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.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

173 words later

One hundred and seven deaths per minute worldwide. Some have many words associated with them, words that celebrate life. Some have only a few words, announcing death. Many have none.

One minute six months ago, my birth father died, the man with blue genes who had abused my mother. I say birth father because I hadn't seen him since I was 13 -- hadn't wanted to see him since then. He hadn't reached out after that point, and neither had I. I didn't even hear about it until a month ago.

One minute six months ago, two lines described his death. Twenty-five words in all. Twenty-five words that describe where he died and funeral arrangements only. Twenty-fine words that I looked up online, that I actually spent $2.50 to access in the local paper where it was published.

I have no feelings either way. No resentment or forgiveness, no sadness or relief. Nothing except maybe relief for him having to live with his alcoholism and his painful ghosts, if he ever had any.

But 173 words later, the man my mother's been married to for 33 years, whose name my sister and I took as our own, the man we call Dad, the man my sister's kids and mine call Papa, is dying. 

The radiation treatments didn't get the melanoma. It's now spread throughout his entire body. Some form of chemotherapy is next, and although his oncologist seems to think he's strong enough to handle it, I'm not sure he's sure he is. Of course we want him to live, especially Nana (Mom) who's been chronically ill with an auto-immune disorder for almost three decades. He turns 80 next month and could live years more as far as we all know including the medical professionals. He's done it before after surviving a stroke in 1994 and an abscess on his lung that nearly took him home to Jesus back in 2002.

They've both been in and out of the hospital many times this past year and we've all been up to see and help them as much as we can. Living hours and hours away isn't easy, especially now. Thankfully we were just there, enjoying a family vacation with the B-hive as well as going to medical appointments with my folks and helping to plan their uncertain future.

We all have uncertain futures, though. When Bea is my age now, I'll be 88, if I make it that far, which God willin' and the creek don't rise I will, along with the Mama.

I've put the blue genes to bed; I have two daughters of my own. As I look to what's next for us all, I wish my father the happiest of Father's Days with many more to come.

I wish all the good fathers out there the same.

Be mindfully present and love your family. Always.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

For a few seconds

"Beatrice, get on the escalator with me!"

Bea froze. The stroller and my bag clicked atop the downward moving metal steps.

"Bea, come with Daddy!"

"No, Daddy!"

Bea backed up one step. The Mama and Bryce were already at the bottom. The stroller and my bag pulled me onward onto the steps.

"Beatrice, come on!"

She didn't move. The distance between us grew and Bea's distressed face crushed my heart.


"Mama, she didn't come with me!" I called down. But the Mama didn't hear me, to focused on chasing Bryce.

For a few seconds I froze, watching Bea pull away from me atop the escalator. For a few seconds I just didn't know what to do, even with the nagging feeling in the base of my brain telling me to leave the stuff and scramble up the stairs for her. For a few seconds I felt helpless, a rookie father leaving his daughter behind, unable to move.

A few seconds can feel like forever when you're frozen to moving stairs, but then an older man took Bea's hand and guided her down the escalator.

"Thank you, sir!"

Now, I know what you're thinking -- you're thinking that if we were in a much larger airport someone could've easily swept her away. Even the Mama told me I should've just dumped the stuff and ran up.

Which was where I would've gotten to in two seconds more...but still. Sadly I'm slow that way sometimes.

The sick feeling dug a huge cold and vile pit in my belly when we were all sitting down at the gate waiting to board the plane. What was I thinking? And was I thinking? Why didn't I bolt immediately up to save her?

"God, I feel horrible."

"Honey, she's fine," the Mama said. "Next time just run up and get her."

The pit grew colder and more vile and then it was time to board the plane. At the same time another Pacific storm pounded the area with rain and hail. We went down another escalator -- without incident this time -- and proceeded to the tarmac. I threw the stroller on the checked bag cart.

"Beatrice, let's get on the plane," I said.

But again, she didn't want to go. The Mama had Bryce in her arms.

"Can you carry her?" The Mama asked.

"Damn right I can. C'mon, Sweetie."

I picked her up in one arm and my bag with the other hand and we ran through the rain, up the stairs and onto the plane. Bea held on tight, her head buried in my neck.

"I love you, Bea," I said, kissing her head. We sat in the plane and I seat-belted Bea in. Bryce squealed unhappily and squirmed on the Mama's lap.

And then I smiled, because for a few seconds I had dropped my bags and bounded up the escalator to grab my daughter. For a few seconds I hadn't froze to watch her drift slowly away from me. For a few seconds the sick feeling fell away, the pit filled in, and I found a little redemption.
For a few seconds I thought, That'll never happen again.