Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Daddy K prays for sleep but has promises to keep

To be honest I'm not really that afraid much when it comes to arrival of Baby B. Everyone keeps telling us our lives will change forever, it's a life-changing event, life as you've known it is over, etc. (sometimes positioned in a positive light, and other times not so – as in your life is over).


I'm not buying the negative hype, though. Sure it's life-changing, and I have no idea what to expect other than what I've been told, but we wouldn't be here 7+ months pregnant otherwise. Our lives changed when we agreed to have a child. Our lives changed when we agreed to be married. Our lives changed when we agreed to live together (okay, for those of you keeping score at home, pretend we married first). Our lives changed when after hesitating for a few seconds, almost not completing the meeting of our love to be, we did start talking on the beach when we met, October 11, 1997 – then fast forward to 7+ months pregnant.


We have no idea, do we...sigh.


At this moment, the thing I'm worried about most is sleep. Or lack thereof. Bring on the vomit and the poop and the pee, but God please give us some sleep. Obviously the first few months are going to sketchy based on what I've read and heard from other parents, but God please give us some sleep and put B on the fast train to the all-night express.


I found a great piece titled Will I Ever Sleep Again? Suggestions for New Dads to Help Babies Sleep from Mike Farrell at Fatherville.com, for About.com:


  1. Breastfeeding mothers need help. That's right, don't assume that because your wife is breastfeeding that you are "off the hook." If your wife is breastfeeding she will treasure you for taking the time to get up and bring your baby to her. It seems insignificant now. But at 3 a.m. in the morning it's a beautiful gesture.

  2. Take shifts with your wife. Agree before you go to bed at night which of you will get up with the baby first. It might help to simply pick even and odd hours. For example, if the baby wakes up during the 11pm, 1am, 3am, 5am hours then you wake up with him or her. If it's during the 12am, 2am, 4am, 6am hours then your wife will wake up with the baby. The point is having a plan before you go to sleep at night. This will eliminate the anger and frustration of the moment when neither one of you wants to get up.

  3. Learn the different ways your baby likes to be held. Some like to be held chest to chest. Others like to be cradled. And still others like to be seated facing away from you. Find the position that your baby feels most comfortable in try soothing them in that position.

  4. Don't be too proud or embarrassed to sing softly and even talk to your baby. The sound of your voice is very reassuring to your baby and it is part of the bonding process. Your baby will quickly learn to associate your voice with safety and security.

  5. Gentle bouncing works sometimes. But be careful not to bounce baby too much or you may upset your baby's tummy.

  6. Pacifiers work too. Some babies find comfort in a pacifier. Others refuse to accept it especially if your wife is breastfeeding.

  7. Rocking, either in a chair or in the bassinet, can also be helpful means of helping ease your baby back to sleep.

  8. Pacing the floor was very soothing to my daughter. In fact she would transition from a "deathly scream" to silence if I put her chest to chest with her head on my shoulder and simply started pacing the room. While pacing the room you'll discover little nooks and crannies that you had never noticed before.

  9. Placing a warm heating pad in your babies cradle before bed time can ease the transition when laying baby down for the first time at night. NOTE: The heating pad should never be left in the cradle when it is occupied.

  10. A warm bath in a baby tub can also be a great way to soothe your baby before bedtime. It's important that you have a towel to wrap your baby in right away after the bath. This will eliminate him from getting cold.


Wow, that was like counting sheep.


The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Daddy K thinks in economies that scale, shuffle and shapeshift

I read a great opinion piece today in the The Wall Street Journal online titled There Is No 'The Economy'. I agree with much of what Zachary presents in the article, because:


In truth, what used to be "the economy" is just one part of a global chess board, and the data we have is incomplete, misleading, and simultaneously right and wrong. It is right given what it measures, and wrong given what most people conclude on the basis of it.


The world is composed of hundreds of economies that interact with one another in unpredictable and unexpected ways. We cling to the notion of one economy because it creates an illusion of shared experiences. As comforting as that illusion is, it will not restore a simplicity that no longer exists, and clinging to it will not lead to viable solutions for pressing problems.


I know an op-ed piece is no consolation to friends and family we know who are struggling because they're out of work, or because of skyrocketing fuel and food prices, or because of homes that have lost value when the mortgages have not, or whatever the situation.


I remember vividly what it was like to be in financial ruin, which was right after I met Amy (and thank goodness she kept me around) – and that was even before being laid off from the dot.com company I worked for during the bust of 2000-2001. But those are stories for another time.


I'm fortunate that our firm is currently chugging along and that we can provide steady jobs for few folk. We've even increased the number of telecommuting days for staff to save money on fuel and help the environment a little bit more.


My heart goes out to those who are struggling. The world is shuffling and shapeshifting by the minute.


Hold on tight, B. Hold on tight.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Retro A: Exercise and the Great Wall

After our Yosemite hike, I started thinking about all the hiking and running we've done throughout the world. I don't say that because of places we've been. I say it because of our focus on exercise, how important it is to us, and no matter where we're at, we make the time to exercise while seeing the sites.

Exercise has been even more important since we're pregnant (as has the eating, hence the need for exercise). Mama A had to stop running a few months ago, but she still walks regularly (if all goes well she'll be walking the Wharf to Wharf as well), uses our elliptical machine, works out with weights, works out in the pool at work, and we hike together when we can.


Like Baby B's first International hike in China up and down the Great Wall! I was hanging the colorful embroidered rats we bought for Baby B's room (because it's the year of the rat for those raising eyebrows at home) and reminiscing over the stunning view of the mountains and the Great Wall over 3,000 years in the making. The section we visited included a vertical climb up 1,000 uneven steps to a spectacular view.


And as we approached the Great Wall, we noticed a small crumbling rock fence winding its way up a hill. Amy said, "This must be the not so great wall of China."


Really. Good times.


People born in the Year of the Rat are noted for their charm and attraction for the opposite sex. They work hard to achieve their goals, acquire possessions, and are likely to be perfectionists. They are basically thrifty with money. Rat people are easily angered and love to gossip. Their ambitions are big, and they are usually very successful. They are most compatible with people born in the years of the Dragon, Monkey, and Ox.


Good. Take care of us, B. We'll do our best to keep up.



Friday, June 27, 2008

Daddy K finds The Diaper Rap

Wow, I thought I was done for the day, but I found The Diaper Rap at Daddy Dialectic. These cats are cool. Something to save and sing for Baby B.

Here's a taste:


Yo yo yo yo you got a biscuit
Yeah it's in your basket
But I'm gonna fix it
And when I'm done you'll feel fantastic


Nice. Peace out.

The letter B: Your manifest destiny

Dear Baby B,

Thanks for the kicks and rolls last night. I hope I didn't scare you too much talking into Mama's belly. The acoustics must be a nightmare in that uterine balloon you're floating in. I'll try to be more sensitive to that.


We're getting closer to your arrival and our anticipation is palatable; sometimes it's like honey and sometimes it's like hot sand. But that's just your parents to B (get it?) embracing the worry and the love. My Mama, your Nana, always says you have to go through it, not around it. And we wouldn't want it any other way.


I'm reading a wonderful novel now called The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The book is narrated by a dog, Enzo, and it's a touching philosophical love and cry fest. I won't spoil anything for you (although it'll be many years before you read it) or anyone else, but there's one phrase that's stuck on the roof of my mouth, like sugar cookie dough:


That which you manifest is before you.


I know that's a lot to chew on for a fast-growing fetus (at 3 pounds now!), but it's a little prayer we'll be sharing with you over the years to come.


Manifest goodness and light, B. No matter what. Be true to your heart and as you experience failure while learning to succeed, manifest goodness and light. The darkness is over-rated and only gives you belly aches and headaches and horrible sleep.


