With COVID19 Father’s Day 2020 in the rear view mirror, I’ve had some time to give my life as a parent some thought. It’s a responsibility for which we had little training. We did, however, train heavily for the giving birth part of our first child. Lamaze, a path to natural childbirth, was THE in thing of the 80’s. But after that, man, you were on your own. Julie and I did some reading. Dr. Spock, of course, was great for medical advise, but his theories on raising kids just confused us. It was reading John Rosemond’s column that we really found our inspiration. He wrote a book in which he espoused six points you need to follow to raise healthy and happy children. He was more focused on parent-centrist advice. Number one on his list…take care of your marriage…first and foremost. The best thing you can do for your kids is to provide them a loving, happy home. Second, don’t parent from your chair. Your arms aren’t long enough. If your kid is acting up, get up, get them and take them away from what they want to be doing. Last on the list, remember, what you’re doing is raising your kids up so that they can leave you. That’s your job.
Anyway. We all find our way somehow. We make mistakes. We do the right thing. We love ’em. And then, they leave us. If we’ve done the right things over and over again.
It won’t surprise you that I’ve kept a journal for quite sometime. I want to share with you some short stories (short for me) that give you a peek into what I most enjoyed…being a dad to Clark and Blair. Being with them. Watching them grow from precious little ones into two great kids who graduated into life as pretty swell grown ups in whom we take great pride and joy.
The Pull of the Moon
April 6, 1993. Family vacation at Ocean Isle, NC
Going to bed after watching “Field of Dreams” took a bit of a trip toward bad dreams.
Clark wanted no lights. The other cousins wanted night light. So they kicked him out with some help from his Aunt Mel.
Of course, flexibility presents a great challenge to our boy Clark at times. He reasons like his father, and those reasons don’t understand why anyone going to sleep needs the comfort of seeing anything.
He came out of the “dorm” room with a “Fine! I’ll sleep on the couch,” which turned on a dime into a beautiful 30 minutes for the two of us.
I sat in a rocker while he rested on the couch. We talked about why we do what we do, and how, through it all, we love each other.
I told him about how I quit playing golf, kinda like Ray, the main character in the movie, who quit playing baseball when he felt his father’s pressure too heavily on his shoulders.
“Gee. That’s so weird,” he said. “You quit just like the guy in the movie? And he turned out to love baseball. And now, you love golf, although you do say “no” to playing sometime, like last week when we had hockey.”
I just held him in my lap like I used to cradle my baby boy and we talked on.
Then, in the darkness I looked out the window and he glanced out at the same time.
“Dad, what time is it?”
“About 11:30,” I replied.
“Wow! It looks like it’s getting daylight.”
The moon, full and bright, was glistening on the surf. I asked Clark if he wanted to go outside to the end of our pier.
“For real?” he asked. “Sure,” I answered as we got up from the rocker. We put on our sweatshirts and walked out together. We took a seat at the top of the steps leading down to the beach. The tide was out and the beach was at its widest. We talked about the moon and how it made the tides, and how wind created waves. Then, we got cold and went back inside. I turned out all of the lights. Clark laid down on the sofa with the moon lighting up the room. Even still, he fell asleep but not before mentioning that the moon seems to follow us everywhere we go. I said, “Thank goodness for that. For where would we be without the pull of the moon?
“I love you Clark. Goodnight.”
I felt the pull of the moon drawing me back into our bedroom. I peeled back the covers and wrapped my arms around Julie who was fast asleep. I thought of one of our favorite children’s books, “Goodnight Moon.” The next thing I knew, it was morning. The sun was up, the moon was gone, and we were halfway through our week at the beach.
A Rainy Monday
April 28, 1997 Pittsburgh
I rolled over, checked the clock, counting down to 6 a.m. when I usually get up, walk down the hall to Clark’s room and open the door, if not his eyes, to the day. He and I talked recently about him using his own clock to rise and shine. Well, today, just before my alarm went off, I heard the shower in his bathroom come on. I lay there, smiling, and thought, “Another step towards independence.” Nudging his mom, I said, “Hear that?”
“Uh huh,” she groaned.
“That’s the sound of your little boy growing up.”
I got up and walked down the hall to the kid’s bathroom. I knocked on the door. Clark heard my knock through the noise of the shower.
“Good morning glory,” I said, like my dad used to say to me.
“Morning Dad!” He yelled back. I could hear a sense of pride in his voice even through the door. He knew he had made a big step on his own. I smiled and walked down to Blair’s room. I gently tickled her awake, sitting on her bed, watching her eyes blink into the day. I asked her, “When was the last time you knew that I loved you?” Without opening her eyes she smiled, “ I always know that, Dad.”
What a great start to a rainy Monday.
You Never Know
May 21, 1997 Pittsburgh
The sun cut through the window like little butter knives with yellow rays running in and around the quilt on her bed,
Dripping in and out of crevices,
Just barely tickling her chin,
Yet she still slept on,
That quiet soon-to-wake-up-sleep
Ending the night,
Starting the day.
I sat on the edge of her bed,
Holding her retainer container.
She rolled over, took out a clear, juicy, slobbery appliance,
Without so much as opening her eyes,
Held it out and deftly placed it in the blue box.
Her eyelids fluttered like a sparrow’s wings.
I whispered, “Good morning.”
She smiled a stretch smile, clamping down her eyes even tighter.
“Morning Dad,” she said.
“I love waking you up,” I said, “because I like being the first person you see in the morning.”
“Well, you just never know what you will do today.
“You might draw a mouse
“Or a picture of our house.
“You might make a great grade in class,
“Or run up our street incredibly fast.
“I never know what you might do today.
“Only you know what you might do today.”
“Dad, you ought to write a poem,” she said.
“I just did. I wrote it for you and now it’s in your head for you to have always.”
I love waking Blair up in the mornings.