Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No Mail Today

“David, would you please see if there’s anything in the mailbox.” 

This was a request I got from a woman I used to work for. She was elderly, and had lost her husband a few years prior. I’d do odd jobs around her yard or in the house and I’d collect the mail for her in the winter when the driveway was icy and she didn’t want to risk a fall. 

“Will you have time to stop by today, David?” was the polite sound of her voice on the other end of the line. There was never any urgency in the voice, and there was patience and understanding if I was busy, but there was a need (a small one) and I was glad to help. 

I’d stop by in my rusty pickup truck and extract the one or two or three days worth of mail there was in the box and I’d salt the driveway and the walk for her if there was time. 

“Oh, there’s a lot today, isn’t there?” I can still hear her say as I came to the door with the odd assortment of differently shaped and colored envelopes, “Let’s have a look. Come in, will you?” 

In return there was a little money for me, and usually an offer of a cup of tea. She’d had a long and interesting life and I learned a lot from her, sitting at her kitchen table, drinking Salada tea from her everyday picnic patterned tea cups. 

I used to think it was purely functional - her need to get the mail - for paying bills or answering requests or getting the news. But I think there was something more to it, an ordinary something more. I’d like to think that part of the something more was my company. But vanity aside, I think the mail was more than the mail - it was a little bit of the unknown; a little bit of hope.

I think I picked some of her measured approach in the years that I was going to school and working for her. I’ve tried to find the little bits of the unknown that get you from day to day lightly. Frequently it’s the mail, but there are other things too; checking my weight after a week of exercise, checking my bank account after a few weeks of taking my lunch to work; checking my personal email at the end of the day (I’m not allowed at work) - there are many things. 

“What are you looking for?” my wife will ask me sometimes, when I’m just stalking around restlessly. 

“Nothing,” is what she’ll usually hear. That or a shrug of the shoulders. I’ll just go on with my stalking until I think of something mail-like or wear myself out thinking and stalking. 

“Where’s the mail?” is the question that is pounding in my head when this happens. That and the angst and discouragement when there is none. 

“Where’s my little thing that I was expecting? Didn’t it come today?  What no mail? Rats!” 

I don’t say “Rats,” by the way - I’m more colorful. 

Today the mail didn’t come. 

I try to think of my friend when the mail doesn’t come. I try to think of that measured easy polite understanding she had when I couldn’t help that day. I try to focus on the day or two later when I would come and sit in her kitchen like Pooh or Piglet in Kanga’s house.

“Oh, here’s something I wasn’t expecting,” she’d say with a smile, never telling me what it was - good or bad. She’d investigate it while she went on talking to me. 

On nights like tonight, I just think about her patience and try to find some of my own; patience and trust. 

Tomorrow or the next day, there will surely be mail. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cool Evenings, Long Memories

Sometimes lately, I'll encounter a color or a pattern or a shade of sunlight and be suddenly thrown back into a feeling I've had in another time and another place. These little trips are becoming so strong that they're overwhelming my sense of the present and I feel for a moment that I'm not where I thought I was; kind of like a powerful deja vu only in full reverse.

Tonight the light in the sky was a pale yellow that reminded me somehow of the color of the crust of a cooked pie or an unfrosted cake. There was a cool breeze as I walked through Church Square Park that made the boughs on the trees sway and creek and the light filtered through the still green leaves and mixed with shadows on the ground.  

Someone was baking too. It may have been one of the many food shops around the park, but there was the sweet scent of baking apples. I took a deep breath of that heavenly smell before it was driven away or muted by the smell of gasoline from a noisy leaf blower. 

I was gone. 

"Here's the key. Gates across the way. You can't miss the pile. Joe may be out there," she said to me. I never knew her name, though I saw her a hundred times each fall. She was standing behind a counter in a white baker's apron with pies and home baked goods all around her. She had brown hair and the skin on her face was wonderfully crinkled by laughter and time in the New England weather. 

It was the end of one of the many days working as a landscaper in graduate school. I was tired. I felt all the muscles in my body ache. I had driven my small pickup out to the farm in Walpole that had the cheapest rate for dropping of cut grass or leaves or debris - $5 a truckload (no matter how much I stuffed it). 

The field where I dropped of the debris was behind a locked gate on one side of the road. The little farm bakery and cafe with the key and the cash register was on the other. 

"Thanks," I think was all I ever said to her; though I was lonely back then and wanted to talk sometimes. I wanted to stop and buy a hot cider or a slice of pie, but my second job or my studies were always there to keep the trip short and to the point. 

Still I often stopped in the field as I pitched the debris from my truck or trailer to look at the fading yellow of the sky as it dwindled into a deeper orange or a rich purple at the end of a day at the end of September. I'd take in the smell of the baking above the smell of the gasoline on my hands and the acrid smell of the cut grass. 

"Pretty day," sometimes the man who worked the tractor would stop to say a word or share the view - he was probably lonely too. Outdoor work can be wonderful, but there are many hours alone, "Be getting cold soon."

"Yup," I think I said. 

I'd pack the truck back up and head out and drive home in the growing dark of evening. A shower and a bite and I'd be off again. 

"Dave," came a call over my shoulder.

And then I was back again. Before I reached my house tonight I was back again. 

"Dave," came the call again, a little louder. I must have looked bewildered. 

It was my older neighbor from across the street, taking the air and waving through the screen door. 

"Hi ya," I said and waved back thinking, "Wow, was I out of it."

I popped through my own screen door and out of the street. I felt like I'd just descended rapidly from some high place, or taken a sudden dive into deep water. 

"Whoa," I thought. 

Some memories are so strong, that sometimes I feel like they'll un-tether me from my place and pull me back. Sometimes I think those memories do cut me loose and I've just been returning to some later point in my life again and again like people who go in circles when they're lost - who would ever know?  

This is, of course, ridiculous. There's too much of my physical self to make that leap (more apple pie please), and it's only a memory however strong. 

I suspect too, that these trips are a kind of escape that my brain is engineering for me out of some of the difficulties of the last year and a half. That the little grey cells are taking me from a very busy, crowded and complex time to something that feels less complicated - a kind of fake out. Who knows? 

I wonder also if my kids are doing this to me; firing up those old memories with their cute ways - or simply just driving me crazy.

I suppose there is no answer. They seem harmless enough, these trips, and I'm never gone for long, so I suppose I'll just try to enjoy the ride. 

For the present I'm back.  

