It was nice to have a little day off yesterday, even if I didn’t really get much of a chance to relax. I got to host a compulsory playdate for my son and his friend while all the other grownups were at work. Mostly they just hit each other, and then tattled on one another. This happened off and on for a few hours until I had had enough, and then I decided that what everyone needed was some sunlight and fresh air. If we were living on the Island, I would have just sent them off to play down on The Walk, but we live near Richmond, California, and there are times when even I don’t feel comfortable going out alone. Poverty and poor decisions (from a limited set to begin with) have a tendency to fold back upon themselves and hone a violent sort of survival instinct, and while I do not blame the victim, I’m also aware of my surroundings. And when it comes to kids under ten years of age, attention is not a quality they possess in any quantity, except for when commercials are blaring and they see a toy that they absolutely have to have.
I decided that it seemed slow enough of a Thursday that I might be able to drop off my son’s prescription without having to wait half an hour in a frighteningly static line, so we all got ready, and walked the half mile to Walgreen’s. And when I say that we all got ready, I mean that my son threw a temper tantrum for the better part of an hour, declaring through rage, streaming boogers, and tears that he didn’t want to go, and that we should just leave him here all alone. Surprisingly, it was his sister who wound up saving the day, finding a way to get him settled down and out the door. It was surprising, not because she lacks maternal instinct (which she does not), but because, in any given moment, the two of them are usually locked into some sort of screaming match. There is a certain jealousy, I think, which exists between siblings separated by over a decade and a half, although that animosity is usually felt most strongly by the older sibling. The younger one will usually shoot back with, “You’re not the boss of me!” or “You’re not my Mom (or Dad)!”, while the older sibling spends the quiet hours wondering what they might have done, and why they weren’t enough. It’s hard to go from the center of attention to taken for granted, and this dynamic can frustrating for everyone involved. It is nice to have some help, though.
I don’t really talk a lot about my daughter. Usually, we spend our time sniping at one another, and jockeying for control of every little situation. Biologically, I am not her real dad, but in every conceivable way, she is my little girl. It is actually because of her that I am convinced that I will someday unlock the secrets of time travel, if only so that I can go back and date her mother in the fading light of the 1980’s, thereby tying up loose ends, and explaining why she’s so much like me. We’ll argue for weeks on end, passive aggressively engaging in a type of warfare reminiscent of Sherman’s March. I almost feel bad for my wife and son-in-law, as they are, for the most part, fairly normal people who don’t deserve this type of well-oiled insanity. But we are the lights which burn so brightly that we cannot help but singe the soaring wings of moths drawn to our flames. Also, and I have this on good authority, it turns out that crazy people are just fantastic lovers. Unfortunately, we also tend to be utter crap when it comes to the simple stuff that all you normals never give a second thought. But that tends to be the way of things.
I don’t think that I could make it through the nonsense of any given day without the grounded support of my wife, and I know for a fact that, despite their occasional squabbling, my son-in-law and daughter are good for one another. Life isn’t easy, and it’s important to find someone with whom you can just be yourself. My wife is my rock, my solid foundation upon which I may set down the burden of my crazy, if only for a little while, and I am the spice which adds extra depth to her days. But, like most spicy things, I tend to inspire gastrointestinal distress and I’m not nearly as much fun the next morning. I think that if I hadn’t found a way to draw out laughter from amidst the tears, we would have finished years ago. As it is, there are times that I can see something stirring just behind my wife’s Market Spice eyes that gives me pause, and makes me wonder if today is the day that the world will fall down around me. And then she’ll blink, and that shadow upon her soul will disappear, and life will return back to the baseline normal we’ve established over these past nine years.
In case you guys were wondering, we didn’t wind up making it to Walgreen’s. Their phone lines and registers were down, and their manager posted outside to turn everyone away. The worst part, however, was that I had a code for a free rental at Redbox, and the next closest kiosk was farther than I really cared to walk. There’s a limit to how much something free is worth, and honestly, $1.64 is not an amount for which I would do a whole hell of a lot. So we wound up meeting my wife at the Grocery Outlet on the other side of town (about half the distance to the nearest Redbox), and picking up some snacks to make a little picnic in the new park they just put in. It gave us grownups the chance to plant our butts on benches, and let the kids run wild in a moderately contained area. On the way over, of course, David and his friend practically jumped out in front of a car in the parking lot of a Mexican supermarket, and I don’t know who more freaked out: the driver or myself. I really wish that kids would pay even the slightest bit of attention, as is seems that they have no instinct for self-preservation whatsoever. They do seem to have a seemingly unlimited supply of dumb luck, however.
We managed to make it through the rest of the afternoon without incident, either traffic or temper related. Our friend picked her son up, and my wife, daughter, and grandson took off for Berkeley to check out some Dollar Store deals. I was left hanging out with David, so I cooked us up some burgers, and we hung together and watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit? until it was time for bed. At this point, I’m just going to lie, and say that everything went smoothly on the slumber front, as I really don’t want to get into it (and my son is reading this over my shoulder). I guess I’ll just say goodbye for now, and that I’ll see you all tomorrow.