nature’s delight.

There is a wonderous permanence in how children play–all children–any children.  Go to a park, or playground, or field, or amusement park or backyard and watch (but don’t be creepy).  There is violence, and joy, and raw humanity in their play:  It embraces, and echoes nature–even if they seek to control it–the forces are ones we see in all the animals of God’s creation–rough, and tumble, and oral, and dirty, and fast, and visceral, and loud, unabashed, tentative and playful, personal; honest and raw.

The children build their kingdoms of dust, level them (sometimes at odds) rebuild them, better, or walk away, or forced away; or even better, they bring in others to include them on the game, expanding, embellishing, learning and creating…

My sons are asleep now, dreaming of what landscape, I can’t say.  The younger one twitches from time to time, his face impassive, an occasional soft laugh escaping his slumbering lips; the eldest one tossing and turning, calling out wordlessly, until he wakes, and sleep-drunk, stumbles to the bathroom.

“Daddy? Daddy…can you get me some water?” He asks walking to me, not fully awake, nor fully asleep.

“Sure, baby,” I answer, leaving my writing.  “Go crawl back into bed.”

I go get his cup, fill it halfway, make my way through the mine field of toys and hand it to him.  “Here, kiddo.”

“Thanks, Dad.”  He says, almost to someone else, as he takes the cup and gulps deep; his eyes never fully reaching wakefulness.

He hands me the cup with one hand, and grabbing my arm with the other, pulls me close, plants a kiss on my cheek and asks, “Can you stay here for a while and watch me, Dad?”

“Sure, for a little bit, son,” I whisper, trying not to rouse the other one from his slumber.  I softly pat the older kid’s back, and he grabs my elbow in a vice grip:  “I love you Daddy, don’t leave.”

I stand there, next to his bunk bed, patting his back until his grip lightens, releases and slides to his side like so much muddy water off a sun baked piece of plastic toy on an otherwise ordinary summer day.

Aluminum

The dog is snoring loudly from his spot in front of the kid’s bookshelf.  He stops momentarily, wakes, and looks around to me, trying to figure out why my fingers are click, click, clicking over the keys so damn late at night.  He licks his paws, loudly, until I tell him to stop, and then, he curls his head tightly into his thigh and goes back to snoring.

I sit here, click, click, clicking through links, and posts, and videos, reading, responding, browsing–avoiding.  I should be asleep, or at the least, washing the dishes, but I’m doing none, and neither, and wasting valuable time of anything else.

I contemplate my weight in recyclables–which I know makes no sense–but I wonder, were I made of metal, or plastic, or glass, how much I’d be worth if you crushed me down like so much aluminum foil and sold me to one of those places that pays for your used cans.  What would my value be, then?

These days I sometimes feel like that said same tin foil–a shiny side, and a dull side–a lame conductor of electricity, unable to do more than reflect the heat from another source–crinkly and malleable, able to take on the shape of whatever you fit me to; to line, to cover, and contain.

Leftovers.   Doggie bags.  Swans full of bread and the last tasty dregs of an expensive meal.

I remember watching Pee-Wee Herman’s TV show, way back in the day;  how he would get all giddy about finding a piece of tin foil.  He would straighten it out flat, and then haul out his impossibly gigantic ball of aluminum foil and add the piece to the ever growing shell of the shiny-dull boulder.

“Ha! Ha! That’s soooo cooool!” Pee-Wee would shout in that half high pitch, half growl dork voice before switching into his trademark high pitch Man-Boy tones.

He would wave and holler “See ya later Giant Foil Ball!” before rolling the unwieldy aluminum sphere back to it’s unseen hiding place–just off camera–before moving on with the show, and the next piece of artful non-sense.

