Stay at home vacations. Some dig ’em, some do ’em because they have no choice. This middle income married father of two likes to think that SAHVs are the best option for vacation. I don’t like to spend money and trips with the family are overrated. Staying close to home is the quality way to spend time together.
After day one of this week’s vacation, that is definitely the case. My son is relishing the extra time with his dad. I expect he really does enjoy having me around more than he lets on. The weather has been nice, so we have already played golf, tennis, and rode mountain bikes together in the last three days, the latter being one of the best rides we have shared together. It doesn’t hurt when a friend of mine, close to Nate’s size, let Nate use his carbon fiber mountain bike. The trails we rode this afternoon were intimidating to me the first time I rode them a few weeks ago and Nate attacked them courageously. I’m proud.
The newest Call of Duty was released last week. Nate has recruited me for several hours playing the zombie maps with his friends, announcing to them “don’t get mad at my dad.. he sucks but he’s getting better”. Thanks, son.
We had a nice dinner tonight with my 91 year old father in law to celebrate his wife’s 90th birthday. They had steak and enjoyed a nice evening of conversation. I am stuffed, thankful for the calories I burned on the trail riding with Nate earlier today.
Alyssa, well, we’re writing NaNo together. I printed out my story for her critique — and anxiously waiting for it. She and Mir have been hitting the outlet mall that is regretably close to our house. I’m not sure I like the bright red pants, bought for $10, that my daughter displayed to me with pride tonight.
Oh, and she got her hair cut several inches shorter and a blue streak added. Now we have blue hairs appearing on the tile in our shower.
I’m behind on NaNo. Today was productive when I had the chance to write. I tried writing at my favorite Panera this morning but, alas, my friends coerced me into catching up on conversations I have missed with them this month. Despite that I was able to add about 2500 words to my word count. The story feels like quality also.
SAHV. The best way to go.
My animals are keeping me company this afternoon. Chester the cat curled up in my lap when I got home, then moved to his bed on the ottoman. Nick the sheltie showed me his canine love by sitting next to me on the couch, his white front paws across my lap and his head across my chest. Love me, Nick said with his brown/blue eyes. Nick basked for a while as I stroked his chin and behind his ears. He is in his usual place on the floor in front of the ottoman as I write.
Coming home was difficult today. The house was too quiet. I texted Mir.
It is final. I’m home but the quiet is going to drive me crazy.
Mir was at her lunch lady job at the elementary school. The kids are in school. Our house never felt so empty.
This morning I went to court with my friend John as he and his wife, Sherri, finalized their divorce. A few months ago, when he told me that he had discovered emails and other things on her iPad that showed she was cheating on him, I offered up my ear. Since then, we have spent several evenings together agonizing over the myriad of challenges that revelation was presenting to him. John trusts in God. They have three boys at home. He wanted to do the right thing, but Sherri was showing no remorse for what she had done. She did not stop seeing other men even though John did not ask her to leave. When it became clear that divorce was going to be the option to choose, I made another offer — if you need someone to go with you on the day you have to go to court, I will go with you. I told him that I have done the same for someone else (and I have). It seemed to make sense to offer my support to him on a day that would likely be a difficult one for him.
I knew the papers were filed a few weeks ago. John emailed me last week, told me the court date was set for this morning. Would I still be willing to go with him? Of course.
Sunday night I went to a concert with John and his boys. He was solemn, but in decent spirits. When he asked me to go with him out to the lobby, without the boys, he told me she had been seeing more men in the past weeks, had been leaving in the middle of the night and returning in the morning. John was not angry. Her unfaithfulness was so clear that he knew that divorce was the right decision. Even in that unfaithfulness, Sherri was still asking him to take her back. The last time had been early as that morning. Of course, she had not mentioned she had a date on Sunday evening to watch the Bears game.
I think I was more angry than John that night, even this morning. He was relieved. This morning was closure for him. We talked and prayed together. I watched him, prayed a lot more, especially when his lawyer showed and took him before the judge. Sherri didn’t show for the court appearance. She had gotten home at 4 in the morning, didn’t want to get out of bed. It didn’t matter. She was not required to be there.
