There is in my home tonight a great excitement that has built. I’ve been doing this teaching thing for a long time but the first day of school (the one with the kids and not just in-service meetings) is always a terrific time for me. This year it’s a bit different. Having walked away from education a couple of years ago this is my first “first day of school” in 2 years. And even though I started working at this school in January it wasn’t quite the same, jumping in mid-year. This year I am the vice principal. This year my nine year-old daughter (she of broken wrist fame) is joining me at this school. This year Netflix will hopefully release season 3 of The Crown but that might just be wishful thinking.
Tonight my sweet little girl and I ate dinner and then began what I hope to be a nightly ritual. We packed our lunches together. I still can’t believe how fortunate I am. All parents are the primary educators of their children. But I get to do it in a very real way. Short of homeschooling this is a great option for me. It combines two things I love – teaching and my kids. I can’t wait to drop by her table in the cafeteria and drop dad jokes on her and her friends. She’s a little nervous but she’s also excited and I think she’s happy because what other little girl gets to bring her awesome dad to school every day?
Speaking of the broken-boned one, we picked up her new eyeglasses today. Before getting out of the car at the ophthalmologist my daughter asked ever so kindly if I could help put pants on her stuffed bear. I don’t even ask anymore. But the cast was getting in her way. I may not be the best dad but I try as evidenced by the picture she took.
The tail has to go through the hole. Don’t ask.
After packing lunch we gathered her uniform and I ironed her shirt and mine. Then she brushed her teeth as best as she can with that cast on and I read her a book before watching her drift off to sleep. This is going to be awesome. My wife and son? They were out shopping, buying us a big bag of fun things to keep in my office like Twizzlers and protein bars. I didn’t see any pony bottles of gin but that might come later.
I got myself a “nun Bell” for recess!
Speaking of my son… I’ve been prepping mentally that I should probably deliver some kind of father-son talk to him one of these days. He’s 11 and it certainly seems appropriate. The only thing is how to do it. I prayed about it and discovered a wonderful (if not someone older) book called Listen Son. The book, written by Cardinal Stritch (yes, Elaine Stritch’s Uncle) in 1952, is a series of conversations between a father and his son. What I like is that it presents the facts in a straightforward way while focusing on the virtues of manliness, chastity, and honor. I can work with this.
Tonight I came in from grabbing a smoke on the porch and son asked “Daddy will you read to me tonight? I don’t care what it is.” Perfect opportunity, I thought. So I grabbed the book and sat down with him. Two things happened.
First, about mid-way through the first instruction my son stopped me and said “It sure sounds like you’re reading a script.” Perceptive, that boy. In fact it kind of is a script. I brushed it off by saying “Yes, son, this is an important topic and I want to get it right for your sake.”
Second, I concluded with the line “remember that what we will discuss is sacred and does not need to be talked about with others.”
For some reason at this point the boy asked “Where’d you get this book.” And without missing a beat and with as much honesty as I could muster I said “Amazon.”
We both immediately burst into laughter.
“A sacred topic brought to you by a minimum wage factory worker,” replied my son.
A few months ago I stumbled across a video on YouTube. I believe it was suggested by their heinous algorithm that seems to know me better than I know myself.
Why yes, YouTube algorithm, I would love to watch several hours of conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination, clips comparing the 747 and A380, weird weather disasters, and anything to do with logistics!
That’s when I came across the video in question. It was a 15 minute clip on how overnight shipping works. And it was… amazing. After typing that line I realize that probably only a man would get my enthusiasm. Because all grown men are really just little boys at heart and we still get excited at a fire truck racing by. Overnight shipping, it turns out, truly is amazing. FedEx, for instance, routes just about every package through Memphis between midnight and 2 AM in order to get it to you the next day. Don’t ask why this is interesting. Just accept it and move on.
Repping our favorite YouTuber
The YouTuber who made the video is even more amazing than the content. He’s a 20-something from the States who now lives in Scotland. His name is Sam Denby and his channel, for some reason, is called Wendover Productions. I showed one to my son and he also was hooked. He’s 11.
Not long after that I noticed that young Mr. Denby has a secondary channel Calle Half As Interesting. In these videos – which are only about five minutes long – he gives a very humorous take on topics he deemed not watch-worthy at anything but approximately five minutes. Currently there are 101 such HAI vids and the boy and I have watched every single one. We eagerly await Thursday afternoons when the new HAI’s drop.
For his birthday (a few months ago) I told him I’d order him an HAI shirt. I finally got around to doing that last week. Got myself a Wendover shirt as well. They came today. And like two excited and excitable young boys (only one of us is supposedly a grown man) we immediately put them on, sporting them around town on our errands.
I hope Sam Denby reads this because I want him to know how thankful this 41 year-old dad of the greatest son in the world is that the videos he produces have given us one more thing over which to bond. Also, if you haven’t seen any yet, please check out the channels.
The year was 2006. I had only one week earlier proposed to my wife (well, she wasn’t yet my wife; that’s why I proposed). She had been in the habit along with a handful of friends from college and their ever-growing families of traveling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina every year around the end of summer. They would all rent a house and enjoy a week of fun at the beach. Now that I was entering into this fray I, too, would be invited along. It was lots of fun for about two days. And then… a tropical storm struck the Carolina coast. One of the group, heeding the weather reports early, decided to pack his family and bailed. He’s Canadian, though, so I think tropical storm warnings are especially traumatic. I had been assured that “these things happen all the time” and that there was “no need to worry” and that I should “stop being such an amazingly good-looking but dreadfully cautious killjoy”.
