Sunday, June 19, 2016
My father passed away on Friday. He was sixty-four.
Everyone I speak to tells me that sixty-four is too young, that he should have had a lot of life left. When I hear this I nod or say “I know,” but the truth of it is hearing this doesn’t make me feel any better. It only makes me feel worse. I think people say it because they don’t know what else to say. And maybe even because it makes them think of their own mortality.
The day he died was exactly one week to the day since we’d received an official diagnosis. Twenty-four days after being admitted into the hospital that he would never leave alive. Acute B Cell Lymphoma of the brain. Treatable, we were told, but ultimately only a short term solution. That was provided the initial induction of chemicals into his body didn’t kill him.
We declined the treatment on his behalf and prepared for life without him.
When I was a kid, like most other boys my age both well before and long after me, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. As I got older, that dream lost a bit of its luster. The wants and desires of what I planned for my future-self changed all the time, most notably in that I no longer looked down the road and thought about what I wanted to be but instead referred to it as what I want to do. There was one exception: I wanted to be a great dad.
To know me is to know my story, of how my parents divorced when I was four. Of how my mom remarried and of how we moved to Texas when I was eight. In the time between the divorce and the move I saw my dad every-other-weekend. While I loved my mom dearly, leaving my dad on those Sunday afternoons was gut-wrenching. Our next weekend together always felt like it was years away rather than only two weeks. I remember sitting in church, watching the clock, wishing it would slow down. Weird, I know, because most kids in church do the exact opposite. But not me. Not on those two-day weekends with my dad. I knew that once church was over, it was only a matter of hours before our time together would be up. I think maybe that’s why, even to this day, I look at the clock on Sunday afternoons like it’s ticking down to a death sentence. I can’t really enjoy the day because I’m too busy watching it slip away, aware that I can’t hit the rewind button and start the weekend all over again.
Once we moved to Texas, every-other-weekend turned into holidays, spring break, and summers. This meant I got to spend larger chunks of time with my dad, but also that the time between our visits was also greater. It was almost win-lose.
And then he moved to Michigan. Our chunks of time together decreased once more as we only saw each other during Christmas and summer.
I could share the many memories I have of him during that time, but there are too many to tell. I will say that one of our last times together when I was a teenager we had a big fight. I told him that I hated Detroit, that I hated visiting him in Detroit, and that I hated him. What I really hated was that I couldn’t have more of him in my life, but I didn’t know how to say that. So I lashed out.
What I had learned in the time between my parents’ divorce and that day, however, was that I couldn’t wait to be a dad. I couldn’t wait to have children of my own, kids to play catch with and cards with and to ride on roller coasters with. I wanted to be him but on a regular, full-time basis.
Over time I’ve created this list. It’s a top-ten list called “Who I’d Want to Be My Dad If My Dad Weren’t My Dad.” Yes, this is an actual list. My list has both real people and fictional characters from television or movies and looks like this:
10. Tony Micelli (from Who’s the Boss)
9. Cliff Huxtable (from The Cosby Show)
8. Jason Seaver (from Growing Pains)
7. Billy Crystal
5. Tom Selleck
4. Tom Hanks
3. Paul Reiser
I suppose the order of this list, from numbers three to ten, could be moved around at any point in time. Some, like Paul Reiser, I have read their books. These are men I’ve found who have, in some way or another, shaped who it is I have become as a dad. For my kids, I want to be more than just the guy who provides for them financially. I want to meddle in their lives, for them to come to me for advice. For them to listen to my advice even when they didn’t ask for it (this happens a lot, actually). I want to make them laugh. I want to be their hero.
Number Two on the list is my father-in-law. He might just be the most stable influence I’ve ever had in my life. He listens. He supports. He’s always there to lend a helping hand. He’s who I look at and try to model myself after on days when I just can’t seem to get things right. He’s someone I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger-self to appreciate more.
I can’t really say why I created this list. I guess it was because I never really got to spend that much time with my dad and in many ways was a part-time son. That’s not to say, though, that he didn’t love me full-time. I have no doubt of this. I know that our time away from each other tore him apart. I remember hearing stories of how he used to sob every time he watched my sister and I leave him. I imagine that he probably looked at that same clock in church on Sunday mornings and wished it would slow down, too.