Of course, the judge would not sign the papers. There was one mistake that had to be corrected. The judge sent John back home to get Sherri to initial the change. I felt strange going in the house with him, sat on the couch as he went upstairs to where she was sleeping. I prayed as their dog barked, that it would keep barking so that I would not hear. It kept barking. Sherri provided the signature quickly. We left and returned to the court.
The tears came as I watched as the judge made the pronouncement. I was surprised at the emotion I was feeling, strong enough that I had to fight back sobs. I am not sure if John saw. He is a stoic, so I did not want him to see my tears. Outside in the hall, the lawyer shook his hand. It was done.
Our conversations switched to the future — what it would be like with the boys, the things they had told him about their mother, thoughts on dating. I had to hide my smile. Dating?
The day today is sunny. Cold. But sunny. Beautiful and crisp. We live amidst forest preserves.
“I’m wearing a suit. It’s a nice day. Would you be willing to take a few pictures of me to use in my online DATING PROFILE?
Oh my. We laughed.. and got some really good pictures for him to use.
Mir responded to my texts, then called me a few minutes later. And the emotion of the morning took over. My voice began to crack, I couldn’t speak for a few seconds while I struggled to gain my composure. I could not believe how strong I felt. I felt the heaviness of the day. Wow. It felt strange to be hit so hard by something that had not happened to me.
John and I got to know each other six years ago when I coached his youngest son in baseball. Our wives got to talking, found out that I ride bicycles and John had raced the Kona Ironman. He wanted to get back into cycling after a few years of lay off. I invited John to ride with my buddies. We found out we share a love for God. John is now one of the most respected bicycle racers in the area. We have studied the Bible together, ride together, have gone on countless cycling weekends with our friends. I can’t help but think that we are in each other’s lives for a reason.
It has felt good to be needed by a friend. Today was good for John because I was there. That is all I need.
I’m not really sure what the bit of news I am about to share will reveal. What may be even more revealing is that I am proud of it. The reality of it all is what makes all dads odd in their own way. What I demonstrated Saturday is just a little of what makes this dad odd to his wife and children.
I’m a cyclist, so spandex has become a way of life for me. That happened a long time ago, before the kids came into existence. My wife has never been a fan, but after the shock of seeing me clad in cycling clothes wore off, the necessary utility of cycling garb influenced her to the point of acceptance. My children were born into a world that included a bicycle happy dad. Their acceptance has been more complete but that does not mean it has been easy for them. My daughter, especially, will be scarred from the times I have picked her up from a school event or went to watch her at a school track meet while clad in my cycling gear. The latter was a white kit. Her friends still gag a bit when they see me. Life can be cruel and my daughter can attest to that fact of life.
Do not think I look good wearing my cyclist stuff. I don’t. I don’t care about it either. Who am I trying to not impress?
The lawn is my sanctuary.
My lawn looks nice. I like it that way. I’m not fanatic but my philosophy is that the state of my lawn says something to my neighbors and friends about me. If my grass is not maintained on a regular basis, I get a bit annoyed.
Rarely do I not have an idea of what I want to get accomplished on a weekend. Plans almost always include some kind of Saturday morning exercise, as well as some type of chore (i.e. lawn during the green months of the year).
Combine all of the above.
And you have this past Saturday morning. I drove to my mountain bike destination at dawn for a few hours of single track riding. The plan for when I returned from my ride was to relax a little, then get the lawn done early. That plan looked to be on track until the ugly clouds and lightning appeared on the western horizon as I drove home from my ride. Uh oh. I had the choice of skipping the yard work for the day or trying to get the lawn mowed before the storm really hit.
I chose to try to get the lawn mowed. The rain began to hit while I pulled in the driveway, so I ran to the shed in my bike clothes, filled the mower with gas, and went right to work. Who cared if it rained on me while I worked? I was sweating any way.
