Monday, November 30, 2009

Under the Weather

My little guy is sick today. He’s got a cough and a light fever and a runny nose. 

He’s a little out of it too, but I don’t think he’s figured that part out. He just goes on making noise and throwing toys like there was nothing wrong. It’s just that every few minutes he draws his forearm roughly across his little nose and face reactively and looks up with some confusion afterwards like he’d been struck by a wayward soccer ball. 

“What the ... what’s up with my nose?” he  seems to be thinking, his little weary eyes looking up at me appealingly, “Can you do something about this Dad?”

I’ve picked him up out of the crib once already tonight to give him some children’s Tylenol and a sippy cup with water. He sat on my knee too for 20 minutes or so watching Harry Potter on DVD while the medicine took effect. He’s back in his crib now, sleeping lightly. 

I worry as much as anybody when either one of my kids is sick. They’re both so young. There both so precious to me. My head fills with awful irrational fears that they’ve caught something serious; even though my rational self (and his continued appetite) tells me otherwise. 

“What if it is something serious?” I think and try to put those thoughts aside. 

“You’ll know if it’s serious,” a voice tells me, “You won’t be guessing.”

I think this must be a common feeling among new parents, the worry over every little illness. The little twinge I feel every time I hear one of those loud coughs disrupt the night and pull me out of the light sleep that’s settled on me. 

For him, I imagine, this is probably not a big deal. I’m sure it’s annoying, but he looks more confused than uncomfortable or really sick. 

“This?” I hear him say to my imaged worry in our imagined conversation, “This?! This ain’t nothin’! I’m fine.”

But I think it is easier being the one worried about sometimes than the one who worries. 

When I have these moments of angst, I can remember being a boy and waiting up with my mother for my father to return home from work. Some of the nights were dark and wintery and some of the waits were long (there were no cell phones back then). My mom, I could tell, was nervous and it rubbed off on me. I wanted the wait to be over. I didn't like the new fears that something might be wrong. 

“If only I was with Dad in the car,” I remember thinking at the time, “Then I wouldn’t have to worry. I’d know.” 

The thought seemed to comfort me a little at the time, though I still had no idea when he’d be home. I wish I could capture some of that comfort tonight. I wish I could feel like I was with my little guy in that car too. 

But maybe that’s what happens when you have kids of your own - you can’t go back to that place with them. Maybe it’s only them who can see ahead to where you are. Maybe that’s one of the gifts that  life gives to the very young; that inscrutable comfort that the imagination provides. I know I can’t find it tonight. 

I hope he feels better tomorrow. I know I’ll sleep better when he’s breathing easy again. But I’ll just have to wait by the window and look out at the snow and wonder when he’ll come in out from under the weather. 

Sleep well little man. I'll be up listening for you. 

Good night. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful Days

As I put my head down to rest last night I listened to the unfamiliar sounds at the home of my wife's mother: The furnace, the creaking of the cross beams on the second floor, the occasional hum of a neighbors car, my wife tapping on the computer downstairs or laughing at something she'd read or seen on television; the sounds of the day letting go into rest. 

And my own thoughts for my family, my friends, my work, my dreams came in and out of my inner sight like guests at a celebration; in and out of the flickering light of a nighttime affair. More even than at the new years day, I think of the past year on Thanksgiving. I think all the way back to being a child and wondering what it meant to be thankful. 

This year, I know, will stand tall among the years in my life. There are many things to remember. There is much to be thankful for. Here are the things that I am most thankful for: 

