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.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Every Little Thing

"Don't worry about a thing
'Cause every little thing is gonna be alright..."

Bob Marley and the Wailers, Three Little Birds


I ran into a rainbow. It appeared on my way to my weekly beach workout at Natural Bridges and I had to embrace the positive beauty of it and take a picture. And just a quickly as it lit up the cloudy sky ahead of me, it was gone.

It got me thinking about the day before at Thinking Day for local Girl Scout troops, of which our girls are part of as Brownies, the troop the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) helped found. Unlike the recent overnight campout we did at the Beach Boardwalk, this was a gathering of local troops to celebrate different countries and cultures from around the world.

Before it started we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, I stood with my baseball hat on heart and spoke the words proudly.

However, I looked around and noticed not everyone stood, nor did they put their hands on their hearts, and the other men wearing baseball caps didn't even take them off. I thought it strange that, with such a traditional organization, its roots steeped in God and Country, only about half the adults celebrated the traditional allegiance to the flag.

That's all right, though, I thought. It's their right as Americans to celebrate however they want. It's not my place to judge either way. 

And then I moved on from it, being one to never take issue with the NFL kneeling and related activism of the past few years. If anything I supported it.

Later during the Girl Scout event, each local troop presented some brief entertainment -- singing, dancing or spoken word -- that was representative of the country they had. Our troop was Jamaica, and they sang the Bob Marley song "Three Little Birds".

There was no reference before Thinking Day started, during the event or after it, of the March For Our Lives event happening all over the world that same day. The march that was all about gun safety, gun control, violence prevention and stopping the epidemic of mass school shootings.

And there we all were, celebrating global diversity in a high school gym. I didn't have a problem of the not mentioning the march, although the Mama and I are big supporters of it and its mission. We had planned to go, and then decided not to. We had our superficial reasons, but ultimately for me it came down to the fact that our girls are still young enough not to understand the scope of the recent tragedies, or even hear about it at school, at least not enough to pique their interest to bring it up with us.

They marched with us at the Women's March, and the Science March, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march. We talked about those missions with them, but when it came to the March For Our Lives, we were a little marched out and wary of talking about it with them. That time will come soon enough.

Again, it doesn't mean we're not supporters of the movement. We most certainly are. We also couldn't be more proud of this generation of older kids and teens, many of whom are close to if not already at voting age. We want to make it a better world for our girls just as much as they do.

Then came an odd moment during the Girl Scout event: the troop representing the United Kingdom played the John Lennon song "Imagine" and somewhat acted out the lyrics.

"What an strange choice for an event like this," I whispered to the Mama.

"I know," she whispered back.

"I dig it, though."

And I did dig it, because the message wasn't lost on us about wanting the world to "be as one", and the fact that John Lennon was killed by gun violence on December 8, 1980. Paul McCartney was out marching that day as well, remembering his best friend, which really moved me.

Maybe that wasn't the troop's intention, but maybe it was. Either way it was yet another rainbow of hope for me, that those of us with varying cultural and political beliefs can and should make a positive difference in this world. One where we're not going to necessarily be able to stop all the tragic shootings, but where we can make it a helluva lot harder to start them.

As I watched our girls sing the Bob Marley song as best they could, all I could see were two rainbows lighting up my world, and I knew that every little thing was gonna be alright.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

For the Adults in Charge

"Time after time we lose sight of the way; our causes can't see their effects."

—Rush, Natural Science


It's never okay, even if it's directed at a pet rabbit. I heard it again from upstairs and cringed.

"You're a stupid bunny!"

That word – stupid, or iterations of it like dumb or idiot or brainless – is never okay when they're used to tease or demean, even if the context is somewhat playful, because that word can be objectifying, labeling, and even threatening because of its usual negative context.

We're cutting someone or something else down by using words like that. There's no mistake: it's quite intentional when we say, "You're stupid." Even from the mouths of babes, which has been a recent problem we've been working on in our house.

Both our girls have been using the word too frequently, and when they started to call us "stupid", although they assumed their context was teasing, it was not okay. At all.

"You're a stupid bunny!"

"Bryce," I called down the stairs, "please stop using that word. We don't call people or things stupid. Use another word, like silly bunny, or don't use another word at all. Thank you."

