Friday, October 13


Those of you who have put up with my nonsense for a while may remember this post, in which I reflected on signs of change or omens not yet deciphered. I identified "some unnamable span." I think I have reached the end of that span. Life has many detours, some expected, but most not. Almost none are seen with the rare insight the Great All cares to give on accasion.

My eldest son approaches the important adulthood marker of 21, with the attendant perceptions of military, voting, drinking, gambling, etc. He has a serious girlfriend. He is dependable in a job he has had for two years. He is smart, honest, helpful, and kind, readily returning the hugs of his old man. He made an undefinable change this year, the crossing into adulthood. I still remember him as a toddler. Once, when running errands at Christmas time, he asked if I would buy him a toy. I said maybe, because Santa was coming. I didn't have much money, so maybe something a little bit cheap. All day he held my hand, helped push carts and carry bags, amiable and sweet. About dinnertime he asked, "Now Dad will you buy me something maybe a little bit cheap?" When I look at him now, I am torn between busting my buttons and squeezing tears.

My second son will soon be 16, and has his sights on the DMV. As a freshman, his academic career was far less than stellar. Now, as a sophomore, he seems to have found his rhythm and confidence. He has a quick wit and a a comic philospher's ability to amuse with an insightful observation or perplexing non-sequitor. With algebra, or biology, or politics, he asks questions and offers solutions. I feel stupid when my answer or opinion only supports what he thought in the first place. On Thanksgiving vacation last year, we took a trip, just Dad and Son. We hiked in the rain, crunched through the snow at Lake Tahoe, ate in diners, and purchased balsa wood gliders to play with. At the end of the trip, when I asked if he had a good time, he flashed a sarcastic grin and said "Not really. The tree ate my airplane." When I look at him now, I am torn between pride of a son and jealousy of a younger rival.

My youngest, my darling daughter, is 13, familiar and enigmatic. She is on the entrance ramp to womanhood, not quite up to speed, but not quite willing to yield either. At times uncertain in her maturation , there is a "JUST TRY IT" fire behind her eyes. She has discovered a love of writing, far surpassing any maudlin pukisms I wrote at her age. She is in drama class. She loves the Beatles and medical procedures. She snuggles during an old movie and dares to throw a football at my head. Not so long ago, she had simple and routine surgery. When I visited her in recovery, she was asleep, breathing with discomfort. Thin hospital blankets revealed curves of the woman she will become. I stroked her hair and cried because my heart couldn't contain all the stuff that was in it. When I look at her now, I can see the grandchildren I might have. Why I see this more in her than the boys, I don't know. But I do know there is much I cannot explain, mysteries of the universe that I am lucky enough to share, and one perfect adorable female that is mine to protect and learn from. Some things are not knowable.

My parents divorced after 23 years of marriage. My wife and I celebrated that milestone, minus one, this year. When I was in high school, I remember reading something like "the flush of young romantic love is eventually replaced with the constancy of adult love." Yuck, I thought, I hope I never get that old. Now I look at my wife, and words fail. She is better than me. She is far from perfect, but closer to it than I, and perfect for me. Prior to this year, I really didn't care if I died before 60. Now I want to live a long life, so I can spend as much time as possible with her. Love is the obsession of poets and artists, defying mere description. One look at her and I know what love is.

Fathers and sons are always a tricky business. My father and I were never close. Why, I am not sure. We are too different from each other. Perhaps it is me, or him, or both, but neither of us understands the other. We have parted ways. Permanently. It brands my soul, scorches my brain, salts the acre of identity. They say that forgiveness heals the soul. I'm not sure I believe it. Some things cannot be forgiven. Sometimes, no matter the cost, scars, and desires to the contrary, it is best to sever a limb than live with a disease. There is no lesson here. Only a huge vacant lot filled with questions and what-ifs, covered over with the bulldozer of moving forward. Only pain and self hatred endure. I have no answers.

This disconnect applies to brothers as well. I'd like to think sisters are better. In fact, I know they are.