  • That my son's condition is known and that he is better and we are better at helping him. 
  • That my daughter is healthy and full of delight and a good big sister. 
  • For my wonderful wife; my heart, my love, my reason. 
  • To be still employed in such financial turmoil and to be doing work that I am proud of. 
  • For President Obama and to be a citizen of this country who elected him. 
  • For Dawn Zimmer, our new mayor of Hoboken - you also give me hope. 
  • For my great neighborhood and the caring people who make it our home. 
  • For everyone whose encouraged me to write, and to Lisa Belkin who let me guest blog on Motherlode and Louise Kinross who let me guest write on Bloom.  
  • For every act of kindness I received and gave. 
  • For good therapists and doctors and nurses and counselors and advocates. 
  • To be healthy. 
  • To have the use of my wits and faculties, and the will to use them well. 
  • For all the teachers I encountered. 
  • For my grandmothers who look over me and my uncle Harry and Aunt Agnes who were like grandparents to me. 
  • For the family that raised me and the one that I joined. 
  • For Richard and Shelia and everyone whose needed help in the hospital this year. 
  • For all the writers who inspired me and taught me and educated me. 
  • For all the moms and dads who visit my blog and encourage me. 
  • For my brother's PhD. and my sister's efforts to found a school. 
  • For another year to be kind and hardworking and helpful and full of hope. 
There's too much to list really. It makes me wonder why I complain so much or ever think my days are bitter. 

Please share what you're thankful for if you have a moment. 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


My wife took my daughter out for a diner dinner and a movie on Monday. I'm on vacation this week, so we're treating everyone a little. My daughter calls these nights "Strawberry Dates," because she loves strawberries so much she can't imagine a date being a date without a strawberry. 

So the two of them packed up in their warm coats and after a couple of false starts that involved looking for my daughter's favorite toys that she needed to carry in her coat pocket, they were off. This left me with the boy... the boys were left alone ... hmmm, what to do? 

"More," my son interrupted my over thinking and answered the question. 

He was holding up two nicely hefted wooden disks that go with some toy or other of the fitting together type. One was blue and the other yellow, the former slightly larger than the latter. 

"More!" he said with more emphasis and offered me the larger disk, his eyes looking at the two disks as if they were baseballs and this the first day of spring. 

Now ever since my older cousin Dan has shown my son that round objects can spin, my little guy has pursued the art with much the same mania as some golfers I've known. He just loves to spin things. And he enjoys this sport even more when he has a partner. 

I obliged him and sat down and let the blue one rip. 

"Wheee!" he shouted appreciably and set the yellow one to spin next to it. 

Now my son doesn't have many words yet. He's up to maybe three dozen independent words that come out as short commands or requests. But together with his wonderfully expressive eyes and clear body language it wasn't too hard to figure out what he was thinking. 

"Woah, dude, check that one out ... Dad! Did you see that one wobble and then re-spin - awesome ... Oh Baby! Crash! That was sooo cool!" 

We went on like this for maybe a half hour, which is at least 15 minutes longer than the boy would have spun the disks on his own. Sometimes they spun into a foot or each other, but often the two just spun around and around each other like tiny twin tornados or pirouetting dancers. 

"Yeah!" he said and looked at me with delighted eyes. 

We wrapped up the fun close to 5:30 p.m. - his dinner time - and moved into the more routine part of the evening. 
By 7:30 p.m. I was on the phone ordering my own dinner from Robongi's (a philadelphia and a spicy tuna roll that I had with a Sierra Nevada Stout from the fridge). 

I went up to check on him after a while and he was sleeping peacefully. I was tired and didn't make it much past 9 p.m. that night myself. I put my head down a very happy man. 

I love the fact that even now the boy and I can have a little fun on our own. It makes me think of all the things we'll be able to do in the future together between now and the age when he'll want more to be with his friends and then ultimately on his own. It makes me think of all the nights that the boy and I will have the place to ourselves and find something fun to do. 

Sometimes being a Dad is a lot of fun. 

What do you do when you have one or the other kids for a night? 


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Writing at Night

There was a piece on Motherlode recently by guest blogger Josh Tyson about the connection between a nocturnal nature and creativity. He explores the idea that somewhere between the conscious and unconscious is a kind of shoreline to the imagination. A few years ago, I might have laughed at a piece like that - not now. 

I wonder if the kids are responsible for my habit of writing at night. I have always wanted to be a productive writer, but had found it nearly impossible until recently to find any consistent time to work at. Now I have it, but I never expected that time to be in the middle of the night. 

