Have you had it with news, fake news, politics, etc.? Be swept away for a moment. (55 sec)

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:

A small, sweet, plosive sound comes from his lips, after each entreaty the same noise, a breath out and a consonant mixed with spit.

baby-drawing

Four days later, Ev starts to talk. His sounds have been buffering at meaning for weeks, but now they emerge as his own handiwork and he sets them gently one beside another in lines. […]

Children are born into language. They understand the nuances of speech at birth and Ev has been listening to our ceaseless chatter for months in the womb. He has been read to and sung to and laughed at. He knows the pattern of our voices and by its cadence he knows too that something is happening. My face signals it, and the sudden sparks of urgent conversation, the gaps that follow.

Ev’s vocabulary as he presents it to us is superlatively normal. He has no words for fear. He says Daddy to mean either of us, kee for monkey and Oh no! at all upsets. Ssss serves for snake, the letter S, and any linear thing like a belt or bit of his railway track. He says click for light and sta for monster, gakator for tractor and soon has a small handy clip of words like digger, apple, spoon, butter, cardi, eye, toast, brush. Seem means machine. He can do two, three and four. And in a way that is entirely normal too, we poke him and spur him on. This is what you do with children, goad them for your own enjoyment. Make a noise like a volcano, we say. Make a noise like a firework. Make a noise like a dinosaur. His eyes are merry. A small, sweet, plosive sound comes from his lips, after each entreaty the same noise, a breath out and a consonant mixed with spit. […]

He is the size of a cat; a thing of gold fur and whitened sunshine. His hands paw and pat the textures of the food as he draws each substance one by one into his mouth: sour, sweet, char, salt, pulp, oil and leaf.  […]

He goes at food with intellectual interest and straight joy in taste. It is bonny. If I had known how much pleasure I would get from watching my baby eat I would have thought it an argument for more babies. It is such a treat I can’t take my eyes off him and I mask my keenness in case it makes him suspicious that there is something more at stake. So I eat with him, or look out the window or pretend to read the paper. He spoons up lentils, snuffles through tomato sauce with basil and surges his pasta round in it, he dips bread in spinach soup till soup and bread are one and sucks it. He holds broccoli like a cudgel and stuffs one, then two, three, four trees into his mouth. He eats liver! He eats bananas and garlic and stir-fry! We goggle at him. We win and he wins. We all triumph together.

~ Marion Coutts, The Iceberg: A Memoir


Baby Drawing: Ben Connell

 

through bone and rain and everything

hold,black and white

On a spring day in 1950, when I was big enough to run about on my own two legs yet still small enough to ride in my father’s arms, he carried me onto the porch of a farmhouse in Tennessee and held me against his chest, humming, while thunder roared and lightning flared and rain sizzled around us. On a spring day just over twenty years later, I carried my own child onto the porch of a house in Indiana to meet a thunderstorm, and then, after thirty more years, I did the same with my first grandchild. Murmuring tunes my father had sung to me, I held each baby close, my daughter, Eva, and then, a generation later, her daughter, Elizabeth, and while I studied the baby’s newly opened eyes I wondered if she felt what I had felt as a child cradled on the edge of a storm— the tingle of a power that surges through bone and rain and everything.

~ Scott Russell Sanders, A Private History of Awe


Image: Suzanne with a Little Part of You

 

Driving I-95 S. The Last Term.

snow-gif-winter-white

3:39 am. Thursday morning. Or, Wednesday night bleeding over.
20 minutes until shower time.
I’m staring at the ceiling. Woozy.  Did you get any sleep?

Six hours ago Mom’s helping him pack.
Suitcases are open.
Zeke sets the mood, moping.

“Dad, do you have any sweatpants I can take?”
“Take anything you want.”
“Do you have anything that doesn’t look like leisure wear?”
I smile. It’s clear who mentored that sarcasm, honed now, cold steel glistening.

We’re in the car.
It’s Silent. Father and Son awkward.
He’s turning the dials, away from my 7 on 70s on Sirius to some thumpin’ Electro BEAT.
The bitter taste of scotch at 4:30am.
I let it pass. [Read more…]

2015: Flummoxed by the Paradoxical Commandments

new-year-resolutions

If you haven’t read Kent M. Keith’s The Paradoxical Commandments, it’s worth a few minutes of your time.  If you were looking for the origin of these commandments and the connection to Mother Theresa, look here: The Mother Theresa Connection.

In my reflection of events in 2015, I do find the commandments paradoxical.  Let’s take a few highlights for a spin.