The storm came. The
roads flooded. After one day of looking
out the window and NOT seeing water recede I decided I should probably try to
make a break for it. I got in my car and
headed south on the beach road for exactly one-half mile. Attempting to drive through standing water
that didn’t look that deep my car – a brand new Dodge Magnum – shorted out
and died. Long story short: I walked
back to the beach house, a friend of my wife helped me push the car to a local
supermarket parking lot, and I borrowed my new fiance’s pickup to drive back to
New Jersey. The insurance company sent
an adjuster who deemed a new engine was in order. Turns out it just needed spark plugs. A few weeks later I had reclaimed my vehicle
and life went on. The following summer,
as a newly married man I returned to the beach with my wife. We were already expecting our first child
(though we had not yet told anyone) and we enjoyed a few days of sun and
sand. The summer after that, with a six
week-old boy in tow we ventured on the first of many family cross-country road
trips and I began documenting them in writing.
Which brings us to today – Monday or Day 5 if you like.
The thing is that even though nothing much happened yesterday, even less happened today (hence the long and winding intro). We played on the beach During the day and in the pool when the sun went down. My wife and I prepared dinner and drinks for 50 people. You know, typical stuff. But one thing that did happen struck me as ironic considering how this all began…
I always have a hard time sleeping on vacation. I don’t know if it’s the change in bed or the
change in atmosphere. Something just
seems to prevent me getting a good night’s sleep. Today was no exception. I woke up around 5:45 because of the sunlight
pouring into the room “like butterscotch” as Joni Mitchell would say. I was excited because at least I would see
the sunrise over the Atlantic. Look, it’s
not like I go looking for these things but when they happen in my presence I try
to make the most of them. I’ve seen the
sunrise before but there is something really awe-inspiring watching it come up
over the ocean. It truly gives one a
sense of the majesty of God. I stepped
outside onto the balcony. And I
immediately realized that Mr. Golden Sun was already over Mr. Horizon by a few
degrees. Damn. I missed it.
No worries though. I opened my
laptop, went to Youtube, and entered “sunrise ocean corolla nc”. Within moments I was watching what I had just
missed – time-lapsed, no less! Saved me
the trouble of waiting through the whole boring thing. Then I went upstairs to the kitchen for my
black coffee, then downstairs to the driveway to jump rope for a half-hour.
In 2006 there was no going to Youtube to watch a
sunrise. I mean, I think there was a
Youtube then but it wasn’t a part of everyday life as it is now and there wasn’t
nearly as much content. There also was
no “black” coffee. Until four years ago
I used to give my dad a coronary every morning when I’d pour cream and sugar
into my morning Joe. “Why not drink it
like a man?” he’d ask me. “Dad, I’m 37
years-old. You shut up because I am a MAN!” I likely never said those words but if I did
I likely said them like the guy from that episode of Law & Order
called “American Jihad”. Yeah, you’d
have to have seen it I guess. In 2006 there
certainly was no jumping rope for this guy.
I think at the time I fancied myself being “in shape”. I also fancied myself having great
flexibility despite already having had my spine fused five years earlier. I did not care what I ate (which included
nothing that wasn’t meat). If you had
asked me to pick up a rope and jump over it for 30 minutes I would have
accepted the challenge and then promptly died.
Times change. People change. The sun still comes up. Man always desires to better himself. And Dad will always be right. I still can’t imagine why I ever put anything
into my coffee.
One more thing that wasn’t a thing in 2006 was you,
son. And yet, this morning after I did
all of my ridiculousness I walked into your room, shook you from your sleep as
only a dad of an 11 year-old young man can, and said loudly “WAKE UP!!! It’s time for fun!” See the thing is I didn’t care if you
slept. I wanted your company. I love hanging out with you and my
waking hours are kind of boring if you’re not a part of them. You grumbled.
I jumped on the bed. You muttered
something about hating life. I pulled
the covers off. It was great fun. And where did we go from there? Well, since you share my DNA I’ve often planned
our time together based on what I want to do. The thought is that if I enjoy it, you will
too. And if you don’t we’ll blame your
mom. In short order you were dressed and
we were off on a morning walk. The
Dunkin’ Donuts is only a mile away and I was craving something more than black
coffee. Figured you’d like a donut and
we could enjoy some father-son time together.
What I didn’t count on was your determination to be even
less physical at that hour of the morning and on vacation than I was at any
hour of the day when I was in my 30’s.
Three blocks from the beach house and you dropped this gem on me: “Dad, when
we get there do you think we can Uber back?”
Yes, I did just hear that correctly.
Uber wasn’t a thing in 2006.
And it wasn’t going to be a thing today either. We got to DD, grabbed our breakfast, and
WALKED back to the house. And you know
you’re happy we did because along the way we passed something really neat. We took a slightly different route and
encountered the rather sizable fire/rescue station. Since the Outer Banks are kind of isolated
one might figure that a rescue station would have to be well-equipped to handle
any kind of life-threatening emergency.
What neither of us figured was that they would have “it” right out
front. “It” was a concrete pad – but not
just any concrete pad. “It” was a
concrete pad with a giant letter “H” painted in an even gianter circle smack in
the middle of the pad.
“Look!” we both said in unison. “A helicopter landing pad!!!” Like two little boys excited over the dumbest
thing we both squeeled with delight at the prospect that a helicopter might
swoop in at any point during the day. We
walked a little further. “Of course, son,”
I said, “that would require someone to have to kind of die or something.” We paused in sadness for a moment. And then you looked up at me.
“But it would be kind of awesome.”
It would indeed my boy. It would indeed.
For moments of clarity when God allows me grace to compare
my life today with my life before kids and to know that it’s so much better
now; I am most thankful.
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