Here's something related to jot down in your fetal journal from the best-selling book Happy for No Reason:


One evening a Cherokee elder told his grandson about the battle that goes on inside people's heads. He said, "My son, the battle is between the two 'wolves' that live inside us all. One is Unhappiness. It is fear, worry, anger, jealousy, sorrow, self-pity, resentment and inferiority. The other is Happiness. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, kindness, generosity, truth and compassion."


The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"


The old Cherokee simply replied --


"The one you feed."


That which you manifest is before you.


Last night I read you and Mama Piggy Wiglet and the Great Adventure. In the beginning Piggy "trotted off to have some fun – to play all day and chase the sun."


Then at the end:


"I bet that I'm

The only one,"

He said, "who ever

Caught the sun,

And that's a secret

Hard to keep!"


That which you manifest is before you. Catch the sun, B. And share the light with everyone you meet.


By the way, I'm going to play with all your toys before you do.


I love you,

Daddy K


P.S. – I picked up and threw away two bags of trash the past two days while running and walking, B. Just like I said I would. Your Mama helped too, but with you in her belly bending over is tough!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Daddy K and Babar come of Internet age

A couple of weeks ago I read a little blurp in the San Jose Mercury News that the Internet may not the child reading killer as many people believe.


Which is a good thing because my laptop is (unfortunately) wired to my hands, and we hope to instill a weighted imbalance in B between using the computer and using the library card. The library card will win.


But I want B to be proficient with a computer and savvy traversing the Internet – parent-approved traversing.


According to the article:


A national survey of children 5-17, designed in part by "Harry Potter" publisher Scholastic, indicates that the Internet is reinforcing some kids' interest in books instead of diluting it.


I can buy that. We're not talking about video games.


The 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report, from Scholastic and research firm Yankelovich, was released this week with some upbeat statistics about books printed on paper. Among the results: 62 percent of kids surveyed say they prefer to read books rather than on a computer or a handheld device.


Cool.


A key concern is that the time kids spend reading books for fun declines after age 8 and continues to drop off through the teen years. But this year's study also found that the kids who are high-frequency Internet users are more likely to read books for fun every day. One in four kids say they read books daily for fun, and more than half of kids say they read books for fun at least two to three times a week.


Very cool.


Moreover, two-thirds of kids ages 9-17 who go online are using the Internet in ways that complement book reading - learning what other people think about a book, learning about an author and connecting with other readers. Just because they like YouTube doesn't mean they're abandoning the library.


Is there a site for kids to review and chat with one another about books? Interesting idea. There is Reading Rainbow. Very cool.


On a side note, you ever notice that reading some children's books as an adult can be an unsettling experience. Take The Story of Babar. I just bought it yesterday to read to Mama A and Baby B. One of my favorite books visually as a child.


Two deaths, a kept elephant, and Babar marries his cousin.


Really.

Baby B says, “I need more room for my stuff.”

When we got back from Yosemite, I was looking around Baby B's room at all the stuff we've already gotten and how much more stuff we have yet to get.


The best schtick ever done about "stuff" was courtesy of George Carlin. God rest his funny soul.



Tuesday, June 24, 2008

K Daddy goes for a run and picks up a six-pack

I keep picking up the pace for the upcoming Wharf to Wharf – and along the way I'm going to start picking up the trash on Natural Bridges Way and West Cliff Drive.

Yep, I've had it with the inconsiderate and thoughtless imbeciles who litter our world. Really. What is the frickin' problem of not taking care of your trash? I don't care how old you are or what you're doing; there's always a trash can somewhere nearby.


During my run this morning, I picked up an empty six pack of beer and threw it in the trash without missing a beat. I just can't leave this crap laying around anymore for the city folks to clean up. The City of Santa Cruz is already in a heap of budget trouble anyway.


The time is now. So from this point on, whether it's during a run or during our Friday morning walk, I'm bringing gloves and a garbage bag and picking up after the loser litterers. The Clean Beaches Coalition does it for the beaches, let's do it for our streets.


And because the Native American Indian still cries, let's help keep our neighborhoods and cities clean. You're just one run or walk away.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Baby B sees Yosemite and takes a bath at Vernal Falls

Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.

--John Muir


Ain't that the truth, which is why Yosemite National Park is as congested as it is. Yosemite Valley in the summertime teams with cars, buses and awe-struck folk. For those of you who have been, you know firsthand.


You also know how gorgeous and grand Yosemite is: verdant meadows and ancient giant sequoias that are flanked by majestic granite cliffs and cascading waterfalls 100 million years in the making. (Would definitely stay at Curry Village over Yosemite Village.)



Mama A's stunt double, Kimmy "Hot Rocks" Calhoun, and I ascended 1,000 vertical feet to the top of Vernal Falls. Not a hike for the squeamish and the waterfall spray soaked us coming and going. On the way back down a mother walking her young child up the trail said to Amy Kimmy, "You are a stud. And a studdette." (Thank goodness Amy Beatrice is still able to guide even if she is tired and has an alien center of gravity.)


Yes, I do agree. Baby B could be born while dredging the bayou or while plowing fields high in the Andes. I think I need an epidural.


Or a pint of Bark Beetle Brown Ale with dinner from the Groveland Hotel. That was a good meal after a great hike.


We stayed at the Yosemite Rose Bed & Breakfast and proprietors Don and Kate were very kind and gracious. Breakfasts were delicious. Every room was named after their many daughters. We stayed in the Mary Room, although it was filled with pictures of Kate. Intriguing. I did not ask.


There were some thunderstorms on Saturday night and a lightning strike started a forest fire near Yosemite. There are over 200 (the governor said 520) fires burning in the state. My heart goes out to the firefighters and their families.

We're home now and it's time to get back to work. Baby B's a-comin'.


Everyone needs beauty as well as bread…


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Daddy K’s levee breaks

All kidding aside, maybe it's global warming?


Between the local fires in the Santa Cruz area where we live and the devastating floods in the Midwest where we have family, this is the worst of times for many American families.


One of my favorite Bible verses is Job 14:7:


For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail.


I always think of it when I witness personal tragedy, whether it be from external forces or from within. I've always been a hopeful soul, and when I see neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend, my heart swells.


And I'd prefer those levees to break to any others.


I encourage you all to do what you can to help. Time, knowledge, prayers, action and money are all currencies with high exchange rates. I just made another donation to the Red Cross. Join me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mama A regains her balance with cat in lap

Mama A has been one of the lucky pregnant women. To date she's had minimal symptoms – no morning sickness, no excessive fatigue, no headaches (only a couple of mini-migraines sans Dr. Evil).


But now that she's a little larger (and so very delectable), some things aren't as easy as they used to be. A few weeks ago we went on a hike at Wilder Ranch State Park, and on the tail end of our hike, Amy had to, shall we say, go tinkle.


I always loved that Amy wears baseball caps and has no problem going when she needs to go. However, doing so on a hillside when you're almost six months pregnant and your uterus has grown into a lovely honeydew, ain't the same thing. I was on lookout for her when I heard:


"Whoaaaa! Whoaaaa! Help me, sweetie."


I had to reach down and grab her hand while she regained her balance and overcame bladder vertigo. Close call. A urinary cliffhanger.


Laughing and bladder control. Need I say more.


And in week 29 according to one of the many sites we read, did you know that the baby is even urinating about a half liter of urine into the amniotic fluid every day?


The night before last Amy woke in terrible pain, her left leg cramping miserably. I did the best I could helping her stretch it out, which alleviated some of the pain. She was still sore yesterday but better.


According to the American Pregnancy Association site, leg cramps may be caused by the additional weight gain of pregnancy and changes in your circulation. Pressure from the growing baby may also be placed on the nerves and blood vessels that go to your legs. This pressure or pinching may be the cause of your leg cramps.


Yikes.


One or more of the following interventions may help to relieve or prevent leg cramps:

  1. Exercise regularly; include stretches that target your calves

  2. Rest with your legs elevated

  3. Wear supportive stockings

  4. Massage your calves and feet

  5. Apply local heat

  6. Relax in a chair with cat in lap


What? Cat in lap? In French, chat dans le recouvrement? In Spanish, el gato en regazo!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Barefoot and pregnant? Daddy K says no way.

