Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Calming Down

Sometimes I look at my kids when they can't settle down and I feel all topsy turvy. Part of me just wants the day to end and I'm frustrated by the fact that these little people are still emitting enough energy to power a small city; part of me just sees a beloved little person who is full of feelings that are so new to them it's a wonder they don't burst.

And sometimes I feel like I could drop all my pretenses of adulthood and just pick up a loud toy and make a ruckus with them.

Today is one of those days and the energy is slow to come out of all of us. I feel like one of those games I had as a boy where four players release spinning tops from the corners of something that resembles a miniature boxing ring and watch to see which one will be left standing as they collide and dance with each other - right now it looks like my daughter will be the one.

When I have one of these days when everything feels new and unfamiliar to me and I feel all out of my comfort zone and just want to pig out on beer and pizza and ice cream and anything that will put the pin balls inside my head to rest, I just wonder how the kids do it - how do they handle all those rapid changes and not go bonkers.

There's no answer. I don't remember myself and my kids either don't understand the question or won't give up the secret. All I know is that I'd like a tablespoon of whatever they've got to maintain sanity tonight.

Good night.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Strength has no measure without a burden to hold,
The will has no object; a sheep lost from its fold.
The mind has no measure without a problem to solve,
The wits wander witless; each puzzle dark, unresolved.

I had no measure 'till heaven gave me to hold,
Children like stars in a black sky to behold.
Now like the winds all my strength, and mind and resolve,
I gather to hold to my purpose as the bright heavens revolve.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Half Way Better

I'm just past the middle of my cold. My head feels heavy and my thoughts are just starting to come clear again. It feels like the sky when a storm is lifting but the stars only peek out fitfully; I can see the end, but I'm still not myself.

I used to consider this part of the cold much better than the raw tingly feeling I get in the back of my nose and throat when I felt the thing coming on. It was the feeling of bad news, of the sound of the phone in the very early morning when someone has to have a serious reason to call.

But more than any physical symptoms or premonitions these days the worst part about having a cold is knowing that I can't just pull the covers up over my head and wait out the weather; I have to get up and still do.

"Daddy, when you feel better we can go to the park, right Daddy," my daughter said to me about 30 times this morning.

We were sitting in our small living room on the first floor and the rain and the wind were still pouring outside and rattling our storm door with their force. I was watching a Disney movie with her and my son. My head was a little more sore than it is now. I tried to be patient.

"Sure sweetie," I said with one hand pressed to my forehead, "sure."

"Okay Daddy," she'd said each time, and then after a brief pause asked hopefully, "Do you feel better now?"

"Arrghha!" my inner Charlie Brown was shouting, "The kite eating tree has got me again!"

Don't get me wrong. I have the sweetest kids in the world. I love them. I love spending time with them. 'Why then?' I ask myself, 'Why do their questions hurt my brain so much when I'm sick?'

I know there's no other answer than 'it just has to be that way.'

We got through the day. My wife, bless her, gave me a break for several hours so I could take an extra Tylenol and rest. We set our clocks ahead and watched the storm grow less and ventured out at the end of the day for a ride to the diner for a cup of hot soup for me and hot dogs for the kids.

The house is finally settling down. It's just as well. The daylight savings hour will make the night short and tomorrow will be work.

I hope by morning I feel me head beginning to clear. I hope when I hear the kids chatter at breakfast I'll feel more inclined to smile than to shut my eyes and hold my hands to my ears. I hope I feel better.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Weary Days

The rest of the family is sleeping. The rain is making it's steady music on our flat roof and the cloths dryer is humming to itself complacently. I've got the start of a little cold in my nose and throat and am wondering how bad it's going to be.

I'm as tired now from work as I can ever remember being when I worked with my body. I'll be asleep soon I'm sure. My head is tired - probably too tired even to dream.

I think about my grandmothers more and more these days when I'm this weary. I think of their efforts to raise their families alone; I think with wonder that they did raise their families alone. I think of the tender wariness when they watched me as a boy.

"When I was a girl the horses walked in the streets of Fall River - do you know that Davey?"

I can still hear Nana's voice telling me of her chores and her work in the shoe factories and her admiration for my fiery great aunt Emily - her sister - who knew just how to put the cat calling factory boys in their place.

"We were always together," she told me, "we never walked alone."

My grandmothers were my link to a time before my own time as a child. Now they are a link to a time that is my own past. Their memory gives me confidence that I can raise my family, that I can do what must be done - and succeed.

I've just set a cup of lemon tea to steep with some honey. I'm hoping that and a little vitamin C gummy bear (my daughter's) will help stave off this cold. I hope tomorrow I'll feel better.

But I'm sure I'll get through tomorrow sick or no - I never have to walk alone.

Good night.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Night Night

Just a very short one tonight.

My son has been doing something lately that's made the days so much easier and hopeful. It's nothing complicated and it's not one of the many milestones that we've been taught to train him for. It's not his physical development or any change in his looks. It's just this; he's letting me hold him quietly before he goes to sleep now.

From his infancy, he's fretted and twisted when we've held him for more than a minute or two. His movements have been so quick and unexpected that holding him had been like trying to hold motorized Jello. It made the nights that he wouldn't sleep more difficult and it made me sad that I couldn't give him any comfort, even simple comfort from being held.

But now, like tonight, he'll just sit in my lap with his head back on my chest and rest. His little hand sometimes pulls at the fleshy part of my forearm gently and he just sits and is content. We'll sit like this for maybe 10 minutes or so before I put him on my hip and head him up to his little crib for bed.

"Night night little man," I said tonight ... and so it was.

Nothing else is quite so wonderful as feeling the boy relax and rest. It's a gift that I could never have expected or hoped for; it's a gift I could never repay.

"Night night little man. Night night."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Teaching Again

After a fifteen year hiatus, I've started teaching again. Early in my career, I taught both as a college level adjunct instructor and a high school teacher. At the time, I was just trying to find a way to make a living. Leaving Boston College with a Master's in English literature and little work experience, I was unsure how I would make my way in the world; I imagine there were many in my circle of friends and family who had the same thought. And so I turned to teaching and writing for my bread, which for me was like trying to make wine from immature grapes.

I struggled (which might not be a surprise for anyone who has faced 125 students a day) and after two years, I left teaching for a new career in computer programming. That change was like a shift to tobacco from cotton for me and it proved a much easier crop to grow, harvest and market. Though less satisfying, it was (and is) a good way to make my way in the world.

"But Mista Sexton...," I can hear my class still say in my mind, "Didn't you like our class ... why, Mista Sexton? Why?"

I still see their faces. For those short years, they were all very important to me. I cried over every bad day and floated on air when I made progress. It was a wrench to leave and it's felt like unfinished business for the many years since.

So now I'm teaching at a local community college again; instructing in the basics of reading and writing to older students. Maybe it's the simple passing of time that's made me more ready to ply this trade, or maybe it's the relief of knowing that my income does not depend on my success that has freed me somehow, but I'm far more confident than I remember being as a young man. I hope the students I have now will agree.

But if I really had to guess what's bringing this growth out in me now, I'd have to say it was the influence of my son. Watching him adapt and flower the way that he has; standing witness to his natural resolve and determination to fit into the world has made me less timid. It's reminded me that I am adaptable too - that I can change; even now - as a mature man.

I hand out our mid term test next Saturday. I know somehow, that after those test papers pile up quietly on my desk that day, this small shore excursion will pass the last buoy and venture out into the open waters; the sun will dip below the horizon and the stars will wheel above my little craft; and I'll be out on the open ocean again. This time I hope to make a fair journey of it. I hope to make the sea my home.

Good night.