I came home from what is more and more the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had and got to work on a carpentry project I’m working on for Christmas. Take a gander.
I’m not great by any means but I’ve been taking stock lately of a few things. The thing I would most like to be proud of in my life is my vocation as husband and father. On that front all I can say is I am trying every day. I am a teacher and vice principal. After my family, in my adult life, few other things have brought me such joy. I am a writer who has never claimed to be much good although I do know my way around a few decent turns of phrase. I am a man who likes to challenge himself in the gym, not stopping or giving up until I’m satisfied. I will probably never be satisfied and that is just OK with me. It simply means I will always be challenging myself. And I think that goes for every aspect of my life.
On the writing front in particular, I have been reading old posts to my children. It is fun rediscovering our life together; but not nearly as much fun as seeing the joy and hearing the laughter from my children who really get a kick out of my writing. Also on that front, I have noticed that I have at seven separate times in the past few months started writing new posts only to save them as drafts. Perhaps I will one by one finish each post and publish them. I might even provide context.
Until then, the family is beautiful, school is wonderful, I am building back up in the gym and getting stronger, and Baby Jesus has a comfortable place to sleep in my garage.￼￼
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.
My dad was fond of telling that old joke when I was growing up. In reality, I like some of Kipling’s work. The Just So Stories come to mind. But the focus on Kipling was not why I repeated it here. I opened Facebook this morning and saw a picture of my father (with my mom and me) and for some reason I thought of that line. Still that joke must have made an impact on me. Every now and then my son will turn to me and ask: “Daddy, do you like… Kipling?” We both laugh like little kids.
Where were we my faithful follower? Ah yes, I broke my back. I don’t want to beat a dead horse. That wouldn’t be fair to the horse and simply a desecration of its body. But this is significant. First, it hurts. Second, it really hurts. Finally, it hurts a lot.
Let’s get caught up, shall we?
Determined to do hard things I realized that lifting heavy weights wasn’t enough so I started doing bizarre gymnastics-like things called calisthenics then my wife went out of town and I gave in to the whims of my children and, having prayed to share in the Passion of Christ, did a frontal flip on a trampoline at the age of 41 with two spinal fusions under my belt (literally), and broke my back. This was followed up with a visit to an urgent care facility wherein two pit bulls had been shot and killed by police earlier in the day after mauling their owner to death. That sound about right?
In my last post I quipped that I must be pretty tough that I went almost 24 hours without treating it before being seen. You see, although I probably get my love of dad jokes from my dad (go figure) I think I definitely get my grit (if you can call it that) from my mom. I still vividly remember her when I was a child and a fall from a second story window in a house fire had left her in traction for weeks. She willed herself to get out of that hospital because, as she said: “I had kids at home to take care of. What was I gonna’ do? Lie there forever?”
This morning I walked into my classroom and was greeted by 18 of the happiest faces you could hope to see at 8:45 in the morning. They rose to their feet (as they always do, they’re very polite) and said good morning. Then, having already heard through the grapevine that I was injured they began asking with mouths wide open how it was possible that I was with them. I told my story.
Then it was on to my senior class who literally bowed down for me when I came in. They informed me that two of their classmates were out sick because they “didn’t feel well today”. They then told me they would be texting those two to inform them the the “legend” (their teacher) was a machine, a beast, and the most incredible human being they’d known because he didn’t let no broken back stop him from getting to work.
“Kids,” I said, “I had to demonstrate my toughness for you.” It’s an old teacher trick.
The juniors were last and just as mystified as to my presence. “Kids,” I said, “Who else was going to come in here today and have as much fun with you as me?” They appreciated my being there as much as I appreciated their presence. One of them in particular, an athlete, picked up on my fear of getting soft over the next few weeks. He offered me some advice on exercises I could do and diet tricks to keep in mind during the time when I wouldn’t be able to lift. Nice young man.
Back to the doctor’s office on Saturday, the doctor who came in to speak with me after looking at my X-ray asked me “Do you, um, like, do you lift weights or anything?” I gave a bit of a smirk, nodded my head, and said “Yes, yes I do.” “That’s what I figured,” she said. “It probably saved you.” She had just spoken with the neurologist on the phone because she was concerned with where the break was. It seems that a break like mine could easily have left my paralyzed but for my brute physical strength and charm. I tossed the “charm” in there for fun. But really, being in decent shape allowed me to thrust myself out of the dangerous position I was in and I’m glad that I can see a payoff for all the hours in the gym.
Tonight I’m back out making pick-ups and deliveries as part of my courier job. I’m hoping none of the parcels tonight are particularly heavy but as I previously stated “for everything else, there’s Percocet.”
I think Dad would be proud. I didn’t let a little thing like a broken bone get in the way of continuing to do what I need to do for my family. He taught me well. And Mom? Do I even have to ask? I think she’s probably wondering why it’s even a thing. After all, if memory serves, she broke several vertebrae in that fall. She’s probably reading this and thinking “When’s he gonna’ shut up about it? It was one bone!”
And my kids? Well, one day we’ll determine if we actually like Kipling.
Folks, I got off all that social media nonsense a while ago. Sorry but I'm not on Twitbook, Facepalm, YouHu, WingWang or any of the others. Maybe an event will happen to make me change my mind like Peter and Paul coming down with flaming swords and commanding it be so. Until then, read the blog and if you feel a comment is in order or you feel like sharing a tip or suggestion for a topic, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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