My dad was always telling me in recent years that he didn’t know how I did it: work, a family, undergrad school and then grad school. He always took time to tell me how proud he was of me. We hear this from our parents, but I don’t think it really sets in. At least it’s that way for me sometimes. But then I hear from other family members or one of his friends or acquaintances, as I have over the last three months, and they say of how proud he was of me – of how he always talked about me and the things I was doing in my life and of the job I was doing as a father. Life and circumstances might have shaped who my dad got to be in the parenting department, forcing him to be a part-time father. But I know, without any doubts, when it comes to his kids and grand-kids, Dad was a full-time fan.
The last three months were hard. I worried every day that what I was doing for him wasn’t enough, especially after he’d moved in with us. Our worlds changed as they collided together through sickness and pain, but he and I made the best of it. I found strength in places I didn’t know existed, like the memory of a t-shirt he had made for me when I was a kid that he had printed that read “Samson” on it that referenced both the man in The Bible and the fact that his name was Sam and I was his son. He delighted in silly things like that. Always.
Dad and I might not have had a lot of time together when I was growing up, which may be why he saved the best lesson for last. To know what it means to truly be a great dad, I first had to become the son he needed me to be. I had to set aside my wants and needs and desires. Become less selfish and more selfless. Learn to be more patient. To walk with him down a road neither of us was ready to walk down but found ourselves being forced to. We were making up for lost time.
One of our last conversations wasn’t really much of a conversation at all. In the last few weeks while my dad was in the hospital he wasn’t very responsive. He couldn’t communicate much. But one day he woke up, and after struggling to formulate the words asked, “Why am I here?” I stood beside his bed and held his hand as I explained that he was in the hospital because something was wrong with him, more than just the misdiagnosis he’d been given back in Tulsa that he’d suffered a stroke. “You’re in good hands,” I told him. “You’re in good hands with the doctors and nurses here as they really care about you and want to find out what’s happening to your body. You’re in good hands with God.” He started motioning to me, which is something he did a lot when he couldn’t speak. At first I didn’t understand what he wanted, so his movement became more and more pronounced as he kept hitting my chest. “Me?” I finally asked. He nodded his head. “You’re in good hands with me?” He nodded again and went back to sleep.
My dad is number one on my list. Of all the people in the world that could be my dad if he weren’t my dad, I’d still want it to be him. From the first day to the last. It’s a place that only he will ever hold. He did the best he could as a father with the time he was given. His love was never-ending. His support never failing.
I’ll miss him every day, but I won’t have to look very far to see him. I’ll see him every time I look into the mirror. Every time I look at my kids. Every time I say something that I find funnier than anyone else does. Every time I tell a story for the seventeenth time. Every time I watch a New York Yankees game. Every time I find myself in need of courage and unsure of where draw it from.
Thank you, Dad, for reminding me of who I was created to be.
Friday, September 5, 2014
Sometimes the hardest thing to accept is the very thing you’ve spent weeks, months, or even years bracing yourself for.
You’ve worked to prepare yourself mentally so that when the news comes you’re able to maintain your composure no matter the setting.
You’ve fortified your heart so that when your mind is no longer up to the challenge it will step in and rescue you from yourself.
You’ve told yourself that her leaving is for the best because you know that asking her to stay, even if it’s just for a little while longer, is a selfish thing to do. Selfish, when you think about it, was just one of those things she didn’t even know how to be.
But then your mind starts to drift.
Did she know how much you loved her?
Of course she did, you tell yourself. And you believe it, for the most part.
Is she in Heaven?
You hope she is. You want her to be. But that’s an answer only Heaven knows which means there’s just one way to be certain and you’re not ready for that kind of certainty. Not yet.
You remember the denim footstools that she’d made out of juice cans more than a decade ago. It’s a weird idea, if you think about it. But weird is how genius finds a way to reveal itself to the world, and everyone who has ever seen those footstools has loved them. And now the one footstool has dried toothpaste on it because your son uses it to reach the sink when he brushes his teeth. Man that kid is messy.
