Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brotherly Love

My lovely wife worries about our little German. He has chronic hives, he is dyslexic, and she worries about the difficulties he may face in the future.

I tend to worry more about our little Italian. He is sweet, he is smart beyond his years, but he wears his heart on his sleeve. He can turn from zero to angry whiner on a dime. What wouldn't have given him a moment's pause one day, the next day becomes part of a greater conspiracy designed to ruin his day and keep him from realizing whatever twisted definition of "fair" seems to be eluding him.

Even though those days are becoming fewer and farther between, I still worry that one day he will vent in the wrong way to the wrong person and get his clock cleaned. But just when I start thinking its time to call an exorcist, he displays signs that tell me I need to be hopeful. Leaving school, I'll see him walking hand-in-hand with his brother. At the movie theatre, I'll see him clinging to his sister with a huge, protracted bear hug.

The best example of his inherent sweetness came about two years ago. The German was not feeling well and fell asleep on the sofa in the living room an hour before bedtime. At the normal time, the Italian had his treat, brushed his teeth, and went into the room he shares with the German to change into pajamas. Before we knew what was happening, he came back out into the living room carrying his pillow and a blanket.

"I'm going to sleep next to him on the floor so he doesn't get lonely," the Italian said. I'm pretty sure we were both crying by the time we tucked them both properly into their beds.

The funny thing is that one day about five or six years ago my parents were watching the boys for the day and brought them home at 4:00pm. My father carried the Italian in and laid him on the living room sofa. He slept through dinner and showed no signs of stirring. My lovely wife and I decided to leave him there for the night, so we brought out his favorite stuffed animal and covered him with a blanket.

This time it was the German's turn to go through the normal bedtime routine. We tucked him into bed, kissed him goodnight, and went to our bedroom to watch television. The Italian was still sleeping away in the living room. After twenty minutes, my lovely wife asked if heard something. We turned down the volume on the television and clearly heard a noise that required further inspection.

In his bed -- big wet tears soaking his face, hair and pillow -- the German was sobbing uncontrollably. We hugged him and tried asking what was wrong but he couldn't answer. Finally, my lovely wife asked if he missed his brother. He sobbed even louder and nodded his head. Again, we cried.

Even farther back, when the boys had just learned to walk, we visited a shopping mall in Fayetteville. We split up to cover ground more quickly. My lovely wife took the Italian and our daughter while I took the German. Maybe thirty minutes later we met up again to finish our shopping. When I walked up with the German holding my finger, he saw his brother some fifty feet away standing near his mother. Their eyes locked. Their mouths fell open. They both called "NeeNee" -- their way of saying their names at the time -- and charged toward each other at top toddler speed with arms wide open. They embraced as though they hadn't seen each other in years. Yes, we cried then too.

I suppose neither my lovely wife nor I should worry about either boy. So long as they have each other -- and their loving sister -- I think they will be okay.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Perfect Birthday

Well, it's my birthday and I don't feel a year older. I did two weeks ago but my back is feeling much better now -- lots of stretching and regular exercise. My doctor did advise to start taking Centrum Silver but I think I'll keep alternating between that and my kids' Disney Princess gummy vitamins.

I can't imagine a better prospect for a perfect day.

No big party is planned. No present is needed or expected. Just a quiet morning relaxing in bed, followed by a little time on the treadmill, and now leisurely planning breakfast for the kids while the boys play with Legos behind me and our daughter lounges in her room watching television and checking her phone for messages.

Later, my lovely wife will take me to Dugan's Pub in the village for the world's greatest Buffalo chicken sandwich and beer-battered fries. Clearly, this combination calls for the accompaniment of a draft import beer. It might not be fancy but it is what I'm craving and, after all, it is my birthday and I'm going to indulge.

The rest of the day? Oh, a little grocery shopping and then back to spend it with my lovely wife and children. It doesn't get much better than this.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Writing vs. Life

When I started this blog back in January, the idea was to get back into the habit of writing on a semi-regular basis.

Many hours during high school and college were spent jotting down ideas, raking them over, picking out the gems, and forming them into fanciful stories or amusing little essays. When I met my lovely wife, much of my creative energy shifted from writing fiction to writing her love letters and poems. That was absolutely fine with me. It's the act of writing that I enjoy, and writing to her provided a release for me and, hopefully, some entertainment for her (although it did get a little stalker-ish at times).

As the years have passed, the responsibilities of life have taken over and left little time for writing. Somewhere along the way -- I truly believe with the arrival of our lovely daughter -- it just became too difficult to focus on writing. I am easily distracted and relentlessly forgetful, so I am certain that I tried writing stories that got stuck in the backs of notepads and eventually got thrown away. I've attended far too many meetings, trainings and conferences over the last 20 years not to have written something to entertain myself while I ignored whomever was lecturing. Unfortunately, writing requires the ability to return to the material and review it, amend it, restructure it. I simply did not have the time.

Please don't think I'm feeling sorry for myself.

Writing may be a dream that has never let go of me but my life without writing has been more full and rewarding than I could ever have imagined. I have three amazing children and a lovely wife who loves me and puts up with me and thinks I am funny. (Really, how bad can life be if, after 15+ years of marriage, I can still make my companion and best friend laugh to the point of incontinence.) I have a blessed life and I wouldn't change anything that has led me here.

Something about life, the very hectic thing that moved me away from writing, now seems to have brought me back around to it. I shouldn't even say "life" moved me away from writing because it isn't life's fault at all. Time is the real culprit.

When the children arrived, time became a precious commodity. Bath time, diapers, feedings, day care, sleepless nights, emergencies, singing songs, homework, school productions, concerts, road trips, scouts, dance recitals, assembling Christmas presents, watching movies, assembling birthday presents -- all the things that make life wonderful take so much time they leave little for selfish, self-indulgent endeavors like writing.

Suddenly, though, there seems to be more time. Not consistently, mind you, as witnessed by the fact of this being my first blog in the month of May. The children simply are self-sufficient in ways that adult hovering no longer is necessary. They are becoming their own people and interacting with their friends, developing their own social circles and moving happily in them. They still require our time but in fits and bursts, in busy weeks or months that string together at a maddening pace and then abruptly stop, leaving us with spare moments here and there to reconnect and recharge.

Last year, during one of those moments, the writing bug started buzzing around my head again. I eventually found myself able to complete thoughts on paper. While I built a small stockpile of poorly written and ill-conceived rubbish, I kept pointing out to myself that they were, at least, conceived and written. My thoughts turned to blogging last fall. It took until January to build up the courage to throw my trifles out there to the cyber winds. Now, I am looking to both the future and the past.

While working at my first post-college job as a local newspaper reporter, I started developing the notion that I wanted to write something weightier than a short story or a love letter. I started developing characters I thought could hold my interest for 75 or 100 pages, maybe even longer. While I never did write the story, it has stuck with me. Every year I seem to add a new piece to the puzzle. A new character here, a new plot twist there, some backstory layered in. Somehow this idea has refused to die.

So, I have come to the conclusion that it is time to write it and to chronicle my exercise here in the blogosphere. I have no idea how long it will take, whether it will be good, or if I will ever finish it. I know only two things: (1) I will regret never having tried if I don't make the effort, and (2) If life decides to get in the way again I will let it.

My desire to achieve this dream will never be as strong as my desire to enjoy my family, my friends, and my life.