Monday, September 28, 2009

One for Two

There are some days that I feel about as sharp as I did in my Sophomore year at college (my most indulgent) the day after a big party; hung over and dopey. Only today I suspect the dopiness came from the Co-Advil I've been taking to help with my lingering virus symptoms. 

My son had two therapy appointments today, only one of which went well. I had a hard time believing it was the same boy, there was such a world of difference between the two. It was like watching Baby Mr. Hyde transform back in Boyish Dr. Jeckle and wondering where he was hiding his potion.  

"I've never seen him like this before," his occupational therapist remarked. 

This morning he got up at 5 a.m. and by the time she arrived at 10:30 a.m., he was so tired he just cried and clung to me like he was Pooh bear and I was his last jar of honey. He moaned and kvetched and pushed his face into my neck. 

It was my first time meeting this therapist - I was working from home today - and I was a little embarrassed and bewildered. 

"He might just be tired," I said, "Or it could be that I'm here - he may act a little differently with me around."

"Sure is something," she said, "He looks so upset."  

We made several attempts to distract him, or to let me work with him, but ended up having to reschedule later in the week. 

She was very gracious about it, but rational or not, I felt like a dopey parent. 

"Probably messed up his schedule by being here," I thought after she left, "not used to me here; and I was no help."

Self indulgent and incorrect, but to be honest, exactly what I was feeling - a hopeless case. Some days I just don't feel all that bright. 

While these negative thoughts were working through my head, I put my son down for a nap and went back to working. 

"Get over it and work," I told myself firmly. After a while I was able to do it. I heard his tears subside and stop. He slept for a good three hours without so much as a peep.  

"Must have been exhausted," I thought, feeling a little better that it might truly have been the cause of the meltdown, "just wanted a nap."

My feelings were confirmed when his physical therapist arrived at 4:30 p.m. and he literally jumped off the floor - he must have cleared three inches - with a little hip hop move from a seated position. 

"Whoa, Mister," she said delightedly, "Glad to see me huh?"

She flashed me a quick smile and then followed the little guy to the stairwell (he led the way) for their first drill of climbing stairs. I heard them recede slowly as he let out little battle cries of delight as he ascended each new step. It was like listening to a little tropical bird let out chirps at each happy moment in the day. 

"Thank goodness," I thought, "Mr. Cheerful is back." 

Then it occurred to me - he was just tired and had a mood swing. Maybe an obvious observation, but it blew me away; kind of like the other night when the spell checker kept flagging my spelling of the word "beetle" (the bug) when I spelled it "beatle" (the band) and I realized that not only did I not know how to spell beetle, but I also had missed the fact that The Beatles had not just a silly name, but a bad pun on "beat" - duh!  

"A mood swing," I thought, "like what I have when I haven't slept or have had the rare second beer and wound up with a headache. Huh! Little guy's big enough for bad moods. Who knew?"

I finished off my day of work feeling better. I made a note to be on hand some future time the OT came around and to be sure the kid had a nap first. I ordered a pizza (another Sophomore ritual) and called it a day. 

"One outta two kid," I said as I cut little pieces of pizza off for him, "No beer for you tonight, just milk."

Just to be safe though, I went to the fridge afterwards and counted the two little brown bottles. 

"He is climbing now, and he was in a bad mood..." I thought "you never know." 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Belt Parkway East

I can still remember coming down Route 678 with my wife, then my new girlfriend, years ago for my first meeting with her family. She had a lot of family in Brooklyn and we were making a couple of stops before we reached her Aunt's house on Avenue Z near Batchelder

It was our first road trip together - come to think of it - and we traded off time driving from Boston in her old green Toyota Tercel coupe. It was a long trip and I'd never been to Brooklyn before, so we finally turned the car West onto the Belt Parkway I was relieved.

"Where's your aunt's house?" I asked; I'm a little fastidious about knowing my route to a place. 

"I'll know the exit," she said without concern, "It's a little further up."

I didn't understand her response, but I let it be. She was gazing out the window in a dreamy kind of way, looking like someone who's passing by a place with many memories; seeing and hearing things that are long past. 

I'd always thought of Brooklyn as a very urban place, so when we crossed over into the Sheepshead Bay area and the Hudson River drew closer to the road, I was stunned by how wild and beautiful it was. Seeing that broad river, the gateway to the city, shimmer in the winter sun was an awakening for me. 

There were big, big ships moored or riding on the wide water, and miles of green parks that lined it, and the legions of neighborhood people walking or biking or roller blading along it. The Hudson was an immediate and arresting beauty; one look and I was permanently hooked. 

"All this is a park?" I gasped, looking at the miles and miles of walkways along it's edge. 

"Yup," she said, smiling like someone who's letting you in on an open secret, "Nice isn't it."  

I just gazed out and agreed in silence. I'd never considered living anywhere outside my home state before, but I was starting to get the itch. 

We made a lot of trips down that way as we went from a new couple to engaged to finally married. I never got tired of it, no matter how bad the traffic or onerous the task that we had to perform. I loved that ride. 

I still do. 

"Hey look at that," my wife said as we came down 278 West from the city to the belt parkway today, "It's still quiet."

Today we had another errand on that old stretch of road. There was some family business that I'll not go into now. We had the kids with us and we were heading East, not West, making our way through Manhattan via the Holland and Battery Tunnels.  

I knew my way; had chosen a good route. It can be tricky with the traffic - things can change before you hear about them - but today we had the luck.  

"Good driving," my wife said as we merged into the Belt and drove up towards the Verrazanno Bridge. 

"Look," I said to my daughter, "Look at the beautiful bridge."

I could see her in the rear view mirror gazing out quietly for a moment or two. 

"Is this your favorite bridge Daddy," my daughter asked after a few more moments of quiet thought. She's four years old and apparently, the concept of a favorite has entered her consciousness. 

"I like this bridge," I said, "But this is my favorite road." 

"Oh," she said, considering it for a minute, "Why?"

"It just is," I said, drifting again and thinking that the answer to her question was both near me and all around me, "It just is." 

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Mess

My wife made a lovely dinner tonight of roast chicken and vegetables and bread. Part of our partnership is that when she puts herself out like that, I’ll do the cleaning. It’s a good deal. I eat well. I like to clean too. 

After the meal and the wine, I’ll spend an hour or so putting the kitchen back together and taking out the trash. When the place is looking good, I’ll celebrate with a dish of ice cream and enjoy the feeling of a clean room. I know a kitchen doesn’t stay clean, but it’s still nice to see one for a while. It brings back my sanity - for the moment. 

