Trouble Letting Go

“Wanna walk side by side a while
Just a few blocks up 7th Ave
By the time we hit the park
You’re gonna be too old to wanna hold my hand
It feels so good I’ll have trouble letting go”

Trouble Letting Go, The Avett Brothers                                                              Songwriters: Scott Yancey Avett / Timothy Seth Avett / Robert William Crawford Jr.

I am sitting in a hospital waiting room before dawn listening to the Octonauts theme song blaring from the wall-mounted television. The bright fluorescents are almost profane at such an early hour. I close my eyes hoping when I open them the brightness will subside.  It doesn’t. 

monitor screen turned on
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My youngest son is having surgery. Countless forms and signatures, check-ins and waiting before he’s in a hospital bed, his tiny frame lost in a tangle of monitors and IV.  The nurse gives him some red liquid to drink, a mild sedative to calm him before he leaves.  A few minutes later, he is smiling but his bright eyes have a dull, heavy haze to them.  Finally, the nurse comes and unlocks the wheels to the bed with an authoritative stamp of her foot.  We hold his hands until the last moment, and he is pulled down the hall toward the operating room. With heavy hearts and worried minds, his mom and I both let go. 

That is always the hardest part, the “letting go.”

And lately, it seems like parenting is various stages of letting go.  When he was a baby, we only let go long enough for him to sleep.  Then we were letting go at daycare, at overnight stays at grandparents. But soon it will be letting go of the bike, letting go to elementary school, sleepovers with friends., middle school, high school.  Letting go to drive, work,  date…More and more letting go, and to be honest, I have trouble letting go.

photo of white paper boat on body of water
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In the end,  I realize there is some good in letting go.  I understand life is sometimes like a paper boat on a river, it only moves when we let go.  So even though I have trouble, I will eventually let him go to dream, to hope, to be his own man. I will be letting go so he can make his own path down the river and I will hope he doesn’t let go of the memories, the laughter,  and the lessons as he does.

For now, though, he is still young enough to wanna hold my hand, so I am not letting go just yet.

Learning

“The years teach much which the days never know.” –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have always loved learning.  I love finding some new amazing piece of information.  In school, I loved the feeling of accomplishment that came when mastering some new topic or challenge.

Learning doesn’t stop as you become an adult.  It simply changes. As an adult, the lessons I learn are not about Mitochondria, Colonialism or Algebra but most often about myself.  And take it from me, it is not easy to learn about yourself.

It’s not easy because sometimes you don’t like what you learn.  Recently, the years have taught me that I can be selfish, moody, angry, lazy, hurtful, impatient and unwilling to change.  They have taught me that I am not as creative, smart or talented as I sometimes think I am.

light sunset people water
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So what do I do with the knowledge I have gained about myself?  Do I accept that the years have made this of me? Or do I take what the years have taught me about myself and use it to make my days better?

I choose the latter.  I choose to acknowledge my faults, failures, and shortcomings over these past three decades and do my damndest to be better today.  Does that mean I won’t act selfishly today?  Of course, I will be selfish, but I will also strive to be generous.   I will still be angry but I will try hard to deal with it in positive ways.

I will work at learning from the years so that my days are better.  So that in decades ahead the years find that I am generous, kind, caring, hard-working, patient and accommodating.  I hope they find that I am a good parent, husband, and person…. in spite of myself.

The Grinch

Grinch_growing_heartMy wife likes to compare me to the Grinch. Not because I hate Christmas, but because, according to her, my heart grew three sizes when my son was born.

I have never been a very affectionate person.  I don’t say I love you enough to the people I care about.  I am not much of a hugger, an arm-around-the-shoulder or cheek-kisser. It’s just not in my nature.  Maybe I just assume everyone around me knows exactly how I feel about them so there is no need to express it physically or vocally.  The word “love” slips out of my mouth less frequently than so many other four-letter words that when it does I almost feel the need to apologize. 

I was worried my son would be like me, a heart noticeably small.  Certainly, there are traits I own that I would gladly see reflected in my son.  My undersized heart is not one of them.   Not only did I never want him to wonder whether or not I loved him, but I also didn’t want his future wife or children feel distant from him.

This past Sunday, my fears were assuaged.

sean-do-782269-unsplash.jpgThe headset crackled with my son’s loud laughter.  He was only a few rooms away but he always insists we use the headsets when we play video games together.  It’s our favorite way to spend lazy, rainy Sundays together.  

“Okay Dad, I am gonna switch teams now so you won’t be able to hear me anymore.  I love you.” With those words, the mic goes quiet for a split second before gunfire erupts in my ear as he begins to mercilessly kick my butt once again.

At that moment though, I was no longer concerned with winning the game.  I was too busy beaming with fatherly pride.  My son, who is often more teenager than first grader, just told me he loved me without any prompting.

It may seem like a small moment, but it was important.  It was confirmation that my efforts to be more vocal about my feelings were working.  It was some sense that, in spite of the million mistakes I make daily as a parent, I was at least getting something right.

