Posts Tagged ‘dad’

A Soul and the Crossroads

crossroads, street, sign, rich, Every street corner is more or less the same. They are the crossroads between where we are going and where we have been. The paths of others are layered across it. They are decorated in flowers, rocks, and fifty shades of concrete. There may be a light, a newspaper, or a marker-smudged sign with human hands upon it.

The signs are a barrier between those that hold them and those that fiddle with the radio in an attempt to avoid eye contact. Even the best of us find it hard to read every word, every time. It is hard to look into the face of need when we all need something.

The sign is a humble invitation to human contact between those that lack it and those that take it for granted. It is an opportunity for small moments of pity and respect, civility and kindness. A lot can happen at a red light.

We sat in the car with the windows down. It was a beautiful blue-skied day, and the breeze from the hills felt vaguely of the sea. It danced loosely across the salt of our thinly layered sweat, and it lingered soft and cool for a moment as if thinking about home. Then it carried on to woo the next in line, leaving memories and taking parts with it. A blink. A breath. A whisper.

We were leaving a store full of red shirts, value, and everything. Our bags were full and my wallet was empty. I had nothing in my pocket but a collection of plastic cards that owed more than I have and a balance that was anything but.

The breeze danced in my window, spun me around, tickled the nose of one boy, then the other, and flew out toward the man that stood there waiting. He smiled beneath a skin taught with sun and a layer of sweat much heavier than mine. His glance fell down, past the cardboard sign in his hands, to the grass beneath his feet and the child that sat quietly upon it. The breeze rolled from father to son and the smile went with it.

“Why is that boy there?” asked my youngest son from his spot in the backseat. His window was down, too, and his words were loud and carried on the wind.

The man kept his gaze to the ground and the boy looked at something important in the opposite direction. We were at a stop sign and there were no cars behind us.

My reaction in such situations, when a child’s innocence tends to jump from one side of a socially awkward bridge to the other, is usually alarm and quick words of quiet, something that surely embarrasses us both, but instead I took the man’s invitation.

To be clear, this isn’t meant to suggest that I am noble, doing the right thing, or any sort of action that merits acknowledgement beyond those involved, but rather a reminder about how much we all share and to suggest that we shouldn’t need signs that confound our attentions.

I could be that man. Any of us could. As it is I have been barely getting by for years—I went from making a very good living to making nothing, and now, thanks to a writing degree and access to the internet, I am making just enough to supplement my wife’s income so that we don’t go under. In fact, a few years ago we found ourselves having serious talks about what we feared was inevitable. We didn’t have many options, and we started to prepare for the worst. It scared the hell out of us.

The man on the street corner, the man that could have been me, was equal parts proud and humiliated as he leaned in the window that I am lucky to have, and answered:

“No, of course not. Change is very much appreciated.”

It was all I had and I gave him all of it.

“Why did you give that man money?” asked my oldest son from his spot in the backseat.

“Because he’s a daddy,” replied his brother.

The man’s eyes met mine, and one of us nodded and then the other. There was nothing left to say.

As we pulled away I watched the rear-view mirror and a fading street corner looking more or less like any other: a slab of concrete, a slice of shade, and a small, smiling boy held in the hands of a man where a sign used to be.

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On Condolences, From My Son

My boys know things about loss and love. Over the last four years we have lost my grandparents, my stepmother, Tricia’s dad, and my mom—the last two in just the past few months. In the time between we have lost three cats and a dog, all of which were years older than the children—all of which they had always known. The boys have experienced sadness in quantity and quality, something that many of us don’t need face until we are somewhat older, and now, through experiences I rather they never had, they know the things that I have mentioned. And they know so much more.

Atticus came home from school yesterday to say that his teacher’s father had died over the weekend, and that she had taken the day off.

“Of course,” I said. “I am sorry to hear that.”

I am still taking days off.

“The substitute teacher said we should write her a note,” he added. “We should write whatever we want.”