She’d love, that even after all of these years, you’re still using them. She was big into homemade stuff things like the footstools. And blankets. And sugary goodies like caramel popcorn and peanut brittle.
Who’s going to make the peanut brittle, you wonder. And the noodles she made for holiday meals? You’ll never have homemade noodles like the ones she made ever again. Unless someone has the recipe. You hope someone has the recipe. And as you go through all the possibilities in your mind of who might have the recipe you realize that it won’t matter. Their noodles will not be her noodles. So you decide unless the noodles are spaghetti noodles you’ll never eat another noodle again.
Your Grandma the best spaghetti. It was a simple recipe, really, and yet you could never master it yourself. You vow not to eat spaghetti ever again, either. Which is good because you’ve put on more than a few pounds in the last year and have outgrown your best suit which is your best suit by default because it’s your only suit which means you have to hurry out and buy a next-best suit to wear when you help pull her out of the back of the hearse and carry her to her final resting spot before saying one last goodbye to her in a few days. But at least you don’t have to worry about finding a bag to match your shoes, so that’s good, right?
And as the years come and go through your thoughts you can’t shake the one question that seemingly haunts you: What happens to Christmas?
You sit for a long time letting that one sink in. The truth is that nothing happens to Christmas. But it’s not the kind of nothing that results from everything staying the same but the kind of nothing that happens when everything changes.
You want to scream “This isn’t fair!” but you know that cancer, like life, is anything but fair. Fair is an illusion you cling to when life does or does not work out in a way that benefits you, which isn’t an illusion she’d want you to have because selfish wasn’t one of those things she knew how to be, remember?
Monday, December 17, 2012
Cookies and I have been taking a break. I didn’t want to do it, but sometimes, for the sake of a the relationship, you have to agree to step back and spend some time apart from each other if you’re ever going to be able to move forward harmoniously.
It had come to my attention that maybe, just maybe, I’d been taking Cookies for granted. So now, like the production of your favorite television show, we’re on hiatus.
This epiphany came a few weekends back after the kids and I ate not one but two packages of red holiday Oreos in less than a twenty-four hour period. The last package I’d bought that Friday night – Brady and I had snagged three packages at the grocery store as part of our impulse shopping – was gone by Monday. Surprisingly, it wasn’t me who hammered out the last bag, but my son.
Any time cookies go missing from the pantry or my wife’s secret hiding spot, the finger is always pointed in my direction, that is, unless I’m the one doing the pointing, and the only reason I’d be doing the pointing is if someone disobeys Dad’s Cookie Rule #1: don’t bother leaving me a cookie package with only two cookies; the punishment will be the same as if you’d eaten the last of the cookies, so you may as well get your money’s worth. Kacie, being the caring soul that she is, doesn’t subscribe to that ideology and is always sure to leave just enough to be able to say “But I left some for you!” but not enough to really, truly enjoy. Brady, on the other hand, operates under the notion that if one is going to complain about not being left any cookies, then one should have beaten him to the punch and eaten them all one’s self. That’s how my wife knew, after interrogating me about the cookies’ mysterious disappearance, that the only other possible culprit was Junior.
She sat across the table from Brady, a bright light shining from behind her so that he could not see her face. His hands were bound to the table by cuffs, restricting his movement. “Did you eat the Oreos?” she asked Brady.
“No,” he said.
“Then who did?” she asked, slamming her hand down on the table in front of her, propelling her body upward, launching her face within inches of his.
“A ghost,” he said without flinching. This kid was a new breed of operative, trained to remain cool under pressure.
I giggled. Traci looked my direction, daring me to laugh again. I didn’t dare.
“Ghosts aren’t real,” she said.
“Neither were the Oreos.” He smiled, knowing he’d stumped his captor.
I excused myself to the bathroom, where, after shutting the door, I proceeded to laugh my butt off. Did I feel guilty for bailing on my wife? Not one bit. In fact, my lack of presence in our living room was a sign of solidarity in parenting, because laughing in front of Brady would only encourage his orneriness, whereas laughing to the point of tears privately allowed me to spare him from getting into further trouble from his mother for laughing with me. Leaving also afforded me the chance to have a very matter-of-fact conversation between me and my reflection in the mirror in which I’d said “You, sir, make the best kids ever. Job well done.”
