“Daddy, why is Sam, I am?” I was flummoxed.
As a father, I expected the “Daddy, why…?” questions. I prepared, I studied, “why is grass green, why is the sky blue, why is there evil in the world?” I was ready.
What I was unprepared for is the breadth and scope of questions that a three-year old could ask. The boy doesn’t ask the deep penetrating questions about life and the way the world works. He is still a pre-schooler, he is still trying to grasp the banality of every day life. So his questions seek understanding and justification for the minutiae of life—it’s not the big things that concern him, it’s the small stuff.
For example, an episode one evening after dinner:
Daddy, why are you sitting down?
It’s been a long day buddy, just having a cold one.
Daddy, what a cold one?
I’m having a beer, buddy.
Daddy, what is beer?
It a kind of “dad soda” I have sometimes to wind down.
Daddy, can I have beer?
Daddy, what does ‘wind down’ mean?
It means to relax buddy.
Daddy, are you going to take a nap?
No, son. I am just going to sit here and finish my beer.
Daddy, what is beer?
We just went over that boy.
Daddy, where are you going?
To get your PJ’s, it’s time for bed.
It was at story time, right before getting tucked in, and me returning to the armchair and my now warm, flat beer, when the boy looked from the storybook and asked me. “Daddy, why is Sam, I am?”
Was this a question about the nature of Sam, his obsession with the green eggs and ham and his unremitting need to evangelize about them? What is Sam’s motivation, why is he so compelled? I know there good, but are they that damn good? Why is Sam I am?
I backed away from the edge of the existential cliff. The boy wasn’t challenging the ontological underpinnings of a beloved storybook character; he is three, he just likes to ask questions.
“Daddy, why is Sam, I am?” he repeats.
“Because buddy, just because.”
We pray for rain. It’s October and we still stifle under the glare of endless sunshine. It’s been summer since March.
East coast traditions, quaintly out of place in West coast weather, seems simply delusional now-a harvest festival in the middle of the perpetual growing season?
The marine layer is not enough to sustain us. The fog never makes its past the outer Sunset now anyway. Green lawns and red tomatoes will become illegal. It’s California, we’ll find a way to regulate them.
We’re still wearing Giants ball caps and t-shirts, we should be in beanies and hoodies by now. We were in July.
Sweaters and scarfs, the latest wool and tweed from Paris, London, Milan sit forlorn in Union Square windows. Ski boots and snow boards remain doubtful and dusty.
Sure, folks nod and smile and bask in the sun, but secretly we all wonder “where the hell is that El Nino that going to save our butts?”
Ora pro nobis pluviam. We pray for rain.
It’s 5:30 AM and I have the vague and nagging feeling that I should be up, doing something, even though I’m not 100 percent sure what that something is.
I am tired, I am always tired. Tired is solved by sleeping. The low level, ever present anxiety, the unquieted ambition that lies shallow in my conscience, the desire to be somebody-that’s solved by doing something.
Which sometimes wakes me up at 5:30 in the morining with the urge to do something, even when I’m not 100 percent sure what that something is.
"It’s too tall, that’s why it keeps falling over, son"
"But, but, but, but, but, I want it that way"
We go back and forth like this for a good couple of minutes before I realize, that we are not talking about the structural integrity of building, but a pile of plastic toy blocks. So I relent before we go down the predictable path of escalation- tantrum, thrown object, time out. The existential crisis of having a real argument over imaginary things was averted.
Now to face the existential crisis of losing an argument to a three year old.
The meter, flow and timbre of the written word on the page, wedged between tables and charts.
My assumptions are sound, my analysis accurate, my conclusions clear.
The standard business memo, laid out in prose, a business case crafted not to inspire or incite, just to simply get my project funded.
Happy Father’s Day, with a special nod to the dads of young kids, that fraternity of men who smell like aftershave and sour milk, who have snot on their shirt sleeves, and a little bit of spit up on their tie. Those who go to work every day because they could use the break.
I hope you had a good day where you had several beverages of your choice, the remote control and 37 family free minutes before you were back on your grind, your grove.
Go dad go!
You look great…
I’ve forgotten how pretty you are.
My reflection in green, grey, brown hazel eyes.
The smell of lavender in curly, flowing dreadlocked hair.
Vixen of my youth, maiden of a softer, simpler time.
Then you opened your mouth…
I’ve forgotten what a f*#cking wack job you are.
Well, it was nice seeing you.
I have to rush home now,
Kiss my wife, hug my kids and
Gone are my backpacking days; me sitting in the dirt in front of a pup tent, eating out of a mess kit with a pocket knife. I am Dad, and I camp with kids.
Now camping is a SUV filled to the roof with food, formula, power cords, changes of clothes, toys, and a tent the size of my first apartment.
I never was a outdoorsman. The is simple adventure for me was the challenge of a city boy spending a few days outdoors without the benefits of electricity, refrigeration or hot running water.
As Dad, the adventure now is spending a few days outdoors feeding, dressing, cleaning (no scratch that), redressing, and entertaining two very young children, without the benefit of electricity, refrigeration, or hot running water.
Thank God for Mom.
Looking back on my professional accomplishments of 2013 I think, meh. I had some significant milestones at work, but the most noteworthy event of 2013 wasn’t my accomplishment at all.
I can’t claim the birth of my daughter as an “achievement”. I didn’t deliver or give birth to the child. I simply watched the doctor and held my wife’s hand.
My daughter’s first breath took my breath away. Her smile now melts my soul and draws my focus. Which is why in quiet moments of introspection, instead of extolling professional accomplishments, I revel, rhapsodize and feel grateful for bearing witness to and being a father to that baby girl.
And her big brother too.