My mother was hoping I wouldn’t write about this, but it’s too good to pass up.
Last week my parents were nice enough to take me and Will out to lunch, and then drive us all the way back to the Cape. After a splendid meal at the Picadilly Pub, we packed Will and ourselves into the car and began the trek back home.
Now I know some of you won’t believe this, but I give my mom a lot of shit in the form of teasing and joking around. Or, as MJ terms it, I torture the hell out of her. But in a good way. Anyway, I was sitting in the passenger seat and I honestly can’t remember what I said to my mom, but I was being a wise-ass. And so, as is customary, she gave me a backhanded slap to the chest.
But as soon as she whacked me, a volcano of anger erupted from the backseat.
“NOOOOOOO! NO GRAMMA!”
It was Will. And he was PISSED! I’m not kidding, he was furious at my mother for hitting me. Not only did he yell at her, he was staring daggers at her. If looks could kill she would’ve keeled over instantly and we all would’ve careened right off the highway.
Now you have to realize, Will is a total grandma’s boy. He is my mom’s little angel and they have this very strong and extremely tangible connection between them. Maybe that’s why she was so taken aback when he freaked out on her. Backpedaling furiously, she told him it was OK and that she was sorry for hitting me. And then she patted my head and said “See Will, it’s OK. I’m being gentle with Dadda.”
And then Will growled at her.
I shit you not, the boy was growling. A low, deep guttural growl like my dog when she senses danger. And every time my mother even looked at me, he would sneer at her and tell her “NO!” in no uncertain terms. It didn’t help that at that point I was flinching and saying “Owww” every time she got near me for effect.
It was friggin great!
Not for my mom, of course, who was in tears because she had fallen off her pedestal. But I was thoroughly enjoying the moment. And the best part was she couldn’t rough me up because my midget bodyguard in the carseat would’ve gone medieval on her ass.
I have to admit, I was proud of Will for sticking up for his old man. My boy might not even be 2 years old yet, but he’s already got my back.
CHECK OUT DAD-BLOGS FOR FATHERHOOD FRIDAY AND READ WHAT ALL THE OTHER COOL DADS (AND MOMS) ARE DOING.
I had just finished showering on Monday when a small cyclone of blonde hair and cuteness whisked into the bathroom and started knocking on the glass shower door.
“Hi Dadda,” said my rambunctious son.
“Hi buddy,” I replied as I searched for a clean towel. Unfortunately, I forgot to grab one before I got into the shower and now I had to make the dreaded 4-step-dripping-frigid-tiptoe of agony to the clean towels, and then back to the safe, warm confines of my shower stall. “I don’t suppose you can grab daddy a towel huh bud?” I said, jokingly.
And that’s when it happened.
Will happily trotted over to the towels, grabbed one and brought it to me with a big smile on his face. “Heeyugo Dadda,” he chirped as he ran off into the bedroom. Meanwhile, I was left slack-jawed in the shower. A mixture of shocked, proud and — most of all — THRILLED!
Those of you with kids, I want to ask you a question. And be honest with the answer. Ready?
Why do we have kids?
I know some of you will parrot the stock answers everyone else out there gives. Things like “to complete our family” and “to raise the next generation.” That’s all well and good and politically correct, but honest? I don’t think so. I think the honest answer to why it is we have kids is “so they can help us with stuff around the house.”
For the first 22 months of Will’s life, we have totally taken care of him. We have bathed him, cleaned him, wiped him, fed him, changed his diapers, been peed on, pooped on, spit up on, kicked, punched and even bitten. And so far all he’s done is pay us back in smiles, cuteness and heart-warming moments. And really, what good does that do me?
But now it’s different. I asked for a towel yesterday, and the kid went and got me a towel. Do you understand how significant that is? And he was happy to do it. Excited even. Unfortunately he spent last night and all day today at my parent’s house so I haven’t been able to test this further, but imagine the possibilities.
“Will, can you grab daddy the remote control?”
“Will, can you go get daddy a beer?”
“Will, can you fill out this paperwork to refinance the mortgage and lock us into a reasonable 30-year fixed rate?”
Well, you get the picture.
I’m not a financial guru by any means and I have literally no understanding of how stocks, bonds or Wall Street works. But I imagine this is like investing in something and watching it struggle in the beginning, only to see it start paying off in leaps and bounds after a couple of years. And hopefully this is just the beginning. In a few years he can take out the garbage, do the dishes, feed & walk the dog, paint the house, change the kitty litter and do all the laundry. MJ and I will literally have produced a walking, talking household chore machine.
Of course, more experienced investors tell me these particular holdings tend to depreciate as they mature, particularly after about 13 years or so. Productivity becomes much more rare and the profit margin all but disappears.
