Thursday, April 28, 2011

Conversations with 5- and almost 4-year olds

Graham: "What do we love?"

Reid: "Christmas?"

Graham: "No! We love bobcat cheerleaders!"

Me: WTH?


Graham: "Joey said I could be friends with him if I stopped beating up Johnny, but I've been beating up Johnny for yeeears!"

Me: WTH?


Reid: "I got a boo-boo at Mimi's house so she put peas on it."

Me: "Frozen peas, huh?"

Reid: "Yes, so I need to go in the microwave!"

Graham: "Reid, you can't go in the microwave because then you wouldn't have bones or muscles and that would make you sloppy."

Me: Again, WTH?


Reid: "Mommy, bubby broke my car and then he said, 'Hardy har!' and so he can't be my friend anymore. He can't say, 'Hardy har!' to me!"

Me: Nope, nothing surprises me anymore.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Follow your heart

"I wanted to jump off the top of the playground today," he said at the dinner table, between bites of corn on the cob.

"But my heart kept beeping, and I couldn't do it."

(And then I heard my heart beep, too.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Life Goes On

When your parent dies, life goes on, you know. Oh blah dee, oh blah dah.

When your parent dies, and you are a parent, wee ones still force you to get out of bed and take them to school.

They still need breakfast and backpacks. (Oh, your dad died.) They still need help finding their shoes/toy/belt/jacket/truck-with-the-blue-trailer-not-that-one-the-other-one-because-I-hate-the-red-one! (Yeah, your dad died.) They still need baths and stories and don’t forget to brush your teeth, please don’t make me tell you one more time. (Um, your dad died.) There are still little kid birthday parties to attend. Like a zombie. Where the other moms who you don’t know very well may or may not be looking at you sideways, wondering if you are still wearing yesterday’s makeup. (Hey, your dad died.) The radio shoots sad songs at you like bullets. Like you accidentally tuned the station to 101 The Dramatic. (P.S. Your dad died.) And you find yourself using the words “bizarre” and “ridiculous” a little (lot) more than normal.

Oh and that meeting with the pre-K principal? The one that took three weeks to schedule, the one for which you meant to fully prepare the five key points you wanted to get across to the person who supervises your son’s less-than-adequate educator? Yeah, that still happens. Even if your dad died.

Though you may have a heightened desire to throw down in that meeting. Because, well...

But all the rest of us? We are still alive. We still have motions; we still go through them.

Isn’t it funny how life is always lived in such parallel paths, no matter what drama is going on in one?

Oh brother, how the life goes on.

Friday, April 15, 2011

To Dad

I'm sorry I was stubborn. I'm sorry you were stubborn.

It doesn't matter now.

You left me once before. In college, after you had called me to get the typical updates, the same type you had been getting over the phone for about 10 years already. But that time you told me you would call next Wednesday. And next Wednesday came and went, and so did many more Wednesdays. You checked out and I grieved while inside thinking that someday, one day, somewhere in the future we would figure things out.

We can't do that now, or ever. You are really gone now.

I have memories, good and bad. So many memories. You were so funny. People know you as the funny extroverted guy, always joking, always telling stories. Oh the stories. You used to tell us as little girls tucked in our beds, about the time you and your friends jumped the city pool fence at night and skinny dipped. I couldn't believe your audacity and every time you told it was like the first time I had heard it. Your inflection never changed. Oh the stories.

You played Barbies with me when I was home sick from school. But you also taught me about Semper Fi and hoo-rah and how to sing, "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli..."

We grew up on a farm because you wanted us to. You introduced us to piglets and chickens. You worked on the tractor. You cussed. You fixed the seats of our swingset. It was on that same swingset a few years later that my friend Jill asked me why you and Mom got a divorce. We didn't know anyone else at school whose parents were divorced. I told her it was because you cussed too much.

We ate Ramen noodles on weekends at your house, and watched movies Mom would never have let us watch. We went to different churches on Sundays. We met various women. We listened to classic rock in your truck. Sometimes I would rest my head on your lap or your shoulder for the long Sunday afternoon drive home, sitting in the middle seat between you and Sara. I remember the smell of pleather truck seats mixed with chewing tobacco.

