Spending another day at home in the company of my family has made me appreciate just how much I miss going anywhere else for work. Nothing says “Interrupt Me” like a desk in the corner of your bedroom with the T.V. set upon it. Well, that and football.
Growing up as an only child living with a single mother, I was ill prepared to cope with the sheer density of the family my marriage has assembled about me. There are six of us squeezed into a two bedroom apartment (my wife, our school aged son, and myself in one room; my adult stepdaughter, son in law, and toddler grandson in the other), and when we happen to all be home together I realize just how much I miss living alone. And that, of course, is when we’re all getting along. The rest of the time, I’m convinced we’re on some sort of reality show version of a telenovela, despite finding no evidence of cameras (hidden or otherwise). There’s screaming, accusations of infidelity, calling into question of various manhoods (menhood?), pregnancy, dishes flung against the walls and floors, and children running wild like Pablo Escobar’s decapitated chickens. My fantasies since marriage have been of a secret studio apartment where I can hide in perfect solitude and silence, free of the obligation to wear pants. Curse you, denim leggings!
The ringleader of our little group of shrieking wee folk is my seven year old, David. He runs around the house emitting a high pitched whine like a rapidly deflating balloon, jumping on (and subsequently destroying) furniture, and then running right up to the face of his two year old nephew and shouting, “Boo!” That, of course, elicits a harmonizing gurgle from my grandson, at which point they run off together, tempting fate (and gravity) until it all comes abruptly to a halt when someone begins to cry. When I was a kid, I don’t ever remember anybody having ADHD: you were just a spaz, and needed to sit the hell down and shut the hell up. Now, as class sizes increase, and funds diminish, anyone even moderately more active than a stroke victim is referred to a doctor whose first instinct is to load the poor kid up on speed. God forbid the kid is merely bored, as the curriculum must always be targeted to the lowest common denominator.
My son and I just returned from the kitchen where I showed him (again) how to microwave a corndog. After going over times and basic safety precautions, he turned and asked me, “Why not hours?”
I was just as confused as you are now, and I’d been there for the entire conversation. “What?”
“Why not cook it for hours instead of minutes?”
“You know it only takes like a minute to cook, right? What’s it with you always escalating things?”
“I dunno… So why not hours?”
I sighed, “Because it would burn.”
“But then,” he smiled, “you could be The Statue of Liberty, but holding a….” he paused for effect, “… a corndog!” He then ran off, battered sausage on stick in hand, his laughter uncontrollable in light of his mad comic timing.
Of course, my grandson isn’t a paragon of rationality and calm himself. His big thing now is running full speed toward me and shifting from Extreme Hug formation to a There Can Be Only One! testicle punching attack. But a few minutes later he’ll come up to me, apologize, and give me a hug and kiss to make it all better. Then he’ll give me something of mine he’s scavenged from somewhere, as if I’d lost it, and he’s just completed a quest to return it to me. Like all toddlers, he understands the concept of “mine” as it applies to him, but has no real concept of other people and their possessions as anything other than props in what must be an incredibly psychedelic live action adventure. I’m positive that, were he to possess the ability, he would have quite the narrative to impart. His vocabulary is improving, though. He’s gotten up to two word concepts like “bad guy,” and “oh no.” However, the catchphrase that warms all of our hearts is his impassioned plea for a “coook KEY!”
As difficult as it can be sometimes, the lot of us packed in so tightly, it has opened my eyes to the wisdom of a multi-generational family. Here in the States, at least among us gringos, the dream is to do your time until you’re finally free, then move away to set your own rules applicable to those living beneath your roof. Each successive generation following a centuries’ old pioneer tradition to seek out somewhere new and tame it. Occasionally with blankets. To stifle that urge for primacy has been trying, but I’d like to think it’s taught me something: Unlike my mother, who can only see her grandson twice a year at best, I’ve been given the opportunity to watch my own grow since birth, seen him develop from a tiny defenseless fecal shipment facility to a force of nature in the form of a drunken leprechaun. He’s undergoing a lifelong process of becoming who he is, and I can say I’ve seen it since day one.
And then there’s David William, my one and only child by blood (unless I actually do come into possession of a time machine and become the biological father of my daughter, which I’m not discounting, as she’s too perfectly similar to me to be explained away by coincidence). I was there at the moment of his birth, staring on in blind terror as I got an object lesson in Cause and Effect. I knew I was his father when I felt that terror bubbling up once more inside me upon the realization that I couldn’t protect him from everything in the world, and that it wasn’t my job to even try. I never knew my dad, so I’m figuring out most of this as we go along, he and I. I reckon that it’s not my job to save him from each and every hurt he may encounter, but rather to teach him how to save himself.
Beneath a gaze of adoration and exasperation, he’s grown up before me through the years (which slip by faster every time I try to hold on to a fleeting moment), become a little boy already seeking incremental independence from his parents. He has so much to say, and far too often I find it easier to dismiss him and his flawed (but well reasoned for his age) worldview than to give him the only thing he truly ever craves: A moment of my undivided attention.
With that, my first actual entry comes to an end. Thanks for reading! I’ll be back tomorrow with more tales from The Continuing Adventures of Tex Batmart.
On a side note: I’m really excited to announce that Dave Banuelos, long time friend and brother from another mother, will be doing a guest column here each week about Sportsball. I’ll fill in more details as they develop.