It lasts until I step out into our dining room and sitting room area and am standing among the toys. Ah, the toys. The toys. The intractable toys. 


Sometimes looking at the sheer number of them makes me feel as if they’ve marched in through the cracks in the walls or out of holes in the floors and ceilings and occupied the house like some fantastic Darwinian breed of beetle.

Dolls, cars, games, balls, trains, kits, blocks, puzzles, Legos, teething rings, a bicycle, a scooter, a soccer ball, a miniature garage, a make believe kitchen stove complete with miniature food, and a legion of stuffed bears and rabbits and alligators and cows. You get the idea. TOYS. 

“Gaa! Ouch!” the little pieces are the worst on bare feet.  

It makes me feel like that awful grumpy mayor from the Santa Clause is Coming to Town Christmas special, Burger Meister Meister Burger, when I have to step gingerly over the toys. 

“Make them illegal! Put them behind bars!” or whatever he says to ban the toys from the village of Sombertown. 

Part of the problem is that any toy that comes as a set (the devils work that) is scattered the minute the cover comes off the box. There is not a single deck of cards, or a puzzle or a kit of blocks that has survived intact. I expect the pieces will be found by the many generations of families that will live here after my kids are grown and off into the world of adults. Perhaps even archeologists of the future will someday descend down on my little future rubble pile (having collapsed under its own weight) to divine the significance of the Polly Pocket pieces, or the Sassy Dolls, or Thomas the Tank Engine trains.  

“What does it all mean!” I can hear my brain shout in bewilderment when I look down at the sheer chaos. Sometimes I say it out loud. 

“Why don’t we get a Roomba?” my wife has suggested several times, meaning the robotic vacuum cleaners that have become popular.

“I think we need a WALL-E,” has been my reply. I’m only partially kidding. 

Most frightening of all is that my children are right at home amid the mess. They just wade in like a couple of otters in a river and frolic and make merry. I can never tell if they simply don’t know any better or if it’s me that’s lost some capacity for living in this state.

And sometimes the mess does get the better of me. 

“Why did you say barn animal?” my daughter asked recently when I suggested that we clean up before the real cows, horses, pigs and sheep left the country and started living with us. Her little confused question told me that I’d taken my angst a little too far. It’s not all that important to be neat. 

I felt bad. It was a sour thing to say. I tried to recover. 

“Daddy’s just being silly,” I said and helped her spill the toys I’d been collecting back on the floor, “Just have fun, Okay?”

She smiled tolerantly and went back to her fun, “Daddy’s silly,” she repeated. She might have patted me on the head. 

At the end of the day I suppose we’re lucky. I’d be sad if we couldn’t afford toys for the kids. We also have a line we keep. We don’t do video games or faux cell phones or computers for the kids - there’ll be plenty of time for that.  

And I’m sure I’ll miss this time someday. We’ll give it all away and find out years later that we relieved ourselves of the only Polly Pocket checkerboard pattern poodle skirt in existence - alas.

But I'm too tired for that cleanup anyhow. Tonight I’ll just head upstairs with the mess intact. The kids will have one less thing to do in the morning when they get up. They can just dive in and have fun. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Moses, the Dishwasher and a Wire Hanger

It must be the way we load the dishwasher that causes it to back up every few weeks. 

I opened it up tonight to find the pan at the bottom of the washer floating with soapy water. It's never a happy sight. 

The first time it happened, I had to wait three days for the GE repairman to arrive and inspect the damage. He was a muscular man - really muscular actually - with great knotted arms and jet black hair. 

"Moses," he said in answer to my greeting. I took that it was his name; I assumed he wasn't kidding me. 

I watched carefully as he disassembled the stalk and the spinning arms of the washer and removed the (all too porous) strainer from the base of the pan. After several minutes of fishing with his thick fingers, he retrieved a round yellow dollar store happy face sticker (still bright and shiny) with a cut piece of asparagus attached to it like a mast to a sail. 

"Kids," he said laconically and put the little trophy on the counter for me to consider while he packed and readied to leave. 

I tipped him heavily (it seemed the only sane thing to do) and took notes on the procedure after he left. 

Since then, after discovering my fingers are shorter than Moses', I've kept an unwound wire hanger from the dry cleaners in the cabinet next to the sink. After the phillips head screwdriver I use to replace the plastic safety catches on the cabinet doors that my son regularly breaks (he's determined), its the most used tool in the house. 

Tonight it took about 5 minutes of angling in the waters to get the hanger to do its work. It always feels like a miracle when the drain kicks in and empties the water. I could swear I hear the angels sing above the sound of the machine. 

And every time I say the exact same little prayer of thankfulness. 

Thank you Moses. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Parent Teachers Night

Tonight was parent teachers night at my daughter's preschool. I was in no mood for it. I didn't feel well - got the virus today (game over). 

I left work early and joined my wife to sit with all the other parents in the same little yellow chairs that our children use during the day. I sniffled and blew my nose and muttered and felt that the thing would not end. 

I might have been elevated to better behavior by a more noble crowd, but some of the other parents were acting like kids too.  

"Click, click, click," was the sound of someone's gum chewing. 

"Tip, tip, tip, tip, tip .... tip," two of my fellow parents were texting each other on their Blackberry's like school kids passing notes. They looked up occasionally at each other to smile or suppress a giggle at some remark. When the night seemed that it might drag on past 8:30 p.m., they both abruptly stood up, holstered their phones, and went out opposite doors. It seemed a little too timed. 

Others were doodling on their notepads or talking in hasty whispers with their spouses or neighbors. Some, like me, were daydreaming; looking up at the ceiling during the boring parts or thinking about something more interesting. 

I suppose I can write off some of it to being sick, but some of it was just immature. 

"Mr. Sexton!" was what my history teacher would say loudly, while bringing a thickly rolled pile of paper down sharply on my desk. It wasn't mean - it was a reminder to be attentive, to use my wits. It was his method for dealing with the likes of me. It worked. I probably still love history because of that fierce will of his. 

"This matters!" was the message. I guess I needed to hear it. 

It's one of my faults - daydreaming indulgently at the wrong moments. And when the mood is stirred (as it was tonight) it's like a kind of irreverent return to youth; a joyride. It's as if that part of me that never left the classroom is still sitting there watching the wall clock like it was a tectonic plate that was moving on a geological scale. 

And my daughter's teacher may have detected that fault tonight as well. 

"And Miss Sexton...." she suddenly began out of another thread that she'd been speaking on. She'd caught me drifting off. She pulled me back. 

