Monday, May 08, 2017

A Day in the Life

I get home just after 7 a.m.  It was a relatively slow night at the 911 Center, not much to speak of other than a few wrecks in the rain.  Idealistic me, I applied for this job because I wanted to help, to make a difference in some small way.  I accepted it because of the incredible insurance.  

Eighteen months later, I rethink that decision almost daily.  Working thirds is hard on the body, a strain on our marriage.  As I walk in, Luke is in his sit-me-up booster seat.  He smiles as soon as he sees my face.  He recognizes me.  And somehow it is all alright.

After getting him dressed and in his car seat, I hug Mrs. Bone goodbye and get ready for bed.  I can't shut off my mind.  I replay calls from the night before, mistakes I might have made, what I could have done better.  It is something after 8:00 the last I remember.

I wake around 1:30.  The five-plus hours is the most sleep I've gotten in four days.  I've been in a rut of waking up between 11:00 and 1:00 and not being able to get back to sleep.  Around 2:30 I give up and decide to get a couple of errands in before I pick up Luke at daycare.

First up is a stop at the grocery store where I pick up some fruit, nuts, and cheese -- snacks for work -- and some Martha White self-rising flour.  I've taught myself to make something close to biscuits over the past few months.

Next is a visit to Walgreens.  Desperate for sleep, I pick up some Melatonin and Calms Forte.  I avoid taking medicine if at all possible, to the point that my doctor will begin sentences, "I know you don't really like to take medicine..."  But at some point I figure the lack of sleep becomes unhealthier than the pills.

Then it's off to get Luke.  I skip the interstate and take the two lane, enjoying the ponds and pastures, trees and sky.  The 15-minute drive has become my "me" time.  I roll down the down the window, turn up the radio, and enjoy the one bit of my day where I'm not sleeping, working, or responsible for another human being.  

The first thing I notice is Luke is not wearing the same outfit he left home with.  This is a not uncommon occurrence.  He has had what we in the parenting business refer to as a blowout.

On the way home, we stop off at the Sonic.  Once a week I treat myself to a small shake and small chili cheese fries.  It's a guilty pleasure.  Besides, I got cheese and nuts and fruit for work so it balances out... ish.

The first order of business once we're home is to let Sunshine outside.  Sunshine is the cat, though we would never refer to her as "the cat" because doing so might imply she is just an animal, that she doesn't have a personality, that we don't consider her our daughter.  And nothing could be further from the truth.

She showed up at the back door a few years ago, starving and bloody-tailed.  After an ever-so-brief attempt to find her a home, we decided to keep her.  Honestly, she never gave us much choice.  Our lives have since become a "Who rescued whom?" bumper sticker.

Next I unload the dishwasher and start some laundry.  Not at the same time, that would be a trick sure to astonish.  The squeaking you will soon hear is the sound of the dryer dying.  The repairman gave it six months to live.  That was over two years ago.  She's a fighter this Whirlpool.

Luke gets fussy after a bit and when I pick him up I feel something wet.  It is blowout number two of the day.  It is the worst one I have experienced to date.  I may as well wear the Spray 'n Wash in a holster.

Mrs. Bone gets home and we begin the nightly routine: feeding Luke, giving him a bath, and putting him to bed.  

Our Hello Fresh delivery didn't arrive on time this week so we order Mexican.  (I'm gonna have to eat a lot of fruit and nuts to make up for this day!)  While I am at the restaurant picking up our food, I get a text: "Guess what just arrived."  Perfect.  I don't mind though as we have mostly found Hello Fresh to be more aptly titled Hello Bland.  

We eat while watching a couple of "General Hospital" episodes.  Luke wakes up during the first so I go and rock him back to sleep.  I doze off during the last, grabbing a much-needed fifteen or twenty minutes before it's time to shower and get ready for work.

It is 9:30.  Sunshine demands five more minutes of outside time before I leave.  I oblige.  Then it's another hug goodbye and I'm out the door.  

As I back out, Sunshine sits in the doorway and watches me leave.  Beyond, Luke sleeps peacefully in his room while the woman I married is going to bed, hoping to catch two or three hours before the little guy wakes up again.

Some decisions you never have to rethink.

"These are some good times / So take a good look around / You may not know it now / But you're gonna miss this..."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

From the Heating Pad

Recounting the unfortunate events of last Sunday and Monday, February 12th and 13th...