My son, in particular, until recently was not a good sleeper. I was up with him a lot on my shift - which began at 2 a.m. I can always get to sleep early if I need to, and I can always get back to sleep, so this part of the night was feasible for me. 

At first, I could do little but hold the little man and hope that he'd stop crying. 

"Just let me sit with you," I'd say again, time after time after time, hoping that someone was listening to me upstairs. 

I think they were, but changes like that take time. Asking for help like this is a lot like mailing away for something used to be - you just don't know if your order was received or if it will ever come back to you. These changes also don't happen by themselves. We had a lot of work to do to get my son to a place where he could sleep well. That work is well under way now. 

And now the boy sleeps, and I get up anyhow. I get up groggily like I do for work most every day and get myself out of bed and I write. 

I thought at first this schedule would not be maintainable; I thought I'd be exhausted every morning; as tired as when I had to take care of my son. I find myself more peaceful after a night of writing. I feel like I used to when I got out of the swimming pool after laps - exhausted and spent and unworried. 

I've been up for a couple hours tonight. It's wonderful when the house is quiet. I posted my first chapter of a novel that's been in my head for some time. It's on a new blog of mine - there's a link to the right. 

I'll be heading back to sleep soon. My head is now moving from clear and peaceful to groggy and foggy again. A few more hours of dreams and rest until the morning comes with all it's activity. 

Good night. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Quiet House

The house is asleep. Both children went to bed shortly after their baths tonight. My wife too was tired and is sleeping quietly. Even our cat, Maggie, is purring softly on the stairs - she loves the stairs. The house feels as peaceful as a night of silent snow. 

Sometimes, when our home is like this, and all I hear are the creaks and odd shiftings of the house, I forget how busy we are. I feel for a moment like I did as a boy, resting in bed in the cold gray winter light of a January morning. I used to look at the frost shapes on the old windows that looked out over our neighbor's back yard and listen to the sound of my brothers as they slept and the early movements of my parents through the house. 

I wonder what my children hear when they come out of their sleep, what they think and wonder about their father as he taps away on the keyboard or lets out sighs as he thinks. I wonder what their memories will be of this place and time in their lives in the many many years to come. 

I start some vacation time tomorrow. Just a few days to not have to get dressed for work. I'll still be on the phone with them for Monday and Tuesday (there are no real vacations these days), but not having to travel into the office and spending each day with the kids is enough. 

I want to savor this little space here on the verge of that time. I know the actual days will be filled with things to do and cares of their own. I like this little space of quiet before the time begins. It's like the little space of time before and after sleep that lingers between the moving and the resting. It's like the sound of the waves on the verge of a very deep water. 

Good night. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sneakin' a Snickers

“What are you eating Daddy?” my daughter asked. 

It was well after dinner and I was snacking on a piece of Halloween candy. We had about two bags of mini chocolates left over from the holiday and I’ve been slowly sneaking bars off the top of the refrigerator - one or two a day. I’d been trying to keep it out of view of the kids - they have their own store of candy from their trick or treating - so they don’t get candied out. 

“Daddy,” my daughter asked again, “What are you eating?”

She'd been chattering about her day and sharing her school artwork with me when she noticed that I was chewing and not responding too her. 

“Mmmm,” I mumbled evasively, “Mnnothin weetie.” 

She wasn’t fooled. 

“Can I have some chocolate too,” she asked, “I’d like some chocolate Daddy please.”

Caught. Nabbed. I was looking into the eyes of a preschool Columbo. 

“Um,” I said, quickly finishing the little square of chocolate, and trying to ignore her observations, “Can I see your school project again?”

“Okay Daddy,” she said smiling, “Can I have some chocolate?”

One of the hardest things I’m finding as a parent is to instill good eating habits in my kids while keeping my poor habits under control. I'm such a wimp when it comes to candy. I have a major sweet tooth and once I get on a chocolate kick, it’s very hard to stop. 

“It’s past desert time,” I said, feeling both guilty and unfair, “Maybe tomorrow.” 