Alibi

I’ve been something close to radio silent
clinging onto hope beyond hope
That I’d find something akin to words
Or posture
that would breathe life into the space
that pretends to be my face,
my tongue,
my voice;
But I’ve found nothing
but a sticky SHIFT button
and a wall full of excuses
akin to nothing but my own in-ability
to be nakedly honest
about what my fingers want to type,
my heart wants to scream,
and my shoulders are willing to bear;

I play with my kids,
watch some TV,
make love to my wife,
clean, eat, shit, smile
cough, boo, cook,
read, apologize
alibi;

I drink (sometimes too much)
walk the dog; act surprised,
re-arrange books on the shelf,
chase mice,
build invisible boxes around my gut
watch the clock,
listen to music,
wish for a future better,
love the world just at much,
as I hate its guts;

I hunt fictional animals
in an app
that lets me socialize
and exercise
at the same time,
because my liver is tired,
but my feet crave a hike;

But the truth is,
when the children are asleep,
the wife is asleep,
the world is asleep,
and all I have is the darkness,
the night,
the still and the keyboard,
I’ve got nothing left to share,
but alibis–

And now, at this moment,
I find that I’m fresh out of those, too.

Make You Better

There are only so many words a man can peck out on a keyboard before he begins to sound trite, even to himself.  There are only so many similes and metaphors and rondos that one can twist ink or graphite to; the numbers are finite, and singular, and…and…


I’ve had a cold for the last few days–nothing serious–just “that thing” that’s been going around. My littlest one had it for a week or so, and being the one that spends the most time with him, it seemed that I’d be the most likely candidate to catch it next; the cold obliged.

I spent most of today curled up on the couch, my son cuddled to me like the breathing ball of love that he is; YouTube videos for toddlers shining through the TV.  I spent most of the previous day curled up on my mom’s couch; my son bouncing around her house, playing with Gramma, giggling, shouting, singing, laughing at the cloud-covered Sun.

I spent the whole of last week feeling inadequate, wanting only to make my child feel better, make my wife less stressed, my eldest son feel joy–make me feel better.

My son feels better.


I wrote a letter last week, mailed it.  Wrote another one this week, and due to illness, it’s sitting waiting for the post.  There were stories read, thoughts had, hugs given, noses wiped, games played, sleep had, albeit, restless.

I’ve easily had a couple of gallons of coffee over the last few weeks, a liter of whiskey, and at least a foot of water in my (rented) garage.  I worked a couple of weeks, listened to a few days worth of audio books, captured about sixty-four Pokemon.  I’ve watched a few weeks worth of TV, put out about a dozen tweets, and visited with friends maybe three or four times.

I’ve put together a bunch of Ikea shelves, cleaned up some of the house, put together one bunk bed, and have washed dishes until I just can’t look at the sink anymore. I can change a child’s bed without fully waking up to do it.

I want to feel better.

I knew I was coming down with the cold when I started feeling sleepy at 9  p.m.  I’m never sleepy at 9 p.m.  Then the vivid, stress driven anxiety dreams, and talking in my sleep.  Waking up with that annoying tickle in the back of my throat.  The headache.  The fatigue.  Looking into the mirror and seeing a wreck.  My wife asking, “are you OK?”  My mom saying “I can hear it in your voice.” My oldest son suddenly being all cuddly–which might also mean he just want something, but I’m counting this towards me being sick–this time.


I haven’t written anything in a while.  Nothing complete, or worth sharing. I’ve started three or four different essays, but they’ve all stalled.  I got so far down the path of writing, and then stalled–my thoughts, my writing seemed tired.  The thoughts were coming too quick, the words not quick enough, and I couldn’t…couldn’t

I wanted to be better.

I’d started writing one thing about feeling inadequate about helping other people–how I honestly couldn’t do the things I wanted to towards helping those that needed help–even if that help was giving hope–just simple hope.  I started writing another thing about failing with words and failing with actions.  I started writing about the dogs that I’ve kept as pets over the years, and how they live to love, but never grow out of it–eternal loving toddlers–with fangs and claws, and the ability to wake themselves to battle with their own farts.

I wanted to be better.


I lay on the couch, feeling winded, lethargic; my head throbbing, and my joints feeling thick and stiff.  The little one crawled on stomach, and laid his head on my chest and, taking my hands in his little ones, wrapped my arms around him as he did the same to me.

“I’m sorry Daddy doesn’t feel good, baby.” I said.

“I hug you to make you better, Dad.” He said.

And for a moment, I did.