KMK:
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

DK:   You are on a JetBlue flight. The woman sitting next to you in Coach removes her shoes, her stockings and then places her feet up on the seat in front of you. She wiggles her chubby toes to air out her dogs. (In case you were dying to know, she had a nice pedicure. The toenail polish was a pretty baby blue matching her fingernails. And there was no visible toe jam.)

KMK:
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
KMK: Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

DK:

You come home from work, its late, it’s been a long (very) day. You are eating dinner, alone. Your head is down.  (Important to note: Head Down.)  Your spouse of 30+ years looks over from the couch, sees Gaps, and asks if you’ve considered Rogaine.  You lift your head, your mouth is full – you try to validate if you just heard what you think you heard.  You chew. You swallow, and then ask: “Excuse me.  I didn’t hear what you said.”  She repeats it crossing the “Red-Line” of no communication during the first 10 minutes of the King’s decompression zone. You reel from two scuds to the chest, elect to drop your head down with no response and finish your dinner. For the next 123 days, you start your day each morning staring at the mirror assessing the speed of the backward march of your hair line. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. The Return.

firecracker-lights-blue

5:30 am.
A brisk walk to catch the 5:40 train to Grand Central.
28º F. Cold. Can’t touch me.
Running on a four hours sleep. Can’t feel it.
Dark. Spring forward. Fall back. Fall back into darkness, on both ends of the work day.
But today, light beams.
Thanksgiving week.
A scheduled vacation week. And here you are, Day 2 of vacation and off to work again.
And, looking forward to the day.

I find an open two-seater in the Quiet Car.
I lean my head against the window, close my eyes, and replay last night. [Read more…]

Empty Nest (and fully tethered)

cereal-bowl

One child in Detroit, working.
Another, in New York City, working.
And their Dad,
at home,
tethered to gadgets,
and to them,
is reading.
And here it comes…
[Read more…]

We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light

goodnight-moon

To curl up with children and a good book has long been one of the great civilizing practices of domestic life, an almost magical means of cultivating warm fellow feeling, shared in-jokes and a common cultural understanding. Harvard professor Maria Tatar has written of its origins in medieval fireside storytelling, “before print and electronic media supplied nighttime entertainments.”

Certainly in the modern era there is something quaint about a grown-up and a child or two sitting in a silence broken only by the sound of a single human voice. Yet how cozy, how impossibly lovely it is! Unlike tech devices, which atomize the family by drawing each member into his own virtual reality, great stories pull people of different ages toward one another, emotionally and physically. When my children were small, I would often read with my eldest daughter tucked in by my side, the boy draped like a panther half across my shoulders and half across the back of the sofa, a tiny daughter on either knee, and the baby in my lap. If we happened to be on one of our cycles through “Treasure Island,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling classic, my husband would come to listen, too, and stretch out on the floor in his suit and tie and shush the children when they started to act out the exciting bits.

“We let down our guard when someone we love is reading us a story,” Ms. DiCamillo says. “We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light.”

~ Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Great Gift of Reading Aloud

Saturday Afternoons. In Memorata.

baseball-glove

Eric, our 21 year old Son, joins Zeke and me on the bed. He’s texting. I’m reading. Zeke’s napping, his paw twitches. The TV buzzes in the background.

Kanigan Men, never have much to say to each other. Yet, he did come in, and sit with his Dad and his Dog. As Heithaus would say in ‘Insides’: …Between words – white space and breath, the air moving without sound…all the fecund stuff inside us that finds thought and voice and sound.’

Eric continues texting.

New York Times: Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children: “Texting looms as the next national epidemic, with half of teenagers sending 50 or more text messages a day and those aged 13 through 17 averaging 3,364 texts a month.”

Eric pauses from texting to look out the second floor window and down the street. Three houses down, a neighbor is playing catch with his five year old son. 15 years ago, that would have been Eric and me. On the street, in the hot mid-day sun in Miami. I can hear the ‘clop’ of the ball hitting his mitt. His cheeks are flushed. His hair matted and wet. Wonder if this scene is taking him back? [Read more…]

In zealous agreement

Fathers-Day-daughter-son-parent

Scott Addington writes, “As is often the case, my purpose became clearly evident after I had stopped looking for it. On October 11, 1995, my daughter was born. Beginning with that moment, there has never been the slightest doubt regarding the purpose and source of meaning in my life. Being a father is the most meaningful and rewarding pursuit a man could ever hope to experience.”

~ David Brooks, Hearts Broken Open


Photo: wilstar

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