Later that night, after my son copped to wiping out The Last of the Oreos – I wonder who will play me in the movie for this family spoofed rendition of James Fenimore Cooper’s famous novel? – I thought about how it is some things can control us so completely, or alternatively prevent us from being able to control ourselves. There’s no question I like my family. I like baseball. But I love Cookies, which is why I had to hit pause on our relationship.
A lot, though, has happened in the time since Cookies and I went our separate ways. I’ve been working seven days a week, hoping to preoccupy my mind by focusing more on my job. Two days ago I finally graduated college, which didn’t seem like such a great accomplishment without Cookies there to celebrate with.
Even during an impromptu celebration/we-may-as-well-grab-something-to-eat-while-we’re-here-at-the-mall-shopping dinner with my wife, I couldn’t stop thinking about Cookies. I tried to avoid eye contact with Cookies, but even then could still taste its chewy texture, its plump chocolate chips, and its perfect balance of white and chocolate icing smothered on top in thick, zigzaggy lines. My wife encouraged me to succumb to my inner desires, but I refused; Cookies and I had been apart so long, the last few days that separated us were merely going to be a formality at that point - my twenty-eight days of rehab were almost over and I was not going to let my anxiousness ruin everything we’d been working towards.
With this being the holiday season, I know that, for many, this is a time of family gathering and presents. For some there’s a deeper meaning to the nostalgia, a reason for the season. For others, it’s nothing more than a paid day off work at a time when work can be overly demanding. But this year, for me, the Christmas will take on a whole new meaning: it’s when my love and I will be reunited…and it’s going to feel so good.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Dear Mr. Daniels.
I feel weird referring to you as a mister, being that I’m just over a year and a half older than you. Nevertheless, I want you to take what I have to say seriously. So here it goes:
Over the last several weeks, Rangers fans have sat by and watched while their favorite players or potential future favorites were either signed to lucrative contracts with other teams or traded. I’m not going to pretend to have any idea what it is that you and your front office team do behind the scenes on a daily basis to try and build a winning franchise. You’ve worked some incredible magic over the last couple of years, and I’m thankful for that.
I’ll be quick to admit that I fully understand that baseball, first and foremost, is a business. You, Mr. Ryan, and the rest of the organization are providing a service to those of us willing to pay for that service. It’s because of that knowledge and understanding that I’m able to separate the practical business side of baseball from my love of the game side. You see, as much as I might love the Texas Rangers, it pales in comparison to my love for the game itself. I’m hoping it’s your own love for the game that will force you to hear me out.
It’s not often that both a father and daughter’s hearts are broken by the same people, let alone broken twice in the same week, but it happened – first with Kacie (my 14-year-old daughter) losing her favorite player in Mike Napoli and then a few days later with me as Michael Young was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. I can’t say the loss was more significant for one of us than the other; we each have our reasons for why we call someone our favorite, and because of that one loss doesn't sting less than the other.
I get that Mike Napoli, despite his post season heroics and being a name that sells a fair share of merchandise, isn’t somebody who’s statistical history proves worthy of his $13 million a year asking price. I also get that moving a career Ranger and $10 million of his $16 million salary clears a significant amount of cash to make a move on a free-agent like Zack Greinke, despite his opting to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But now the Anaheim Angels, for the second year in a row, have swooped in and signed one of our players to a contract he may or may not be worth, which is beside the point.
