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  • Wherein I Am Omniscient With The Help Of Amazon

    March 16, 2014

    As many of you know, Sean is now a 10-year-old boy and as such, I have had to learn to lengthen the leash, to give him a bit more freedom.

    I have had to carefully calculate how much to lengthen the rope by the severity of the consequences that could befall any unfortunate decision he might make in this new space and then recalibrate and test the rope again just to make sure.

    When he was little it was much much easier.  I could allow him to roam to the other side of the playground where I could see him. I could let him ride his bike in the cul-de-sac where from the windows of the house I could see him. This arrangement was a win-win for both of us.  He felt un-tethered and I felt tethered.  He got to practice freedom and I got to practice letting him have a little freedom in laboratory conditions.

    But now Sean is ten and lengthening the rope to allow him to go across the street or around the block seems like nothing compared to the internet.  The stakes seem higher, but maybe they are not. Maybe they are just different stakes.

    So, yes, I have of course done all the prudent things to lock down the internet, and we have had frank discussions about the dangers of the internet and made clear to him what he can and cannot do on-line, and why.  But still.  Nothing is fool proof and I am always on high-alert on this front.

    So the other day, I told him that whenever he watches anything on Amazon Prime that I get an email, and that is true.  I didn’t really know that until I got an email the other day from Amazon reporting that someone in our house had watched Square Bob Sponge Pants.

    Let me say here, that Square Bob is not evil, I just don’t think he’s all that worthy and I have discouraged that he be viewed as such.  So when I brought up the Amazon Big Brother email with Sean, Square Bob was really all I had in mind.  And for all I know, AD had watched it.  Although, I might have to rethink my marriage vows if that were true.

    So when I told Sean about the Amazon email,  he looked down at his shoes and said, “Well.  Then I guess you know my secret.”

    Opportunity knocked.  At this point, I had not mentioned any specific show.

    “Yes. Yes I do,” I lied as I dangled my unbaited fishing line in the water.

    “I’m really embarrassed,” he admitted.

    Now I was starting to wonder if maybe he had watched some other sort of lurid shape of pants, not square, and I panicked just a bit.

    “Well,” I said, and then paused not for dramatic effect but because I could not think of one thing to say.

    “I know,” he sighed, “Power Rangers.”

    And then he scrunched up his nose like he had eaten something green, like a vegetable.

    “It’s a baby show, I know, but I like it.”

    “You know,” I said, “You can watch Power Rangers if you want.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I’ll be honest, I still love Captain Kangaroo.”

    I reminded him that he knows what is acceptable and what isn’t and that we trust him.

    And I also reminded him that Amazon would be sending me an email documenting his viewing whereabouts.

    Like Ronald Reagan, I will trust and I will verify.

    And then I may or may not have left the impression that anytime he does anything anywhere I get an email.

    Pi Day

    March 14, 2014

    Today is Pi Day.

    It is the day we celebrate the elusive, mysterious and incalculable mathematical equation known as pi, or the constant ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle.

    It is also Einstein’s birthday, a curiously divine celestial arrangement.

    But to me, March 14th will always be the day my dad gave up his battle with cancer, a year ago.  It is fitting.  Just as pi is in constant harmony to it’s circumstances, so was my dad.  No matter his circumstances, large or small, he was content.

    In early December of last year, knowing that the sands of the hour glass were falling fast, I traveled back to Illinois to spend time with him.  Other than the fact that he couldn’t get warm, he was doing okay.  He napped a lot but he enjoyed visitors, getting out and could walk a short distances.  I put up a little Christmas tree for him which he loved to look at from his recliner.  I took him to get his hair cut.  I took him to Wal-Mart.  When he stopped to pet a display of flannel shirts I bought him one and he wore it every day that I was there.  But mostly I just sat nearby so that when he woke from a nap he could see me and we would just pick up the conversation right where we had left it and pretend that he hadn’t dozed off.

    The day I left he tried to get out of his chair to see me off.  I told him to keep his seat and I bent down and kissed the top of his head and promised him that I would see him again.  And that’s a promise I intend to keep.

    A  year later, I am compelled to record the day we returned my father to earth from whence he came, a spot only a few miles from where he lived his whole life.   Beyond the fact that it was blindingly sunny and 31 degrees with a lacerating north wind, I want to remember three unexpected things that marked the day for me — the first being the unexpected sight of a crowd of mourners, which I think would have surprised him, particularly given that he had outlived all but one of his lifelong running buddies. I had assumed there would be 15 maybe 20 people at most.

    My dad was the kind of guy who didn’t want any sort of fuss made over him.  He had pre-planned his funeral years ago to be the simplest of affairs.  He didn’t even want his obituary published until it was all said and done.  He  didn’t want flowers or awkward post-mortem displays of affection.  So it was really surprising on that bitter cold day that such a big crowd of people showed up to see him off.  In spite of my dad’s best efforts to keep it low-key, word got around.

    The second thing that I recall from that day was the unexpected sound of a voice out of place.

    My father’s death was not unexpected.  I had cried an ocean of tears for him off and on in the preceding 18-months. On the day of the funeral, I was more or less numb and occupied with the details of the day.  I was holding it together.  Or so I thought.

    As people began to gather graveside, I greeted friends and relatives whom I hadn’t seen in years.  Then I heard the sound of a familiar voice behind me.  I reeled around to see my friend Ruthie who had flown in from Texas to St. Louis and then driven two and half hours north through the cornfields and flatlands to be with me. And I lost it. I just fell into her arms and sobbed, heaving big ugly mascara-melting sobs.  It was like when I was little and had hurt myself and I would hold it together until the moment I saw my mom and then I would melt down into a puddle of tears.  I will never forget that she came to walk alongside me that day and how hearing her voice released the floodgate of sorrow that I thought I had bridled and what a comfort it was just to have her near.

    The third thing was an expected sound with an unexpected reaction.

    My father chose to have a simple graveside military funeral.  The military chaplain warned us beforehand that they would fire three gun shots.  I have attended military funerals before, so I knew that and I thought I was prepared.  Yet when the first blast pierced the air, the shock of it forced the air from my lungs in a bellowing gust, like I had been punched in the gut.  That awful sound that had come from somewhere deep within me, hung large and heavy in the thin air in the immediate silence that settled over the crowd after the first blast.  And then it dropped to the ground and shattered at my feet. When the second and third blast came, I startled and shook, but I did not bellow.  There was something about the sound of my breath, the very essence of my life, being expelled from my lungs with such force that made me feel all too mortal and I will never forget the sensation or the sound.

    When the funeral was over, the crowd dispersed in a hurry, anxious to get out of the wind and back to the warmth of their cars.  But I couldn’t make myself leave, my feet were literally and figuratively frozen.  I didn’t want to move forward into a new life without my dad, I wanted to somehow stay in my old life.

    I stood by the coffin with my bare hand resting on it, thinking about the handprint I might leave upon it, thinking about the handprint dad had left on my life and Sean’s life and my brother’s lives and most importantly on my mother’s life.  I watched people walk away towards their cars and back into their lives and I felt invisible, like I was watching a scene from a movie.  I turned my back to the thinning crowd and put my forehead on the coffin and watched my tears turn white as they slid onto the metal.

    Finally AD tugged on my arm, telling me it was time to go and gently reminding me that Papa Ed wasn’t there.  That I knew, but still, I just didn’t want to go.  If I couldn’t stay in my old life, I wanted to at least be the last one standing by him in my old life.  After a few minutes, AD tugged on my arm again.  It was time.  The cemetery staff was standing at a respectful distance, no doubt anxious to do what they do when the family leaves.

    I patted the coffin one last time and promised that I would see him again.