Midnight Radio (3)

The blackness of space is translucent.  It’s a window that allows light of all different wavelengths and frequencies to pass through it without impediment.  The light comes at you through the vast void so fast (or slow) that it can travel through time; piercing light that is decades, millennia old.

That blackness is neither window, or door; it’s just absence.

I’ve had the fortune of going out to the places where you can look through that great nothing (everything) and just staring, studying–losing myself–in the truly awesome:  the curve of the sky; the sharp brightness of the stars; the seemingly endless nature of the night time sky; the madness of contemplation of infinity.

I imagine that that blackness is silent; there is no air to let sound swim through waves and to my ear.  Pure, unrequited silence.

I’ve written myself into a corner.  I have nothing to say about silence.  Or space.  Or darkness or light.  I have no words.  I have only gravity–heavy weighted full force of gravity pulling my shoulders, and my gut, and my head and my chest, and my spirit.

I tire.

My dog stares at me from his bed, licks his lips, yawns, shifts his position in the little round sanctuary  and lays his head back on his paws.

The boys are in their room, strewn across their beds and floor, tangled in sheets and toys and they grow in their sleep.

My wife sleeps, wrapped around a pillow, fighting to stay asleep.

The radio is on.

‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Oh, I’m just holding on for tonight

I get up and mix a drink.  I had too much coffee earlier; I didn’t have enough sleep the night before and need to combat it and push fatigue down into nothingness.

The Translucent Blackness.

I find myself wanting to be sitting on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, staring up at the infinite sky, contemplating…

Could I be a better father? Could I be a better husband?  A better friend?  A better patriot?  A better human?  A better man?  More patient, more Black, more successful? Could I be more accountable?  Fearless?  Cautious?  Callous?  Indifferent?  Fearful?  More alone?

Could I feel more alone?

I have words.  I am often filled up with words.  But I don’t have the right ones for anyone these days.  Child, wife, friends, myself.  I’m drowning in words–from others–and choking on my own.  Choking on words and phrases like:

The Translucent Blackness.

The clock says it’s a minute after midnight.  The dog needs to go out. I need sleep; I need to find a way to get rest when I just want to pop and overflow–preferably before the two and a half year old gets up.

I leave the radio on, albeit softly.  I want to see what it plays as I go outside, let the dog take a shit, and then try and contemplate things bigger than me.

Prescribing Joy: Wild Is The Wind (2)

My wife asked me to pen something for her guest series, Prescribing Joy; she wanted me to write an essay, thoughts, or a poem based around those so-called guilty pleasures that bring us joy and in which we find deep wells of happiness.

It took me a while.

I finally found some words to cobble together approaching thought.  Sadly, I found them at 2am on a Friday morning.  I emailed them to her, fell asleep, suffered through the next day by mainlining coffee and napping while wrapping myself around my 2 year old son while he watched YouTube videos.

My wife posted it on Friday, 5am, as is her custom; she prefaced it with sweet, honest words and not much other preamble.  She thought they were good enough to share, so I’ll do the same.

Roll over to Prescribing Joy: Wild Is The Wind (2) for a read.  Tell me what you think, there, here.  Then click through the series.  You should.  It’s a good prescription for finding joy.

Desireless (2)

[Read this out loud, if you can.  All the way through.  Don’t read the brackets out loud; just do what it says]

He crosses the floor, looks into the old shoe box and pulls out an old 45 record from his modest, but meaningful collection.  He slips it from its paper sheath, and smiles to himself as someone who has such a thing in a time when few people still have such things.

He calls over his shoulder to the sleeping figure on the couch, and he stands.  “You awake?”  He is only answered with a soft snore and the shifting of a body on the couch.

He pauses for a moment, flipping the black single over in his hands–ever vigilant and careful to not put his fingers anywhere but on the very edge.  He smiles to himself, takes two breaths and then steps to the record player.

Holding the record carefully in one hand, he lifts the lid of the player with the other, switches it on, and sighs.  He puts the album on the turntable, drops the needle on the record and then strides into the kitchen. [Open this in a separate window and press play now and continue reading]

It plays the first scratchy sounds of nothingness before the rhythmic tapping begins, and a few moments later, the song starts in earnest.  Robert Smith.  The Cure.