"Okay.”

A minute later. "You’re a silly bunny!"

Obviously picked up at school from other kids using it, because even in my grumpiest Daddy Goat gruffness, I would never use words like that to describe either girl, or anything they do, poor childhood choices and all.

I can't say the same for when the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I are talking about other adults and/or the world's state of affairs. I hope we've limited the use of any similar sentiment during calm or heated discussions when the girls are within earshot.

We're all works in progress, and the Mama and I are no exception to incremental growth. We work hard to keep each other honest and free from saying things that are never okay about attacking others, again no matter the context. Since the girls have been using the word way too much, we're all over it each and every time, reminding them not to call others stupid and to use other words that don't hurt – or nothing at all.

We're all about the Kidpower in our house, and if our children are calling someone by a hateful and hurtful name, and it's not okay with the adults in charge (us, their teachers, etc.), then it's never okay.

But what about if it is okay with the adults in charge? What about those in leadership positions including your immediate family, and/or those that work in the public or private sector and have a responsibility to their students, or their constituents, or their workforce, or their volunteers?

What if the adults in charge make it okay, including the current President of the United States? Where in public forums online or in person, we call each other losers or dummies or dumbshits or fuckups or faggots or fascists or libtards or c-words or worse?

What then? Do we just scrap this whole thing we call empathic humanity for being able to say any friggin' thing we want because we think we’re better, or we don’t agree or like something or someone else?

Absolutely not.

Does it make us weak when we cry foul at those using words that attack us and cut us down?

Absolutely not.

I believe it actually makes us weaker when we can't have civil discourse around dissenting opinions, even if it ends in stalemate; and when we just can't be nice and call each other hateful names because we think we're better, and that it's funny and we want to intentionally hurt.

Unfortunately, our emotional trigger fingers get itchy really quick these days and we overreact and underwhelm. Good God, there are also way too many people today who revel in being bad to each other's good, who respond positively to the negative celebrity of it all.

And for those of you today who say, "Wow, everybody's so sensitive; we can't say or do anything anymore," what you really mean is, "Wow, we can't get away with saying or doing anything we want any more."

Our children don't miss a beat when it comes to modeling our language and behavior. It's time for the adults in charge to continue to call out the other adults in charge to clean up their offensive acts and mouths. Being good to each other shouldn't feel so stupid bad.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Little Did We Know

"California dreamin' 
On such a winter's day..."

-The Mamas & the Papas, California Dreamin'


11:30 AM, Saturday

I hit a wall right after the merry-go-round. It was still fun though, riding the iconic and historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk merry-go-ground, where you sit on one of the outer ring horses and then grab a metal ring from an outstretched metal and wooden arm to throw at a big clown's mouth on one of the walls. I missed each time; I think I've only hit the hole once in all the times I've ridden it. However, with each revolution, my wall of exhaustion loomed dead ahead.

Beatrice and I exited the ride and started walking toward the bumper cars where the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife), Bryce and the rest of the Brownies and parents were.

"Dad, I want Dippin' Dots now," said Beatrice.

"No," I said.

"Dad, Dippin' Dots!"

"No, we'll check in with Mom and see what's up about snacks."

"Dippin' Dots! Dippin' Dots! Dippin' Dots!"

Each time she said it, she yanked on my arm. Not too hard, just insistent and playful enough to be really friggin' annoying.

We met up with the rest of the crew and I gave the Mama a kiss.

"I gotta go," I said.

And with that, I went home to nap. That's when it started to rain.


11:00 AM, Saturday

Beatrice and I rode the Sky Glider above the Boardwalk. The gray cloudy sky made it feel colder than it really was. I counted less than 10 people walking along on the beach beyond. Beatrice screamed and waved at the Mama directly below us.

"Dad, let's go on the that ride down there," Beatrice said a minute later.

She pointed to a ride where cars went round and round on a track with loud popular music blaring overhead.

"Goodness no, Bea. Daddy doesn't do rides that go round and round."

"C'mon, I don't want to go on it by myself."

"Ask one of your friends then. I can't do it. I'd throw up all over the place."

"C'mon, go on with me."

"No."

I looked down and vertigo's gravity clawed at my frontal lobes. "Beatrice, sometimes I really don't like heights."