I have to thank my mom for instilling in me a balanced perception of sharing household chores. There were no traditional gender roles when it came to "pitching in". My sister and I both pitched in. We had to. My mom was an infamous list maker. And not just the kind who made lists for the sake of making them – she followed through on all lists, crossing off each and every item until the paper was a raggedy mess.

And we weren't done until they were all crossed off. (Mom always said if she needed chores done quickly and efficiently, my sister was the go-to girl. If she needed a thorough deep dive but painfully slow chore-doer, I was the go-to guy. Pretty much carried that one with us through time.)


I've never had a problem carrying my share of the load around the house, and while I know I'm an anomaly of sorts, I don't get why more men aren't doing more (thanks again Mom). It's not always equal between Amy and me, but we're both interesting cases because we don't share traditional roles that aren't traditional to our sexes.


One of the new the daddy blogs I'm following, Rebel Dad, referenced a fantastic article by Lisa Belkin titled When Mom and Dad Share It All. I highly recommend that all parents read it.


Some interesting research facts: in heterosexual relationships, woman still do more household chores than men 2:1; and when it comes to childcare, the ration is 5:1. Those ratios are more even in gay and lesbian relationships, but even then, there's always a skew in favor of the dominate mate.


But the heterosexual workload ratios haven't changed much for over 90 years. So much for those old Virginia Slims ads – "You've come a long way, baby – not." The economic dynamics are much different for the sons and daughters of the feminist movement; most couples have to both work to make a living, buy a house (that's now incredibly devalued) and raise children. The workload-at-home imbalance can be unbearable at times for women (and even some men).


The above article also shares many different examples of how couples cope and share the responsibilities – and how some situations work out better than others. It's given me a lot to think about for us as we prepare for parenting, working and balancing life.


Another great article titled Rebel Dad, referenced a fantastic article by Better Fathers: Courtesy of the Sexual Revolution:


Little attention has been paid to the impact that women's liberation has had on men. The unacknowledged truth is that men have been transformed too. Today, men have more freedom, flexibility and choices -- in the most meaningful ways.


Barefoot and pregnant? None for me thanks. But I'll definitely mow your lawn, vacuum your house, change your diapers (well, not yours silly), dig your ditches, knit your sweaters and share in the living and loving of parenting and partnering with Mama A.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mama A in Babe-ylonia

We watched Saturday Night Live's the best of Mike Myers that aired last Saturday night, and they showed the old skit of Wayne's World doing their top ten babes of all time that culminated in the silly black and white Madonna dream.

Excellent.

And you know who's number one on my top ten list? A beautiful pregnant woman. That I'm married to. Preg-schwing.


Something about the pregnant belly that's so mesmerizing; everyone wants to touch and kiss it, like the woman is a fertility goddess (which she is) and her worshippers need to be blessed by her presence and the unborn child's.


Ah, the days of Babe-ylonia…


Drumming from the inside


I lay next to her and stroke her stomach

that glows taut like a drum head over a star,

where dust swirls with omniscient purpose

and planets form and life explodes with a bang.

It grows, writhing and spinning

and drumming from the inside --

antediluvian signals that it's

coming to our world someday soon.

It's distant drumbeats echo through my hand

and resound in my heart, full of love.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Daddy K feels a little gassy

When we filled the gas tank a little over a week ago in Visalia, the price was $4.45 per gallon. The last time I filled up prior to that the price was $4.00 per gallon.


I know, not a shocker these days, but if you're driving on fumes searching for a cheaper fill up, use the search tools Adriana found online.


Because I can't help you. Don't look at me that way. Ride your bike.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mama A and Daddy K go for a walk

Friday mornings Amy and I walk along the water for our workout. We review each other's week, talk about anything and everything, and use each other as a touch stone about sensitive issues.


Last Friday, it went something like this:


"How do we put on diapers? I don't how to do that," Amy said.


"Good question," I said.


Silence. Fog hugged the cliffs and filled the sky overhead.


"I'm sure it can't be that hard," I said. "The diaper service will give us an instructional DVD or something, don't you think?"


Silence. Sea otters frolicked and played in the water.


"I mean, we'll have to learn how to wipe B's bottom and keep it rash free and all that stuff," I said.


Silence. A jogger passed.


"I mean, I've been taking care of my bottom for 42 years. How hard can it be?"


Silence. I walked ahead proudly.


"But that's pretty contained," Amy answers. "That's not the same thing."


Silence.


More Silence.


Even more silence.


Amy laughed.


"What are we talking about again?" I asked.


Baby B jumps and jives at the supernova firework spectacular

We went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk last night to watch the fireworks. We met one of our friends there, Annee, who's going to be Amy's doula. No matter what the weather is like, and it was cool and foggy, it's summertime in Santa Cruz and folks flock to the Boardwalk.


I felt slightly disconnected, not in a bad way or because I wasn't having a good time, because I was having a good time. I was just doing the alien anthropologist thing observing the crowds around us. Tons of people from all walks of life. Tons of children, too.


Tons of children wandering the face of the boardwalk, corn dogs, funnel cakes and slurpees in hand, smiles everywhere, some whining and crying – a millennium of life ahead of them. Parents' half-life remains beamed proudly, only to be blinded by the sudden supernova firework spectacular, and left with smoky darkness and sleepy children. (Baby B jumped and jived a little during the fireworks. Hopefully he/she wasn't too scared.)


Dang life's too short.


In the words of Neil:


When we are young

wandering the face of the earth

wondering what our dreams might be worth

learning that we're only immortal --

for a limited time.


After a good night's sleep I awoke to a wonderful brunch of blueberry waffles and bacon and a gift – matching father and infant shirts – "My Daddy Rocks" and "My Kid Rocks"!


Nice. Thanks Mama A!

A little Daddy-related flotsam and jetsam

Happy Father's Day!

***

My father never gave me, by fire or water, a baptism into publishing; he wasn't a baptising type. He adopted the sink-or-swim method, so the first few weeks I was at Scribners, in 1946, my assignment was to deal with Ernest Hemingway.


--Charles Scribner, Jr.


***

I once said to my father when I was a boy, "Dad, we need a third political party." He said, "I'll settle for a second."


--Ralph Nader


***

My Dad's idea of a good time is to go to Sears and walk around.


--Jay Leno


***

From "Men and Birth: The Unexplainable" by Haki R. Madhubuti


this is the drama, birth the maturing force that can transform males, making them men of conscious, making them bringers of life and partners in the fight to guarantee better better futures.


birth

unlocks cultural strangulation allowing

men to feel & touch & experience

a source of love that springs in

smiles occasional tears and undying commitment


***

From the song "Out of the Cradle" by Neil Peart and Rush


Surge of energy, spark of inspiration
The breath of love is electricity
Maybe time is bird in flight
Endlessly mocking
Here we come out of the cradle
Endlessly rocking
Endlessly rocking


It's a hand
That rocks the cradle
It's a motion
That swings the sky
It's method on the edge of madness
It's a balance on the edge of a knife
It's a smile on the edge of sadness
It's a dance on the edge of life


Here we come out of the cradle
Endlessly rocking
Endlessly rocking


***

In time for Father's Day, Monster announced findings from its second annual poll of working fathers, which reveals a work/life struggle among today's dads. Despite a common belief among those surveyed that bringing work home is not healthy for family life, seven percent more dads are bringing work home on a weekly basis compared to last year.

Notable highlights include:

  1. Fewer dads are taking advantage of paternity leave benefits because they feel they cannot financially afford it (38 percent, down eight percent over last year) or because they feel too busy at work (27 percent, up 13 percent over last year).

  2. Seventy-three percent of dads would be a stay-at-home parent if money were not an issue, a seven percent increase over last year.