He opens the cabinet, pulls out a glass, puts it on the counter with a soft click; reaches for the freezer door, gets a couple of ice cubes, deposits them in his glass and absent minded, puts the half full tray on the counter.  He reaches up into the cabinet, pulls down a bottle of whiskey, pours three fingers of the stuff and puts the cap back on.

He sips it, feels the hot dragon blood of the liquid set fire to his mouth, his tongue, that one sensitive tooth in back and then his throat.  He swallows hard, holds his breath for a few moments (tick tick tick tick) and then lets it out slowly, evenly.

There is little other noise in the house, other than a few soft snores from the couch, the constant hum of a fan, and the click of ice cubes as he drinks (drip drip drip drip drip).  The music is the center of it all, driving, heavy, repetitive.

He finishes the drink, sip by sip by gulp.  Repeats the process of filling it: Ice cubes, whiskey, sip, burn, sigh swallow.

He walks back to the living room, moves her feet to one side, sits down, and then places them, gently on his his lap, closes his eyes and listens.  He listens, sips, listens, and attempts to clear his mind of thought, or for that matter, of care.

It’s all about something, he thinks to himself.  It’s all about something.

It was shaping up to be a much different Saturday evening than he’d imagined.  But that was par for the course, wasn’t it?

He sits and listens until the song plays out, the player arm mechanically, automatically raising and returning to ready position, the turntable slowly spinning to stop.  He rises, puts the song back on, and heads back to the kitchen, pours another.

He sits at the table, sipping fire water, listening to 10:15 Saturday Night and thinks of just what he was expecting of the night.  It’s all about something, right?  It should be about something.

He finishes his drink, sets it down on the dining room table with a soft clunk, stands and walks to the bedroom.  He kicks off his shoes, tears off his socks and flops onto the bed, which is wide, empty and cold.

“You coming to bed?”  He calls out to the dark room beyond.  There is no answer, but the soft stir of a body shifting on the couch, heavy breathing and echoes of a Saturday night.

As his eyes slide close, he drifts into numbness that can only come from the nothing of sleep.

He is stirred from sleep only once, by a distant, mechanical click; if he dreams, he won’t remember them in the morning.

The Universal

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I used to dream about the future.  Where would I be in thirty years; what would I be doing?

Who would I be?

I find myself using Star Trek: The Next Generation technology on a daily basis; The world political stage is just as chaotic and draconian as any universe penned by Phillip K. Dick, George Orwell or Robert Heinlein.  Every day, we seem to get a little closer to a world where Mad Max could be an actual person, in a world where the sky has been burned, we’ve run out of time, water, resources and hope.

Hope.

My wife often worries about the world that we’re leaving for our children, and our children’s children, should they be lucky enough to still have world that would sustain their continuation.  It’s real, her fear.  It’s immediate, and pressing, and frightening.

And then I look at my sons, my two beautiful sons; both full of love, and wonder, and able to think, and embrace ideas and change, and imagine.  I sometimes wonder if they’ll fix our problems, or have to bear the brunt of it, and ride the storm until it’s end, whatever that might be.

Will they have to fight for every inch?  For their humanity?  For the rights of others to survive and be?  For my mistakes?  For me?

For me?

When I was a kid, the nights used to seem eternal, and not unlike my son, I would ask “How much longer until the day comes?”  I’d wonder how much longer would it be before It’d be my turn to wake when I wanted, sleep when I wanted and to do the things that I wanted.

I’m forty two and I find myself, not for the first time in the last decade, when that time would finally come.

Sometimes I hold on tightly to an idea, to a hope, a dream, to a pain, or worry, and I let it gnaw and gnaw and gnaw and gnaw at me until I find that I’m stuck in a loop, a time pocket–a future that has been sold off to the highest bidder and the bidder isn’t me–a future that has been written, and not written into the story that I want, or hope it to be.

It’s enough to make you stay up at night–wake you up in the middle of the night; tie knots in your shoulders, and wrench at your guts, until you find that your whisper has turned into a scream, that you can only let out in the car en route to the grocery store at 9:36 pm on a Tuesday night; or odd flowing tears while washing dishes; or a moment of dazed contemplation as you’re sitting on the toilet wiping your ass while your wife tries to talk to you through the bathroom door.