The hail hit when I was about two thirds done with the lawn. I kept going. Nickel sized hail was not going to deter me from my task. I finished, soaked to the bone and likely with a few marks on my skin from the hail.
My family had been inside the house, watching me through the sliding glass door as their father maniacally performed his task in spandex. They were proud.
A man’s memory can be his best friend or his greatest enemy. What he remembers is significant as well as how he recalls the memory.
Stay with me here.
Take this picture for instance. My cousin Jenny, the one on the far left (your far left), sent this picture to me earlier this year. I’m the one second from the right in the plaid shorts (your plaid shorts, er, I mean, your right). How do you think she remembers this picture? She remembers the playhouse in the background and how I was such a nasty cousin. I remember how much I hated those plaid shorts, for one, but also that this was a day that my older cousin treated me like one of the gang. I am a few years younger than him, but don’t ask me how much. Three, I think. Phil was a senior in high school when I was a freshman. I kicked his butt when I had to wrestle him in gym class that year. It took him years to forgive me for that.
One memory leads to the next. I see a photo of my cousin and a few seconds later I forget about that day. I think about a day some eight or nine years later. My memory goes where I want it to go. Or so I would like to think. Doggone it. I wish that were true.
There are things I remember that I want to forget, that I have stuffed deep inside, so deep that they pop up when I least want to remember them.
Know what I mean, Vern? Made you remember Jim Varney. Thank me later. In Ernest.
Take Vickie Thayer, for instance. The first word that comes to mind when I think of her is regret. What a dumbass she made out of me. There were a lot of girls vying for my attention but I could see nothing else but Vickie, a brunette with killer blue eyes and long legs. I did a bunch of totally stupid things to get her attention and she just strung me along like the puppy dog I was. Funny thing is that I only remember that she looked good. I don’t actually have a picture of her in my mind any more except for how her face looked the night she sat across from me on a Sunday night at her parents’ dinner table, staring at me with a disgusted, angry look on her face. That is the face stuck in my memory.
“Why do you eat like that?”
I eat one thing on my plate until it is gone, move around the plate to the next food item, continuing until my plate is clean. It’s efficient. And it annoyed Vickie Thayer to the point of disgust.
I know that is not the most deep revelation I could possibly share. Umm…. sorry.
That’s what I remember about Vickie. There are a few other things. For a girl I dated for over a year, I don’t remember much besides that.
What I remember the most about Vickie is not how she looked. I only have a vague rememberance of that. It is a struggle to remember much about what we did together or even how she looked right after our first kiss (I asked her first.. that I remember). What I remember about Vickie is how she made me feel. Those feelings come flooding back to me at the strangest times, washing over me as if I felt those feelings yesterday, not almost thirty years ago. I remember what it felt like when she broke up with me by walking past me in the college cafeteria holding the hand of a big football player who just happened to live in my dorm. With tears of rage in my eyes I flung a full cup of chocolate milkshake at his back, the shake splattering over the both of them. John took one look at me, saw the look in my eyes, and kept going. The rage and hurt still boils in me.
What did I say again to begin this blog? Oh yeah, let me reach up and bring it back to here. Hold on.
A man’s memory can be his best friend or his greatest enemy. What he remembers is significant as well as how he recalls the memory.
Guys like to recall exploits. They embellish them. Some actually tell of said exploits the way they remember them. Interesting.
Get the barf bag out. I’m giving you fair warning.
I have been married for twenty years. I can still recall vividly my wedding night, how the package was unwrapped before my eyes, meant only for me, white stockings up to perfect naked hips, her white dress falling around her as I kissed her there, the rest of the package unwrapping before my amazed eyes. Her sighs the most precious music I have ever heard. Oh my was that beautiful.
I see the vision of those moments played out in my head as I write this. The emotions I felt swarm over me. There are few moments in my life that compare.
This is when my memory is my best friend. How I remember that moment is significant. For there are times when that memory brings me the same joy I felt then and there are times that I hate that memory.
Once again, stay with me here.