  3. Above all other work/life related benefits, working fathers most appreciate a flexible work schedule (52 percent).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Daddy K says Happy Father’s Day

During my niece's graduation, the school honored those family and friends who have served in the armed forces. My father was in the Air Force, so we smiled proudly as he stood while the song played on, "Off we go, into the wild blue yonder…"


Then, at the end of the graduation, Dad said, "Well, now we've got another graduation in two years." (My nephew)


"And another one in 18," I said. (Baby B)


He laughed and shook his head. "I don't know about that one, son. Don't know if I'll make it that far."


I squeezed his shoulder. "You never know, Pop. You beat the devil three times already, and God hasn't called you home yet."


Not yet.


Special Agent "Papa" Grossman was the nurturing father my sister and I never had, and a good and devoted husband to my mother. He came into our lives in the late 70s and his bachelor pad showed it – revealing black velvet paintings and a faux leopard skin bean bag chair are what I remember the most.


Hard-working and the strong, silent type, Dad was direct when needed (or pressed!) and one of the nuttiest men you could ever meet.


Crazy nutty. Lovable goofball silly crazy nutty. And the teller of bad, off-color jokes (that still make you laugh). And the longest story teller of all time. Snoozer.


Old-time favorite Mom saying, "Dick, get to the point."


And he was sensitive. Most men of his generation who were also police officers don't do the emotive thing. Dad also has three daughters from a previous marriage, so the estrogen sea seeped into his brain as it did mine.


For better or for worse. Definitely for the better since he adopted us and we took his name. Many, many good years and memories with that man. I moved away to college and missed being around him.


In 1994 Dad had a stroke that was supposed to have completely debilitated him. It didn't.


In 2002 Dad got very ill with pneumonia and was sick with a lung infection for months. It was supposed to kill him. It didn't.


In 2007 Dad's gall bladder turned poisonous and he was sick for weeks. It was supposed to kill him. It didn't.


You beat the devil three times already, and God hasn't called you home yet.


I can't wait for you to hold Baby B, Pop. Just hold off on the bad jokes. You may make it to that graduation yet.


Happy Father's Day. I love you.


As If We Were One

Copyright 2008 Kevin W. Grossman


The smell of sage and oak is strong and the mountain peaks look like the heads of buried dinosaurs dipped in white ash.


It's Father's Day. I'm up at the lake on my father's boat for a lazy day of fishing, but we're not catching anything except sunburns. I'm drinking cold beer and my father's drinking bourbon and water on the rocks. We share bologna sandwiches and greasy potato chips, and when he says something funny, I laugh too hard, spitting up half-chewed food soaked in beer. The scar above his lip glints like glass in sunlight. He tells me dirty jokes, cop stories, anecdotal life lessons—as if these are the male incantations I must remember moving forward; words passed from father to son in an effort to survive a chaotic world without reason, ruled by a benevolent god.


We're all strangers dying at each other's feet, he says suddenly.


I nod and open another beer, but I'm not sure what he's talking about.


But it's as if we were one, and we don't even know it, he adds.


A thunderstorm hits the lake, backslapping the boat like an angry woman. The sky turns from blue to gray to black. Thunder booms overhead. The air smells of antiseptic. A lightning bolt strikes the bow. I drop the fishing pole in the water. It sinks quickly—like a dart shooting towards some abysmal target. There's no time to count—no in between; the storm is upon us—swallowing us whole. The lake's surface thrashes with seizures. My father screams at me—something about life jackets. I scan the deck of the boat. I see nothing but churning froth spilling over the sides like a pot of boiling water. He tries to throw me a rope. I miss it, losing my balance. I fall overboard—sinking fast like a lead weight at the end of fragile, ten-pound test.


I'm drifting downward. I can't move my arms or legs. Cold water fills my lungs. I convulse. I see my father's feet floating before my eyes—then darkness.


I wake up gasping for air. The nurse asks if I'm all right. I shake my head because I can't catch my breath. I'm sitting in a gray chair at the foot of a gray hospital bed in a gray room. Plastic tubes connect bags of clear liquid to my father's arms. Oxygen flows through the tubes in his nose. The monitor glows green and beeps erratically. His pneumonia is worse. His fever won't go down. His breathing treatments are every hour.


He coughs violently. The force causes his legs and upper body to jump. He cries out and grips the side of his ribcage as if he's being stabbed repeatedly. His face changes from red to blue to black. His arms thrash about, grabbing at the sheets as if he's about to fall.


I double over in my chair, heart imploding.


Retro K: Fridays with Mac

In the summer of 1975, Donald "Rimshot" Rhapsody (left in photo) and Eugene "Dragonman" Firestone (right in photo) robbed 75 banks throughout Central California, from Chico to Bakersfield. Dapper dresses and suave talkers, they charmed their way into the hearts of bank tellers who filled their own purses full of crisp cash and dime rolls and handed them over with a wink and blown kisses. This picture was taken at an illegal gambling parlor on the north side of Visalia one week before they were apprehended and just two days after they robbed Fresno First National Bank.


No wait, that's not right.


A few years ago I used to spend late Friday afternoons drinking a beer or two with Mac McGuire (on the right, not the left). Mac was an old friend and neighbor of ours in the apartment complex we used to live in by the lighthouse. We had met him before we had even met each other. He was a widower whose wife, Milly, had died over 15 years earlier. He never had any birth children of his own. He did have a step-son from his marriage with Milly, but they weren't really close.


Mac always wore polyester pants, slightly stained sweaters (including the blue v-neck we bought him one year for Christmas), and he walked around the complex day after day talking with anyone who talk to him (and even if they didn't). He was a kind man with a dry wit and deadpan one-liners. He was also an avid golfer and golfed up until the day he broke his hip (and he always had golf on TV when I was over, or Fox News, which I always gave him a bad time about).


One year when we were away on vacation, Mac was very ill with a blood infection. He somehow got himself into his bath tub, but then was too weak to reach the faucet. He cried out and banged on walls, but his neighbors weren't home. For three days he lay in that tub, naked and sick, with no water or food. Amazingly he survived and was rescued.


On almost every Friday afternoon for a few years, Mac and I would talk of our families, our travels, our true loves (Milly and Amy), our wily escapades (my lips are sealed). We kept an eye on Mac and he kept an eye on us. When we moved into our house two years ago, he moved back to Pennsylvania to be closer to family and live in an assisted-care facility.


Mac was a dear friend, a mentor and sometimes a father figure. He was 90 years old when he passed away in January of this year and will be missed.


Happy Father's Day, Mac.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Tragedy of Losing a Father and a Son

Tim Russert passed away today. I'm working from home and it was just reported on CNN. He suffered a heart attack while working at the NBC News Washington Bureau.

I didn't follow Tim much. Saw him occasionally on Meet the Press, the Today Show, and other news programs. I always enjoyed his political interviewing and commentary. I never read his books either, although considering the subject matter of fathers, I'd like to read them now.

What struck me in today's coverage was that no matter how much of a famous journalist Tim had become, the fact that he had to move his elderly father to an assisted-care facility this week was sad and moving. From what I gather, Tim and his father had a close relationship, as did Tim and his son, and I can't imagine what they're going through. My father has had his share of close calls over the years. I just can't imagine.


My thoughts and prayers are with Tim's family.


Daddy K takes the long road home

The road to fatherhood began abysmally for me – from abusive biological father, to abusive first step-father, to self-abusive anxiety-ridden depressive teenager (me), to self-abusive anxiety-ridden depressive young adult (again, yours truly), to self-abusive anxiety-ridden depressive angry resentful deceptive longed to be liked poor excuse for a contradictive man and husband (marriage #1), to brooding on the brink of finally mastering control of my life with a pre-Mama A saying stand up and get it together or get out.


Stand up and get it together. Get off the ground. Let go the legacy of anger and fear. Have hope. Have faith.


(No worries, I've always had a good heart, there were good times along the way, and I had good father I'll talk about in one of my next postings).