"I know. Me either. Let's go on that ride, though."

"No."

I gazed out across the steely ocean to settle my nerves. "On such a winter's day," I sang.

"What's that?"

"An old song, Beatrice."


10:00 AM, Saturday

Bryce hit a wall and started crying.

"What's wrong, Sweetie?"

Through the crying and whining a each gasp of air she said, "I -- want -- to -- play -- laser -- tag -- again!"

With the Bryce-specific snacks nearly gone, I knew satiating her hunger to curb her frustration wasn't going to happen.

I asked the young girl running the laser tag counter if there any more spots -- there were not.

"Bryce, let's go do something else."

"No!"

"Kevin, let me ask my daughter if she can give up her pass. She's already done it more than once," said our Brownie troop leader. "We're all pretty strung out."

"Thank you. I know."

A minute later she returned with the laser tag pass.

"Bryce, you get to go again!"

"Okay, thank you," she said with a sniffle.

And as it worked out, another mom with kids had two extra passes to give us, so even I got to go again along with Bryce and our Brownie leader's daughter. Sometimes the universe works out and extinguishes the wildfires of the id-driven childhood.


8:30 AM, Saturday

The first girls' team started their sand castles and made them in the shape of a sea turtles. The other girls' team was closer to the water and they went the traditional route of castle towers and turrets. I was tempted to help, but the girls were supposed to make it themselves for the contest.

"Those turtles are great, girls. Why don't you add some walls and towers around them to protect them?"

No response. They just kept on decorating their turtles.

"Here, use this to make the towers with," I said and handed Beatrice one of the tower-making sand toys.

"No, thank you," she said, decorating her sea turtle.

One of the other moms said, "Let the creativity commence."

I nodded. "Right on."


7:30 AM, Saturday

"Where's Bryce?" I asked.

One our troop moms pointed towards the hot chocolate table. "Bryce just dropped her plate over there and spilled her hot chocolate. I think she's getting back into line to get more breakfast."

"Sorry, Daddy," Bryce said behind me, grabbing a new paper plate and utensils pack.

I turned around. "Are you all right, Sweetie?"

"Yes, I just dropped my plate. Sorry. It was too heavy with the hot chocolate."

"That's okay. Get a new plate and make sure to get some of those eggs and bacon you like. And maybe only get a small hot chocolate. Don't fill it all the way up though so you can carry it all."

"Okay, I will."

"I got you some oatmeal to try."

"Okay."

When Bryce got back to our table, she had a big portion of bacon and eggs on her plate, as well as a completely full cup of hot chocolate.


7:00 AM, Saturday

I helped the girls pack up all the things they brought from where they had slept with the rest of the Brownie troop.

"Kevin, Bryce was up running around last night around 12:30," said our Brownie troop leader. She tilted her head disapprovingly, but with a smile on her face.

I closed my eyes and shook my head. "Why am I not surprised. She had come into see me at 11:30 saying she couldn't sleep."

The Brownie leader smiled. "It's okay. I guess she was running around by herself swinging glow sticks and tripped over another parent."

"Ugh. Of course she did. So sorry. Bryce and her own personal rave."

"It's fine. She went right to bed after that I guess."

I looked around to find Bryce to ask her about it, and there she was, dancing around the room with burnt out glow sticks.


6:45 AM, Saturday

"Here Dad," said Beatrice.

She had brought her and Bryce's blow-up beds and bedding into the Dads/Family room where I had slept.

"Thank you, Bea. That's such a big help. Did you sleep okay last night?"

"Yeah, I slept."

"I know it was late. How did Bryce do?"

"I don't know. I think she slept all night."


6:00 AM, Saturday

I laid there on my back, my blanket pulled up over my head. Someone touched my arm.

When I looked out from under the blanket, Bryce stood there smiling at me. I removed the headphones from my ears.

"Hi Daddy."

"What's up, Bryce?"

"I'm awake."

"Okay."

Pause.

"Is Beatrice awake?"

"Yes, everyone's waking up now."

Pause.

"Okay, what would you like to do? Breakfast isn't for another hour or more."

Pause.

"I'll go play some more."

"Great. Love you."

"Love you."