And then, armed with pencil and understanding, he disappeared into the kitchen to offer his condolences. This is what he wrote:

kid, condolences, empathy, sympathy, compassion, death, talking, communication, bonds

 

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A Mother’s Arms Are Made of Tenderness and Children Sleep Soundly in Them

hot, chocolate, coco, cocoaHeat, as an extreme, exists only in a relative sense. It is the hottest thing they have ever known and therefore it is the hottest thing that anyone has ever known. I tell them that it is not, that my coffee is actually hotter, but that does not soothe them, it only makes them question my sanity as they slowly dare a second sip of their lukewarm chocolate.

********

My back hurts. I have been carrying too much for too long. For six weeks I have been living as a single father—a single work-at-home-dad. It has been incredibly hard and surprisingly easy. I am better for it and I am tired and I am badly beaten.

My work has suffered.  My 70 hour work week has been cut to less than forty—compiled from a series of minutes torn apart from neglected deadlines, tucked between goodnight kisses and the taste of warm whiskey across my lips. The clock moves slow and forward.

Chores once shared have become mine alone. All nights are long and lonely. All mornings are early and full of songs and frustration.

I do not believe that I have achieved anything worthy of praise or pity, only reflection. Others face obstacles far greater than mine on a daily basis. They make the most. They do their best. They are stronger than I ever thought I was, and when I sip from my glass the toast is to them.

But this is not their life, it is mine, and while I was prepared and up to the challenge, it was unexpected in both timing and time. From the frying pan to the fire is not a lateral move. The heat is extreme, and it is all relative.

Tomorrow my wife comes home after six weeks sitting at the bedside of her ailing father. Six weeks of tears and whispers and shouts in the night. Six weeks of walking in the shoes of a girl much smaller.

Bedside seats are lessons in love and fear, and the art of turning fond the old memories that weren’t. That is a chapter not yet closed. Those wounds are still open. He will still have a beside in need of sitting, and she will carry her thoughts accordingly. Her back will hurt.

********

They do not expect her. They have grown accustomed to the missing of their mother. Six weeks is a long time gone, and a father doing the best he can is still just one kiss goodnight no matter how much laughter fills the day or how much work is left to the forgotten.

Tomorrow will seem but another day to them, the routine of living with some parts missing. They will be safe and loved and slightly lost. She will be on a plane six weeks delayed and her dreams will be of little boy kisses grown wet with salt and the slightest linger of lukewarm chocolate.

____________________________________

The title of this post is a quote from Victor Hugo.

A version of this post first appeared on DadCentric in 2009 when Tricia’s father was still with us. He survived the fight outlined above and enjoyed his grandchildren for four more years.

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A Simple Season of Starlight and Splendor

atticus, zane, whit, honea, xmas, christmas, holiday, tree

The days are short and the nights shorter still. The tree is dead and slowly drying. Bottles of wine come in one door and out the other. The shopping is hung by the chimney with care. Sugarplums dance for dollars and whisper sweet things to those that long to hear them. My wallet, the victim of yuletide vampires, turned to dust in the morning sun. Receipts fell like ash and snow.

The boys are quick to give and quicker to receive. They are fast with patience. They kill suspense with sticks and stones. The fight is sudden and seldom fair. Between their laughs fit so many cookies.

They are their own Advent calendar. Each new day opens like arms.

Holidays are extreme in their excess. It is not just the too many gifts, for the happiness is grander, the sadness all the sadder, and the music of a thousand elevators is pumping through my stereo. My kids deserve everything, and there are those that need it so much more.

We spread joy as thin as we can.

The tree is a time machine. It is a wormhole to Christmas future and Christmases past. Each twinkle of light a star dashing by. Each ornament a moment on a string. There is a glow and bits of reflection, and in the pieces of glass there I stand. I am a man, a boy, a father, a son. The tree is strung with memories and those that we are making. I forget myself for wonder. The whiskey warms me like a fire. Their songs I’m softly singing.

The boys sleep where they fall. I carry them through the night and place them all snug in their beds. When they wake in the morning it will be where they always are, safe and sound, and one day closer to missing the wait. One day closer to it beginning again. They will want hugs and breakfast.

These are a few of my favorite things. I wrap them tight in brown paper and time.

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Rudolph’s Parents Were Dicks

parents, parenting, book, books, phrase, talkikng, kids, chldren, family, whit honea, father, dad

Communicate with your children.

Play reindeer games.

Buy my book.

Save Christmas.

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