That’s why I’m going to take advantage of enjoy the next few years as much as possible!
The Kevlar vest weighs a ton. At least 60 lbs. I wore it for 20 minutes before my shoulders and back started screaming in agony. The helmet and goggles impeded my range of vision. The HETS (Heavy Equipment Transporter Systems) I was riding in was not helping things either. It’s made for hauling M1 tanks and payloads of up to 80 tons through the desert and minefields of Iraq, so needless to say comfort is not a priority. As we bumped along as part of convoy training my mind started to wander. I thought about how uncomfortable I was. I thought about my leg that was starting to cramp up after half an hour in the HET. And the pain in my back and neck was second only to how much I missed MJ and Will after two days of not seeing them. But suddenly my mind was snapped back to the present.
While I was internally bitching and moaning about my out-of-shape body and missing my family, Army Sgt. Sousa from southeastern Mass. (first name and hometown withheld for safety reasons) had spotted a 155 mm artillery shell on the side of the road put there to simulate an Improvised Explosive Device, which is one of the leading causes of death for our soldiers in Iraq.
And just then I realized exactly how spoiled I am.
You see, Sgt. Sousa is younger than I am. And he’s got an 8-month-old son back home in Massachusetts. But for the last month he’s been training in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma to prepare for his deployment to Iraq. He’s gone a month without seeing his wife and child. And in early March he’ll be sent off to battle, at which point he won’t see any of his family for up to a year. Not to mention he’ll be traveling through hellish Iraqi desert while people shoot at him and try to blow him up.
Suddenly my bitching about a sore neck and two days without my family seemed very, very spoiled.
Look, I already have a very healthy appreciation for the soldiers in our nation’s armed forces. My godson has two parents who were both deployed to Iraq, and his father Vic missed much of the first year with his son. So I get it, really I do. But Vic is back with his family now, happy and healthy, and so I think I stopped thinking about it as much.
So I asked Sgt. Sousa some questions about his son. He smiled as he told me about the daily pictures and videos he receives from his wife. We talked about what a cool age 8 months is, as they perfect crawling and prepare to walk. I tell him about my blog and how, at that age, it felt like I had something new to write about everyday because Will was always hitting a new milestone.
“Yeah,” said Sgt. Sousa, still smiling but looking wistful. “That’s what I hear.”
And right then it hit me all over again — like a brick to the head — the extent of the sacrifice these men and women are making.
Sgt. Sousa is missing a full year of his son’s upbringing. A year!! He won’t be there to witness the first time his son takes his first steps or says “Dadda.” Yes, with technology such as Skype and e-mail he’ll be able to look at pictures and video. That’s definitely a silver lining. He’ll be able to video chat occasionally with his son, enough so that he won’t forget his dad’s face or voice. But he won’t be able to kiss him. To hold his hand. To feel the indescribable joy that occurs when those little arms wrap around your neck to hug and squeeze you with all their might. Or, more simply, he won’t be able to be there and witness the thousands of little things that make parenting so worth it.
And he’s missing all of it so people like you and I can enjoy those things. Because I’ll tell you right now, I couldn’t do it. Missing two days really bothered me, I can’t imagine missing an entire year. It would devastate me.
And as that emotion washed over me, I felt the urge to make a grand gesture to show my appreciation for what Sgt. Sousa and all of our soldiers do for us. But what could I possibly say or do that would be fitting? There isn’t a show of appreciation grand enough to reflect the sacrifice they make by putting themselves in harm’s way for us. I wanted to pay his mortgage or build him a house. I wanted to take care of his son’s future college tuition. I wished it was possible to set him and his family up for life. But I can’t do any of those things, yet I had to do something.
“Hey Sgt…I uh…well, thank you. Really. Thank you for all that you guys are doing.”
I felt like such a dick. I’m a writer for God’s sake, yet the best I could come up with was “thank you?” This guy is going to be away from his family and dodging bullets and suicide bombers, and the best I could offer was a friggin thank you?!? I immediately felt so stupid and my mind started racing in an attempt to think of something more fitting for the moment. But then Sgt. Sousa looked back and smiled.
“You’re welcome sir. Much appreciated.”
I learned a lot on my recent trip and gained a whole new found respect for our soldiers. Especially those with kids. Some would say it’s impossible to be an involved dad from halfway around the world. But that’s bullshit. There isn’t a more important fatherly duty on this planet than ensuring freedom for our kids.
So if you see a soldier in your travels, think of Sgt. Sousa. And tell him/her thanks. It’s the least we can do, but it really does mean more to them than you’ll ever know.
In the words of Sgt. Murtaugh, “I’m too old for this shit.”