Frustrating as all of this might seem to the casual fan, the lack of fan-based communication is equally frustrating too. Not everyone is willing or capable to separate business from fandom, so why not find a way to keep the Ranger faithful abreast of the comings and goings of their favorite players, but from a front office perspective? Why not come out and publicly say that Mike Napoli, as much as you know fans loved him, because of his asking price didn't fit financially into the puzzle of what you’re trying to build and that by not meeting his salary demands you were aligning yourself to make a greater push at landing Zack Greinke, or possibly even resigning Josh Hamilton? Why not come out and say that while Michael Young has been the consummate team player and the face of the Texas Rangers for over a decade, the decision - a decision in which there really was no right answer – had to be made to move the team forward, into the future, rather than hold onto the past? Why not come out and say that you made every effort possible to sign Zack Greinke, which included not bringing Napoli back and trading Young to free up money to sign the free-agent pitcher long-term? Why not come out and say that while you’re appreciative of what Josh has done as a member of the Texas Rangers, his asking price was too gaudy for someone who brings a tremendous amount of drama (both seen and unseen) with him, a history of injuries, and an inevitable slump each season that seemed harder and harder for the star centerfielder to dig out of?
Please don’t think of this as me trying to tell you how to do your job, when what I’m really asking is what can the organization do with regards to how and what it communicates with the fans? As fans, we take it on faith that you know what you’re doing. I'd say that it isn't our business if you're running the team into the ground or not, but it actually is our business. Assuming you’re trying to resurrect the team from the demise imposed upon it by its former owner and in turn create a winning organization, why not just come right out and tell us matter-of-factly the reasons behind some of the decisions that were made? You’re probably thinking “Do you do that with your kids?” The answer is yes. I try not to take the “Because I said so” approach with them, but instead offer them legitimate reasons for the whys and why nots that are made on their behalf. I want my kids to know, that even though they might not understand or agree with those decisions, those decisions really are (hopefully) for the best, and that by my telling them these reasons, they might be able to step back after the shock of it all and see the bigger picture. That’s what the Texas Rangers are trying to create, isn't it? A bigger picture? A picture that forever stakes their claim in baseball history?
Now to my point: I’d like to offer my services to you and the Texas Rangers. Think of me as your real life connection between the club and the fans. I wouldn’t be there as someone simply collecting a paycheck, therefore possibly having no true allegiance to the organization. Instead, in me you’d have a person who, as mentioned earlier, can separate the business side of baseball from the fan side. I’d be willing to be your voice, your not-so-typical communication piece to the masses. I could answer the Facebook and Twitter cries that suggest, in not-so-nice ways, that you and the organization don’t know what you’re doing. In fact, I’d be willing to consider quitting my current job and come to work for you for free. I know, it sounds crazy, but that’s how committed I am to making this thing between you, me, and the rest of the world work.
My wife doesn’t know of my plan to come work for you and the Texas Rangers organization yet, so I’m sure she’s not going to be happy on my making such a life-changing decision without involving her, so we may have to negotiate leftover hotdogs and nachos into my contract. Also, I’d like permission to wear my Michael Young jersey or T-shirts on casual Fridays. He might be gone, but for me he’ll never be forgotten. Lastly, should my wife kick me out, I may need a place to crash for a while, so a cot in the clubhouse might be in order. How is your coffee in the break room? Never mind, we can discuss that stuff later, at a more appropriate time.
Thank you for taking the time to hear me out and for considering my offer. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Monday, December 3, 2012
As a father, guarding your child’s heart has to be the hardest mission of all to accomplish, despite many of those difficult missions having involved late night cleanup sessions of vomit in the bed, diaper blowouts all over the baby carrier, times where a floating turd in the bathtub makes a better toy than the actual bath time toys, solemn conversations about dying pets, and convincing them that sharing a room with their baby brother is only temporary when you know it’s not anything close to that.
To my knowledge, Kacie has never had her heartbroken, although I thought we were once going to come disastrously close.
She was five.
We were in the car, driving from Somewhere to Someplace, listening to the local sports radio station. This was at a time in her life where car rides were probably our best chance at quality time. We could talk about anything, everything, or nothing of significance and never run out of things to say.
That day Kacie heard the news guy talking about her favorite baseball player, Hank Blalock. She shushed me, wanting to absorb every word this stranger had to offer, perhaps hoping, no doubt, that he’d even mention her name as his biggest fan.
While the commercials played a few seconds later, Kacie sat in the backseat, confined by her thoughts and the car seat she’d long felt she no longer needed. I turned the radio down, positioned the rearview mirror so we could make eye contact, and asked if she was alright.
She didn’t answer.
