Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013

Once again, your Mom and Larry invited me into their Christmas morning so I could watch you open prezzies. Their continued generosity takes my breath away. And this year, Max took part.. not really sure what all the fuss was about, but determined to get into everything his little arms could reach.

Sadly, I slammed the car door on a corner of my winter coat around Thanksgiving. Which wouldn’t have been a big deal - I do it all the time – except that this time my camera was in the pocket. And my little cheap phone takes so long for a picture, that unless the subject is dead, it’s going to be blurred. So the only good picture I have is this one, taken by Mommy or Larry. And I treasure it. I cannot look at that smile and help but smile myself.
Afterwards, we colored and played dolls and hung out in your room. Then we went to my house and you opened the few prezzies you hadn’t already “puppy-dog eyed” me into letting you open earlier. And you spent much of the rest of the day making things in your Easy-Bake oven. Which I dutifully ate.
All of themSo you know your father really does love you.

A little bit of drama in the night. Like your father and my father before me, you never want to turn loose of the day. So you began acting out.

I don't know why I'm so dense sometimes. You've done this your whole life. Everything would be going along fine and then BOOM - at the last minute all hell would break loose. And it sometimes seemed that you acted worse the better the day had been. And all too often, tired myself, I would lose it and behave just as badly, if not worse. "Why in the hell do you do this?" I've shouted. "Why do you have the screw up such a good day?"

And it finally clicked. Because it had been a good day.. such a sweet day. That was the problem. You knew that once you closed your eyes, it would be gone. And that's pretty upsetting, no doubt about it. That's something I can well understand. It just took me way too long to do so. Sorry.
So I shut my mouth, laid down with you and we talked. And I read Matilda to you with Simon kitty purring between us till you drifted off.
And so closed a good day.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Misc

Dearest Daughter,

I watched Matt Smith's last Doctor Who episode with you last night. And at the weepy end, he said something that made me think of this blog - this message in a bottle to you -- and why I keep posting to it as you grow up:

"I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear."

Games


Dearest Daughter,
I so love playing with you. In fact I would say that other than reading (and Doctor Who), it is my favorite thing in the Universe. Sometimes I’m tired and sometimes I’m grumpy and I grumble. But I hope that you are wise enough to see past that and know that I will always love playing with you, no matter what and no matter when (though admittedly, I enjoy some things more than others).

Last weekend, after we’d seen the movie Frozen for the second time (and I’d given you an Elsa doll for early Christmas), I loved that we reenacted the entire movie from beginning to end. I got to be Elsa, Hans, generic villagers, and the guy from Weaseltown. I especially loved that in the middle of it you whipped out your iPod, managed to find the music on Youtube, and that we recreated all the dance numbers with Barbies.
It makes me sad that some of the games fade with time. It came as a shock to me last week when I realized I had completely forgotten Bad Gorilla and all the other imaginary people you used to play school and occasionally host game shows with (I kind of miss doing all the voices). But all things change. And old games give way to new ones. There’s ALWAYS card games – I like some of the ones you’ve taught me that you picked up at the Y – and while some of the simpler board games like Candyland are starting to pale, others like Monopoly are starting to come on strong.

Tickling is still a favorite, as well as a game we first started when you were a baby – Tell Me a Secret. You bugged me to play that with you ALL last week. I begged off one night because I was convinced you had a cold. But as you know, the “puppy eyes” can usually win me over. And so we’d take it in turns to tell each other “secrets”, getting right up to the person’s ear and whispering in the most lisping, sibilant voice possible so that it tickles beyond belief.  "I've got a sssssecret. You wanna hear my sssssecret? You can't tell nobody my sssssecret 'cause it's a sssssecret and you can't tell a sssssecret 'cause then it won't be a sssssssecret...."
By the time we'd get to the third hissing repetition of the word secret, you're usually convulsing and I’m surprised your giggling squeals haven’t yet called down Child Protective Services on us.

