Sunday, August 11, 2013

Every Day is Father's Day

Yes, I'm lousy at writing on actual holidays, but I wanted to take some time to talk more about me and my sons. I've addressed some of our challenges in the past, but this year has been filled with finding ways to better engage and relate to each other as father and sons and as people.One of my greatest hopes is that they will not come through this experience as bitter human beings (much as I hope the same for myself).  Both before and after my stroke, I've struggled as a parent to curb anger and frustration and not be overly sensitive to noise and "nonsense". I find that second part especially difficult, since a child's mantra is often, "I don't know what I want, but give it to me now!" I think that sentiment is something everyone feels but which kids actually believe/expect adults can reasonably deliver. Not so.

We're all just doing the best we can. For parents, the best still amounts to a near-constant sense of inadequacy.

Wyatt, 8, assures me that "I'm the best dada ever." I don't do well with absolutes and feel unworthy of such unconditional love, but I'm glad he doesn't seem to feel cheated. Once this declaration was followed by a conversation that led to the heady determination that he's a quarter me, a quarter Jamie, and half himself (he made sure the percentages came out to 100). Wyatt and I speak frankly about my condition, and he's told me it's okay that I'm "not normal". As much as hearing that warms my heart, I still wish for more normality for him, and we share that at times through play. As I've improved physically, we've been able to kick a soccer ball around and shoot baskets in the driveway. Wyatt and I even had a catch before one of his little league games (me, gloveless and one handed). How Apple Pie is that?

I don't think Gus, 6,  can understand as much about what's happened to me and doesn't even entirely remember me from, "before I was slow" (as he puts it). But he appreciates me for who I am and has been especially demonstrative with me lately (something I'm told I've always struggled to do). Admittedly, I don't always share my most positive emotions easily, though I like to think I do so when I genuinely feel them; just not habitually or perfunctorily.

For some reason, recently, Gus has expressed concerns about what other people will think when they see I don't use my left arm. For quite an oddball, that's about as close as he comes to embarrassment. Though last weekend at the movies, he did (probably unnecessarily) jump to my defense when a man commented on my leg brace and cane, explaining, " my dad's brain doesn't remember how to move that side". I both hate and am glad he has some manner of understanding. He's genuinely sorry for me and periodically says things like, "When you can run again..." I'm not yet at when; still if.

Our best connections have been built through outings like that one, where my sons get to see me as a true parent, as well as through activities we can share:

I've taught them games of my childhood:

  • Coin Hockey (known by many names, but in my school lunchroom it was Nickel Hockey; [to be read in your best Old Man voice] because when I was a kid, milk cost 15 cents, both ways, in the snow). I'm quite proud that Wyatt was able to introduce this pastime to his classmates, even if his cafeteria works on account and they had to commandeer the math class change container in order to play.
  • Yahtzee (which I also play online as Dice With Buddies) -- it's the simple pleasures that count.
  • Nok Hockey (which my brother and I used to play for hours on end)
  • Paper football (another lunchroom classic)
  • Rock 'em' Sock 'em' Robots (which they gleefully bought with old Target gift cards specifically with me in mind. And, I have to admit, physically abusing my children through the guise of plastic robots is strangely satisfying).

We watch plenty of movies together, which is especially nice when I can share flicks of my youth (like Star Wars). Gus, tends to talk too much and ask too many questions ("Why is she...?). My patented answer: "I don't know... Maybe they made a movie about it." (If nothing else, I will teach my children sarcasm.)

Otherwise, when they're willing to hear the sound of my voice, it's often as technical support for various screens and enabler of games on said devices. Was there ever anything I talked about as incessantly as Wyatt talks about Minecraft?

The kids have also taken some interest in my blog, seeing as it's an important but mysterious part of my life. I'll probably read this entry to them, just as I have read some of Wyatt's baby blog, Please don't let me break him, and Gus'  preemie blog.

Looking back on the past three years, in many ways it would have been easier to have gone through it alone, not dragging anyone into the morass with me, but I also would never have made it without the support I've had.

Apropos of that, here is The Sound of One  Hand Clapping , featuring me and Gus (Wyatt calls it the more-technically-accurate Sound of Three Hands Clapping):