I pulled the blanket back over my head.


4:30 AM, Saturday

When the coughing and hacking started, I couldn't pinpoint from which direction it came. I knew it was near me, the child coughing that is, but couldn't triangulate. My blanket covered my head and I had the white-noise fan noise cranked up into my ear bud headphones. The coughing and hacking continued; the child was on my right I finally figured out.

Every five minutes it came and went. Followed by low whimpering and sniffling. I felt bad for the child, girl or boy. I empathized about being in a strange place and feeling so horrible while you were there. I assumed that the kid had been hopped up on cold medicine earlier in the night until it ran out, as there was no coughing and hacking until this point.

Every five minutes it came and went. And the whimpering increased in intensity. The white noise in my ears just didn't make a difference either way at this point. I wasn't mad, just over-tired and strung out and hoping that the kids' parents were tending to him or her.

Every five minutes...


4:00 AM, Saturday

First, I heard one pulsing beep.

Beep. Beep. Beep. 

It came from my left and I knew then it was the CPAP machine alarm the woman sleeping next to me was using. Earlier in the night she had asked if she could use the other plug in the outlet I had my blow-up bed plugged into. She said she needed it to help her breathe in the night so she could sleep. I said no worries, and that my mom had used one for years.

Beep. Beep. Beep. 

But something was wrong with the machine now. The alarm meant something was off. No one stirred. Then the beeps increased in cadence -- two beeps at a time.

Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep. 

Still no one stirred. I wondered what the hell was going on.

Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep. 

I sat up and couldn't see anyone moving. I laid back down and covered my head again. Now it escalated to three beeps at a time.

Beep-Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep-Beep. 

Finally I heard one of the woman's kids mumbled something and a minute later the machine went quiet again.

But of course, I was already quite awake.


2:30 AM, Saturday

My father used to snore like an old bear with a sever sinus infection. Sometimes in the middle of the night we could hear his snoring ground its way through the walls of the house and into our heads. Crazy loud.

I woke with a start thinking I was a teenager again with my dad's snoring drilling through my ear drums. But it wasn't my dad, it was three other dads on all sides of me snoring like old, sick bears.

Jesus H. Christ, I thought.

The white-noise fan noise app I had on was cranked up into my ear bud headphones -- and it still didn't help quiet the bears around me.

But I was trapped, because this was the Dad/Family sleeping room and there was nowhere else to go.

Nowhere. Else. To. Go.

The irony was that, while the Mama and I joked that it would one or both of the girls wanting to come home in the middle of the night, in the end it was me.


1:30 AM, Saturday

I awoke with a start wondering where the hell I was. I had only been sleeping for about two hours and the late evening had already weighed on me like an imaginary elephant learning to sit on my head.

One of the other 10 dads in the room snored away loudly in the far corner, but otherwise it was quiet. Almost too quiet for the over 600 Girls Scouts and Brownies who were there for the overnight campout at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

I tried to meditate but couldn't quiet my mind. Farts and other unearthly body odors permeated the stale, air-conditioned room. I winced and rubbed my nose. The ear plugs I wore weren't doing a thing for me, so I switched to the ear bud earphones and turned on the white-noise fan application on my phone.

I read a few pages of Purity, the latest novel I'm reading, and finally fell back asleep.


11:30 PM, Friday

I turned over, half-asleep, and there was Bryce standing next to my blow-up bed. She leaned down and put her elbows on the mattress, her head in her hands.

"Hi Daddy. I can't sleep."

I took out my left ear plug so I could hear her better. "I'm sorry, Sweetie. You can either sleep here with me or go back to your bed."

"I'll go back to bed," she said, but didn't move.

Pause.

"Bryce, you can either sleep here with me or go back to your bed."

Pause.

"I'll go back to bed."

Pause.

"Bryce, what are you going to do?"

Pause.

"I'll go back to bed."

"Okay, love you, Sweetie."

"Love you."

Bryce didn't move. She just stared at me.

Sigh.


10:45 PM, Friday

Lights out finally. Most of the dads and those with families who were going to stay together in the Dads/Family room were already in bed.

I saw Beatrice walk into our room. She came over and laid next to me in bed.

"Dad, when is everyone going to sleep? I'm so tired."