We play a lot of tag in the new house, when my arthritic knees allow. I love that the open floor plan let’s us run riot through the living room and kitchen. And there are so many variations – we’ve done Scarf Tag (a kind of capture the flag with running), Cheater Tag (you are EVIL with the timing on your time outs), Ball Tag (using the yoga ball to combine tag with dodge ball), and ever since you described me as running “like a chicken horse”, we’ve occasionally had Chicken Tag, complete with flapping wings.
If there’s a small span of time before we have to be somewhere, we still play “Doggie, Doggie, Where’s Your Bone?” in the living room. For a short time, it morphed into “Pirate Bone”, where I would pretend to be asleep with my treasure beneath my pillow and you’d sneak up and try to steal it away without waking me and my shouting "AAAARRRR, JIM BOB! WHAR'S ME TREASURE??" (this was back when we were playing "Trolls and Vampires", with me as the stupid troll chasing you to the vampire lair and running headlong into the invisible vampire shield and knocking myself out). But mostly we now play it in its original format, placing an object beneath a stool and sitting on it blindfolded, listening for the other trying to creep up and steal it. Thank God my hearing at least is still sharp.

And that you have never yet learned not to let yourself walk between me and the light. Heh.

And there's the bingo and Barbies we play over the phone when you're at your Mom's (I love it when you do the role of "Other Ken"). And Hangman. And hand games like slap and thumb wrestling kept us entertained through all those long, boring lines at Disney.
So we play. So far as I can, I play whatever you want, whenever you want to the best of my ability. Because while I hope we will always play together, all good things do come to an end. And I would hate to look back in regret one day, knowing I had squandered what I was offered.

Because I really, really DO love playing with you more than anything.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dread

Dearest Daughter,

Ohgodohgodohgod. This is the year I have to tell you about Santa Claus.

You know already. All your friends know, and children being what they are, they've all told you. But it broke my heart when you told me that you never discuss it with them anymore because they just make fun of you for believing.

And you do. You do believe. Deep down you know better, but you just want to believe so hard. And it breaks my heart, both because I've put you in this position, and because I know that something very precious to you is going to be taken away very soon.

And I'm going to have to do it. You won't believe it till I or your Mother tells you. And I owe you that. I owe it to you to look you in the eye and confess to the only lie I have ever told you.

And I would rather take a brick to the face. I would so much rather take some simple, harsh, physical pain.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

You

Dearest daughter,

Life has been hard. Not as hard as many, God knows.. but hard. There have been hurts and reversals, betrayals and regrets enough that I used to waste my time playing “if only.” 

You know that game – “If only this had happened…” If only I hadn’t…” “If only I had….”. Indulging in daydreams of how wonderful life would now be if only one pivotal event had turned out differently. But I stopped that game. Because a thought kept returning that spoiled the warm, glowing image of the perfect life I almost had. 

And it was this – the knowledge that if I changed one thing – if I altered any of those key mistakes where I felt my life had taken a wrong turn – then I would surely alter the path that led me to you.

And the thought of a life without having had the opportunity to be your father so horrified me, that the “what if” game ended, there and then. No matter what joys I might have gained and what pains I may have avoided, a life without you would have rendered those gains meaningless.

There is nothing this world can offer that I would exchange for a minute of the time I've spent as your father.
 
Not one thing.
 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Stories

Dearest Daughter,

For some time now, I’ve not done much with this. Partly because life kept getting in the way – but also because I’m not a particularly disciplined person.  Having thoughts and feelings is easy. Sorting them out on paper so that they make some sort of sense is not. It’s hard work and not much more fun than keeping fit using my treadmill in the evenings after work – and you know how often I manage to avoid that.

It occurred to me this past weekend (while we were at the theater together watching a play.. go figure) that the real problem was a matter of who I’m writing to. I've been writing this blog in my head to some nameless, faceless person who I imagined might be reading it. And honestly, I just lost interest in that person. So while I took notes of things going on in your life that I wanted to write about, I never got around to writing most of them.


But for some reason, while we were sitting there laughing and enjoying the play together, I suddenly realized that I don’t want to be writing this to anyone but you. So I won’t forget. And so you won’t either.

Because we do forget, you know. Sixty year on, I have to struggle to remember the sound of my grandparent’s voices even though they were once as familiar to me as my own. Time fades things. Even the things we love so very much. So this is my record of our time together, so we won't forget. From now on I’ll be writing it straight to you, for you to read after I’m gone.

You know how much I love Doctor Who. And there’s one scene in 'The Big Bang' - the Doctor has (as usual) saved the day and closed the crack in time, but does so at the cost of having his existence erased from history. And before the end he’s come to say goodbye to little Amelia as she sleeps.