It’s that one extra glass of wine when you probably are done; that one last set of reps on the free weights when your arms are already shaking; that one last kiss when you really ought to have already said goodnight; that one more level when you should have just saved your progress shut down the game and gone to bed.

It’s coffee when you’ve not slept enough, when sleep is the much better choice.  It’s hugging your child so tight that they say “Mommy, I can’t breathe.”  It’s punching a wall hard enough to break the drywall.  It’s dancing so hard you sweat your drunk ass sober.  It’s laughing until you piss your pants; crying until you can’t catch your breath.  It’s trying to sneak that one last fart out, only to discover that it’s something more.

It’s scatological.  It’s fear.  It’s sexual.  It’s promises upon promises upon promises of tomorrow.

It’s a child wondering what tomorrow brings.  It’s a grown man wondering if there’s a panacea for what ails you.

It’s universal.

Things never truly, completely turn out how you think, expect or hope for them to turn out.  Not life, surely not tomorrow, and to that end, even this blog entry.

The best you can do, for you, or me, or that kid, our kids, my kids is to take the next thirty years day by day, changing what you can–for the better–and *being* the person  you hope that you’ll be later on.

It keeps me up sometimes, wondering; worrying.  It blasts me like so much information that I freeze up, forget to live and just be.

“Who are you going to be?” I ask myself.  “Are you OK with where you’re heading?”

“I’m just along for the ride,” I retort.  “I’m enjoying it, best I can and holding on for dear life, screaming, giggling, pissing my pants.  It’s a ride, you know?”

“But, aren’t you worried that…you’ll run out of track?”

“I worry,” I say to myself, shrugging.  “Sure, I worry.  But who doesn’t?  I’m doing my best to just enjoy the ride.”

Without thinking about it, about the next turn, the next drop, the next, the next, the next:  I throw my hands up, close my eyes, and wait for what happens next.

Smash

This will be the least pretty thing that I’ve written in a long long while.  It may not last a day, but I kinda need to just write this out to keep myself from freaking.

I’m currently drinking a half assed Manhattan so I can chill my nerves and maybe go back to sleep, though I’m going to wager that won’t be for a while, since my adrenaline is pumping pretty hard right now.  It’s pumping hard and fast and I’m strangely calm, but at the same time freaking out a little bit, and slightly angry, and scared and I’ll just say it, a wee bit paranoid.

At about 10:30ish, I was lying on the couch trying to will myself to doze so that I could get in the bed early, and just sleep there, even though the toddler had decided to insert himself into our bed yet again.  I’d just stared to doze, eyes heavy, sinking down into that place where you just pass the hell out when I heard a series of bangs, a screech, a louder and larger bang, shouts and then screaming.

My eyes popped open and I sat up, and headed straight for the front door.  I flipped open the locks, stuck my head out and through my fuzzy eye-glassless eyesight, saw a white car in the intersection a house down from me; it was on its side, like a half assed turtle struggling to right itself.

“DEB! Call 911–a car flipped over!”  I quickly threw pants on, grabbed my glasses and my folding knife (you never know) and ran out into the street, no shoes, of course.

Folks had gathered trying to push the car back right.  I joined in.  The car was on, the smell of gas was strong, and the car was smoking…wrong…it smelled like something was burning.

The girl was inside, screaming.  A bunch of kids (20somethings…I’m “old.”) were seemingly all piled in the front on top of the driver seat.  To be sure, I have no idea who was driving. It was like they were stuffing a phone booth or something (Look it up, it used to be a thing when kids were dumb but safe and there was a thing called a ‘phone booth’ for ‘public pay phones.’)

We pushed, the car teetered and then fell, righted. Someone opened the door and then people piled out like a clown car.  Two guys drug a girl to the corner, and our back neighbor–a nurse–jumped in and triaged.  Another guy was standing around digging in the car and came out with…a pressurized tank???

“Are you OK???” I asked him.