I hugged her. "I know, Bea. I'm tired, too. Everyone should be quieting down now. It's time for bed for all of us."

"Okay," she said, getting up.

"You can either sleep out there with your troop, or in here with me. Your choice."

"I'll go back out there."

"Sorry, Sweetie. Hopefully everyone will be asleep soon."

"I know. Love you."

"Love you, Bea."


10:15 PM, Friday

The movie Sing was just about over. Thank goodness, because Beatrice and I were beat. After dinner and arcade games, the Girl Scouts did a general meeting and then we set up our respective troop sleeping areas. Everything went pretty smoothly overall, although it was clear that most of the girls weren't ready for bed.

Especially not Bryce. She danced and ran around in front of the screen with about 50 other girls, all of them wearing or swinging glow sticks of all colors. Shrieks and other decibels of varying laughter surrounded us all like the rainbow neon lights of the glow sticks.

"Dad, do you see what Bryce is doing?" Beatrice pointed out.

"Yes, I do. She's having fun."

"I'm so tired, Dad. I wish Mom was here to rub my back. Will you rub it?"

I smiled. That was a nightly ritual to help put Beatrice right to sleep, although I doubted it would work in this chaotic environment.

And it didn't.

"Sorry, Bea. I've got to go to bed now. You're welcome to come in with me if you want. Otherwise, it's lights out in about 30 minutes."

"Okay. I'll be fine."

"Goodnight, Sweetie."

"Goodnight."


6:50 PM, Friday

I told the laser tag attendant that we had 13 in our party, but I forgot to count the adults. That meant that some adults wouldn't be able to do it. We did a count and realized that two of the girls weren't going to do it, and so after figuring out which adults would go in, we waited for our 7:10 pm time.

Beatrice didn't want to do it, however.

"I don't want to do it," she said more than once.

I knew it was partly to do with her still being sound sensitive at times and being anxious about new experiences in general.

I empathized and yet cranked up the pure pressure anyway. "C'mon, Bea, you'll be fine. Everybody's doing it. We're doing it as a troop. It'll be fun. I promise. I'll be right there, too."

"I don't want to."

"C'mon, Bea. Really, everybody's doing it. You want to be with your troop, right?"

"Well..."

Pause.

"C'mon. It'll be fun."

Pause.

"Okay, I'll do it."

"Right on."

And mercy me, did we all have fun, Bryce included, although I wasn't worried about her. We ran around in the black light lit room with fluorescent colors everywhere, our light-colored clothes aglow, shooting our laser guns at each other, constantly being told by the attendant to not run or they'd cut our time short, laughing and hiding everywhere we could.

Afterwards, Beatrice said, "Dad, that was awesome. I want to do it again."

"I know," I said and smiled.


6:00 PM, Friday

Then it was dinnertime. C'mon, who doesn't like chicken fingers and pasta with red sauce?


5:20 PM, Friday

"This your first time?"

I had been blowing up my bed in the Dad/Family room when I heard the voice. I looked up and a very large white man smiling with a very toothless upper gum, waiting for me to answer. He wore an old nondescript baseball hat and had a country twang in his voice. When he said "your first time" it sounded more like "yo furst tahm".

"Yes, it is," I said.

We introduced ourselves and shook hands.

"It's stuffy as all get out in here," he said.

"Yes, it is. Will they let us turn on the air? I noticed the windows don't open in here," I said, knowing full well I wasn't going to have a pleasant night if it was going to be this hot.

"Yep, it's purty stuffy, but they'll turn the air on. Last year they turned it on and it got real cold in here."

I nodded. "I'd rather have it too cold that too hot."

"I hear you," his wife said. She was setting up a CPAP machine to help her sleep at night. "Can I use your other plug to plug my machine in?"

"Of course."

They had two daughters with them and they were all going to sleep in the room next to me on my left. They were very nice people and we talked a little more about expectations for the night and how much fun it was for the kids.

"Good luck," the father said to me with another toothless smile.

"Thanks. I assume I'm not going to sleep much tonight."

"Nope, you're not. You got ear plugs?"

"Yes, I brought some. Have fun tonight."

"You too," he and his wife said.