"What?!" my brain woke up in a heartbeat, "Miss Sexton - who's that?!" 

She was telling a story about my kid at school.  She'd caught my attention fully. 

It made me remember that my little girl is excited at the thought of her parents meeting her teacher, at seeing her classroom, at sitting in her chair. For her this is not a dull couple of ours at the end of a long day in a busy week - it's important. This is her work - it's serious business for a kid. I sat up. I stopped being a kid. I started to listen. I remembered it was important.  

"Daddy, did you see my teacher last night," is the question that I went to answer. 

I gave up any thought of leaving early. We stayed the duration. I listened to every question. I tried to pull my act together and associate each parent's face with a child's name so I could talk with my daughter about her play dates intelligently. I went back to being responsible. 

I don't know for sure if the teacher meant for this to happen, but I'm glad for it either way. 

I'm also glad that my daughter has such a sharp woman managing her during the day. Her methods are a little softer than my history teachers, but if my kid is in any way like me in a classroom, she'll need the occasional reminder to stay on task.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Creature Double Feature

When I was a kid, I used to spend Saturday afternoons at my best friend Kevin’s house for the Creature Double Feature on UHF Channel 56

Kevin lived four doors down from me. Kevin and his brother Tim and I would sit in their television den and watch that old program from Noon until 4 p.m. Every Godzilla or Rodan or Space Alien film ever made would re-run for those four hours. We had soda and peanuts and made predictions about who the monster would get next. 

“I bet it’s the General ... No. No. No. It’s the blonde lady .... No. I think it’s the scientist .. It can’t be the scientist - they need him to say where the monster came from ...,” we’d go on and on and never get tired of it. The more attacks and the more victims the more fun to watch and to guess. 

Right now I’m pretty sure the next victim is me. 

My son caught a virus over the weekend. He’s passed it to my wife. I know I’m next. I can feel it on the back of my neck like lightning breath or a sonic attack or a beak thrust. It’s going to be bad. 

This feeling of expectant sickness is most awful because it makes me dread the things I usually love most. 

“Thank you for my tea,’ my poor sick wife said to me earlier and gave me a kiss. It was delightful. I’m also sure is the reason I’m sneezing now. 

“Just like pod attacks,” I’m thinking, “Even the woman you love could be a danger.” 

Either that or the little wet nosed hug that my son gave me when I picked him up to take him to bed. 

“That’s it,” I thought, “The death ray. I’m done for.”

I dread getting sick. I’m an unabashed baby about it. I just can’t be sick. No way. Can’t stand it. I also can't do a thing about it. 

I remember being sick a lot as a kid, and then again as a teenager. And then as an adult (before children) I remember one or two colds a year. I got my flu shot annually and took care of myself. 

But for the last few years with my son and daughter, it’s been one long string of different viruses - seven or eight a year. I feel like I used to feel when we had to go cloths shopping for elementary school. Each new virus feels like one of the many pairs of Sears Toughskin Jeans my mother used to make me try on. It just goes on and on. Ugh!

I know. I know. I’m washing my hands. I had chicken broth for dinnner. I’m taking my vitamin C and an omega tablet my wife has convinced me will help (despite the fact that it didn’t help her). I’m also on Airborne - something a friend recommended to me. But these preventive remedies feel like those faulty force fields that the creature from The Forbidden Planet somehow penetrates. It’s all in vain.

“Get some rest,” my wife said to me just a few moments ago as I stopped up with some toast and water. 

She’s probably right. I’m sure the rest will help more than anything. I’ll stop being a baby and go to bed. 

And in a day or so, I’ll either still be healthy or be outright sick and won’t mind as much. But for now, I’m examining every little odd feeling or sneeze as if I were in a dark labyrinth and using all my senses to detect the approach of the dark unknown creature that lurks there. 

“Show yourself!” I want to say and brandish my ray gun, “Stop playing with me!” 

But like a good monster film, the creature never does. It just appears behind the victim suddenly for a candid toothy close up for the delight and horror of the viewers. And then .... 

Tune in over the next few days. I’ll let you know if I get caught or survive. 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Captain's Log

Date:  20 September 2009

Time:  2:55 a.m. 

Weather: Cool and dark, dry and quiet

Situation restless child tonight. My son's nose is running and the child just won't sleep. My wife has been up twice already but the boy doesn't want to be alone. 

My head's a little light but I've had a few hours sleep. Kathy Mattea's playing on the kitchen radio - her deep steady voice is gently belting out the lines: 

"You got to sing, like you don't need the money,
You got to love, like you'll never get hurt,
You got to dance, dance, dance, like nobody's watching ..." 

My son is eating marbled white and yellow cheddar cheese and making happy noises and letting out terrific sneezes. 

"Mmmaaa, mmmaaa .... aaaachoooo!" or something like that - I think he's just loving the fact that he's not confined to his crib. 

I danced with him a little to a more rocking song, 455 Rocket. I do little spins with him and he goes crazy. 

This is so much better than it used to be when he couldn't be comforted; so much better than when my wife and I would trade off hours and test our sanity as he cried without remission. Back then, not that long ago really, we just held on with the hope that it would end: The crying would stop, the sleepless nights would subside, the boy would find some comfort - this is much better. 

In a little bit, I'll put him back in his crib with a bottle of cold milk - a practice our dentist has decried. Sorry Dr. Stern... 

Soon now, we'll steer this ship back up closer to the stars on the upper story of the house. I'll try singing to the little guy and hope he'll drop off. There's still enough time for a few hours of sleep before the alarm goes off for work. 

My little guy is alternating rubs on his nose and his eyes now. Kathy's singing "Dance a little closer to me, dance a little closer now, dance a little closer tonight..." The house is calm. 

I'm sure I'll reminisce about these moments someday. Someday when I'm getting more sleep and the boy is in grade school and won't wake up for us in the morning. For tonight, I'll take my own comfort in Kathy's voice, the quiet night and the little happy sounds of my son. 

That and the thought that we're just captain and first mate on the overnight watch of a great ship at sea. The waters were a bit restless, but the ship is steady and the stars are bright. 

Captain's time, 3:37 a.m. 


Saturday, September 19, 2009


I took my daughter for her first swim lesson today. We signed her up at the neighborhood YMCA for the parent/child class on Saturdays. I put her in the car and we found a spot a couple of blocks off the Y building on Washington street. 

"Where's the beach," my daughter asked seriously as we approached the entrance. It took some time for me to explain that we would not be going to the ocean - she'd never been in a pool before. Swimming water inside a building was a new one on her.  