She wouldn’t even look at me. Instead, she stared out the rear passenger window, trying to work something out in her mind.
Stopped at a traffic light, I turned to face Kacie, tapping her left knee to break her trance. She looked at me, still confused from what she’d just heard.
I asked again.
“Daddy,” she said, “what’s traded mean?”
I found myself in one of those moments where there was no right answer, just the least wrong one.
“Traded means that the Texas Rangers might send him to a different team in exchange for some of that team’s players.”
She gave my words considerable thought.
“So he might not play for the Rangers anymore?”
Kacie began to gasp for air, not in the way one would before they are pulled underneath the water by a lake monster, but in a way one might who’s just been punched in the stomach and doesn’t remember that breathing is a series of simple repetitions of in through the nose, out through the mouth. Crocodile tears welled up in her eyes. Again she shifted her attention away from me, damming the corners of her eyes with the palms of her hands.
I’m not sure how long the light had been green, but the impatient sound of horns honking around me signaled that it’d been too long. I adjusted the rearview mirror again, my eyes shifting back and forth between the road ahead of me and my daughter behind me.
The trade never happened.
But today, though, Kacie won’t be so lucky. Mike Napoli, her current favorite Texas Ranger, has opted to sign as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox.
What makes today harder, I fear, is that in the last decade since that conversation, Kacie has learned to appreciate baseball players for more than just their cool tattoos, awkward batting stances, powerful homerun swings, and cool last names. Okay, maybe the cool last name thing remains, but the other traits have been replaced by how cute the player is, not to be outdone by how good his butt looks in his tight baseball pants.
Not to be overshadowed by posters and magazine clippings of The Avengers, there’s an assortment of Napoli paraphernalia strung throughout Kacie’s room. Jerseys with his name and number twenty-five are draped over her bedposts. T-shirts of similar designs are buried in the pile of clothes in her floor. Drawstring backpacks made to look like the back of his jersey hang from a knob of her closet door. Dog tags are pinned to the wall. Some girls prefer to dream of vampires and werewolves. Kacie prefers heroes, both of the super variety and of the post season. She gets that from me.
I wonder, though, how she’ll handle this break-up – her first “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Losing your favorite baseball player from your favorite baseball team is serious business. Despite what any rational thinking person might say, it is very much like saying goodbye to the love of your life. You’ve invested so much time and energy into that person. You’ve winced as they struck out with runners in scoring position to end the game, celebrated as deep fly balls barely managed to escape the field of play to put your team on top, and crossed your fingers and said a prayer as they’ve prepared to throw the ball to first base to make the twenty-seventh out. The thought of never getting to be a part of that person again is heartbreaking. Every time you see them from this moment on, it’ll be like they’re dating your best friend, which in this case is true because Kacie’s best friend’s favorite team is the Boston Red Sox.
You’ll still see them from time to time, but things will be different; different is the only way we think it can be. On the outside, you won’t even give them the time of day, but on the inside, you’ll be rooting for them because letting go is harder than you anticipated.
Somewhere between her tears and my binge eating, I’ll tell Kacie of the silver lining that awaits her: Spring Training is closer today that it was yesterday. It’s there, possibly, that her new love awaits her. I will encourage my daughter to try again, and give her the “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” speech. Do I mean this in real life? Hell no. But this is baseball we’re talking about. Baseball is better than real life. Baseball can’t give you a STD, can’t get you pregnant. Baseball won’t try to convince you to drop out of college and run away with him to some hippie commune where bathing is optional. But more than anything, baseball, even after you graduate law school, find your one true love after years of celibate searching, get married, buy a house in the suburbs, and finally decide to have children, will still be there, waiting to be shared with your dad, the only man who will ever promise to love you unconditionally.
I don’t know if Kacie will buy any of that crap. Probably not. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
I used to wonder what Dr. Frankenstein must have felt at the precise moment when he realized that not only had he created a monster, but he’d created a monster.
I no longer have to wonder.
Last night Brady and I were cuddled in our denim overstuffed chair, preparing for today. I’d worked late, and had given him precise instructions by telephone earlier in the evening that if he would have his bath taken, jammies on, and teeth brushed by the time I got home we’d be able to play for a bit before he went to bed. To my surprise, not only had he done everything I’d required of him, he’d also pulled one of his toy boxes out into the living room.