As I left, I eyed the CPAP machine, and I hoped that the alarm on it wouldn't go off if her mask got skewed on her head. I remembered it all too well happening with my mom's machine years ago.


4:50 PM, Friday

I don't make beds and the Mama doesn't do campouts. Over the years there are specific activities that each of us simply refuse to do.

Can we do them? Of course we can. Would we do them? Of course we would, in a pinch that is. For the most part, there are really very few things each of us don't want to do for the other and the family.

But again, I don't make beds and the Mama doesn't do campouts.

So when it came time to register for the Girl Scouts campout at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an overnight that consisted of team-building, games, food, movies, sand castle building and rides -- I said I'd take the girls.

We would be "camping" indoors, although they've had other campouts at the Boardwalk with tents outside, which we hadn't participated in. The Mama had gone on one African safari about 20 years ago with one of her best friends and just can't do the tent camping thing. Or any camping for that matter. They had all gotten diarrhea and were confined to their sweltering tents for a few days, with little to no sleep.

Traveling together around the world in varying qualities of hotels and motels? Great, we're both in. Camping overnight with 600 Girl Scouts of all ages on air mattresses and in sleeping bags? No way for the Mama. We agreed that, going forward, any literal camping or semblance's thereof would be the Daddy-Mama's responsibility -- and that's me.

As I drove the girls to the Boardwalk, I was excited to be responsible for and share in this new experience with them -- their first true overnight campout away from home. The Mama had a nice evening planned with one of her best friends, a much-needed respite from parenting for her. (The Mama does it all, you know -- I just work here.)

"Are you girls excited?" I asked, glancing in the rearview mirror.

"Yes!" Bryce shouted. She was good to go the moment we said we were doing the campout.

"Yes," Beatrice answered, less emphatically. We knew she was apprehensive and a little anxious about the event.

"It's supposed to rain tomorrow," I said. They didn't comment.

"We'll have a great time either way, since we'll be indoors mostly until the sand castle contest tomorrow morning."

"I hope I can sleep," said Beatrice.

"I'm sure we'll all get a little sleep."

"Okay."

Little did we know until we knew, the experience itself that makes it all worthwhile.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

This Hopeful Romantic I Am

"If only I don't bend and break
I'll meet you on the other side
I'll meet you in the light
If only I don't suffocate
I'll meet you in the morning when you wait..."



It was just another game of Life with our girls. We got the game for them at Christmas and it was an instant hit, something the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I played as children.

This time I was the yellow car and I took the college route and became a secret agent, making $100,000 per year. And when I landed on buying my first house, I bought a houseboat. Super cool.

The Mama arrived at the get-married "stop" first.

"I'm going to marry a girl this time," she said.

"You can marry a girl?" our oldest Beatrice asked.

"Yes," I said. "And boys can marry boys."

"Yes, I knew that," said Bryce, always wanting to be the one in the know.

When I arrived at the get-married "stop", I said, "And I'll marry another man, please."

"You can marry a boy?" Bea asked.

"Yes, he can," answered Bryce before I could.

We went on with Life, spinning the wheel and moving our cars forward. When it came time to have a family or not, we all chose having children.

"How can you have children?" Bea asked us both, having a basic understanding of biology since the Mama had already had an early "talk" with her because she had asked specifically where babies came from.

"Because we can adopt children," the Mama said.

"Yes, you can adopt them," Bryce echoed.

Life moved on and we played as long as our attention spans held out, just like we do every time we play the game, and each time our lives having their own unique experiences and nuance along the way.

Then we were off outside in between the rain, letting the girls ride their bike (Bryce) and scooter (Beatrice) down the small hill above us super fast to the street below, of course watching out for cars coming down our one way street, because we're good parents like that, and because life moves pretty fast, a Ferris Bueller reference that will be lost to future generations (unless they watch the movie, which our girls will someday).

I looked at the Mama and loved her more in that moment than ever before. I've found that, over time, I fall in love with her over and over again, something that continuously reinforces the spiritual connection we share, and the expanding interconnected growth we've experienced for over 20 years now.

We both share a greater belief in a spiritual plane that interconnects everyone and every other living thing -- me believing more in a benevolent God (force) than her, but she's coming around. We've been talking a lot more about God of late, listening to Oprah's Super Soul Sundays and taking the non-traditional Christian path to our "two halves make two wholes" spiritual truths.