Which is why The Road by Cormac McCarthy had such a profound effect on me last year when we listened to the audio book during our Southwest trip (and I just found out it's going to be a move this year). It was one of those defining moments that filled our hearts with choice.


WARNING - For those of you who haven't read it and plan to, do not read on because I've got a spoiler coming.


The Road is a post-apocalyptic story of a father and young son trying to survive a horrific world gone mad while traveling on a road to the coast, a road of hope. Sadly when they reach the coast and can't find any civilized civilization to speak of, hope is all but lost. The father is very ill and dies, leaving the boy alone.


Then, out of the darkness, a man offers his help to the boy. The man tells the boy he needs to come with them, because they can help him. The boy is resistant; he doesn't want to leave his dead father and he's unsure of the man's motives.


"Are you one of the good guys?" The boy asks.


"Yes, I'm one of the good guys," the man answers.


The boy takes his hand and they walk off.


Stand up and get it together. Get off the ground. Let go the legacy of anger and fear. Have hope. Have faith.


Be one of the good guys.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

K Daddy goes on a routine expedition; Mama A says turn off the game

I can't help myself. I miss Marshall, Will and Holly. And Chaka. And Dopey. And Isaak. And the Sleestak. One of the cheesiest children's shows ever made and it'll be a movie soon.



And on a completely different note, this is baseball season. Sorry kids, I don't like basketball much and I don't follow hockey or soccer. And although I do love football (Raider Nation and SJSU Spartans) and enjoy baseball, I ain't much of a sports fan.


When I played baseball in little league, junior high and high school I loved it. I was the hot corner guy – 3rd base. Not bad with the bat either. I want to be more of a fan now, though. For Baby B's sake, not Mama A's (love you baby!). Father and son/daughter going to a ballgame on a hot summer's day. Peanuts and popcorn. Hot dogs and beer. For the Daddy. Not the kids. No, I'm not driving. We're taking mass transit. $42 for a ball cap? Are you frickin' kidding me?


Go Giants!


God, don't ask me any players names yet. Test me later in the summer.

Daddy K finds a letter

I found an old letter that I wrote to another father almost 10 years ago. It goes a little something like this:

I remember as a child helping my birth father put together model airplanes, the kind with little alcohol burning engines that really flew. The frames were built with balsa wood, and then covered painstakingly with tissue paper skins, glue and paint.

Of course, I did what I could, watching him more than helping, but I was fascinated by the detail and design that went into those planes. It's one of the only fond memories I have of my birth father, and the plane building was something we did as father and son.

I remember how they were hung in my room, and at night as star shine dreams beamed through my window, I would lay on my bed and imagine flying those planes, becoming Snoopy versus the Red Baron, blasting the enemy out of the skies and saving the world, and getting the girl. Well, maybe not getting the girl, at least not until I was thirteen, but by then the planes were gone...

The man I call my father now, and always will until the day I pass from this world, was cheated from these experiences not having a son of his own from birth. I was a teenager when we met, and we never built planes together, or played ball, or wrestled nightly farting matches, or looked at the stars together, or shared the dreams and fears a child son shares with his Father.

Guide your son and teach him personal pride. Love him for all he is. Journey with him and join in the rites of his passage. Foster his dreams and protect him from his fears. God and the universe will embrace you.


Don't neglect or force the man within him. Revel in his youth and the true path of a real man's destiny. Always follow your soul and heartmeld, and your son will grow strong in honesty, integrity, sincerity and star shine.


I'm glad I found it. Good advice for myself now. Funny how that works.

Daddy K drums through a dream

The other night our midwife came a-callin' for her latest appointment with us. It's always a pleasure having her over for our pre-baby appointments because she's such a relaxed yet engaged, intense presence.


No, no, there's candles, incense or chanting for those of you keeping score at home. These are professional (and personable) appointments with the woman who's going to birth our baby.


And the end of each visit, she always does her Mama A / Baby B check-up, including listening to the baby's heartbeat.


It's a drag on a tom tom at 140 beats per minute, daddy-o. A steady driving beat that rocks my world.


And last night Baby B's kicks and turns were so strong! It be getting' big.


Last night I dreamed I held my baby. It was a boy. Sleeping soundly in my arms. Eyes closed and calm. Breathing steady and sure. Strong tiny hand gripping my forefinger. Probably since it's man week for me, the testosterone is elevated.


We were in a large house. Both families everywhere. Suddenly I needed to run an errand, so I left my baby on a large white bed and walked away. I knew in my dream it was absurd, but I had to run that errand. My nephew Nick called after me that I shouldn't leave my baby alone.


And then I was running outside God knows where. At one point there were abandoned cars and bizarre carnival acts as I ran past. The only thing I knew was that I had to get back. I had no money, no cell phone, and everyone around me was a stranger.


I woke, my heart beating a booming triple ratamacue at 2.5 million beats per minute.


I'm never going to leave you, B. We've got a band to start and a tour to plan for.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mama A and Daddy K watch the hills

There's been a lot of crazy weather and natural phenomenon of late – tragic tornados, thunderstorms, floods, water spouts, heat waves and fires.


2012? Armageddon? The surge is really working? They're really making the Land of the Lost movie?


I'm not making light of these things; there's a mountain fire near us and so we'll need to pay heed to the news updates. It shouldn't come that close to us, but the folks who watched their house wash away in Wisconsin didn't think it would happen either.


My heart goes out to all those lost and those who have lost.


Baby B asks: What about the Toucan King?

When I talked about the men in my life yesterday, I neglected to mention a very special one. The Toucan King himself, Jerry.


I first met Jerry about, gosh, over 10 years ago??? Jerry is a graphic designer and an artist and a mighty fine one to boot. Jerry and I worked together for a few years at the same marketing firm and we hit it off immediately. Jerry and his wife Pam are lovely people and we're sad they moved over the hill. The sea misses them.


And Jerry is silly fun, like me, and he's the king of puns, as is evident in his inner sleeve notes of our book:


I [Toco] met Jery and Kevin at eggs-actly the right time. They were scratching out a living working for chicken feed at a job where their boss watched them like a hawk. After hearing me crow about how I needed somebody to tell my story, they just flew the coop…


After Amy and I saw the first iterations of his toucan artwork, we immediately bought a print from him which hangs in our living room. But what got our joint creative juices flowing was the fact that so many people, young and old, were saying:


"You know, that artwork would make a fine children's book."


You don't say.


That's very interesting.


I'm all ears.


I'm a big believer in synchronicity: lifetime events that seem to be (are) interconnected meaningfully, creating the fabric of our lives before us, our density destiny.


I like my Soul-Singer. And the heartmeld patterns are divine. (Heartmeld is a word I made up in a poem I wrote for Amy many beautiful moons ago.)


My point is that Jerry is a thread in my developing fabric, as I am one in his. And you are. And you are. No, not you. Okay, maybe.


And before Amy and I even conceived rationally of conception, I wrote a children's book with my friend, Jerry. And after we conceived mentally prior to physical conception, I wrote this dedication for future editions of our book/s:


I dedicate this book to our little "B", who we didn't know was meant to be, but always was, who will guide us to and through our "two can be three" paradise.


So wish us luck as we continue to work on greater publishing plans and a Toco the Toucan series!


Baby B's got some reading to do.



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Retro K: The Men in My Life

The visit to Visalia this last weekend combined with Father's Day being less than a week away has stirred up the sediment of my soul. Fortunately the days of dredging my heart solely to wallow in emotional muck have long since fled.

But I have no control over natural phenomenon.


Unfortunately I haven't had many decent male role models in my life. Those few I've had have been precious to me, honest and strong men who aren't afraid to be vulnerable when necessary. Both my grandfathers, my mom's dad Len and my biological father's dad Newt, left nothing but fond memories for me. My mom's dad especially. He was a good, loving Christian man whose actions and words I held onto like life preservers. And his colloquialisms, no matter how many times his said them, were always welcome:


"This coffee is as hot as a fire cracker on the fourth of July."


