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Friday, October 31, 2014

Daddies Who Climb Mountains

The damned ding ding dingaling on my phone is waking me again. Shit, not another crisis beaming here like Count Tinkerbell all the way from the office, chomping down her frigging gold-knifed teeth through the ceiling to devour my morning. I grasp the phone and press its glow to my face. Panic over. That noise was just that God damn phone alarm. She orders me around, telling me to get my aching ass out of bed, beating my stiff swollen knees with her reminders and calendar events.  I keep setting her annoying beeping voice earlier. Early enough to get on my superpower bike with a screen that tricks my 45-year-old achy bod into believing it’s in the French Countryside spinning free. Maybe I’ll stop at a vineyard before breakfast. Get in a glass of vino before all hell breaks loose.

I ought to be a bear. They get to sleep all winter, don’t they? Or a frog.  My kids would like that better. They could carry me around and pat my lumpy slimy back, and they’d still think I’m cute. But I’m just a grown-up, bald 45-year-old boy called Husband, Daddy, Director. Sounds important, but it’s never enough.

At work, I’ve got a cascade of jobs the size of Everest to climb, and its blinding edges block my way with silvery jagged problems. Feels like I’m always reaching for the next crevice to clutch. I’m panting, and my sweaty Brooks Brothers shirt is flapping in the wind as my shiny black Farragamo leather shoes slip. And then, the laces get caught on the details and I look down. Careful, those distractions below can cause you vertigo…the egos, red tape, senseless errors, antiquated systems… if you stare at them too long, you forget where you’re going, and the mountain just gets higher. Sometimes I dangle there from my bitten, bleeding nails wondering if someone could just hand me a promotion, a beer, and retirement package all on the same day. I’ll open an organic dairy farm and sell milk. Or maybe become a college professor who spends all day talking about ideas over his reading glasses, in an old colonial schoolroom while sipping a hot latte.

Can’t be with the kids enough. They say, “Daddy where ARE you? Daddy you missed my parade, missed my story last night, missed cuddles.”  They have no idea how much I miss THEM. Knowing everything about them. But I've been out climbing mountains that nobody sees. I've got no pictures to show or breathtaking stories to tell, no harrowing adventures to brag about. My dream of home cooked, nightly meals by a crackling red brick hearth, listening to stories from the kids’ days as my wife rubs my shoulders…Hah. Young fellas, don’t even bother with that figment. I’m lucky if I get home for dinner twice a week, after it’s already been served. And if I do get there, my kids are so strung out and surprised to see me that they act like fang-toothed nymphs that you see in old story books. You know, banging the table with their forks, shrieking over each other, demanding to sit by me or refusing to look at me. Their emotions have run amuck. I can’t hear my thoughts, much less make a sound to share them. Sometimes I yell just to be heard, and then I realize that they hear so little from me… Let it not be my angry loud bellow their little heads hear when they think, “Daddy.”   

After they have pounded my wife and me to pieces with their zesty energy, for a short time, I get to feel what has been missing. Feel what keeps me climbing upward. They wrestle with me, lead me by the hand to their quiet bedrooms where they sound out stories from their favorite books or listen to mine. I lay back and work to keep my tired eyeballs open and focused, sinking into their joy, their magic, their being in the world. We are finally in a place free of all the beeps, buzzes, calls, trades, lists, charts, dollars, demands. They chatter on about a world of other things-- friends, disappointments, dreams, mistakes. They have no sense of time. Finally I am home. Home for my family. Home for love. 

I’ve been writing fiction lately, sharing new perspectives on some of the challenges I observe facing so many families, including mine. I hope this narrative does at least a bit of justice to the struggle fathers experience as they are pulled, like moms, in far too many directions.  The love of my life has taught me that being a wonderful dad is possible, but it is painful, and it is hard work.

Friday, October 3, 2014

I Was Born Sick

I was born sick. My mom didn't know just how sick. I heard her voice for all those months talking talking talking, thinking she could control me before I entered the other side where people suck in air. Sometimes she would sing to me, trying to practice her lullabies, not knowing that she could make up any sounds and I would feel her intentions, her longing to fill me with something good, not sick like I feel.

I grow, and she does too. She sighs at pictures of me in sterile hospital offices as the gooey pushy stick rubs and squishes my warm home. I wish they would stop that. She needs to feel hope, to know who I am. She thinks I'm OK because everyone tells her so, but I'm sick. She sings again on the way home, something about "hushabye, don't you cry," and I wonder if she knows how much crying is coming.

A rounded lump of warm flesh pushes my elbow. I feel a jolt. She wants something from me. To believe I'm beautiful and whole like the pictures of all the others who have come before me. To know that the signs of trouble she saw four months ago were insignificant. To believe that I'll eat, sleep, smile, breath, crawl, walk on time. To know that my miniscule heart won't require the silicone covered hand of a giant to hold it and change its entire design while the rest of me lies in the frigid silver room, just above the cold temperature of death.

When I arrive, will she pour out loving, nourishing motherhood that supports the beautiful, ugly, smelly, soft, pain, and pleasure of who I am? When my screams penetrate her head, and I can't stop them, will she cover the sound with her own needs, running back to her dream, or will she embrace my heart with her warmth, make me know I'm not alone. Sickness hurts.  When I grow and show her the truth about me, that my design is not like her dream, will she still have that touch, that voice that rains enough love to make me want to swim in this womb forever?

She wants to see beauty everywhere, even in the broken places where most of us are afraid to ever look. Soon she will see me. She'll find out that I'm sick. I'll break her heart, and then she will heal along side of me. We will be together in this journey-- she will never look away.

This entry a fictional perspective from a child, like my child, who was born with a congenital heart defect and then went on to discover, as he grew, that he is "different" in many more ways... He blesses me every day with lessons about honoring and loving the individual. I am so thankful for him.