To Local Friends Who Soon Will be Remote

We’ve lost weight, gained weight, and learned how to sit and wait. We’ve endured sunburns and broken bones, stomach flus and kidney stones.

Largely thanks to Shannon’s activity during Benjamin’s elementary school years, we have met many others who have children of similar age. We have shared laughs, likes, dislikes, and dining tables. We’ve built things, torn them down, and leaned upon shoulders that sometimes were already overburdened. We have rocked Rock Band like only 30 and 40-somethings can. We have walked many 3k’s and 5k’s — a few to celebrate a friend’s victory over cancer while remembering those less fortunate.

One week from today, the only house our son remembers, and the one where your children have slept over and endured my homemade breakfasts, will no longer be our home.

Watching us bring up a boy from age 2 to age (almost) 11, you have seen us at our best and our worst, yet you have remained beside us all the way. I hope you feel we’ve done the same.

I didn’t care much for children besides my own until I got to know yours. Partially miniature versions of you, and increasingly their own tiny selves, they won a place in my heart.

This isn’t goodbye. We aren’t moving half a country away. We will come visit here, and will welcome you there. We are, and forever shall be, your friends.

Coffee and the Bee

I had fixed the boy’s breakfast and was running late for work. Only seconds after perfectly grinding my coffee beans I dropped the grinder. It bounced off the counter and landed on the floor, spilling all four tablespoons (pre-ground measurement). We have a cocker spaniel, and caffeine can kill dogs, but I didn’t have time to stop and clean up the mess, so I called out for assistance (it was about the time my wife usually gets up on weekdays, anyway — 6:40 or 6:45).

She grabbed our cheap vacuum cleaner and crammed herself into the kitchen with the rest of us.

While scooping my second batch of grounds into the coffeemaker, I thought I noticed something hovering around my legs. “Do you see something flying around?” I said.

Struggling with the Hoover, Shannon looked up at me like I was insane, her judgment obviously clouded by her grogginess. I slapped the coffee maker’s lid shut and punched Brew Now, then turned to face the kitchen island.

When I lifted my cereal bowl, something flew up into my face and I screamed like Lee Lee Sobieski (you know, girly, but with a low voice?). Flying, stinging insects are very unpredictable, and they can pierce your eyeball.

The bee fled to the fluorescent fixture overhead, where it camped out while Benjamin kept a safe distance in the living room. “It’s okay, son, I just freaked out a little bit because I didn’t know it was there and it got in my face,” I said.

It was not my finest Monday morning.

Woman, Wife, Mom

In the nearly 11 years we were married before you became a mother, I simply knew you as Shannon, and Mother’s Day was a time to buy my mom a card and maybe call her.

When you and I met, we hit it off quickly, and got married sooner than many thought was advisable — including my aforementioned mother.

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Roller skatingWhile we didn’t agree with that assessment, we knew we didn’t need to throw a child into the mix immediately. We were never quite where we wanted to be financially, but who ever is? Through the next decade we brought up our sweet dog Lexie from a four-week old pup. Although we learned a few things about taking turns with pet care, and loved her very much, the challenges of taking care of her didn’t even hint at what was to come. We knew that, and so we waited.

Regardless of the various reasons, they all added up to our waiting more than a decade to have a child. We might not have learned much about child rearing, but we learned a lot about one another. Many are thrust into parenthood before they have had a chance to get their bearings as a couple, let alone keep another human being alive with any sense of grace or confidence.

Still not sure we’ve mastered that last part, but who ever does?

Chaperoning a school field tripWhen I think back now I have a hard time recalling what we did before we were parents. Watched a lot more TV, for the most part. Those VHS tapes labeled for each day of the week were ample evidence of that.

Back then, you were my wife. Now, instead of becoming your mom or my mom, you’re the kind of mom our home needs. I am proud for anyone to meet you and our son.

Sure, I’ve always done my share of the parenting, but you are the one who gets him off to school in the morning, and manages him during homework time. You spend the most time making sure he becomes an independent, responsible man. While doing all that you manage our home.

Creating at the Perot MuseumWhen we met I knew you were beautiful, funny, smart, and caring. Soon I knew we had a lot in common, and that I loved you, and you were a great woman. When I married you, you became a great wife. Now you are a great mom, and that has revealed depth in your strength and character that I might never have known otherwise.

How lucky was I that the woman I chose (and who chose me!) happened to thrive on being a caring mother to our son?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Hallmark Can’t Have It

Ah, Father’s Day. Some treat it with disdain, lumping it in with so-called “Hallmark holidays,” those disingenuous occasions foisted upon us by greeting card companies. I can understand how some would feel that way, and in some ways I do, too. We don’t need someone to tell us when to appreciate certain people in our lives, and we certainly don’t want to send a card if we don’t mean it.

I don’t see the problem with giving extra attention to a person we already treasure. I’ve decided to give a detailed account of my Father’s Day 2011 experience, to help uncover whether it’s a Hallmark holiday or something more.

I rolled over several times, sleeping only in short bursts beyond 6 a.m. We had decided to stop shouting across the house, so I grabbed my phone from the nightstand and texted my wife. “Please send Benjamin in here.”

Shortly, the bedroom door opened. “Happy Father’s Day!” Benjamin said, almost singing it.

He walked over to the bed, wearing a Star Wars clone trooper costume he had used two or three Halloweens ago. I reached out both arms for a hug. “I can’t lean over,” he said. “There’s a rip in the butt of my costume and I don’t want to make it bigger.” He made a half turn. “See the tape?”

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Art Walk of the Wispy

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Benjamin uses sidewalk chalk from boxes shared among various children and adults inspired to create their own art on the sidewalk and stairs surrounding the McKinney Performing Arts Center (formerly the Collin County Courthouse). Each second Saturday, artists display their wares — some created on the spot — while locals and visitors wine, dine, and stroll away the day. It is called Art Walk, and extends to about a block beyond the square on all sides. (photos of the art after the jump – click image to enlarge)

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The boy and I left behind his mother, who still was suffering a nasty bout of pleurisy that made it painful to breathe deeply, laugh, cough, or move. That and springtime allergies made it a very poor time for her to get out for some fresh air.

When he wasn’t scraping a colored stick across cement, Benjamin pushed around on his scooter. I took pictures, people-watched, and reminded him to keep his wheels off the art. He smeared tracks across only a few of the works which, admittedly, were meant mostly to advertise the artist and/or a studio’s web site, and would not survive the next rain.

That rain came the very next night, so I’m glad I preserved some of these works.

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