“When you wake up, you’ll have a Mom and Dad! You won’t even remember me. I’ll just be a story in your head. And that’s okay…. We’re all stories in the end. 
Just.. make it a good one, eh? Because it was, you know. It was the best!”
And it’s true – we’re all stories. When I talk about my Dad to you – to me, he’s so real and my memories of him are so strong that I can almost see him there with us. But to you – he’s just a story.

And one day, that’s all I’ll be, sweet girl – I’ll just be a story you tell your kids.

And this is that story. Let’s make it a good one, eh?


Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Medium

My daughter may have a phase in between "absolutely wonderful child who melts my heart" and "fire-spitting she-demon who makes me want to sit on the railroad tracks and wait for the south-bound express".

But alas, I've yet to discover it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Early Summer 2013

Despite now having to use a cane owing to my bad left knee, I've walked to the park/playground a few blocks from home every night this week, circled by Moiya practicing on her new bike. The weather is lovely, and something about the slant of the light from the setting sun makes the colors seem somehow richer and more beautiful. We play hide and seek or Moiya shows off on the monkey bars or I time her as she races her bike across the nearby schoolyard.

 My favorite words have become "Daddy, watch this!"

Not sure how long this phase of our lives will last nor how long she'll want my time and attention, but I intend to enjoy and treasure every second that I can.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Moment


I walked in as my daughter was telling someone something not exactly accurate.  It wasn't specifically a lie, it just put something I had done in a much better light than I undoubtedly deserved. I raised my eyebrows at her, but she waved me off and kept talking.

Later she came to me and said “Oh you so owe me for that!” With full parental pomposity,  I began to explain that, while I appreciated her attempts to guard my feelings, I would far rather be embarrassed than to ever have her perpetrate an untruth.

There was a long, long pause while my offspring regarded me somberly.

“Daddy,” she said “please don’t ruin the moment for me, okay?”

The Depending-on Tree


As I walked Moiya into school one day, she pointed to one of the trees on the grounds – and unremarkable tree towards the back and said something unintelligible. When I questioned her she repeated “That’s the Depending-on Tree.”

“Um… okay” I said. “And what does that mean?”

She looked at me as though I was dumber than a rock (an increasingly frequent occurrence as she gets older) and shrugged. “You know”

“No,” I assured her. “I don’t know what that means.”

Moiya sighed (also an increasingly frequency occurrence) “ It’s the tree that you depend on.”

“To do what?”

To tell when it’s Spring.. or Winter.. or whatever. You go to the tree and you sit under it and you think. And when you look at it, you can tell when it’s finally Spring. Everyone” she confided “has a Depending-on Tree.”

As I thought about it, I realized she was right, and that mine was the old maple in my parent’s front yard. It was my Depending-on Tree. I just didn't know what it was called till my daughter explained it to me.

Change

 not all order is good, not all chaos is bad.


I haven’t updated this blog in so long..  almost exactly a year. It’s a little like exercise in that once you get out of the habit, getting back into it is an almost Herculean challenge.  Originally I stopped because we took a trip to Disney World and the experience was so rich and so filled with good memories that I wanted to get it down on paper exactly right.  But it was, as Dickinson said “so huge.. so hopeless to conceive” that many, many rewrites later I still haven’t managed it. And in the meantime it has kept me from blogging other events.

So I’m going to set the Disney Trip aside for the moment and move on to other things.

As is to be expected, much has changed for us in the past year.  Some months ago, we bought a house. After the financial devastation of the divorce, I had largely given up hope of ever again owning my own home. But then came the financial collapse and the housing collapse and the falling interest rates and we reached one of those “now or never” moments. The long daily drive from one state to another was getting increasingly difficult to pay for. The apartment complex was starting to jack up their rates at the same time they were starting to rent to increasingly unsavory characters.

But the real driving force was the sight of Moiya sitting on the steps of our apartment with her dolls waiting for someone – anyone - to play with.  Once or twice people with children would move next door, but they never stayed long. Mostly there were tough kids very much older who had no interest in a little girl and her dolls. And so she stood, day after day. Heaven forgive me, but out of guilt I would sometime yell at her to “For God’s sake come inside!” And she would. And then peer out the window when she thought I couldn't see, like a starving beggar in front of an eatery.

And anything ANYTHING is better than that.

I attempted to move to another apartment closer to Moiya’s school, but found that the rents anywhere I would be unafraid to raise my child were flatly unaffordable – with one exception. And after three months of trying to get a vacancy there, I gave up.

And so I began to look for a house.