"I like three kinds of pies: hot and cold and all in between!"


[Smiling and holding up both fists] "All right, what will it be? Six months in the hospital or sudden death?"


He was a boxer in his youth. Huge hands that were as gentle as a child's. If only he knew those were sometimes my dark wishes as a child.


My cousin Daryl (no, not from the Newhart Show) was another role model for me. He's always been a rock for my family ever since I can remember, and helped us during a dire time in our lives.


My high school counselor, Doug, who wasn't even my direct counselor, but who was a tremendous help to me at the end of high school. Not a pretty time for me, but who's counting?


My boss at San Jose State University, Alex, was another big positive influence on me. An honest straight shooter who put me on the path of straight shootin'.


My boss now, Mark, whose business acumen, work ethic and integrity are impeccable. Plus, he's a nice guy and a good father.


One of my staff members, Andy, who battled cancer 10 years ago and now runs 50-mile trail races. Amazing.


Another colleague, Jonathan, who is a tri-athlete and heavily involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


Another colleague, Greg, web-savvy with a gaggle of kids and another on the way. Very caring father.


And I can't forget my colleague, Elrond, who's my Battlestar buddy, writing co-conspirator, and wonderful father.


And my old friend and colleague, Scott, who helped open my eyes even further.

Amy's father and uncles, all of whom are good men and have become very dear to me. (Amy's father married us and her Uncle Greg is a Big Brother and I really admire that. Someday I'd like to be one.)


My ex-brother-in-law, Tony, and Amy's sister's husband, Steve, have really good hearts and both have had a positive impact on me over the years.


My friend Charles whose wife Taffy were both high school friends of Amy. His sense of humor parallels mine and if I was ever in a bar fight I wouldn't even have to ask. Charles has two young daughters. (God help the men who date them.)


My friends Troy and Greg, both of whom are fathers. Rush rules and I always sack up.


My best friend, Robby, who survived a harrowing accident in high school leaving him paralyzed, has struggled over the years, but who does his best to live each day to its fullest. "I really want to see what happens tomorrow," he always tells me.


And of course the father I've known since I was 12, Richard, the only real father I've known, who holds a very dear place in my heart, but I'm going to write more about him later in the week.


There are many more friends and family who have also been positive influencers on my life, and for that I thank them.


(What, am I signing year books? Yikes. I guess I have had a lot of role models.)


Sadly those who should've been positive role models weren't, but who's counting? I've included a short story below I wrote about five years ago that encompasses some of the emotions I've touched on in this post. And while it does draw on some of my own experiences, it's definitely fiction.


There's no obligation to read it, so don't worry if you don't. There's never any obligation to read any of my ramblings, but I always thank you for stopping by.


From a sink hole in the mud, I find my voice again.


As a prelude, here's another song for B Notes, "Love is the Answer" by England Dan and John Ford Coley:


Tell me, are we alive
Or just a dying planet
(What are the chances)


Ask the man in your heart
For the answer

And when you feel afraid
(Love one another)
When you've lost your way
(Love one another)
And when you're all alone
(Love one another)
And when you're far from home
(Love one another)
And when you're down and out
(Love one another)
And when your hopes run out
(Love one another)
And when you need a friend
(Love one another)
And when you're near the end
(Love)
(We've got to love)
(We've got to love one another)


Light of the world, shine on me
Love is the answer
Shine on us all
Set us free
Love is the answer


THE LARGEST LIVING THING

Copyright 2008

Kevin W. Grossman


A familiar silence filled the Nova. It poured over the front seat into the back like a freezing mist, pushing Jacob's face against the window. His throat constricted. He wanted to roll down his window but he knew Henry wouldn't allow it. Henry would tell him the air conditioning wouldn't function properly with hot air streaming in. Henry would tell him to relax and enjoy the view. Henry was always telling him to relax.


They headed east into the mountains. Jacob smelled burnt oil in the frigid air. It blended with Henry's sweet cologne, forcing its way into Jacob's nose and mouth. He wanted out of the car. He began to hyperventilate, fogging up the window, and then he quickly looked into the rearview mirror, only to find Henry's eyes. Jacob hated those blue-eyed slits. Every Sunday morning at First Calvary, as Jacob sat in between his mother and little brother, he could feel Henry's eyes upon him like wet hands.


Jacob broke free from Henry's eyes and stared down at the dash. There it was, half-hidden behind Henry's broad shoulder. Its skin was tanned leather, warped and stained. It used to be comforting, like when Jacob's grandmother would stroke his hand while she read stories out of it, each verse a gentle brush from her fingertips. He couldn't see it, but he imagined her name embossed in faded gold script in the bottom right-hand corner. He remembered flipping through the pages when no one was around. They flowed one after the other like a clear stream over polished stones.


But his grandmother was gone. Now Henry read from it every Sunday after passing the collection plates among the congregation. His words were nothing like Jacob's grandmother's, though; they were a mountain slide that buried Jacob daily, making him wonder why God let bad things happen to good people, why his grandmother had to die, and his real father, too. Jacob prayed each day for an answer.


Jacob's brother David slept in the seat next to him, his seatbelt lying undone by his side. David slid back and forth across the back seat with every curve in the road, his mouth open, saliva oozing out of each corner. He slid across the seat again, and this time tipped over and rested against Jacob's shoulder. Jacob put his arm around him, held him tight. He thought of the folded up page from David's Bible coloring book tucked safely away in his back pocket—a picture of Jesus dressed in a flowing robe and sandals, his arms open wide to a dozen children gathered around him, and a smile on his face. David had colored in the robe with a rainbow and given it to Jacob the night before.


Jacob looked out his window as they drove farther into the chaparral-covered foothills. Blue oaks glowed in the shimmering heat. Broken granite exposed itself in the yellow grass. Jacob's mother coughed and he focused his attention on the back of her head. She fixated on her own view of the landscape moving past her window. He wondered if she saw the same things as he, and if she knew.


The silence continued to grow until it felt like the pounding heartbeat inside Jacob's head. In the rearview mirror, Henry's cold eyes met his again. He wished he could go to sleep, but he knew it wasn't going to happen with Henry watching him.


The car slowed, then stopped. Jacob released his brother who sat up and yawned. His mother turned and gave Jacob a weak smile, her swollen red eyes visible above her sunglasses.


They had arrived at the entrance to Sequoia National Forest. Henry paid the entrance fee and continued driving up the winding road. They passed an elevation sign: 4,000 feet. In the mirror, Henry winked at Jacob, causing Jacob's stomach to cramp.


"Goodness, it's just too quiet in here. You'd think we were still in church," Henry said.


Jacob jumped at the sound of Henry's voice. David rubbed his eyes. Henry turned on the radio.


"—going to be another scorching Sunday in the south valley today. Hot, hot, hot! Plus, big thunderstorms are brewing in the Sierras this afternoon, so I suggest you all stay inside with those swamp coolers cranked up high. Let's cool things down a bit by taking a trip along the Mississippi with a new one from the Doobie Brothers. You're listenin' to K-R-K-R, nine-seventy AM, the rocker!"


"Now, that's more like it, don't you think, Ruth?" Henry said.


She didn't answer. Henry chuckled. He looked in the mirror at David, then Jacob.


"No, there can't be any storms happening up here today. It's just too beautiful outside."


When no one replied, Henry continued. "Oh, and don't you boys tell Miss Foster we were listening to any rock and roll. Do you understand me?"


David nodded, but Jacob only looked out the window. Miss Foster, an obese woman who always wore sleeveless flowered dresses, played the piano and organ at First Calvary, and was also the center of the universe when it came to church gossip. Jacob wondered what would happen if he told her everything, but his fear of what Henry might do kept him quiet.


"Henry, the boys—they want to go to Moro Rock this afternoon—please," Jacob's mother said. Her voice squeaked in staccato tones.