I grew up an evangelical Christian, the Mama did not, and even though we've never seen eye-to-eye on how to approach the subject, we are now talking about what God means to us with the girls, and the concepts of love, gratitude, acceptance, forgiveness, mindfulness and much more. Certainly not my mother and father's conservative Christianity, but it still conveys the essence of that progressive New Testament love, the one where we are all each other's brothers and sisters, regardless of race or gender or social status.

We also believe we've been proverbial soulmates for many lifetimes, something that's not everyone's cup of relationship tea. It's our cup of tea though, and we've come and gone out of each other lives over a millennium (or more), sometimes as husband and wife, and maybe other times in different relationships as different races, genders and having varying social statuses, helping each other and empowering our spiritual growth.

Shake your skeptical head if you must, but mercy me, I've had a lot of crap to work through life after life (maybe I was really a secret agent, too). We've made it this far...and sometimes I daydream about what may happen later in our lives this time...

There's a song by a band named Keane called "Bend and Break" that was released in 2004, the same year the movie The Notebook was released (we did read the book first). While the song isn't a traditional love song, not like the many others the Mama and I share, the movie is heart-wrenching love story about a husband reading their life journals to his wife who suffers from dementia.

Ever since then, and every time I hear that Keane song, I have this recurring daydream about 30 years from now when the Mama suffers from dementia (just a fantastical daydream folks), and the spiritual visions I have, that if I get her to the place we met that one day on the beach 50 years earlier, where she came up to me and said, "So, do you always come here alone?" -- that she would remember the first moment of us (this time) and all that we've shared together, and only then could we move on to the next life together.

Our girls in this fantasy future, now women, one married to another woman and the other to a man, and both with children of their own (it doesn't matter who is who in the daydream; the iteration changes every time) -- they both believe that I'm losing my own mind the more I rant about taking the Mama to the beach, that I can save her and the memory of us.

Then a rare but fierce October storm makes landfall on the anniversary of the day we met (and the same day when we were married in 2003), and the storm surge has swamped the beach where we met. I sneak out from my eldest daughter's house, who I live with at that point, and I get the Mama from her assisted-care facility. I then bring her to the cliff above where we met on the beach all those years ago. The sky is bruised with heavy clouds and the wind howls and the rain pelts us like water bullets. The Mama looks at me for the first time in years and smiles. I start down the rickety stairs to the beach below.

Our girls discover what I've done and call the police and there's a climatic scene of sirens and flashing lights atop the cliff along West Cliff Drive. Someone is shouting from a bullhorn.

"Dad! Come back here! Don't go down there! You'll drown!"

It's our daughters. We can barely hear them now that I'm near the bottom of stairs and the wind and rain are so loud. The beach is being washed away over and over again with crashing waves. I struggle to stand straight while carrying the Mama.

"Dad! Don't! Please stop!"

"Mr. Grossman, please stop where you are and we will come get you!" shouts someone else from the bullhorn.

I hesitate, but I have to move on, because I know it's the only way she'll remember it all; all our lives together and our future that relies on this one seemingly suicidal action; this redemptive baptism I'm compelled to give us both to keep our love alive; this hopeful romantic I am.

A wave washes back from the spot on the cold sand where we met and it begins to glow gold like the banished sun above. The Mama hold me tighter and smiles again. The glowing gold spot grows bigger and bigger, swamping us like us like the frigid sea, but it's more warm and inviting, almost hot like the day we met.

"So, do you always come here alone?" the Mama asks, her voice again vibrant and young.

"Yes, yes I do," I answer. "Except this time I brought a bunch of people with me." I nodded my head to the cliff above.

Her eyes fill with tears and then the rain washes them away. "Damn, Sweetie, you're supposed to be the crier."

"I know. I still am."

"What about the girls?"

"They'll be fine, Mama. You did good."

"So did you."

"Yeah, but I certainly wasn't perfect."

"No, you weren't."

"Hey, c'mon."

"Just kidding, neither was I."

"Well, what do you say -- let's do it again."

"Yes, let's do it."

And with that, I step into the light with the love of my life.


Happy Birthday, Mama! I love you!