She just looked at me for a few seconds as if she were a trying to puzzle out a nonsense rhyme and then went back to her toys. Gratefully she didn’t complain or demand a rationale for my incongruous behavior. She's a really good kid - too good actually. 

Part of me thinks, I should just be up front with her. My parents never had any bones about a double standard. 

“I’m the Daddy ... that’s why,” was one of my father’s favorites. As an adult too I see how hard the man had to work and realize there was a reason he'd earned that bowl of ice cream. But somehow I can’t say this. 

I’m just torn. I guess I just don’t want the kid to realize how easily I give into this simple temptation. I’d like to feel like I’m still able to have a little candy stash with no consequences (other than the ones on my waistline). I want to sneak a candy bar in peace. 

This wish, I know, is a denial. The kids will see what I do; there's no avoiding it. The days of Reeces and Snickers are gone - never to return. 

Soon, I'm going to have to be a better Daddy. I'm going to have to live by my own rules (even the small ones). I’m gonna have to come clean, or give up the candy, or just share. Alas. 

It’s a sad day. 

Good night. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jedi Training

People say that having kids changes your life. Personally, I think it changed my brain. 

I think I first began to notice this change somewhere between my daughters 6 month and 1 year doctor’s appointments. For the first six months, we were as green as parents can be. We worried about everything and would just use what I now call the scientific method to understand why my daughter was crying. 

“That child is hungry,” a very kind older neighbor had said to me one night as I was walking her up and down the block to try and calm her. 

“Oh,” I said knowingly, ”The doctor said not to feed her any more than once every three hours.“

She looked at me with kindly pity, but she didn’t mince her words. She put both hands on her hips and chided me like a grade school teacher would instruct a wayward boy. 

”Give that child a bottle,“ she said, ”The doctor doesn’t come home with you.“

I stopped arguing. I got the bottle. She was right. My little girl must have been starving. 

Since then, I’ve trusted my instincts more, and they’ve grown sharper with use. I can usually tell now when to:

  • Go to the park. 
  • Suggest a book. 
  • Go on an adventure. 
  • Sing out nonsense words. 
  • Get ice cream. 
  • Order a time out. 
  • Pretend to cry and faint.

Along with many other home remedies I never imagined would be necessary or would work. I feel like Luke Skywalker sometimes after having trained with Yoda.  

But I did not feel like a true Jedi until this last year helping to manage my son’s cerebral palsy. 

My son has a weak left side, which is the result of a pre-birth stroke to the right side of his brain. It’s impeded his ability to move normally and it made him especially dependent on us for far longer than my daughter was. His speech has also been delayed (we’re not sure if this is the result of the stroke or not) and he’s only recently begun to use words and signs to communicate with us. 

And for the first year, he wouldn’t sleep more than two hours at a shot. 

I think his sleeplessness was party due to his inability to adjust his little body in bed. I speculate too that his brain was still in the process of re-wiring itself; learning (not re-learning) how to function without the control centers that were affected by the stroke. I say I think because, even the neurologist couldn’t say what was going on with my son. 

”Whaaaa!“ ; ”Eh, Eh, Eh!“ ; ”Ahh! Ahh! Ahh! Ahhhhhhhhhh!“ 

We had to learn what these (and a thousand various sounds) meant was going on inside his mind and body. It felt like we had to develop special mind powers. 

My wife and I must have lost a year of sleep between us. After a while we began to look at each other in the morning like two depleted soldiers in one of the army’s advanced training schools. 

The two of us became, after a while, like war hardened commandos: 

  • Sleeping with one eye open. 
  • Able to come to focus from a deep sleep instantly. 
  • Able to go for weeks on an hour or less of sleep. 
  • Laser like focus on a single problem - think changing a diaper in the dark with a child flailing arms and legs. 

These changes did not come without their cost. 

We were cranky and difficult to be around; we were exhausted and foggy; we had less focus for other tasks. 