Our YMCA has a pool very similar to the one I took lessons in as a kid. It's in the basement of the building with just a thin set of windows on one side of the pool near the ceiling. There are tiled stairs that lead up from either side to the mens and women's locker rooms. 

"I'll make a pool at home for my bear," she said matter of factly when she saw the indoor pool, looking it up and down appraisingly, "I'll do it when I get home."

"Note to self," I thought internally at that moment, "Shut off the main water valve when we get home."

Teenagers in red suits marshaled the kids and parents through the drills. There was a lot to do. Most of the drills involved the parents holding the child while they got accustomed to being in the water. 

"Daddy, I'm doing it," my daughter said delightedly as I held her and she kicked and pulled with her arms. 

 After the instructor - a girl really - coaxed my daughter to release her vice grip on my neck, she did very well. She ended up having a lot of fun. 

"Again," she laughed at the end of the lesson, "Put me up for a jump."

It was hard to get her out. We celebrated with hot dogs and fries at the Johnny Rockets down the end of town. She was so tired from the water that by the time we got home she was sound asleep. She napped for nearly two hours. 

"Wow," my wife commented with a quiet bright smile as I carried her in the house and up to her bed. She said nothing else for fear of waking our daughter, but gave me a double thumbs up as I mounted the stairs. 

I remember that feeling as a kid. Getting so caught up in the fun that you forgot yourself and became so fatigued that you slept as if you were under a mountain or at the bottom of an ice berg. Exhaustion. Sleep. Bliss. 

Watching her exhaust herself today and sleep that gentle sleep was like watching joy. It was so powerful an experience for her that I think some of it may have rubbed off. That I've caught the feeling from my daughter like one of the many virus's that she and my son have passed to us. Or maybe its that I'm just as equally tired by the water and holding her in it - my muscles do ache. 

But there is something though that's different about the tired I feel tonight. It's a heavy tiredness, like the hazy weight that too much wine and food put on you. It's also a tiredness without angst or pain - feelings that almost always accompany a hard day on the job. I wish I felt this feeling more. 

I won't make it much longer tonight. The desire to sleep is almost as overpowering as the feelings that come with new love; compelling and desirous. Like my kid, I'll probably be asleep the minute my head hits the pillow.  

It's a shame in a way. I'd like to understand this a little more. I'd like to know how to get it back; find the formula that brings me to this place. But I suppose if I knew the way, it would stop being so wonderful. 

Good night. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


This morning I almost lost it. 

Both my son and daughter were up early - this prevented a morning run as the running stroller only accommodates one. My wife had been up late with my son and I didn’t want to wake her until I had to leave. I was alone ... and the kids wouldn’t stop. 

“Eeehhh!” my son sounds like a hybrid old man baby when he does this. He was in a mood where he did not want to be put down. The sound came out like an alarm clock every time he was put on the floor or left alone in his chair. 

My daughter was dragging her Thomas the Tank Engine toy around the first floor. The MUSICAL one. The one that has permanently seared the Thomas MUSICAL theme across the top of the theme library in my brain. Sometimes, I admit, Thomas feels like a friend - this was not one of those times. 

This was just the beginning. The two of them were off to a fabulous start. I was not. 

I was trying to keep an eye on my email from work - lots of things going on - do some laundry (I was out of socks), pack a lunch, feed my kids and  try to find a clean shirt. My kids were doing everything they could to prevent these activities from completing. 

“Daddy! He took my toy!” my daughter whined every few minutes. 

I’m afraid I didn’t sympathize much. I interceded only when it looked like trouble would escalate further. 

I feel, when I’m caught between the kid's needs and a timed deadline, like a man running out of a fire and into a pool with pirana. My head just reels with frustration and I want so, so much, just to let it fly. 

“But sweetheart, you asked me for Cheerios,” I pleaded with my daughter some time later, who was refusing to eat or get out of her pajamas and into school cloths. She was more interested in scooping her brother’s toys out of his hands. 

“Eeehhh! Eeehh!” came his little siren of anger and bewilderment. 

I looked up at the clock periodically and watched as my DROP-DEAD-LINE-IN-THE-SAND-CANT-GO-A-MINUTE-LATER-THAN-TO-BE-NO-MORE-THAN-TEN-MINUTES-LATE-TIME crept up and passed by. 

When I next looked down my daughter was plucking the Cheerios out of her milk and trying to feed them to her stuffed bear.

“Okay,” I said and heard my voice start to get sharper, “More Cheerios for YOU please.”

I wanted to shout. Not at the kids per se - even when I’m frustrated, I know they’re just kids - but at the ceiling. 

“How did I get here,”  I asked myself in little less bewilderment than my son has when a toy is taken out of his hands, “What has happened to my life?!!!”

And I know as I say this internally that there have been tougher days. That today is a much tougher day for someone. That today may be one of the toughest days of someone’s life somewhere. 

I thought about it. I accepted. I tried to make the best of it. 

“Eh,” I said into the voice mail that I addressed to all my peers at work, “This is Dave. I’m... um ... running a little late. I can be reached by cell.”

I wrapped up as quickly as a could. I held it together. I didn’t yell. I may have threatened to pack broccoli as a lunch for my daughter if she didn’t eat her Cheerios - but that’s as far as it went. 

Finally, we were ready. I woke my wife and got ready to leave. 

“I love you Daddy,” my daughter had the nerve to say when I finally picked up my bag and made for the door, “Daddy, I love you.”

I looked down at her - that little cute face - and knew that God made kids really, really cute for a reason. I tousled her hair and blew her a kiss. I said goodbye to my son and my wife and fired up the car. 

I stopped at my favorite shop for some strong coffee and put on City Folk morning on WFUV and let out some big sighs on the car ride in. I was on my way, a half hour late, but on my way. I felt better. 

This morning I nearly lost it. I’m glad it was only nearly. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Block

One thing I love about the block  where we live is that it’s unique. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else like it to tell you the truth. Not in Boston, or New York or Philadelphia or the many other east coast cities I’ve visited or lived in. Maybe there’s something like it in another part of the world, but I’ve not seen one in my travels yet. Even in a town of historic brownstones and varied row houses, we’re different. 

“Oh!” a policeman I’d met recently said to me, “You live in the little houses.”

We were serving jury duty together in Jersey City, and I’d only gotten a few lines in about the place before a light of happy recognition came into his eyes: 

“One of the oldest blocks in Hoboken ... cobblestone street ... used to be the workman’s houses for Stevens Institute ...”