You taught school - many friends, people I grew up with, people who still tell me you were their favorite teacher of all time. They describe you like a hero, larger than life. I wanted to know only that person, not a cheater, not an alcoholic, not a divorcee.

I hate that my eternal image of you is pocked with negativity. No one is perfect. I needed my dad to be perfect. I shouldn't have had that expectation. I'm sorry. But I'm not sorry I needed you to be the grown-up, the parent, the one reaching out rather than feeling sorry for himself that his daughters didn't try harder. We were so young. You? You were young at heart.

I will hold on to the time you came for "Dad's Weekend" at the Chi-O house. We all went dancing in the Fort Worth stockyards to country music. We cut a rug together and we were happy.

You are described as a Renaissance man. I think of you as a drifter, your own person, unable to commit to anyone or anything. God knows parenting was too hard for you. It tied you down. You were free, and yearned for nothing more than flying your little planes whenever and wherever you wanted. It was a theme that permeated your entire life, one handed down to you.

I know it wasn't your fault. I know.

The last time I saw you was at your mother's funeral, wrought with family drama and high emotion. It was also the first time you met your grandsons, but I never told them who you really were. They ran around like two wild little boys do at pot luck dinners in big open fellowship halls, unaware of the messiness of grown-ups' hearts, and you looked at me like maybe we could be friends. I felt peace, and silently thanked Grandma for it.

But truly, you spent years hiding behind your bruised ego. I was as stubborn as you, after all, and you couldn't stand it. That I could carry a grudge for so long. That you could as well. You knew I had not fallen far from the tree. We both bore the guilt. I still do, and will alone now. But I know you loved me. I hope you know I loved you, too.

Occasionally my boys have asked why their daddy has a daddy but mommy doesn't. Now, my answer is more definitive than it was before.

Things were so complicated, but now they are simple. They have to be.

Fly high. Fly free. Fly away home, forever, Dad.

He loves the Beatles

"Graham, do you like the Beatles?" our neighbor asked, with almost a gasp, suddenly noticing the band's logo gracing the front of his 5T Baby Gap. I couldn't exactly tell if she was being facetious or if she was impressed.

He squinted up at her in the sun, sitting on his bike at the end of her driveway, where he had been listening to us chat about her college poetry class - the one she teaches to undergrads and wonders how much they care, trying to keep their cloudy brains in the game. Sometimes using music references as a crutch. He didn't know she was referring to his shirt.

"Sometimes," I replied for my little guy. "He just really loves rock... to watch bands on Palladia. Kindermusik doesn't quite keep his attention."

"Do they have electric guitars?" he asked her, with 5-year-old intrigue.

"Yes, sometimes!" she replied, seemingly excited for his bucking-the-toddler-system interest. Or perhaps enjoying that she was schooling another human being about this group called the Beatles. That these so-called Beatles played guitars. Like she was letting this kid on the world's biggest a-ha moment.

"And base hits?!" Now he was excited, too. A Beatle. Yes! Now that sounds like something special - they have electric guitars and base HITS!! (No, I don't know what those are, either.)

We chuckled at the cuteness of a 5-year old discovering the Beatles and their guitars. We said goodnight and that shirt went into the dirty clothes basket without another thought.

Then a few days later, in the car, in our ears -- there they were. I turned it up loud. "Graham, it's the Beatles!" I exclaimed. "What do you think?!"

He listened. He asked to hear the electric guitar. He listened. He was quiet. Taking in those... Beatles. Just another radio song? Maybe. Just another band logo to make Baby Gap-buying parents fork over a few more bucks for the perception of cool? Yeah, mostly.

And then, last night, as we sat in the comfy chair in his room in the dark, rain started coming down softly. He turned to the window and slipped behind the blinds to look up at the night sky. He stood a while gazing.

Then he whispered to no one in particular out of the blue.

"I love the Beatles."