Long story short, I narrowed the search to two. One I loved and about which was sure Moiya would feel the same. The other I didn't like at all. I showed the two pictures to Moiya and she pointed to the one I had all but written off

“That’s the house.”
“No, baby… see? This other one is much nicer.”
With the stubborn insistence of children, she shook her head and pointed again. “No. That’s the right house.”

I attributed this off to her being eight and clueless. But two weeks later the house she had picked had begun haunting my dreams – which is always what happens when my brain knows I’m being stupid and tries to straighten me out. So I went and had another look at it.

And damned if she wasn't correct; It WAS the right house.

And shortly after we moved in, several little girls came to the front door, introduced themselves, and asked if Moiya wanted to play.  And so our new life was off and running.

It’s been an adjustment for Moiya, who has never before had to deal with the dynamics of having regular playmates at home. There is always drama and politics (especially among girls), and at first Moiya was utterly bewildered, attributing much more importance to things than they warranted.  After some squabble, I found that she had written all her playmates notes (and enclosed money from her piggy bank as consolation) telling them that she could no longer be their friends and it was “time to move on.”  I have mostly tried to let her sort these things out on her own, but that time I stepped in and we had a quiet talk about the meaning of the phrase “burning your bridges.” 

And I think  she is occasionally seized with a wild fear that, having waited so long for friends, she might lose them again. And so there have been a few bizarre attempts to keep everyone’s interest.

Such as the time one of the neighbors texted me to offer their family’s sincere sympathies on the impending death of Moiya’s little brother.

As Moiya’s little brother was at that time still in utero and to the best of my knowledge doing fine, I was a bit… nonplussed.  But eventually we sorted it out and things have gotten smoother.

Sadly, the biggest problems relating to all these changes have come from me. For most of her life, I have been Moiya’s constant playmate. I worked hard on outings and grew to cherish our games together (some of which I've recorded here). But all that changed. With the advent of friends, Moiya didn't want to play at home any longer. Long-standing family events got dropped due to lack of interest. The imaginary characters that populated her imagination (and my world) disappeared. Even her beloved stuffed animals mostly sit unregarded in a corner of her room.  

And Daddy, I’m sorry to say, did not cope with all this very well. Intellectually of course, I knew that having my daughter move away from me was a good thing.. a wonderful thing. But intellect will only get you so far where your children are involved. . I pouted. I moaned. I grumbled and huffed. I've had to (and am still having to) adjust to a new role whose rules I haven’t really figured out yet. I've had to change.

"No. We're not getting into anything!"
But I've gotten better. The memory of my girl sitting lonely on those front steps haunts me still and pushes me to be better. Even Daddies have to grow up sometime, I suppose. Two months back I hosted a sleepover full of little girls and lived to tell the tale. 

And the trade-off has been  - if a bit lonely on occasion - wonderful. Now when I sit on the back porch or work in the garden I can hear the sweet sounds of birdsong in the trees. And beyond the trees in the neighbor’s yards, or echoing through my own house, I can the sweeter sounds of children  playing.

Childsong.




Friday, March 29, 2013

Mean

Having a girl is so much fun.

Like the mornings when they get hysterical because it's dress-down day at school and they have NOTHING TO WEAR except a glitter covered party dress two sizes too small that you won't let them wear BECAUSE YOU'RE SO MEAN and you make them wear their uniform instead because they won't make a decision BECAUSE YO'RE SO MEAN and they weep all the way to school on the last time you're going to see them for three days so you feel like an evil pig all day. WHICH YOU SHOULD... BECAUSE YOU'RE SO MEAN. 

 Ah, good times...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Time Lord

I worked in the garden today (if it can be called that, when it does not yet have plants) and did small repairs around the house. And several times I ended up using my Father's old tools, which are finally out of storage and in use again for the first time since he laid them down years ago to depart this world. 

There is a great comfort in old tools.. in knowing where each nick came from and whose hand it was that wore the paint away on the handle. And when I opened my Father's toolbox (which he made himself) the musty smell of his workshop came out of it so clearly. And I was suddenly eight years old again, and everyone I loved was still alive, and I was nervous and proud that my Dad was taking the time to show me how to use those tools for the first time...

One of my exes used to get so annoyed at my tendency to accumulate small tokens of my passing life (or as she called it "having to lug around a lot of useless old crap"). 

But see....if you aren't a Time Lord.. it's the closest thing to a TARDIS that you are ever likely to have.