“I’m cool.” He said, cradling the tank in his arms.  And then he ran down the street.  Something shattered as he beat a retreat.

Another guy had gotten out and was looking in the car.

“Are you OK?” I asked him.

“Yeah, I’m cool. Shit!” he said, looking around.

“Turn it off,” I told him, looking down at my feet and noticing, not for the first time the gas and the glass all over the street.

“What? I’m cool”

“Turn off the engine.  Turn off the car.”

“Oh, thanks.”  He reached in and turned it off, pulled out the keys and stuck them in his pocket.

My neighbor the nurse worked to keep the girl conscious, and try and figure out her vitals, injuries, etc.  The two guys paced and, I think for a minute were considering running off.  One guy dialed the girl’s mom, talked to her in Spanish for a bit and then hung up.

The police arrived and then very quickly, the paramedics/firemen.

Who saw what, did you? Did anyone see the crash? Yeah, what happened? She hit two cars? Any other cars? How many people were in the car? Did you see who was driving? Did you see when they pulled the girl out? Did anyone see when they pulled her out?

I don’t want to get involved.  You know they’re going to have to check for alcohol, right? No one wanted to push the car over, but I was saying just do it.  Cars will catch fire when they’re on their gas tank like that.  I smelled the smoke.  How old? 20? Oh shit.  Did you see the bottle over there? I don’t know, I didn’t see anything, I’m not going to get involved.  Did you see it? No, I heard it.  No, I came out and helped push it back up.

And then they got her on the board with a bunch of screams, one guy got in, and the other guy decided to “just walk to the ER and meet them there.”  And then the police looked around asking questions and then–

“Look, beer bottle, balloons…”

“I saw one of the guys get out and run up the street.  He was carrying a tank.”

“Yeah, nitrous oxide…that’s what all these balloons are for.”

I gave a statement of what I saw, heard and noticed.  Gave my info.

I hope the girl is OK.  Someone said (was it Deb? She came out a couple of times, hugged me….I was…hyper focused?  What do you call it?) she lived down the street.  Seemed like someone recognized him.

Why do I feel like I’m going to get shit later for actually, I dunno, doing my civic duty?  They could have gone through someone’s front door–my front door, they were close enough.  The car could have exploded, caught on fire.  They all could have died.  They, mostly walked away from it, but it could have could have could have…

I did some stupid shit in my twenties–hell, I’ve done some stupid shit in the last year, but now I have kids.  That changes the level of stupid shit I’ll put up with.  But at the same time…Blargh.

I just want to keep my children, my neighbors and folks around me safe.  And that might mean actually telling the police what I saw (See, this is the part of where while I’m all BLACK LIVES MATTER and mean it, I want folks to know that I do, and always have appreciated the JOB that police do–what they largely do–PROTECT AND SERVE); the suck part is that these kids, through doing stupid shit will probably do time. Possibly serious time. Serious stupid is serious time.  But then, you know, some guy with rich parents gets a slap on the wrist for “boys will be boys! Now go enjoy college!” for much more horrible shit.

I dunno.  Sleep is coming on and out and I need another belt of whiskey and sweet vermouth so I can sleep. Because, man, I’m awake.

Shit. Fuck.  Shitfuck.

Absolute Beginners (1)

The kids woke us up at an unreasonable hour this morning.  It pained my wife as she’s been waking and sleeping in fits and starts for eight hours to the point that she just got up.  It pained me because I’d gone to bed just some 4 hours before, being the night owl that I am, have always been.

“I keep telling you,” my wife said, “if you just try to go to bed earlier, it won’t be as bad.”

“Yeah, and then I’ll wake up and be–” I began grumbling before my wife cut in.

“I know, I know, you’re always saying, ‘I’m not wired that way…‘ ” she turned her voice into an odd mockery of mine.  “It takes time.  You have to transition into it, you have to at least try!”

Letting the red clear from the edges of my vision, I grumbled into my cup as I brewed coffee and went about my morning.

I stewed on her words, not so much because she is correct, I can go to bed earlier, or that I can make the transition.  I stewed because I’m set in some ways.  And I abhor transitions.  Especially when they fundamentally change who I am and how I define myself.