The sole contents of this particular toy box, as it so happens, are the various bodies and body parts of probably twenty different Mr. Potato Head figures. There was Texas Rangers Potato Head. Dallas Cowboy Potato head. Old School Mr. Potato Head. You get my point. None of the MPH (Mr. Potato Head) figures were put together, which if you’ve ever spent any amount of time playing with MPH (much easier, right?) in your life then you know the limitless options that lie on the operating table before you – sort of a kid-friendly version of Frankenstein’s Monster in which you can hide random, leftover body parts in its hiney.
Before we could get down to the business of creation, though, Brady and I had an important matter to handle first.
I submit to you the following document, an account of the conversation that transpired between father and son, co-creator and createe.
INT. LIVING ROOM – NIGHT
BRADY (5) dressed in blue flannel button-up pajamas littered with snowmen and hair still wet cuddles with BRAD (37) in an oversized denim chair that’s seen better days, and in those days, lots of moments like this one. They are father and son.
We’ll play Mr. Potato Head in a second, but
first… isn’t there something you want to ask me?
I think there is.
Okay, if you say so. I’ll give you one more chance,
then I won’t ask you again.
Do we want to watch Survivor while we cuddle?
That’s not it.
Do we want to eat Oreos while we cuddle?
Not it either.
Brady laughs. Not a silly, fake laugh, but one that suggests he’s only just begun with the witty banter and thinks he’s the funniest guy around.
Doooooo you wanna play Hot Wheels?
You wanna give me five dollars?
Brad gives him a look. A get serious look.
A hundred dollars? Wait. A million dollars?
Yep, funniest guy around.
Fine. If it’s not important to you, it’s not important to me.
Brad slinks deeper into the chair. A moral victory.
Can I turn one hundred tomorrow?
Pandemonium ensues. A one kid laugh track.
You know what? If that’s what you really want, then yes.
Yes you can. By all means, turn one hundred tomorrow. Be
old. Lose your hair. Lose your hearing. Lose your mind. Have
fun pooping your pants again.
This grosses Brady out.
Yep. Old people do that. They can’t always control when and
where they have to use the restroom.
So they poop their pants?
Why don’t you wait until tomorrow when you wake up and
you’re a hundred. If you’ve pooped your pants you’ll know I
Brady’s scrunches his nose. One hundred doesn’t sound fun.
Daddy, can I please turn one tomorrow?
Sure, but you’ll still be pooping your pants, and
you won’t know how to work the PlayStation anymore.
Brady gives it some more thought before locking eyes with Brad. It’s a war of wills, a Wild West showdown of sorts where new is trying to push out old. Old isn’t budging.
We don’t have to do this. We can all wake up tomorrow
and everything can still be the same if you want it to.
Brad makes a move to get up, catching Brady off guard. Brady stiffens, sensing the moment that could change his life forever is about to evaporate.
He grabs Brad’s face, cupping his father’s man-sized cheeks in his tiny hands.
Daddy…can I please turn six tomorrow?
Brad thinks about it. No more fun and games.
Will you still love me as much as you did when you
Yep. I’ll be six, so I’ll be bigger. I’ll have more
room in my body to love you.
Brad hugs Brady. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. Old doesn’t have to give way to new – there’s room for them both.
Sentiment aside, that little turd played me the entire time. Brady knew, that with every turn in our conversation, he was baiting me. He understood that tradition has him ask me on the eve of his birthday for permission to turn the next age. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s all I have. The younger version of Brady eagerly complied. This new Brady 2.0, however, I wasn’t prepared for. It’s like he’s the Bionic Man of kindergarteners. Sure, last night everything turned out okay. But what happens when the day comes and it doesn’t? What happens when he says something so witty that even I don’t have a comeback for it? Daniel LaRusso was never better than Mr. Miyagi. Luke Skywalker didn’t best Yoda. Rocky never took a swing at Mickey.
And now, even as I write this, something Traci said to me reverberates through my mind. “What do you expect? You created him.”