Marriages can go stale, especially after twenty years. I think back over those twenty years and realize that I don’t remember a whole lot of passionate moments beyond that first night. That memory turns to sadness. Dang.
And I also realize the wisdom of saving one’s self for marriage. I remember the passion but not the face of a whole lot of women. Too many. And let me tell you that it makes that last paragraph more rough. It’s an unfair comparison, totally unfair, passion remembered that involved nothing else but that. But a man remembers those moments of passion and wonders why his wife doesn’t live up. No wonder some guys turn into philanderers and cheaters or try to force their wife instead into perversion. They are living on how they choose to remember.
A smart man remembers the commitment, remembers each time or each way his wife has told him that she loves him. Passion, strong passion, is spread out over the years, not wasted in a few moments that a man’s brain takes him back to.
We’re stupid that way.
It’s a good thing my NaNo novel has a survival theme. That is a bit of what the exercise feels like. I’m not saying I am not having fun. I am. One thing I have learned from previous NaNos is that making the time to write each and every day is the key to success. The reality is that being a family man means that I need to keep focused, squeeze out every opportunity, or else that time may not present itself to me.
Our clothes dryer broke as I began my first evening of writing on November 1. Nate practically shrieked in desperation for me to help him with his homework (that he wants my help is a rarity). Later on that evening, he and Mir announced to me that the webcam was not working on the family computer. My expertise was required immediately in order for his project to be completed that night. Mir also decided that she needed to have a chat with me about our finances that night.
Yet I made my word goal that day. Woot.
I probably should include this blog in my word count. No. Wait. Temptation to fudge the word count, fighting said temptation that is, is also key to survival in the whole NaNo exercise. Yeah, there are no police who will come wailing in if one cheats, but the personal shame of cheating just isn’t worth it. Even if a usable novel does not result from the month of word frenzy, the pride of making the 50K word goal is worth it all.
Alyssa is writing a NaNo as adult this year. Two years ago she completed a young adult NaNo of 20K words. She is taunting me in a very new age, teenage way — through FB, text messages, and by plain old face to face stick out your tongue taunts. So far writing has been easy for her and she’s cranking out her novel very quickly. She is over 11K just five days into the challenge.. and she is letting the world know that she is going to celebrate being ahead of her dad while she can still say she is ahead of me.
That’s OK. Maybe I’ll let her stay ahead.
Having my daughter writing along me has created an acceptance, once the November 1 debacle passed, that is unprecedented in my household. The non-writers Mir and Nate usually don’t accept the interruption of my attention. But Alyssa loves that I am writing, so our world is suddenly in peace. Did I say how much I love my daughter? I do even more these past few days.
Alyssa even persuaded me to attend my first write in last night — “Dad, you will never get the peace you need to concentrate if you don’t get out of the house.” I agreed. I also needed to get away from the clothes dryer project that had sucked my time most of the afternoon. I packed up my laptop to head for the write in at a Wheaton Caribou.
Yikes. Why are NaNo people so “socially awkward” (weird, strange, howl at the moon demented)? Mir said I must have fit in quite well when I told her about my first write in experience. I did come home with a nifty plot bunny. However, no one knew that a group of high schoolers had also planned a poetry slam in the same space and time as the write in. I snap clapped through 2000 words and the plot bunny toothed NaNo woman who shared the small coffee shop table with me. A girl who called herself Squiddich nervously twitched next to me the entire evening of writing.
I had fun. This whole thing is fun. Word count is 8346 and just a few words ahead of the goal.
Keep up. Wish me luck. And to my American friends, vote early and vote often.
NaNo is on. We shall see how effective the October prep has been. So far, after getting up at 3:30 this morning to begin, I have over 2000 words logged on my new born project. I like it already and am smiling as the character studies and even first scene description are moving me along. How did I write last year and finish? I started November 1 last year without a clue. I feel today like I already have the project done!
We’ll see. I know the doldrums that occur when/if one gets behind during the month or when a block hits. I’m crossing my fingers.
(added note — if anyone wants to be a writing buddy, my NaNo tag is steve.the.redbird.fan)