Henry shook his head. "Well, we're not going there. You know I can't climb up that thing. Goodness, I'd get vertigo and pass out."


"But they—they really want to go."


Henry exhaled. Jacob's soreness flared, lighting a fire in his gut. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.


"All right, all right, we'll go to Moro Rock. I'll just wait for you all in the car. But first, we're going to see the General Sherman tree. I've wanted to see that tree again for a long, long time. Haven't seen it since I was your age, David. Did you know that it's one of the largest living things on God's green earth?"


David shook his head. Jacob kept his on eyes on his brother, but didn't move or say a word.


"Well, it is. Anyway, we'll be there soon."


Henry turned the radio up. Jacob rested his head back against the seat. The song lulled him. He dozed restlessly, recalling events from the night before.


It was after midnight when Henry pulled into the driveway. He'd been working late at the church again, or that's what he always told them. What he really did there at night, Jacob didn't know, and he didn't want to know. He prayed for Henry to never come back, to just disappear. Maybe Jesus didn't appreciate that kind of prayer, but Jacob knew God did. He read the Bible. He knew the difference between the Old Testament and the New—that God could summon vengeance, but his only begotten son forgave.


He heard Henry walk up the steps to the front door—open it, close it, and then enter the kitchen. Jacob wanted to hide, but he couldn't move. He listened intently as Henry walked down the hallway. Henry yawned and stopped in front of Jacob's bedroom door. Jacob held his breath and prayed even harder, but Henry entered his bedroom and closed the door. Jacob whispered, "No," but that's all he could get out, his throat as dry as if coated with burning sand. Henry whispered back, "Relax, Jacob. Everything is going to be all right. It's God's will." He approached Jacob's bed, sat down, and took hold of the boy's arms. Jacob didn't fight—he was paralyzed. Henry was too strong. Jacob tried to scream, but nothing came out except a painful rush of hot air.


The car stopped abruptly. Jacob's head snapped forward, waking him. He blinked, rubbed his neck. When he looked out his window, they were in a graveled lot. Dense groves of pine and giant Sequoia replaced the oaks and grasslands. Ferns and shrubs grew lush in the shady pockets under the trees. Jacob tumbled out of the car. He breathed deeply, the pine air cleansing him temporarily of the memory. In the breaks between the treetops, the sky was still chalk blue. He couldn't believe a storm was coming.


Henry got out of the car, all six-and-a-half feet. Jacob stood away from him, avoiding eye contact.


"Welcome to Giant Forest, boys."


Jacob watched as David got out. He gazed at the giant trees, and then high up into the canopy. He clutched Jacob's hand and squeezed.


His mother got out of the car last, her left hand holding her side as if in pain. She stared at Jacob and David, her face gray. Jacob wondered when she last slept. She drifted ghost-like in her paisley dress. She looked up at Henry and bit her lip.


Henry snorted. "Goodness, what are you all waiting for? Let's go."


Jacob's mother put her arms around both him and David. She squeezed their shoulders. Jacob thought he heard her sigh.


"Let's go," she said.


Henry led the way towards the General Sherman tree. David, Jacob, and their mother followed five feet behind. Families were everywhere: excited children held their parents' hands, pointing at the massive Sequoias with their free ones. Tourists from around the world weighted down with cameras and backpacks took pictures of the trees and squirrels. Kids covered in dirt screamed and chased each other in and out of the redwood giants.


Jacob didn't pay much attention to them; he was trying to plan an escape. He didn't know how, but he knew if they didn't get away from Henry soon, Henry would hurt David, too. He couldn't let that happen, no matter how scared he was of Henry. He kicked at pinecones while they walked, imagining they were Henry's head. Each punt sent up a plume of dust that settled on the front of his jeans.


Sometime after Henry left his room, Jacob heard him yelling at his mother. She cried and pleaded. Jacob shoved his head under his pillow, but it didn't help. Henry called her horrible things. Then it sounded like he hit her—a clap of thunder inside Jacob's head.


David crept into his room crying, a piece of paper dangling from his small hand. He gave Jacob the picture of Jesus and Jacob held him until he calmed down. When the fighting finally stopped, David continued to cry and Jacob stared at the ceiling listening to the house groan.


At some point David went limp in Jacob's arms. His heart sped up, thinking that David might be having another seizure, but he had only fallen asleep. His relief was short-lived, though; Henry laughed loudly from down the hall and said, "Well, well, looky here. Goodness, what are you going to do with that gun, Ruth? Are you going to shoot me? Well, go ahead, shoot me. Shoot me! You're all nothing but a bunch of—"


"Lost little souls."


Jacob flinched when he heard Henry's voice, bringing him back to the present. He stood next to Henry in front of the General Sherman tree. David and his mother were only a few feet away. A Mexican man and woman with five kids walked in front of them. David and his mother waited until they passed, and then she pointed into the tree, explaining something to David, his eyes and mouth wide open. Jacob desperately wanted to join them.


Henry slapped Jacob on the back and nodded towards two giggling teenage girls wearing tube tops and cutoff jeans. Jacob thought they seemed so happy—too happy.


"Watch out for girls like that, Jacob. They're all just temptresses—Satan's little tricksters. You make sure to stay away from them, do you hear me?"


As if on cue, the girls stopped giggling and ran down the trail away from the tree. Henry put his arm around Jacob. He pulled him into his side and Jacob stiffened.


"Relax, Jacob. No need to be so tense. Here we go, this is what I wanted to see, all fourteen-hundred tons of it," Henry said, pointing to the General Sherman.


Jacob looked up and down the tree—it was huge. The base of the tree alone was the biggest thing he'd ever seen. Its thick branches of green needles soared nearly two hundred feet off the ground, and its wrinkled bark was the color of dried blood.


"This tree is over two-thousand-years old, Jacob. It's seen more history than you or I could ever dream about. Goodness, it was just a sapling when our savior was born."


Jacob slipped out from under Henry's arm. "Can we go to Moro Rock now?"


Henry stood up straight and crossed his arms. "I hope you appreciate everything I do for you, Jacob. All right then, let's go. Ruth! David! It's time to go see the rock!"


High above the General Sherman, Jacob watched as dark clouds engulfed the blue sky. A gust of wind blew back Jacob's hair. The storm was coming after all.


Morning came, but Jacob hadn't slept all night. He just laid there in bed with David by his side. He didn't know what to do, but he knew they couldn't stay there anymore. He wished his dad were still alive. He'd take care of Henry. Jacob knew he would.


Someone coughed in the hallway—it was Henry. Jacob pulled David in closer to him. He moaned and buried his face deeper into Jacob's armpit. Henry walked a few steps and stopped. He opened the door to David's room, laughed, and then closed it. Henry took a few more steps until he was right outside Jacob's door. He turned the doorknob; Jacob held David tighter. Henry wasn't going to touch his brother, ever. But after a few excruciating moments, Henry didn't come in. Jacob stroked the picture of Jesus next to him, and a half hour later, fell asleep next to his brother.



"Here we are, boys, Moro Rock."


Jacob couldn't see the rock yet. Henry parked the Nova next to a yellow Volkswagen van, painted with rainbows and shooting stars. The van's sliding door was partway open. From where Jacob sat, he could see hanging beads and apricot-paisley upholstery.


When they all got out of the car, Henry opened up the trunk and rummaged through an ice chest. Jacob watched as Henry yanked a pull-tab off a wet soda can. He tossed the pull-tab to the ground, took a big gulp from the soda, and belched with his mouth closed.


"Poor sinners—they know not what they do," Henry said, staring at the van.


David and his mother walked around to the other side of the van. When they were out of his sight, Jacob stood directly in front of the van's open door. Three longhaired bearded guys sat inside, drinking beer and listening to music. They passed a small pipe back and forth, taking puffs off of it. The strong smell reminded Jacob of when Henry burned piles of bottlebrush in their backyard.