I became a real bear to be around at work too. Each time a new problem arrived at my office; or someone cut me off in traffic; or a thoughtless person would offer unhelpful suggestions about child rearing; I had to fight off the instinct to just lay into them or simply level them. 

”Hi - ya!“ was the sound Miss Piggy used to make when she’d get angry enough to fight. I began to hear that sound in my brain at these moments. 

I think I was trying to focus my negative energy away from the kids while I was undergoing this radical transformation. I know I left a trail of stunned coworkers behind me at work on the days when I couldn’t control my temper. I’m normally very political. During this time I took any opportunity my adversaries offered to respond with a verbal counterpunch. 

”Hi - ya! Take that you well rested fools!“ 

”They’re lucky,“  I used to tell myself, ”I’m not carrying a real light saber.“ 

Things are easier now. The physical therapy has helped tremendously. The boy can move. The boy can speak a little. We’re starting to get a more logical picture of what’s going on with our son. It makes it easier to help him. 

He normally sleeps for longer stretches now too - often now we get a night of unbroken rest. 

But the change has occurred and those powers we acquired over the last year seem to have become permanent. GingerB who commented on my blog the other night, calls these extra sensory feelings a spideysense. I think she’s got the right description. Just like Peter Parker, we suddenly undergo a kind of marvel-like transformation that leaves us this way. There’s no going back either. 

I find that my wife and I get more done these days with less talk and discussion. There’s more unstated coordination that occurs with the children and with the house.  I also find that I’m more adept with my interactions with people in general. Something has changed in me. It makes me feel strong. 

”Use your powers for good,“ my wife has an aunt who says this playfully to us younger folk, ”Use your powers for good.“  

I mean to; and I will. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Quick and the Sleepy

When the kids wake up at night, I find that if I can attend to them quickly they will sometimes go right back to sleep. 

With my daughter, it’s just a glass of water and sitting with her for a few minutes while she drops off back to sleep. She’s older and responds to my voice, so I have usually a little more time - maybe two minutes - to fill a glass and stop in. 

With my son, I have about a quarter of the time. 

“Eh ... eh ... eh,” his little sputtering sounds of discomfort are like a stubborn engine that won’t turn over in the cold. When I hear these sounds - I can usually come out of a deep rem sleep for these - I know I’ve got to move fast. Any delay and I’ll have lost my opportunity. 

I’ve got to get downstairs, find a clean bottle or sippy cup, fill it with milk (sorry Dr. Stern - our dentist) and get back up two flights of stairs. In this exercise the design of the house is against me. The stairs are narrow and steep and my feet are large and not too nimble. I’m like a Grizzly trying to scale a tree. 

I expect I sound a lot like a big bear when I shamble up and down the stairs like this; something big and clumsy and prone to fits of growls. The neighbors must think I’m a little crazed.

But the cost of delay can be so high. If I linger in bed - hoping uselessly that the boy will just go back to sleep - I’m lost. If he’s upset, it could be an hour before the boy will sleep again. One night he got himself so thoroughly roused, he refused to do anything but play with his toys for nearly four hours. I was nodding and my chin was slipping off my hand by the time he began to yawn and rub his eyes that night. 

“Whaaaaaa!” is the sound that, when heard, is like the stock market falling below a round number - I can feel the floor just slipping away and full panic setting in. If he’s reached this stage, there’s no knowing when he’ll calm down. It won’t just be a long stretch of midnight play; it will be a trip back down newborn lane - a walk that Lou Reed would sing about. 

There are fewer of these nights these days, gladly. I think the work that his physical therapists have done with him have helped him to adjust his little body while he sleeps enough that he can make himself comfortable most of the time. But i still suspect that there are moments when the little guy’s weak left side is bothering him in some way - I can only guess. 

I was lucky tonight. I was still awake when it happened. Though sleepy, i was able to hit the stairs with most of my wits present. One of these nights, I know, I’m just going to sail down those stairs like the 41 year old Peter the middle aged Pan Man I am and land on my rump - oh boy. I’ll wake up in a fog and lose my feet or miss the handrail or get tripped up by the cat. It will be picturesque I’m sure. 