I am never drinking again. It’s been more than 24 hours and I still haven’t recovered. In my 20s I used to have a night like that, shake it off the next morning and start all over again. Now I have a night like that and I spend the next 12 hours curled up in the fetal position praying for someone to put an end to my misery.
But that’s not even the worst of it.
I’ve come to realize you can’t turn off being a parent. Even when you have a night to yourself and no parental responsibilities, your kids are always right there at the forefront of your mind. You see, I’m now one of the elder statesmen at these parties filled with unmarried 20-somethings and kidless people. And here I come, an old married man and father of one, pulling pictures of his child out of his wallet saying “LOOK AT MY KID, LOOK AT MY KID! ISN’T HE AWESOME?!”
Because that’s what all young people want to be reminded of while they’re carousing and enjoying their youth. Marriage and kids. I think some of the boyfriends of the girls at the party wanted to take me out back and shoot me. I don’t blame them.
But I’m not sad about it. I’m glad I spent Sunday night missing Will and staring at his picture in between glasses of Jim Beam & diet ginger ale (see that? still dieting even when I’m bombed!). After all, if I didn’t miss my son that’d be a problem. Not to mention one night of fun is no longer worth the trade off of 48 hours of cruel, hungover torture.
So it’s official. I am too old for this shit. Danny Glover was a wise man.
The Super Bowl is all about excess. And I love it.
Unless the New England Patriots are playing, it’s not really the game I’m into. Don’t get me wrong, I love football and I’ll be pulling for the New Orleans Saints this year because the hatred I have for that hayseed Peyton Manning knows no bounds. But ultimately, the football game is not what the Super Bowl means to me anymore.
You see, I’m married. With a kid. And therefore I’ve made a conscious decision to devote 99% of my life to my family and work. I change diapers, I read Dr. Suess books and I watch The Wiggles. And when I’m not doing those things, I’m at work. And I’m happy about that. Truly happy. I love being a husband and father, and although I gripe about it sometimes, I love my job. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
But every so often, I need to be unleashed into the wild for a night of debauchery.
It’s like the show LOST when they enter the code every 108 minutes so the whole island doesn’t blow up. Except instead of every 108 minutes, I blow off steam 3-4 times a year in the form of a good old-fashioned sloppy boozefest with my friends.
So on Sunday, I’ll be headed back to my old stomping grounds in Boston to hang out with my old roommates, Jay and Stav. Simply put, they are two of the craziest/funniest/wackiest/drunkest motherfuckers I have ever met in my life. I lived with them for two years and had the most fun I’ll ever have next to college. We all love sports, beer (Busch only) and we have the same fucked up sense of humor. Well, Jay has a similar sense of humor. I’m pretty sure Stav doesn’t know what we’re laughing at, but that’s OK because no one has ever made me laugh harder than him.
Like the time I came home from work and there was a dog bowl in the kitchen, filled with dog food. I asked if we got a dog and they said no, but they thought it would be funny if we made everyone think we did. And then Stav put on the leash and ate the dog food. Or how we built bleachers to mirror Fenway Park right in our apartment, complete with the famed red seat out in right field to honor Ted Williams. We opened a beer and left it there for Ted’s frozen head before every game. Hell, the first weekend after I moved in nearly featured a full blown gang fight that took place between us and a former roommate’s posse right in our kitchen. No party was ever official until Stav was wearing just his Starbucks apron and Jay took a dump with the door open. Truthfully, I think I’ve seen the two of them naked more times than my own wife.
But I digress.
The point is, the Super Bowl is so important because it allows me to remember — however briefly — what it was like before my life revolved around others. Some may think that sounds incredibly selfish, but it’s not. I’m totally devoted to my family and I’m a damn good dad and husband. But every once in a while I need a day that reminds me of what it was like to go crazy and get a little out of control.
So tomorrow, my buddy Alex (TheBear) and I will check into a Boston hotel room, grab a cab and drink copious amount of alcohol. In short, we will be shitfaced beyond belief. It will be the latest in a series of Super Bowls held at their house, dating back to 2003 when the Patriots beat the Panthers and I ended up putting my arm through a plate glass window while bleeding all over the walls and declaring myself a Super Bowl champion in the middle of a drunken hook-up. We will tell old stories like the time Jay and I convinced two girls at a bar we were contract killers. Or when Stav drunkenly challenged an Asian kid to a dance-off at the bar…and won.
And sure the night may end with me vomiting profusely and wishing for death the next morning. But make no mistake, it’ll be well worth it. Not to mention it’ll make me thankful I’m now so much calmer, rational and mature.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to prepare myself for the ice luge and bone up on my Beer Pong skills.