It is my second day of being forty-four and I am on the couch alternately applying heat and ice to my knee.  This is because on my first day of being forty-four I attempted something crazy.  Something no one my age had any business doing, evidently.

I tried getting out of my chair and standing.

Kapow!  Blam!  Zowie!  

Pain shot through the outside of my left knee.  Holy aging ligaments, Batman!  Why, why, WHY had I tried getting up without a chair lift?

I was unable to stand, probably due to my extremely low threshold for... er, ethereal sensitivity to pain.  (It's basically a superpower.)  You follow?  My leg did not work for a moment.  Then I hobbled around for the rest of the night and pretty much ever since.  I still don't know what I did, except get old.  

The same night as the chair incident I was perusing my phone with my glasses resting atop my head.  An uber-helpful co-worker asked, "Do you need bifocals, Bone?"  No, this is a fashion statement, I saw it on the cover of Geriatrics Quarterly.  Yes, of course I need bifocals! 

Also, we got new reference books at work with print so microscopic that in order to read it you need a frickin' electron microscope.  Or, average eyesight.  So I had to get another, much younger co-worker to read off some numbers to me.

This came on the heels of me having a grievous cold, my first time being sick in two or three years.  (I still blame the Tdap vaccination the pediatrician unceremoniously forced on me.)  It was the kind of cold that would have knocked an average person off their feet for up to a day.  I was off mine for two, proving yet again that I am not average.

To top it off, my reflux has been acting up, waking me a couple of times a week lately.  At least that'll make for a decent conversation starter down at the convalescent center.

If I were a horse, they'd have to shoot me.  Of course, if I were a horse, I'd be like a hundred and thirty in human years, which would probably be some kind of record.  So maybe they wouldn't shoot me.  I'd most likely be in some kind of equine museum, alongside Secretariat, Mister Ed (of course... of course), and a horse with no name.

How did this happen?  To me???  I was always the one getting the "Well you sure don't look that old" comments.  Just a couple of weeks ago, my 9-year-old niece informed me she thought I was twenty-nine, about to turn thirty.  And trust me, she's a great judge of all things.  (Is it any wonder I married into that family?)

I've most certainly always acted younger than my age.  Much, much younger.  I'm sure any of my ex-girlfriends would attest to that.  And have.   

But suddenly, I'm feeling every last one of my forty-four years.  And about thirty more on top of that.

Mrs. Bone has to be wondering what she's gotten herself into.  To her credit, she hasn't said anything.  Of course if she did, my aged ears probably couldn't hear her anyway.

"I wish I still smoked cigarettes / Felt more grown up then / We were talkin' about where we were gonna go / Instead of talkin' 'bout where we'd been..."

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Hearse People

I was chewing the fat with the pest control guy one fair spring day last April when something caught his eye.

"What's going on over there?"  He was standing near the southwest corner of the privacy fence, peering at something in the distance.  I figured I knew where this was going.

"Oh, the hearse.  Yeah.  I have no idea, man."

"No, I mean, it's like pimped out.  It's got rims."

I had noticed the hearse a few weeks earlier parked in the carport of the house behind and to the south of ours.  But until now, I hadn't noticed the aftermarket rims.

In my defense, those same neighbors also have half a pickup truck sitting in the yard missing its bed and rear axle, as well as a pop-up camper which seems to house an unknown number of additional tenants.  Also, the previous resident didn't clean the garage gutters for so long there was foot-high vegetation growing in them.  Volunteer marijuana, possibly.  (Did I mention we do not, in fact, live in a gated community?)

Anyhow, in that context the hearse sort of blended in, though I now somewhat understood the allure, yea necessity, of HOA's.

It was the aftermarket rims that had me intrigued.  Who pimps out a hearse?  Was there some new reality show I didn't know about?  "The Emaciated Race?"  "Extreme Makeover: Mortician Edition?"  "Pimp My Final Ride?"  I mean, everyone I know who drives a hearse as their personal vehicle...

I had considered many possibilities for the hearse.  At first, I thought maybe they worked for a funeral home, and when the bed and rear axle had completely fallen off their truck in an extraordinary occurrence, they decided to drive the Caddy home for personal use.   However, the rims seemed to cast doubt on that theory.

