Have I?

This coming Sunday, in homes across the nation, millions of American men will awake to the arrival of breakfast in bed. Prepared and served by their children, these Father’s Day repasts convey appreciation as well as contributing to the general bonhomie of the day to come. But as he sips his coffee from his “World’s Greatest Dad” mug, even the most obtuse father has to ask himself: Have I been the man my children deserve?

~ William McGurn, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Father’s Day, wsj.com, June 12, 2017


Photo by Julien Stenger

Son, this one is for you (wow)

they get a lot of pleasure simply from shopping and buying things

Excerpts from How to Raise an American Adult (wsj.com, May 5, 2017) by Ben Sasse:

…Our nation is in the midst of a collective coming-of-age crisis. Too many of our children simply don’t know what an adult is anymore—or how to become one. Perhaps more problematic, older generations have forgotten that we need to teach them. It’s our fault more than it’s theirs…

My wife, Melissa, and I have three children, ages 6 to 15. We don’t have any magic bullets to help them make the transition from dependence to self-sustaining adulthood—because there aren’t any. And we have zero desire to set our own family up as a model. We stumble and fall every day. But we have a shared theory of what we’re aiming to accomplish: We want our kids to arrive at adulthood as fully formed, vivacious, appealing, resilient, self-reliant, problem-solving souls who see themselves as called to love and serve their neighbors. Our approach is organized around five broad themes.

Resist Consumption…In a 2009 study called “Souls in Transition,” Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith and his colleagues focused on the spiritual attitudes and moral beliefs of 18- to 23-year-old “emerging adults.” They were distressed by what they discovered, especially about the centrality of consumption in the lives of young people. Well over half agreed that their “well-being can be measured by what they own, that buying more things would make them happier, and that they get a lot of pleasure simply from shopping and buying things…But consumption is no route to long-term happiness … Although we often fail at it, Melissa and I aim to imprint in our children the fact that need and want are words with particular and distinct meanings … Parents can impart such lessons many ways. The occasional camping trip, off the grid, can teach the basic definition of shelter—and make the comforts of home look like the luxuries they are. You can shop differently too. One of our daughters is a serious runner, so we purchase high-quality shoes to protect her developing bones—but most of her other clothes come from hand-me-downs and secondhand shops. We want our children to learn the habit of finding pleasure in the essentials of life and feeling gratitude for them. We’d like to think that, when they strike out on their own someday, they’ll have a clear sense of what they really need… [Read more…]

Voilà, I’m home now

October 28: Bringing maman’s body from Paris to Urt…The undertaker meets a “colleague” there…I walk a few steps…on one side of the square…bare ground, the smell of rain, the sticks. And yet, something like a savor of life (because of the sweet smell of the rain), the very first discharge, like a momentary palpitation.

October 29: How strange: her voice, which I knew so well, and which is said to be the very texture of memory (“ the dear inflection . . .”), I no longer hear. Like a localized deafness.

October 30: At Urt: sad, gentle, deep (relaxed).

November 1: Indeterminacy of the senses: one could just as well say that I have no feelings or that I’m given over to a sort of external, feminine (“ superficial”) emotivity, contrary to the serious image of “true” grief—or else that I’m deeply hopeless, struggling to hide it, not to darken everything around me, but at certain moments not able to stand it any longer and “collapsing.” [Read more…]

3, now 23. Happy Birthday Eric!

Eric, son, swim,swimming,float

Riding Metro North. With Law & Order.

train-subway-motion-rails

Tuesday evening. Downtown Manhattan. I’m hailing a cab. Rich food swims in Chardonnay. Wind bursts chill the bones: Winter.

I flip on Waze with an eye out for a cab – 16 minutes to Grand Central.  The 8:36 train departs in 18 minutes.  Unlikely, but possible.

“Be great if I can catch the 8:36.” This is NYC Cabbie code – a much larger tip in it for you if you giddyap.  It’s the American Way: Proper incentives = desired behavior.  I buckle my seatbelt, grip the armrest and hope for the best.

“8:36?”

“Yes.”

He bolts through traffic – Rabbit with lock on the Carrot. Think bumper car or go cart sans contact, with the same weaving, bobbing, braking and jarring.

We arrive at the station at 8:36.  I run to the gate, hopeful for a train delay.  I watch the fading red tail lights down the tunnel, wheezing, trying to catch my breath. Damn!  Next train, 30 minutes.

I walk to the next gate, board the train, find a seat, and get comfortable. Chardonnay burns off. Fatigue rolls in, eyes are burning on four hours of sleep. I pop in my ear buds, turn on soft ambient music, lean my head against the window, and close my eyes. Just 10 minutes, please, just 10. 