But tonight the little guy got his bottle in record time and went right back down. I feel a little like the famous Dutch boy at the dike - the whole house sleeps because of my quick thinking. I’m getting a little loopy I guess. 

I wonder sometimes if speed will always play a role in handling my kids. I wonder what it will be like when I slow down a bit more, and lose what remaining balance and poise I possess; I’ll be on the ropes. 

“Kids keep you young,” my Dad would often say when I was growing up. 

“They do,” I think sometimes when I hustle like that, “They keep me quick.” 

Hope I can keep my feet for the next twenty years. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweet Days

My son had trouble going to sleep tonight. His teeth (we guess) are hurting again and he just wakes up suddenly in great discomfort. It’s normal, I know, but it’s not easy to see him like that. 

But tonight, he took some comfort from my picking him up out of his crib and holding him for a while. He stopped crying and pointed up at the ceiling fan - he loves the ceiling fan - and then looked back at me. 

“Fan,” he said with a knowing look, “Fan.”

I put the lights down and sang some Carly Simon and James Taylor songs that I know well in my out of tune voice. He obliged me and put his little head on my shoulder and didn’t complain about his Dad’s singing. 

Anticipation, Never Been Gone, Sweet Baby James; the songs that everyone knows. They make great lullaby tunes. I didn’t attempt Mockingbird. 

We went on like this for a while. It’s hard to know just from the sound of his breathing if he’s really asleep. But after a time, I took my chances and swung him down into a cradle. He cracked open an eye and looked up at me, but didn’t resume crying thankfully. I went on singing some Dan Fogelberg that I also know and he didn’t complain. 

Eventually, he let me put him back in the crib. He turned over from his back to his tummy (I’ve given up on insisting on back sleeping) and let out a sigh and curled up and went to sleep. 

I stood and watched the gentle rise and fall of his breathing for a while. He makes me think, when he’s like this, of a bear cub at rest; playful and sweet and always on the lookout for honey. 

On a night like tonight, chances are he’ll be up again in a while, and one of us will be trying to comfort him again. Sometimes he can be calmed. Sometimes not.

But when he’s able to let me help him like this, there’s no sweeter feeling in the world. 

Good night. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Busy Days

Starting somewhere from the time that folks get back from their summers in early September and the time that their kids vacation in December are some of the most demanding work days of the year. The people that I work with seem to have acquired the urgency of a species of bird that migrates down to the south lands every year - and nothing stops that ride.

“Are we on track ... your project will go red ... we’ll have to utilize the weekends ... call them at home, this is urgent ...,” I can’t say how many times on a daily basis these words fly through the air at work like so many dodge balls aimed at random players just trying to avoid humiliation and elimination. 

And the games don’t stop at sundown. The pager and the cell phone can go off at most any hour on most any day. In fifteen minutes or so, I’m supposed to be on a call with our counterparts who work on a side of the globe where the sun is shining just now. I feel sometimes like technology and the stock market cycles have stolen the quiet that used to come with the shortened days of fall and replaced it with the work equivalent of 24 hour news. 

All of which makes it that much more difficult to dedicate time to spend with the kids on a daily basis. I try to leave home only after I’ve spent time with my kids in the morning and leave the office early enough to be home for bath and story time. 

“Is today a swimming day,” my daughter has begun to ask each morning. Saturdays we go to swim lessons at the YMCA for her and she knows these are days when I don’t work. 

“No Sweetheart,” I’ll say with a sigh, “Today’s a school day and a work day.”

“Will the day after today be a swimming day,” she asks again hopefully. I try to let her down gently on the days when this is not true. 

“Okay Daddy, maybe we’ll go for my birthday,” my daughter responds. She has some concept of time, but anything further away than tomorrow becomes far enough away to be her next birthday. 

“Okay Daddy, we’ll go when I’m five.” 

Sometimes it feels like it might take that long. 