Also, I met them one day in mid-December on my way home and the rear interior -- you know, where they keep the.... dearly departed -- was decorated with Christmas lights.  Maybe it was a festive funeral home?

It initially crossed my mind that maybe they were planning something big for Halloween.  Though procuring a hearse more than six months early seemed a bit odd.  (As opposed to driving a hearse home at all?)

There was also the possibility we were indeed living next door to the real-life Addams Family, though I never recalled hearing the names Gomez, Wednesday, or Fester being mentioned when they were outside.

And then, of course, there is the final and most likely scenario:

The hearse people are in the mafia.

The elongated Cadillac providing a perfect cover for transporting anyone who had recently been whacked to go sleep with the fishes.  In other words, the Addams "Family." *wink wink*

Why not just walk over and ask, you may wonder?  Uh, no thank you.  I walk over to offer some fresh garden vegetables and -- badda-bing! -- suddenly it's "Leave the gun, take the cucumbers."

Plus, I've yet to tell you about the weirdest thing of all.  One afternoon as I walked out onto the back patio I heard creepy organ music coming from the direction of the hearse people.  It sounded like the opening riff of Beethoven's 5th, slowed down.  Four notes.  And then it stopped.  It was beyond eerie, and at that point I was for sure never going anywhere near that house.

I immediately walked back inside and never spoke of it.  Thankfully, I hadn't been able to see anything over our fence.  Not that I would squeal, mind you.  I know how things work, I saw nearly all of "The Godfather."

My most recent encounter occurred a week or so ago when I was in the living room and Mrs. Bone informed me, "There's a strange man with a dog in our yard."

I looked out to see a gentlemen I did not recognize.  Since I know the neighbors on either side of us and across the street, we surmised he must be one of the hearse people, or "the family" as I now reverently address them.  He was older, gray-haired, probably not an enforcer.  At least not anymore.

He appeared to be trying to corral the dog.  Poor pup.  I could only imagine the punishment for leaving the yard without permission.  *shudder*  Or perhaps they were trying to pick up a scent of where something, or someone, had been buried.  *gulp*

I ducked out of view before he could spot me, though I did notice one final detail about the mysterious denizen:  He was wearing a Bama t-shirt.

At once I knew exactly how our initial conversation would someday go.

Me: "Roll Tide?"

Him: "Fuggedaboutit!"

"Don't let this old gold cross and this Crimson Tide t-shirt throw ya / It's cicadas making noise with a Southern voice..."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Beautiful Boy

There's this thing you do where you press your fists to each side of your face the entire time you're eating.  I would say it was the most adorable thing ever, but then, there are so many from which to choose.

Your mother and I love every single thing about you.  The way both your arms jolt out to the side when it seems like something startles you.  Your grumpy old man face.  How you frequently extend one fist into the air above your head.  (We say it's your power-to-the-people pose.  Sometimes I call you "my little activist" and chant "Ber-nie! Ber-nie!")

You were due on the twenty-sixth of November.  Iron Bowl Saturday.  You arrived nine days early.  I guess you couldn't wait to meet us.  Either that, or you didn't want to enter the world amidst the domestic assault which surely would have been occurring once daddy insisted on watching the game on his phone in the delivery room while your mother was exploring the sundry delights of labor.

Often we had debated whether you would be a Luke or a Harper.  We would wait until your arrival to find out, all the while buying lots of neutral-colored clothes -- greens, grays, and whites.

You turned out to be a Luke.  A seven-pound, fifteen-ounce, twenty-inch-long bundle of perfect.  Your birthday fell one day before your beautiful aunt's, your daddy's sister.  (And no, I didn't proclaim, "Luke, I am your father!" as you exited the womb.  Though I may have uttered it a few times since.)

It was hard not to feel unprepared to be a Dad.  I had never even changed a diaper.  On my very first, I was assisting your mother, or more accurately, observing the proper technique.  Part way through, the moisture from the baby wipe she was using squirted into my face, onto my glasses and forehead.  

Or so I thought.  

Turns out it wasn't the baby wipe.  Maybe that was your little way of indoctrinating me into Dad-dom.

You have a single patch of white hair near your forehead, contrasting with all your brown.  Same as your grandpa and great-grandmother.  I think about all your great-grandparents and wish they were here to enjoy you.

They say you have my mouth and chin.  I think your mother might get a tad tired of hearing how much you look like me.  But let me tell you something about your mother, Luke: Your mother is amazing.