BINGO. He knew it. He could picture it. It was like discovering a mutual friend or distantly related cousin - we had something in common. He let me talk about the block all through the lunch hour. He didn’t get tired of asking questions. 

Mostly he wanted to know if they were really as small as they looked. 

“About twelve feet across,” I said, “and three stories up - there’s no backyard.”

He acknowledged with a shake of his head that was small. 

“Don’t think I could live like that,” he said wanly, “Too small.” 

It’s not an unusual reaction. Most people love to look at our house - we get people who stop and stare at the block all the time. But it’s usually just that - looking only. This place can be just as small as it looks; and just as inconvenient. 

But when my wife and I were looking for a home ,we’d passed over the newer units and the brownstones (which we couldn’t afford) for this place. We bought it after just one look. You might even say it was meant to be. 

“Someday, I’m going to live there,” my wife had reputedly said to her brother years ago. 

My wife likes to tell the story of how she used to walk by our block as a young woman just out of college. 

She and her brother shared an apartment in those days with some other friends. It would be years still before I’d meet her in my hometown of Boston, and even more years still before we’d move back to New Jersey and save enough for a down payment, but with just one look at those little cozy row houses - with their imperfect, patch quilt look - she fell in love.  

“Put in an offer,” she said the night we sat down to dinner after seeing it for the first time. 

We did. We never looked back. 

Making the dream come true didn’t lessen her love of the place either. We’ve found that the appeal goes well beyond the looks. We’ve gotten to know practically everyone around us in one way or another. There are people on our block who have lived here since childhood. There are also many people who have come her as adults. And their are children - lots of children - which makes the summer days and evenings full of wonderful sounds. 

Not that it’s perfect - there are many inconveniences. 

We’re just a block over from a popular pub in town and every Saturday night many of the patrons stagger, sing or shout their way down our block. Parking is limited and for those of us who live on the block, we often have to grit our teeth when we miss the last parking spot to a fellow resident. Also, the city doesn’t plow our street in the winter either (I'm told it's the cobblestones) and the cars will often sit for days before the snow melts sufficiently for the to be moved.

But I think that’s what makes the times that we share the fun that much more enjoyable; evening parties, get togethers with the kids, helping an older neighbor or shoveling out a stuck car. You just can’t stay a stranger. You have to join in. 

But there are other challenges. 

It’s also going to be tough for my son when he’s old enough to walk - three flights of stairs. Depending on our luck with his walking and balance, we don’t know if we’ll be able to stay. When it comes down to it, we may have to choose between all the little friends that he and my daughter share and the prospect of a house with a single floor and a back yard. I’m not looking forward to that choice. I’m glad it’s a little way in the future. I’m not ready to leave. I love so much about our life right now. 

It's quiet now. I like our block best at night when things have quieted down. There’s a little noise but not too much. 

It’s so different from the quiet country like suburb that I grew up in. So much more life and noise, even at rest. I feel, sometimes, like we’re living in another time when the lights are down and the sounds of people come through the dark. I turn out our own lights and try to imagine this city in its past; or any city or place where many people lived together. I think about the people who’ve lived here and will live here when we’re gone. 

Sometimes I think it’s more than a place to live; more than a home even. Sometimes I think our block is a memory. It's like the long, long memory of someone whose lived their own way. And when I step out of the main road and onto our block I’m carried to that distant and unique place. 

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Royal Treatment

I realized tonight that there’s one member of our family that I’ve not written about - our cat Maggie. If Maggie could read (and use the internet), my safety would be in great danger by now. 

“How is it David,” I can hear her say in my imagination, “That you can write at great length about everyone else in the village, and not say one word about the MONARCH in your midst. I COMMAND a post - make me sound majestic!” 

It’s not much of an exaggeration. Our little black and white short hair cat is the one imperial presence in our midst. There are times when she passes gracefully by that I could swear I hear the flutter of purple robes and smell the scent of rose petals beneath her little paws. 

She is also the most self assured little spirit that I've ever met. 

“Neh,” is what I typically hear out of a sleepy dream when the cat is looking for attention. 

“Neh,” and the swish of a little tail across my brow. She’ll often sit by my head as I sleep and nonchalantly whack me in the face with her tail until I wake. 

“Oh, you’re awake,” her little green eyes seem to say to my groggy bewilderment, “How convenient, please rub my head.”

I grew up in a family that kept dogs, so when I met my wife and came to know her cat, it was something of a paradigm shift for me. 

“Such a promising servant,” I suspect she said to herself when I fed her, or clipped her nails, or took her to the vet, or brushed her fur in the spring when she started to lose her winter coat, “I do hope he stays.”

After 10 years, I expect that she considers me fully trained. 

I’ll try to include Maggie in some of my posts. The kids are just gaga in love with her. They follow her all over the house like little preschool groupies. When she’s not awaiting services from my wife and me she’s a good companion. Our house is never lonely. 

Living with her is also the closest thing I’ve known to living with a movie star or a member of the royal house or the last daughter of an imperial dynasty. She’s the exalted one, exiled in the land of capitalism and democracy; exiled, but still eminent and proud. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Little Help

Today was an especially troubling day at work. There were several tough conversations - polite fights; just rubber bullets - no live ammo. Part of me knows that conflicts are inevitable at this time of year; people are returning from vacations and are not happy about it. But knowing it’s inevitable doesn’t make the individual tough day any easier. 

The hardest part is trying to shake it off. Trying to find that thing that will put those unpleasant moments in context and help me to regroup. 

Under normal circumstances I can do this on the ride home. i’ll grab a hot cup of coffee from a Dunkin’ Donuts’ near the highway and put on some of my favorite tunes. 

Tonight I went through David Gray, Billy Bragg, Reckless Kelly, the Indigo Girls and Shawn Colvin without so much as a dent in my feelings. Loud or soft, rocking or folksy, I looked in vain for the notes or the voice that would coax the little monkey off my shoulder. Nothing. 

I thought about trying a beer or a glass of wine when I got in, but these day I pay a heavy price the next day for even a single glass of wine - HEADACHES! I weighed the cost against the benefit and decided to try a shower instead. That helped a little. So did the nice dinner of payaya that my wife had prepared. 

“Glad you enjoyed it,” she said lightly, “Hope you feel better.” 

I did, but I was still bothered. I think too much time at work does that. It gets me into the mood that all my worth is judged by my performance there. It makes me worry that if I fail there, I fail all together. I thought maybe I’d have a look in on the kids to try to put things in perspective. 