He'd seen hippies before, usually on TV protesting out in front of some courthouse somewhere, but never in person. The largest of the three hippies wore an over-sized tie-dye with a rainbow splashed across the front.


Jacob's eyes widened and his breath quickened.


It was Jesus.


"Hey, little man," Jesus said.


"Hey."


"What's your name?"


"Jacob."


"Mine's Art. You guys goin' up on the rock?"


"Yeah."


"That's cool, man. Have a good time."


"Thanks."


Jacob smiled. It didn't matter that his said his name was Art; God had sent his son to help them escape. He opened his mouth to say something else, but Henry grabbed his arm and lifted him off the ground. He set him down firmly behind the Nova.


"Don't talk to them, son."


Jacob freed himself from Henry's grasp. "I'm not your son!"


He couldn't believe his outburst. He felt an active heat growing out of his stomach, igniting every blood vessel in his body and filling him with confidence. He expected Henry to hit him.


But Henry only laughed. "Go on now and climb up that rock, and then we're going home."


Jacob fumed, but then began to shake nervously, as if his skin was about to boil. He turned to look for his mother and David. He would get them alone and tell them his idea. They weren't that far away, both staring at the backside of Moro Rock. Jacob had learned in school that it was a large granite dome formed by thousands of years of the earth forcing its way up—


Henry wouldn't go up on the rock! That's where Jacob knew he could tell his mother and David about Jesus helping them escape.


The sky grew thick with gray clouds that pushed down on them. The wind picked up, sending brown pine needles skidding across the road. Thunder boomed in the distance.


Jacob walked towards his mother and David. His heart felt stronger and lighter. When he reached his brother, he put his arm around him.


David went limp instantly and crumpled to the ground. His face turned from white to red to blue. His tongue poked in and out of his mouth spilling saliva out over his bottom lip and chin. The thunder roared again, closer this time.


"Jacob, he's having a seizure!" his mother shouted. She dropped to the ground next to David.


David's eyes rolled back in their sockets. His mother stroked his arm. Jacob stroked the other one.


"It's all right, my sweet little baby. It's going to be all right," his mother said.


Henry ran over to them. Jacob stood up, his fists clenched.


"Stay away from us!"


Henry backhanded Jacob and knocked him to the ground.


"Don't you ever speak to me like that way again."


"Jacob—don't," his mother said.


"That's right, Jacob. You better listen to your mother."


Jacob scrambled to his feet. He ran at Henry and punched him in the stomach as hard as he could, but it was like hitting a backstop. Jacob cried out, cradling his hand while Henry laughed.


"Goodness, what do you think you're doing?"


Jacob shook his other hand in the air. "Don't touch my brother!"


"Can't you see I'm only trying to help him? I'm his father, Jacob. And yours. Now get out of my way."


"No, you're not!"


Henry flinched. He stepped back, looking confused. But then his eyes narrowed and he reached for Jacob.


"I told you not to speak to me that way, Jacob."


"You're not going to touch him! You're not going to hurt him like you hurt me and Mom! Get away from us!"


Henry grabbed the front of Jacob's t-shirt. "You're pushing it, boy."


"Henry, please don't—don't hurt him."


"All right, all right," Henry said. He let Jacob go and straightened his shirt.


Jacob bent down next to his mother. David's face faded back to white. His eyes opened and he blinked.


"Where's Mommy?"


Jacob held his hand. "She's right here. Can you stand up?"


"I dunno."


"Jacob, he needs to rest—don't move him," his mother said.


The hippies approached, Angels Jacob thought, with Jesus leading the way. Jacob waved them over, thanking God repeatedly under his breath.


Henry laughed again. "Let's all calm down. No need for all this commotion. We're just worked up over David's seizure. Praise God he's all right. Let's get in the car and go home. Come on now, Jacob, let me help you with your brother."


"We're not going anywhere with you! Leave us alone!"


David pulled himself closer to his mother.


Henry bared his teeth. "You'd better stop this nonsense right now."


"I said leave us alone!"


Henry crouched as if to spring at Jacob.


Art took hold of Henry's arm and yanked him back. "What the hell are you doin', man?"


Henry spun and punched Art in the nose. He staggered back and covered his face, blood seeping through his fingers. Jacob picked up a rock and threw it at Henry but missed.


"Don't hurt Jesus!"


Henry spun back to face Jacob, but Art's friends were all over him now, forcing him to the ground. Henry roared as he fought them off. Jacob met his mother's gaze; it was both angry and confused. He wanted to run and lose himself in her arms, but he didn't. He scooped David off the ground and ran towards the rock.


"You come back here right now, Jacob!"


Jacob froze, his courage wiped away by the violence in Henry's voice. He turned slowly, David's weak body in his arms becoming heavier with each second that passed. He wanted to sit and rock his brother to sleep, to rock himself to sleep.


Henry beat the hippies off and jumped up to charge at Jacob, but his mother kicked Henry's shin as hard as she could, sending him back down to the ground. He fell, unable to stop himself with his hands, hitting the side of his face on the road. Blood sprayed from his nose and mouth.


"Run, Jacob, run!" his mother yelled.


Jacob's strength returned and he raced towards the stairs that led to the top of Moro Rock. Strong winds hit him head on. He heard distant shouting behind him, but he wasn't going to stop to see if Henry was running after them.


An old white truck skidded to a halt across Jacob's path. It startled him but he didn't stop. He veered to the right to avoid the truck, David bouncing in his arms, and just as he passed it he read the words "Park Ranger" painted on the door. He heard the truck door open and slam shut.


"Hey—are you boys all right? Hey! Come back here! You can't go up there right now! It's too dangerous! Stop!"


Jacob didn't stop. When he reached the stairs, his lungs burned and his heart felt like it was being forced into a box half its size. Sweat rolled down his face. Thunder growled overhead and the sky boiled. He saw a bright flash, followed by a loud crack that sounded like a tree splitting in half. He bounded up the steps without slowing. It was a quarter mile to the top: four hundred steps blasted into rock that wound up and around to the summit.


"Jacob, put me down."


Jacob didn't stop: twenty steps, thirty steps, forty steps—his knees and ankles ached.


"Jacob, I feel better. Put me down."


Fifty steps, sixty steps—he couldn't feel his shoulders or arms. His back bowed until he thought it would snap.


"Jacob! Stop!"


At seventy steps Jacob collapsed. He fell on top of his brother, then rolled off him and hit the metal railing. He couldn't control his breathing and his dizziness made him sick. He clung to the railing, his vision blurred as he looked out over the six-thousand-foot drop.


"You okay?" David said.


"Yes—yes—I'm—fine."


"Is Henry following us?"


"Don't—know—keep—going."


Jacob stood, teetering back and forth, his lungs fighting for air. He took David's hand and they slowly started up the stairs again. He and David were going to be all right, for now, even though their mother was still down below, trapped with Henry waiting at the foot of the stairs.


But Jesus and his angels were down there too, and this gave Jacob hope.


The storm swirled all around them as they reached the summit. To the east, the twelve-thousand-foot peaks of the Great Western Divide, half-hidden in the storm clouds, dropped off into the Kaweah River that threaded through the rocky canyons below. As he looked to the west, the Sierras tumbled down into the foothills and the Great Valley beyond, vanishing in a gray haze and the fading daylight. Jacob had no idea what time it was.


"Jacob, you think Mommy's okay?"


"I don't know," Jacob said, wiping sweat from his forehead.


"Is Henry coming to get us?"


"I—I don't think so."


"What's going to happen to us?"


"I don't know, David."


"How long are we going to stay up here?"


"For a little while."

David sniffed twice and ran his hand along the railing.


"It's beautiful up here."


"Yes, I know."


"Love you, Jacob."


"Love you, too."


They sat together on the rock with their legs crossed Indian-style. Jacob put his arm around his little brother and David rested his head on Jacob's shoulder. They listened to the cry of thunder, watched the lightning dance. It began to rain.