I don’t know if my heart grew three sizes when my oldest son was born or not, but I do know, hearing him say “I love you” makes my smile three times wider.

“Love, and you shall be loved. All love is mathematically just, as much as the two sides of an algebraic equation. ” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

Daylight Savings

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As I wind through the streets of our quiet, suburban neighborhood, the sounds of a video game streamer coming from my oldest’ sons phone and Peppa the Pig from my youngest’s, my wife and I are complaining about the upcoming Daylight Savings change.  Mostly I’m whining about the disruption to the boys sleeping schedule, the difficulty in getting them to bed an hour earlier.  Our complaints are interrupted by flashing blue and red lights less than a block from our house.  As we pull closer, we can see the entire block is closed off with yellow police tape.

Just two houses down from ours, a 15-year-old boy was shot in the chest and killed.

It wasn’t long ago he was likely watching streamers on youtube, playing Minecraft, chasing his friends on the playground and doing the things little boys do.  Maybe, like me, his mom told him multiple times to pick up his shoes from the floor, struggled to get him to eat healthily and scolded him for his cluttered bedroom.   She hugged him, teased him, laughed with him and cried with him.  Today she cries beside him.

It is so easy to fall into the routine, to forget how truly special and fragile life is.  To complain about the little things and miss the big picture.  I’ve thought about that boy a lot since then.  I didn’t know him.  I don’t know his family, but still, I imagine him at my son’s age.  Too few years ago he was full of innocence.

So in the coming weeks, I hope my children forgive me if I hold them a bit closer.  If I hug them just a little longer every time I remember the mom just a few houses down who can no longer embrace her son.

This weekend, I lost an hour.  She lost a lifetime.

 

 

 

Apple Peels

apple-apples-background-583841Every once in a while I think about death, usually when I am peeling an apple.  It sounds odd I know but let me explain.  There is a scene in Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks’ Character, Sam, is talking with his young son Jonah.  Jonah tells his dad he is starting to forget his mom, who recently passed away.  Sam begins to tell his son things about her, to help him remember.  One of the things he says is, “She could peel an apple in one long, curly strip.”

For some reason, that scene has always stuck with me.   Now, every time I peel an apple, I think about Death. And even more specifically, I think about my own death. I wonder, what my sons will remember about me when I am gone.  I wonder what my wife would tell them to help them remember the little things about me.

Will they remember me as kind, compassionate, loving, affectionate, honest, trustworthy?  Will they think of me and remember my smile?   Will they remember me reading to them at bedtime or chasing them on the playground, teaching them to ride a bike or play guitar? Will they remember Nerf battles, hide-n-seek, and pillow fights?

I worry instead,  they will remember me as distracted, distant or disconnected.  I worry they will remember my face in a cell phone, or more recently, a video game.  I worry they will remember my flaws, my faults, and my failures because there are so many.

I worry that, like Jonah, they will forget me, and that is even worse.

Sometimes I need these little reminders.  I need to peel apples so they remind me to make the most of my time here.  To live so that when I am gone, my family will remember me, remember adventures, smiles, and laughter.  To impress upon them everything I can now, and maybe when I am gone those impressions will last.  Maybe they will laugh while they reminisce about my quirks and idiosyncrasies.  And maybe one day, they will even remember the pensive look on my face as I peel an apple, in one long, curly strip.

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” -Ernest Hemingway

 

Unpublished.

One of the many blog posts that have been sitting unpublished in my drafts for almost two years.  It’s incomplete but as I read it, I remembered the moment and it made me smile.

Fireworks.  July 2016

It’s just past dusk on an unusually cool July night.  The dark green grass is covered by a small blanket beneath us.  We sit, eyes toward the night sky expectant.  Finally, there is an explosion of light in the sky above us followed by a chorus of  “Oooh” from the crowd around us.  Everyone stands in awe of the sight as one after another, fireworks breblast-bright-celebration-666988ak the starry night sky.  Everyone except for Emerson. His fragile arms are wrapped tightly around his mother’s neck, gripping tighter and tighter with every thundering blast. As the show wears on, slowly his expression changes from horror to amusement.  Even though his face beamed with a smile by the finale, his arms still clung tight to his mother’s neck.

But when I am afraid,
    I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
    I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?

Psalms 56:3

 

Life

54950030It’s been nearly two years since my last post.  There are nearly a dozen blog posts sitting in my drafts incomplete that I have failed to finish while two years of life flew by.  Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, vacations, jobs and more have passed since my last post.  As my life settles into a routine, I feel as if I have failed to notice the stars again.  I am overlooking those amazing moments in day to day life that should inspire me.  My son welcoming me home with open arms and a smile, my wife sitting in the car next to me and placing her hand on mine, or any one of the million magical little moments I dismiss as mundane.  I think it’s time I begin to find excitement in the everyday again.