My son was already asleep when I got home. I went up to check in on him and that helped a bit. He’s so peaceful when he sleeps. He looks like a little puppy curled up on a pillow. It’s a help just to listen to his soft breaths. 

“Read me this story, Daddy,” my daughter said when I came down to check on her afterwards. She was still awake and excited from school. She opened a big volume of collected Thomas the Tank Engine stories. It’s a big red book with a blue satin bookmark sewn onto it. I love that book. It reminds me of the books I used to have when I was a boy. 

“Why is Toby stuck,” she asked when we reached a point in the story where Toby the old fashioned work engine runs out of water for his steam engine. 

“There was a new signalman,” I said, “He sent Toby on to the next station without a drink. He didn’t know Toby would get stuck.” 

“Oh,” she said, and I sensed that she wasn’t satisfied with the answer. 

“Toby just wasn’t lucky today,” I said, “But his friends are helping him.”

I think you can guess that this is when I figured out what I needed to do. After my kid was asleep I gave a call to one of my good friends up in Boston. Just hearing their voice was enough. 

We talked for maybe ten minutes. We had planned to get together soon and this provided something to talk about besides my worries. It got me thinking of good times again; of people who just like to hang out with us, with me. It was like rain on wilted tomato plant. I felt worlds better. 

“I still have friends,” I thought when I said goodnight and let them go, “It’s not so bad.” 

It’s not so bad at all. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Quick Parent Moment

Just a quick post tonight. Work took most of my day today. Everyone is back from vacation and eager to get going on the work to be done this fall - no time to snooze. 

I got a very small window of time to share with my daughter today before her first day of preschool. I'd worried that she'd resist going back. I didn't need to worry. 

"Daddy, where's my lunch box?" I heard around 7 a.m. this morning as I got back from a jog. 

My daughter was standing at the top of the stairs in her pajamas and holding her teddy bear. It was just one of those moments that shines up out of an otherwise ordinary day like a lost diamond earring. She just sparkled. 

"She's napping," my wife said when I called around 4 p.m. "She had a great day at school."

I thought about that little face all day and well into my evening. It was late when I finally got home and I had just a little time to sit with her while she got ready for bed. 

I wish I could have been there to see her off. I'm know my wife was there, but it must have been wonderful. Seeing her at the end of today was a little like coming out of a dark building into the red light of a lovely sunset; you know it must have been a beautiful day. 

She's such a good kid. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not a Clue

I'm sometimes tempted to feel as if we are in things alone - that we're the only ones who can help. It's a silly thought - we get help all the time - but it comes up very frequently. 

I think packing the family up at my mother in law's house tonight put me in that go it alone mindset. 

It was late. The kids were approaching their meltdown points. I was in a hurry. I began to feel like a pioneer in a wagon train on the prairie amid many threats; I had to keep the family safe - get them home. I was tired myself and probably a getting a little loopy. 

This urgent feeling was only heightened by the fact that we'd had a nice day. It's a struggle to handle the let down when the fun is over. 

My son seemed to be in the worst shape. 

"Eeeehhhh!" was the sound that came out of my boy like a wounded trumpet. It came out about every three seconds. 

As the ride proceeded, that sound became harder to endure. I could almost see the sound in my imagination, like a minute invisible sledge hammer. That little hammer pounded away on my will and reason until they began to crack. I could feel sanity slipping away.  

"Daaaaaddddddyyyyyy! Make him stop!" my daughter began ... and continued. 

Soon the two of them were working up an impromptu musical canon; sounding off one another every few seconds or so. 

At this point both my wife and I went into what I think of as kitchen sink mode; we went through a long exhaustive list of things that might be irritating or could potentially sooth my son. 

"Did you pack a bottle ... Is there a toy ... do you think he's got a diaper ... are there any Cheerios in the car ... I thought you packed his bottle ... how old is that bag of pretzels ... give him a binki (pacifier) ... try singing to him ... roll down the window ... where the hell are his toys ... you always forget ... I think we're out ... maybe he'll tire himself out ... you've got to be kidding... oh just pull over .... not there .... watch out you almost hit that guy..."

It's not as luckless an approach as it sounds. In some cases, we'll hit on the source of the issue with a few guesses. It's kind of like those tech support lines that ask the basics first - ..."is the device plugged into an outlet ... with power;" we'll strike the solution purely through the law of probability. 

But other times (like tonight) it's not that easy, and we're on the equivalent of the 45 minute wait for the upper level support team - hoping the line does not get cut. 

"Mommy, I want my teddy bear," my daughter said. 

"Uhga!" my wife said and put her hands over her face. My daughter's bear was 30 minutes away at that point, waiting at our home. 

And as I hear my wife's exhaustion and feel resignation creeping into my own mindset, somewhere at the back of my brain, a suspicion begins to mutter softly that maybe, just maybe, I died this morning in my sleep and I'm now on my way to a very bad place. 

It was just these dark thoughts were tugging at me seductively that the luck changed. 

"Eeee ooohh, eee ooohh," my son chimed out suddenly and clearly. 

We all went cold and quiet.

"That was a new sound," I said hopefully. 

"Wait, wait," my wife said, with urgency and hope coming back into her voice, "That's Old MacDonald."

It was like being utterly lost and suddenly seeing a familiar landmark. 

She began the song, and my daughter and I joined in. 

The crying stopped. The panic subsided. We started to laugh. The rest of the ride was peaceful - even joyful. A miracle. 

Even now as I write, the kids are settled into their rooms. The house is clean and I'm eying a apple pie that my wife brought home from her mother's (a nice surprise). 

I don't know clearly what turned things around for us tonight. I know it wasn't me. I don't think it was my wife or daughter either. Strangely enough, I think my son took a hand in his own care.  That through all the efforts to comfort him, he just suddenly understood, pulled the right idea out of his own head and - literally - sang it out. He grew up a little - very quickly. 

It's a thought (true or not) that reminds me that sometimes I don't have a clue; that someone else, even a small someone else, is better equipped to fix a problem than me. That maybe tonight, and hopefully more in the future, my kids may start to take care of themselves a little bit at a time.  

It may even be that the kids are bringing me home safely - though I did not know it. 

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mouse in a Maze

I dread the mail. 

We’re pretty good about staying current with the bills. Regular Bills I can pick out easily, pay, and be done with it - old hat. But the medical billing is another story. It makes me mad. I tend to stay away from things that make me mad when I can help it. When I can’t help it I get madder. 