She gets up at least twice every single night to feed you, and at least as often just to console you.  She has done so much research, asking, and reading to try and ensure she is producing all that you need.

She probably hasn't had six hours of sleep in a night since you were born.  I am sure she is more tired than she has been in her whole life.  But when she looks at you, it is unfailingly obvious she is completely in love with you.  I know you won't remember these first months, but in case you ever read this, I wanted you to know that.

I hope you get her persistence.  Her loyalty.  Her love for travel.  Her freakishly healthy teeth.

I hope that as you grow up, she and I set a good example for you, not only as parents but as a married couple.  I hope that we gross you out by kissing in front of you, with tongue!  (Don't worry, you'll learn all about that one day.  It's one of the best things about life.)

I hope so much for you.  Much, much more than I ever had.  I suppose that is every parent's wish.

Yet while I cannot wait to see what you become, what your passions and personality will be, I try and cling to all these fleeting moments right now.  Moments I know I will soon miss.  Like how easily you fall asleep on my chest.  The precious coos and noises you make.  How you smile when I come home from work and start talking to you.

My beautiful boy, when you smile it's as if all the troubles of this world and problems of adulthood are as far away as a thing could ever be.

Oftentimes when you are asleep, I will go and check to make sure you are still breathing.  I am sure it seems a silly thing.  But in that moment, to see you peacefully asleep, everything is right in my world.

We have been wrestling with the decision to put you into daycare.  You, so completely reliant on your mother and me.  It's as if my heart has leapt outside of my body, and letting it/you out of my sight -- with a complete stranger, no less -- terrifies me like no thing ever has.  I know it terrifies your mother, as well.

I would give anything if one of us could quit our job.  But no matter how we crunch the numbers, we can't seem to make it work.  It's impossible not to feel like a bad parent.

This will all get easier, right?  (And all the parents of the world laughed and laughed.)

It is the opinion of some, and even I may have thought at times, that having a child is an entirely selfish act.  I have no idea if that is true.  What I do know is since you came along I have been on a crash course in unselfishness.

Of course I knew parents made many, many sacrifices.  Heaven knows my parents did.  The thing I didn't realize was that most of the time, you don't even think of it as a sacrifice.  Maybe there's no time for such thoughts.  You simply do whatever you have to for this precious creature who depends on you in every way.

All my decisions are made in the context of how they will affect you.  I want to be healthier so that I can be around longer for you.  I want to be a better person so that I might be a decent example for you.

You have brought so much change, so much new to our lives.  Many are simple things, such as the feeling I have when I carry you into a restaurant or any public place, or knowing I am the person family and friends will hand you back to when you start to cry.

Even my apps have changed.  WebMD Baby, Lyfeline Milestones, and The Wonder Weeks have claimed their place alongside Subway Surfers, Word Streak, and GolfStar.   

Having the opportunity to see the world anew through your big, beautiful eyes has reminded me of the wonder that has always been there.  I try to imagine all the new things you must be continually discovering.  Realizing the hope and possibilities that lie before you has renewed my own hope.

You have given me a new perspective on a lot of things.

Driving, for example, has become one of the single scariest experiences of human existence.  Bringing you home from the hospital, I was constantly on edge.  What if that car doesn't stop at that stop sign?  Why are these lanes so narrow?  What if that truck crosses over the median, breaks through the concrete barrier, and comes into my lane?  And why must everyone drive the speed limit???  I think ten miles per hour under is plenty fast, ya bunch of crazies!

I have a whole new appreciation and admiration for anyone who has ever raised a child.  No one tells you how hard it is going to be.  Or maybe they do, but there is no way to grasp it until you are the one doing it.

And single parents?  I stand amazed.  I cannot begin to comprehend how you do it.  You are real-life superheroes.

Sweet Lucas, you have even given me a new perspective on God.  Knowing how much I love you, I think, gives me a new appreciation of how much He must love His children.

Sometimes I am certain I learn more from you than you ever will from me.

If e'er I wondered if miracles still occur, I can now answer without doubt or hesitation: They absolutely do.  You are our perfect miracle.  It is an honor to be your dad, and the most enormous responsibility of my life.  

God help me not to mess it up.

"Before you go to sleep / Say a little prayer / Every day in every way / It's getting better and better / Beautiful boy..."