“No matter what the worlds trying to take from you;
No matter what the world’s trying make you prove;
No matter what the world’s trying say to you;
You gotta’ write your way through”
– “Arthur’s Song,” Atmosphere
What does it mean to be a writer?
To have the gift of words?
To be goaded and prodded to do something bigger, when all you want to do is come home every night of the week and be calm?
Watch TV, fall asleep, be a dad. Not be a lonely, nobody-cares, maybe-if-you-really-tried-you-could-be-a-somebody-writer who feels – no, HAS TO – put thoughts to words every so often?
It feels like this.
It feels like most of us.
The same lie-in-bed, drink-a-beer-on-the-patio thoughts.
Except sometimes, I can’t sleep until I barf them out.
Maybe it’s a blessing, because they’re recorded and I live in digital sphere bigger than myself.
Maybe it’s a curse, because they consume me until I obey.
Maybe I should stop thinking so grandiose, or being so self-absorbed.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Fuck it if I know.
* * *
Lately, I’m obsessed over time.
My daughter turns 10 next week and damn if I know where I’ve been.
The whole cliché? The blink of eye and their childhood is gone?
I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember her past 10 years. I’ve spent so much mental power trying to will my neurological disaster of a 12-year-old son to a normal childhood that my memory of my kids’ childhood Is consumed with battle scars – and the memories – from trauma, and not a whole lot else.
I feel like a parent’s memory of childhood is supposed to have camping and coaching baseball and throwing parties and pools and hot dogs.
There was probably lots of that.
But I remember hospitals.
Lots and lots of worry.
And always trying to make it up to my daughter.
And always falling short.
But it’s worse than that.
Because she is more gracious than me.
We lie in bed in night. I tuck her in.
“Brody, I wish I could be a better dad.”
“Oh, daddy, stop saying that. You’re the best daddy.”
Stab my broken heart now.
* * *
The best daddy doesn’t drink away his anger; the best daddy doesn’t bail at 8 p.m. and go on a 6-mile walk to try to make sense of the broken feelings he can’t fix.
The best daddy stays firm and holds his kids up.
This is what I tell myself, anyway.
But I’m all kinds of broken, and confused, and unsure. I’m selfish and needy. And sometimes, when I come home from work, I can’t put 2 + 2 together.
I snap in the safe place – come home and complain – and leave my kids to try and navigate the confusing emotional space kids have been having to navigate for eons: why are mom and/or dad so fucking unpredictable at 6 p.m.?
My only saving grace: as I come down, I try to explain to them what’s going on.
* * *
Some background: Beck is sick right now, again.
Normal course of this version of the flu hitting the Phoenix area: kid gets sick, gets knocked down for a couple days – cough, sore throat, blah, blah, blah – starts making improvement in 3-4 days.
Beckett’s is going on 10 days.
Started with allergy-like symptoms, progressed to chest, sore throat, never ending headache, only curbed by drugs.
But there’s no end in sight. Opening day of baseball season is approaching – so he’s bummed, because he wants to be on the field – but so is my daughter’s 10th birthday.
We should be planning her big day – and we are – but not with the focus necessary.
Every Beck disaster starts with a stupid reaction to the common cold, and so we are held hostage by the fear.
Oh, the fear.
Oh, the god damn fucking fear.
* * *
She wants “Woodland Animals” to be the theme.
So “Woodland Animals” it is.
I have a whole idea: Animal Olympics.
Things like leap frog and duck walk – physical events (just like they sound) – and mental events such as eagle eye (spot the differences in the pictures), to create a balance for her guests.
But I can’t plan them appropriately.
Can’t give her the attention she deserves, because the other one is coughing, again and again and again.
Oh, can the coughing please stop? Please.
But it doesn’t stop.
Until he goes to bed.
And I pray, and I wish: tomorrow, please make it be over.
* * *
This is what we’re reduced to: throwing requests to the sky, so we can try to have a “heart rate, blood pressure normal” kind of day.
There’s no guarantee of that.
So we’re back to square one. Me, nearing sleep, asking for normality. Her, passing out invitations around school for the party-to-be.
Her: normal 10-year-old.
Heidi and I: Trying to balance our chronically sick son’s existence, all while making our daughter aware she is, literally, the light we ride upon.
It weighs. It weighs.
God damn it, it weighs.