It’s been over a month and a half since I last took on the pile of medical and insurance statements and organized them into files. It used to be I could tackle a task like that in an hour or so. This time it took me six hours (over three days) to sort the two grocery bags of envelopes into a rudimentary order. I feel like I’ve just finished mowing the lawn for every house in the neighborhood - I’m tired. 

And I’m not  done yet. Here’s what I have done:   

  1. Get up really early (for three days - Ugh!). 
  2. Make a big pot of coffee. 
  3. Open the mail cabinet - actually it looks like more of one of those bird's nests made of scavenged trash. 
  4. Grab piles of mail and just stuff everything into used grocery bags (no order). 
  5. Clear the dining room table of toys, crumbs, magazines, junk...
  6. Sit down and sort into the following piles: 

  • Insurance Statements
  • Medical Bills Paid
  • Medical Bills needing to be paid
  • Regular Bills that were misplaced. 
  • Personal correspondence misplaced. 
  • My daughters impromptu art projects that I don’t have the heart to throw away.  
  • The Runner’s World magazine from April that I never saw arrive

On Thursday at 8 a.m., when I reached the bottom of the pile, and had opened the last envelope, I stopped. I just couldn’t make myself go through the next round of the process - paying the unpaid bills and validating the re-imbursements (steps #7 and beyond). That will have to be next week. I was just not up to it. 

I put the piles into files and the files into a box. I put the box in the closet and closed the door. 

The whole process is tough, but the next part is what I dread the most. It’s not paying the bills - I’m okay with that part. I’ve been paying bills my whole life. It’s like working, or doing the laundry, or mopping the floor; necessary. It’s looking through and making sure that insurance is paying me. I get so disgusted when I see re-imbursements languish. I get so angry when I have to call and argue with two or three or four people and their manager to get them to release funds. It just doesn’t seem fair. 

I know we’re lucky to be insured. I see the unadjusted bills - the numbers are SCARY! I try to imagine what it would be like to look at those numbers without an adjusted number next to it. It's sort of like how I feel when I compare the difficulties of my life to those of someone whose living in a war zone - I just should not complain. 

But I can’t help feeling that this process is a game. That I’m a little mouse in a maze. That we’re all just little mice in our own mazes. 

I won’t pretend to understand the health care debate. I’ve read about it and listened to National Public Radio (I’m a card carrying member); but I haven’t the foggiest idea what the right thing to do is. I just know that when I look at those bills and argue with those people, I feel like I used to feel with the phone company, or the airlines, or an auto dealership - when these folks had power. I feel (and felt) like a peasant. 

I have to say that I would pay a little more, even more than a little more, if I knew I was getting a fair shake - if I wasn’t at war with an army of accountants and lawyers and billing specialists. If I could just pay my bill and be done with it, I’d pay a little more. 

If this were the case, I’d be done at step #6. I’d be done and wouldn’t have to pick a week to be my angry week. 

I hope they do that medical bill right. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Spend the Time

Tonight when I got home the house was empty. The lights were down and the carriage was missing. I was surprised at this for a moment but then recalled my wife telling me that she would be with the kids for an event in town. I put my work bag down and wondered what to do with myself. 

“We’re with Elizabeth and her Mom,” my wife said when I called impulsively to check in, “Don’t worry, we’re having a great time. Home within the hour.”

I put down the phone and stood looking around. I was startled to realize I could relax for a few minutes and had no idea how to spend the time. I felt a little guilty to tell the truth. Part of me feels like I should not miss any time with them - though I know this is impossible for anyone. 

I sat down to a light dinner of leftover Gazpacho soup (did I mention my wife is a good cook) and crackers (did I mention I’m on a diet). I thought about the kids out having fun and it made me miss them. It made me think how much goes on in their life that I don’t see everyday. Sometimes they seem to change even over the course of a single day; It’s like waking up suddenly to find a flower in bloom where it had been a tight closed bud the night before.

Some of my closest friends at work are the same way. 

“Gotta coach a game tonight,” a colleague of mine had said to me earlier in the day with a big smile. He’s a warm guy with a shock of white hair and an easy friendly way about him. He reminds me of some of my best coaches growing up - just an irrepressible love of activity and of kids. I think he must be a lot of fun for the kids he coaches. 

He went on to talk to me about the season they were having and their prospects. He seemed to know not just his own team, but all the members of the team they would be playing as well. It wasn’t the knowledge of a competitive coach. It was the knowledge of a teacher who’s kept an eye on the lower grades. It was easy to see he couldn’t wait to get out there. 

I envy him a little in this. He’s worked for years to ensure he gets his time in with his children. It doesn’t matter the season or the weather; he’s out there with them two or three nights each week for sports. It’s important to him. It’s fun time that his children will probably always remember. And he’s taken a job that allows him to keep very early hours so he can do this - it’s commendable.  

I listened to him and I wondered what my own kids were doing: out on a play date, napping, playing quietly, driving their mother crazy, or maybe lonely or bored. I think of the couple of weeks I had with them everyday on vacation and wish it could be more. 

I was still thinking about lost time when my wife and kids came bustling into the house with our friends in tow. For a few minutes there was just the return of blessed noise and life. I greeted our guests and took my son up in my arms. Seeing them and hearing their little piping voices was more refreshing than any food. I guess I'd been lonely. 

“We had spaghetti,” my daughter said running up to me - she was wearing some on her cloths, “It was good.”

I smiled and gave her a careful hug.

We sat and let them play and chatted with our friends until the sky darkened.  

“Help them with a bath?” my wife asked hopefully when our guests had left. I agreed and took the kids for their nightly cleaning. She went for a short break. 

My little guy went down to bed quickly after his bath. My daughter stayed up for a bit, playing and looking at her books (got to start her reading soon). This is quiet time I get to spend with them. I’m glad I get it. There are times in my job when I don’t get home early enough. This last spring there were two months when I did not take a weekend off. I know I’m lucky to see them each night like this.  

And I don’t know any other way to do it. I’ve got to work - no lottery winnings yet.

Despite that though, I'm determined to see of much of my children as I can. I don’t know if I’ll coach them someday like my buddy does. I’ve never been much of an athlete. Probably, I’ll find some other way to spend time with them that’s more natural to me; something that we can share for the few years they’re likely to want that. Kids grow up eventually. 

I look in on my children when the house is sleeping and quiet. They’re peaceful and safe and it’s wonderful to see them like this. I know in a few hours they’ll be up earlier than I want and bouncing off the walls. I know I’m not always happy about that. But I hope I can be there for it just the same. There’s so much I have to miss; I want to be there for what I can.