The smartphone buzzes in my pocket, a text message. Let it go. Just let it go. [Read more…]

So fresh, so fleeting

dew-light-green

Dew evaporates
And all our world is dew…so dear,
So fresh, so fleeting.

~ Issa, 1763 – 1828, on the death of his child

 


Notes:

Graduation Day.

eric-kanigan-kindergarten-college-graduation

10 hour car ride. In Both directions. In three days. Why drive, when you can fly?

Fighting traffic to airport. Finding parking in overflowing lots. Standing in interminable TSA security lines. Hard-back molded plastic seats, waiting. Delays. Waiting to board. Fighting for overhead bin space. No open seats. No legroom. Non-reclining seats. Unclean arm rests and seat tray tables. Claustrophobia. Acrophobia.  And then, the other side. Waiting to deplane. Waiting for luggage. Dragging luggage to car rental, more waiting. And, then, a one-hour drive to Winston-Salem.

But “that” wasn’t it.

There was only this option, for this could be the last road trip with Family. Road trips with Family. McDonalds. Dad trying to make time, foot heavy on accelerator. Tummies full of soda, unscheduled bathroom breaks at highway rest stops. The Karaoke. The arm signals to Truckers urging a pull on the deep throaty air horns. The honking in tunnels. The spilled milkshakes. The spats in the back seat. Are we there yet?  Budget hotels with swimming pools, had to have a swimming pool. Single rooms, twin beds with too-soft mattresses, undersized bathrooms, always two towels short. The thrill of Room Service. Kids petering out, little bodies sleeping side by side, their gentle puffs of breath, gone dreaming.

I turn my head to the window to look out at the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, I wipe the tears, and step on the accelerator. Like a firework in the face. Accept our gratitude for the promise of a next chapter in life. And a next. And a next.¹ 

Graduation Day. [Read more…]

The Baccalaureate Service. Like a firework in the face.

IMG_7583

Father and Daughter work Twitter and hit the jackpot – the University posts the tweet on the giant outdoor screens for the overflow crowd. Janet Frame sets the stage: “For memory is so often a single explosion, like a firework in the face. One is blinded.”

It’s the same building where I sat four years ago, on August 25, 2012. It was memorialized in my post: He’s Gone. Take your index finger and swipe right to left on your device. One swish, one blink and four years — Gone.

Wait Chapel. The Baccalaureate Service. 54° F. on this glorious Sunday morning. The North wind gusts to keep it real, hands reach back to hold down the Sunday dresses. Summer? Not just yet He says. Not just yet.

A Tie, (Red. Italian. Silk.) specially selected for the Event from Dad’s Tie rack, made the 10 hour commute to rest in a Windsor knot around his neck; 50 feet below us, our Son sits in the pews, breathing, loosening the tie a wee bit to give himself air.

Hundreds of parents, grandparents, friends —buzz in anticipation, flipping through programs, flashing their smart phones to capture the moments.

The Invocation is led by the very same University Chaplain Reverend Tim Auman, who captured the spirit at freshman orientation. He does it again four years later. [Read more…]

We might lose this child

boy-clouds-reach-light

The team knows and I know that we are running out of time. The anesthesiologist looks up at me and I see the fear in his eyes. . . We might lose this child. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is like trying to clutch-start a car in second gear—it’s not very reliable, especially as we are continuing to lose blood. I am working blind, so I open my heart to a possibility beyond reason, beyond skill, and I begin to do what I was taught decades ago, not in residency, not in medical school, but in the back room of a small magic shop in the California desert. I calm my mind. I relax my body. I visualize the retracted vessel. I see it in my mind’s eye, folded into this young boy’s neurovascular highway. I reach in blindly but knowing that there is more to this life than we can possibly see, and that each of us is capable of doing amazing things far beyond what we think is possible. We control our own fates, and I don’t accept that this four-year-old is destined to die today on the operating table. I reach down into the pool of blood with the open clip, close it, and slowly pull my hand away. The bleeding stops, and then, as if far away, I hear the slow blip of the heart monitor. It’s faint at first. Uneven. But soon it gets stronger and steadier, as all hearts do when they begin to come to life. I feel my own heartbeat begin to match the rhythm on the monitor. Later, in post-op, I will give his mother the remnants from his first haircut, and my little buddy will come out of the anesthetic a survivor. He will be completely normal. In forty-eight hours, he will be talking and even laughing, and I will be able to tell him that the Ugly Thing is gone.”

~ James Doty, MD, from “Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart


Notes:

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