I enjoy writing. In 1st grade I wrote about a frog. In 2nd grade I wrote about a pony. In 4th grade I wrote about my dog. In 8th grade I wrote a Star Trek script. In 10th grade I wrote a one act play. I wrote poetry in high school. I wrote dozens of short stories from junior high through college. With few exceptions, it sucked, although there were glimpses of talent. I never gave up until I became a father, when other concerns were paramount. (An aside: People who complain about parenting vs. career vs. avocation should be shot. If you decide, or happen, to be a parent, that is your first responsibility. Shoulder that most important of of all responsibilities to the best of your ability. There is plenty of time for your selfish interests after your children grow up.) This year I revisited my passion with a vengeance. It took a while to oil old rusty tools and relearn their uses. The wonderful surprise was that my ability had matured, despite years of disuse. I can set a piece aside, see it for the crap that it is, and not love it just because it came from my fingers. I can edit like a ninja. Strangely, my life long desire to write science fiction has morphed into a serious work about an adolescent girl (!), a plot that straddles 90 years, and addresses personal growth, an artist's sensibilities, defiance, and ideas that reveal themselves as work progresses. I have never been happier with my creative self.

I will, in a week or so, have a new job. I will be Business Manager of four radio stations broadcasting rock and sports. In a way, it is a revisiting of my roots. I was happiest working in the days of television before the explosion of cable, when creativity and business sense lived side by side. When I honed my ability to work with all sorts of people. When I discovered accounting is a language of numbers. In the years since those heady days, I earned a degree, learned management skills, studied strategy and flow. Now I am the elder mentor, abilities at their peak, applied to a cause I have loved since I was a pre-teen. I am not naive enough to think it's perfect, but it does feel like a return home, a closing of a circle. Not THE circle, but a mini-cycle within the greater circle.

The "unnamable span" is named. It is called Now. Another span will come, but for the present Now is sufficient.



rennratt said...

It is wonderful to read the words of a daddy, when viewing his children.

Some people are fathers, some people are dads. You, dear KF, are a Daddy, through and through.

I am the grown daughter of a Daddy. I wouldn't have it any other way.

rennratt said...

I also meant to congratulate you on the new job!

May it bring you joy beyond words.

Anonymous said...

Always remember-you are a great dad; a wonderful husband, and a good man. I love you.

tiff said...

Watching one's children grow is an amazing thing - I see my kids every day and yet, some days they just look "different." They are the ultimate experiment, and yours sound wonderful.

Congratulations on your new job, you children, a strong marriage, rediscovering the "you" you had left behind, and so many other things.


Anonymous said...

Hey KF,

Beautiful post, truly. There are so many things in there that I just have to nod my head at because I understand them so well, and others that I was sorely needing to hear.

Thanks for making my day a lot better.

Shari said...

Your description of your daughter after her surgery made me cry. I read a lot of blogs, King, but yours tugs my heart strings more than most.

Congratulations on it all - the job, yes - but most of all the "everything else".

Mom said...

This is a post that fills a mother's heart. I am so lucky to have you as my son.

I do not think it is easier to be or have a sister (as I have a lot of drama in that department to testify to)...but sisters can grow far apart, hurt each other immensely, act ridiculously stupid, and say hurtful things... but are still willing to listen to each other and learn. As the mother of four boys, I am not so sure it is the same with brothers.

jazz bird said...

What a wonderful read. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on the new job!!

Wordnerd said...

Wow. I feel like I know you so much better after reading this. You sound like a great dad and a great mate. So glad things are falling into place for you. Sounds like you deserve it. Congrats on the new job -- and best wishes in your new venture!

Erica said...

MY GOD what a great post this is. On so many levels. First, to read your thoughts and feelings for each of your children. My heart aches for you remembering your eldest as a toddler. I do that too, and it kills me, and mine is only EIGHT!

Excellent, EXCELLENT capture of the heartache of parenting. You're accomplishing your task of raising them, but it's so hard to watch them do it, because they're leaving you. Not really needing you in that same way. But you're miles ahead of me, and it sounds like it's still wonderful (again, for the most part).

Now. About writing. And re-finding the gift. I'm so glad to hear it. I worry that I'm losing that too, and it's what I do. But this post, along with many of your most recent ones, shines. You've still got it, and like you said, it's even better than it was. Bravo.

Sounds like you're in a great place, and I'm happy to hear it!

(My accustomed acerbic commentary will return tomorrow. Or soon.)