Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fourth Year Father

Four years ago tonight, I was driving home a very relieved and happy man. My wife had just given birth to our daughter after a long labor and both of them were safe in the hands of the staff at New York Hospital. I was so tired from having been awake for nearly a day that I rounded the corner from 2nd to 42nd and went right through a red light. I didn’t know I’d broken the law until the traffic ticket arrived in the mail a month later. 

At the time I felt like I used to when I worked outdoors as a landscaper and the fall was coming to a close. When I tidied up the last yard for the season; and brought the last load of leaves to the landfill and wintered my equipment; I felt like the work was done and a beer was due. What I didn’t know was that It was, in reality, just the beginning of the day, and that there was a long, long day ahead of me. 

Seeing my daughter now - she’s presently playing with her new dollhouse on the floor - is more than I could have imagined on the ride home from the hospital. I wondered at the time when I’d begin to feel like a Dad. I’d hold her little self in my hands so carefully - she seemed so tiny to me - and know that she was ours, our daughter; but the feeling of fatherhood was coming slowly. 

I think sometimes, that the busy-ness and the sleeplessness that came with having her and my son was a hidden blessing; and all the work acted as a series of distractions that concealed the pain of the changes that I was going through. And it’s been such a whirlwind of activity, that sometimes I’d swear there has been only one day, a very busy day, and I’m just now starting to feel like I can settle down for the night. 

So now, while I watch her revel in her new year, and express that pride that kids show when they can claim another number for their age, I can feel some of the same suddenness and surprise in my own short, but rich track record as a Dad. 

Later tonight, I’ll be back downstairs and collecting up all the boxes and paper that came with her birthday - it’s recycling tonight luckily - and back to the work of being a father. But for now I’m content. I’ll stay until she drops off to sleep and try to recapture a little of that comfort I took four years ago when I knew she was safely brought into the world. Only now I’ll feel a little more like a Dad, her Dad, and know how truly lucky I am. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I know I’ve just written about a rainstorm, but I’m very tired and the cloud bursts that hit the city tonight were the most stunning events of the day. 

I stood on the corner of 84th and Columbus under the green canopy of a grocery deli while the rain lashed down in heavy whipping blasts. It was dusk and the sky was purple with dark heavy clouds. I was waiting for my wife as she drove into the city to meet me and I was caught for fifteen minutes between the stunning beauty of the rain and the lightning and the thunder and my fear that something would happen to my wife on the West Side Highway. People ran by bare headed and soaked and smiling from the excitement while I stood quietly with my wonder and my worries. 

So much of my life is like this now; watching the swift passing of something lovely while my heart is troubled with some other need. It’s like putting my hand out to touch the textured surface of some passing building or let my eyes rest on the bright bouquets that line the corner stores in the city even as I’m hustling to the next urgency. 

It’s like being on the verge of sleep and having a thought tug on your sleeve like a child asking to play when you’re exhausted. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nothing like the Rain

Parenting can be very hard work, but there are unexpected moments of fun. 

Our children are young children - a one year old boy and a little girl on the verge of four. One of the hardest parts about parenting them at this age is that we lose a lot of sleep. My son, for the first 14 months, would not sleep more than three hours together; my daughter (who was once a good sleeper) has become fitful and fearful of being alone. There have been few nights in the last eighteen months (counting the last few months of my wife’s pregnancy) that I can say were truly restful. And the best that can be said of me when I climb out of bed to help one of my children is that I mutter softly rather than curse out loud. 

Now though they seem to be giving us a bit of a break. There are times when it’s wonderful to wake to the sound of my children. My son, in the morning, will spend some time laughing and giggling to himself and let me wake gently. And there are mornings when my daughter will rub my elbow until I wake and then give me a big bright smile. These moments seem to be coming more frequently now. 

But we had a uniquely happy incident the other night with my daughter. My wife and I were sleeping. I was in the midst of a deep sleep, so that when I first heard the sound of my daughter shouting, it came into my dream like a voice from behind a wall. It wasn’t until my wife shot up in bed that the movement brought me fully awake. 

“Mommy!” my daughter shouted. It was an angry shout. Not a panicky I’m scared by something shout or the weak shout of a little girl about to be sick, but a loud angry shout like one that comes from disgust and disbelief. It was really a sound of a much older person that we heard and it left us a little confused. 

“What is it sweetheart?” we both said in unison, “What’s wrong?”

“It’s raining!” she said with even more disgust, as if the rain was a contractor, working without a permit and on a Sunday to boot. 

There was a long pause, neither of us knowing exactly what do say, and the only sound was the heavy drops of rain on the roof. 

“It happens,” my wife said after several breaths, “Do you want a drink of water?”

“Ok Mommy,” she said in a happier tone, “In a blue glass please.”

We both took the walk down the hall to her room after a quick stop to get the water and helped her get back to sleep. 

I haven’t been able to hear the sound of the rain on the roof since without smiling. 

Monday, July 27, 2009

Setting Out

Whenever I start something new, I find myself in the backyard of my parents house on the first day of second grade. It was the first time I'd be attending a school that required me to ride a bus. My two sisters and I were going together - they'd be in the kindergarten and first grade. My mother had me dressed in a starched cotton tartan shirt and dark corduroy pants and I stood uncomfortably in my new leather shoes on the grass. It was cold and there had been an early frost. 

My Dad had the idea to send us to school with small bouquets of flowers from our garden and he was on his knees clipping out the ones that had not been ravaged by the rabbits that lived in the nearby woods. When he handed me the bunch of flowers that I was to take, I found that stuck inside one of the closed flowers was a frozen bumble bee - trapped by the folding petals of the flower or maybe by the sudden cold. When I gave a shout and everyone had had a look at the little wonder - I've not seen it happen since - my father flicked the frozen bee out of the bud with one of his thick fingers and handed me back the bouquet. 

Starting this blog feels just about as strange and new to me; and as full of secret promise. 

Expect to find posts here about my experiences as a dad and husband; as a friend; as a worker of many trades; as a writer and above all as a decent person. I hope you find it worthwhile. 

See you tomorrow.