Thanksgiving, though is only a few weeks off, and that usually offers a brief respite before the final rush into December. By the middle of that last month of the year, the all consuming fear seems to have finally drained out of the workplace like poison from a snakebite. And it doesn’t matter at that point what the result of all our efforts has been - good or bad. It’s as if we’ve all returned to college and will take nearly any grade short of a rock bottom F as a sign of completion. 

“What are you doing for the holidays,” is what I’m longing to hear more than anything. That and to see the normal humanity that I think most people want to display start to appear without apprehension in their faces. 

“Your kids off from school soon ... will you be traveling .... going home at all,” the hallway conversations and phone calls become so much more pleasant. I start to feel like a person again, and not just a drone in a work camp. 

The weather will be colder. There will also be that mania that seems to drive everyone to distraction with the shopping. But the demands that drive the pace at work will have subsided and retreated like an army wintering away from the battles. 

I’ll look forward to those changes and the extra time that comes when things slow down at work. I’ll take the last two vacation days that I always save for emergencies or for the end of the year. 

“Swimming day today,” is what I'm wishing I can say to my kid on a weekday, “It’s a swimming day today little Sweetheart.” 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Meet the Billys

I've had a couple of requests for pictures of the Brothers Billy Bear - here they are. They are wearing the pumpkin costumes that my wife lovingly created for them so that my daughter could bring them trick or treating with her. The Billys cleaned up on Halloween by the way - they got more chocolate than me. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cold Comforts

Maybe it was my time growing up in Massachusetts winters, or maybe it's the fear that the climate is changing from what I had known as a boy to something warmer, but I relish every chilly day that the fall serves up. The clear blue sky and the yellow sun and a crisp cold makes me want to put on my favorite fall jacket and hat and go for a walk. I don't even mind if it's wet out; to me that makes it just more appealing. I'm just silly with loving these cool days. 

And yet I really never liked the cold much as a kid; I liked it even less as a young man working outside. 

"Someday," I used to promise myself, "I won't care what kind of weather I get. I'll work indoors."

I used to say this with a steel rake in one hand and a sopping wet hooded sweatshirt dangling loosely over my canvas pants. I'd look up at the gray sky or look down at my raw red hands and wish for a hot fire and a cup of tea. I'd long for the hot jets of air from the truck's heater at the end of a day of cold work. That and a shower and clean cloths. 

"Please make it stop raining," I can remember saying to the sky when I'd been really uncomfortable or tired, "Please. Please. Please." 

But now I dream about those days spent out in the weather. I walk out of my office at work and over to the window and look out at the fine rain on the trees that border our building and the men cleaning and landscaping and wish it was me again. I'm like the retired shoemaker, or carpenter, who volunteers to do the tasks that he once did for a living for free - just for the fun of it. 

I know I'm deceiving myself though; when the days get short or when I'm stuck indoors or when I have to park the car between piles of snow, I'll remember why the cold is no fun. I'll remember why people move to warmer climates; why retired New Englanders with the option become snow birds and head south for the coldest days of the year. Those days aren't far off. 

Soon enough, I'll be cursing the ten minutes it takes to bundle the kids (and me) up to take a walk to the corner. I'll watch helplessly while the piles of laundry triple. I'll look hopelessly for the hat and scarf my daughter has wrapped around her stuffed bear. I'll want summer back. 

But for now, I'll take the pleasure of the change and walk beneath the trees while the leaves are still full of the color of wine and of gold. I'll be deceived and reside in bliss. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Mouse

On our corner a house is broken and exposed
And tarps hang like a cloths on line and blow 
In a wind that's drifted down from the north.
Homeless mice wander back and forth
Beneath and between these shared foundations 
Brick and earth and cracks in the floors
And well fed cats that just look and ignore. 

Little mouse I hear you and want to be kind, 
And let you house here beneath my floor. 
I admire your will to hide and eat and thrive
Amid the dangers that a mammal can't ignore. 
I want to let you be and live and bide;
I think of my job, my house, and goods that subside
You make me believe that I could survive.