Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23: Work Tomorrow, Classic Saint Marty, "Rules of Fatherhood"

A year ago on this day, I was on vacation, in a condo downstate.  Swimming.  Eating.  Hiking.  Taking too many pictures of my kids.  It was a really good time.  Hot every day.

This afternoon, I'm thinking about going to work tomorrow, all the stuff I have to accomplish in the coming week.  Feeling a little overwhelmed, as I always do on Sundays.  The piles of work never end.  And, to make things worse, I have to prepare everything for next week, as well, because I will be on vacation for four days.  So, my workload is doubled.  It's the price I have to pay for wanting a few days off.

My daughter has been gone since Thursday evening, camping with her boyfriend's family.  Now she's texting to ask if she can stay another day, come back tomorrow.  I can say that having a teenage child is a joy and a struggle for me.  I love the young woman that my daughter is becoming, but I have a really hard time opening my hand and letting go.  Change has never been my forte.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired a year ago, when I was on vacation, practicing living in the moment.  Don't do that too much nowadays.

July 23, 2016:  Ethos of the Moment, Kids in the Universe, "Zootopia"

Last summer some muskrats had a den under this tree's roots on the bank; I think they are still there now.  Muskrats' wet fur rounds the domed clay walls of the den and slicks them smooth as any igloo.  They strew the floor with plant husks and seeds, rut in repeated bursts, and sleep humped and soaking, huddled in balls.  These, too, are part of what Buber calls "the infinite ethos of the moment."

I'm not quite sure of the context of the quote from Martin Buber (although I admire anyone named Martin).  I think it has something to do with finding something eternal in every lived moment.  There's something both very present in the muskrats for Dillard, and there's also something very timeless.  Muskrats doing what they've done for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, following some kind of divine plan that was put into motion way back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam looked at the first muskrat (or the first muskrat's ancestor) and named it.

Today, I tried to live in the ethos of the moment.  I didn't have any particular plan for my time.  I didn't set an alarm.  Woke up around 9 a.m., which is a good five hours later than I normally do.  I took a shower, made breakfast for myself, and then sat outside and dined al fresco.  It was a lovely beginning to the day.  In the moment.  Listening to cicadas sawing the morning in two.

Eventually, I ended up at the water park with my son and wife for about four hours.  My daughter went on a zip line tour, soaring through the forest canopies for three hours (talk about living in the moment).  She had a great time.  My son had a great time.  I always try to imagine what kind of kid Jesus was.  Did he beg Mary to go swimming in the River Jordan on really hot days?  Or climb olive trees and scare birds out of their nests?  That's what kids do.  They carve places for themselves in the universe.

Tonight, at dusk, I went to an outdoor screening of the movie Zootopia with my family.  My fifteen-year-old daughter loved it.  My seven-year-old son, who suffers from a severe aversion to sitting still, got incredibly uninterested after about twenty minutes.  He and my wife and my sister left early while I stayed to watch the end of the film with my daughter.  It reminded me of the drive-in movies I saw as a kid.  King Kong with Jessica Lange.  Freaky Friday with Jodie Foster.  Orca with Richard Harris.  Everything huge and wondrous under the moon and stars.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that everything today felt really new and really familiar, as well.

Saint Marty is going to sleep in again tomorrow morning.  Maybe have some oatmeal al fresco for breakfast.

And a poem for this rainy afternoon about the struggles of being a father . . .

Rules of Fatherhood

by:  Martin Achatz

When I first heard my daughter's heart
Ten years ago in the doctor's office,
I had no clue how to care for a girl,
Those unwritten rules new fathers
Must learn over time.  Make your girl
Sit frog-legged in the bathtub
To allow warm water to flow
Into areas of her body where skin
Turns raw, pink or red as grapefruit,
In the privacy of diaper or panty.
When she turns three or four,
Teach her to wipe front-to-back,
Not back-to-front, to avoid kidney,
Bladder infections.  Comb her hair
As soon as she's done bathing.
Slide the teeth through and through,
To remove all tangles, then braid.
Start simple, one ponytail at the back
Of her head.  Work to French braids,
Beautiful as sweet, curled loaves
In bakeries at Christmas.  Never
Utter the name of the boy she likes
When she's five or seven or ten.
Just watch them play together.
Notice how he always insists
She climb the steps of the slide
Before him, his neck craned upward,
Cheeks flushed, as she goes higher and higher.
Invite said boy to her tenth birthday
Party, watch him squirm when you sit
Beside him and say, "What are your
Plans for the future, son?"
Even though you don't believe
In guns, buy one to hold
In your lap when she goes
On her first date.  When the boy arrives,
Stare at him, the way a lion stares
At a wounded water buffalo.

All these rules I've learned
Since that day the doctor waved
Her wand over my wife, pulled
From the top hat of my wife's belly
That sound:  crickets singing
On a summer night, Love me, love me, love me.

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