Right now, for all intents and purposes, I’m a stay at home dad; and while my wife lauds my performance as our hausfrau, this is all new, scary, and overwhelming.


 

The morning hadn’t started off the best.  We had only been back from our schedule shattering road trip for a day and a half, and both the kids were revved up in the mornings.  The little one was going off on the early morning trip to daycare, and the big kid and I had errands to run.

He was dragging his feet.  Being purposely (to me) obtuse or contrary.  He wiggled.  Capricious.  Arbitrary.  Fickle.  He was being a six year old.

I yelled.  Daddy yelled, filling the cabin of the car.  Just a mundane question like “YES OR NO, PLEASE PICK ONE?!?!” but it was loud, and horrifying in that way that only a parent can be to a child in what would otherwise be a playful moment.

There were tears, and comforting words, and sobs, and sighs and silence for a few minutes.

“Hey,” I began when we got home.  “I know you don’t want to talk to me right now, but, how would you feel about taking off your training wheels and we get you riding your bike like a big kid?”

He turned his eyes up to me, nodded vigorously to the affirmative and sniffled.  “Yes.”

“Would you like that?”

“Yes, Dad, I would.”

So we went in back, I got my meager but workable set of tools and got his bike.  Together we took off the training wheels, dusted off the cobwebs (it was literally covered in them) put his helmet on and gave it a go.


 

The little one sings now.  He sings in that little, sweet toddler voice “Daddy finger daddy finger where ARE you? Here I go Here I go, HOW DO you do?” and “There’s a farm has dog and Bingo name who I-N-G-O! and Farmer Bingo!”

He hits the syllables all wrong, and misses the words, but it’s sweet, it’s recognizable and he’s learning.  He’s making who he is as we watch, listen, hear.

He has friends at school (when he gets to go), he’s learning shapes and numbers, and loves to say the names of trucks and the color orange “ORANGE EXCUH VADER DADDY!!!”

Potty training moves slowly.

Every once in a while, he looks at me and with the sweetest look on his face, he headbutts me; and while I stand stock still, in a daze, he runs off giggling.


 

I dropped the big kid off at school yesterday for the first day of second grade.  It was seamless, simultaneously a new start to a new school year, and familiar and well learned–like so much muscle memory.

He kissed his baby brother, and wandered over to his class bench without so much as a wave, a look, or a “love you dad.”  Just started his day and the new year like it was a normal day.

Last year this time, it was an event filled with tears and too long hugs and good lucks and sudden excitement and resolve.

I turned to his friend’s parents and said “Was it just me, or did you not get a goodbye?”

“Nope, our kid just went to class without so much as a nod.”

“Mine, too!” chimed another dad.

We stood around the parking lot for a moment, looking bewildered.


 

After a shaky, but successful start on his bike, I piled L’il D, his bike and a bunch of water into the car and headed for the bigger park.  Noon on a Thursday afternoon even in the summer would leave the park wide open and to us.

I set him on the bike path, helped him figure out the pedals again and without much help from me, got him off and rolling.

He peddled off into the distance, a little rough at first, but getting stronger with each push of the pedal; he rode without fear and with growing resolve.  A beginner, no doubt but becoming more…becoming more with each yard gained.

A dragonfly floated into my field of vision, right in front of where L’il D was racing into the distance, and for a moment, a brief moment, its wings were superimposed on my son’s helmet–both the insect and his helmet a bright red.  Wings in flight for my child flying off into…

My eyes grew watery, and in the back of my head I heard a refrain that I’d forgotten:

Too scared to break the spell too small to take a fall

I blinked the growing tears away and looked at my son, remembered that he still needed me and I shouted for the second time that day.

“SON!!!  TURN AROUND!  COME BACK!”

He put on the breaks, wobbled, toppled over and then quickly waved at me, yelling as he stood “I’M OK DAD!”

He turned his bike around and peddled hard, racing for me, smiling in the confidence that he can do this thing, this glorious, difficult wonderful thing.  You could read it in the joy on his face that he knew, knew, knew who and where and what he was at.

It was getting easier.

He rode towards me, and then past, and I found myself running, struggling to keep up.