The recent arctic cold snap that brought frigid temperatures and the season’s first snow to Denver reminded me of a fact I simply cannot deny: my son is, and has long been, a loser. This simple teenage truth became comically clear about this time last year and remains true to this day. The mystery also remains, “Why can’t my son keep track of his things?”
My high school cross-country coach also dabbled in screen-printing. He made one of my all-time favorite tee shirts that read:
RUNNERS THRIVE ON LSD* *Long Slow Distance
Being that I was both a dedicated runner and a nascent hippy, this shirt was made for me. I wore it often and proudly until it mysteriously disappeared sometime during my junior year in high school. (I always suspected my stepmother who both did my laundry and disliked my psychedelic proclivities.)
In preschool, elementary, and middle school there were the occasional theme days: pajama day, crazy hair day, and of course Halloween; my son often balked at these, not inclined to go along with the crowd. Last school year, his first at a large public high school, he participated in “Spirit Day,” dressing up as prescribed by a group of seniors to demonstrate school spirit. (Although it seemed more like hazing to me.)
It was a glimmer and a dream that began a tradition lasting ten summers: We are going to spend a month traveling in Europe. As our son’s kindergarten year came to a close, we realized that for the first time he would have the summer off of school. The opportunity was there to either sign him up for lots of camps and let others spend the summer with him, or to free up time in our work schedules and spend it together as a family. We opted for the latter, and every year since we’ve taken a long family trip.
Spending time with my teenage son is like déjà vu for me, as I grow to recognize my younger self in him more and more each day. His awkward self-consciousness, the inward turning, less communicative stance, his attraction toward friends and away from family, and his idealism, all strike a familiar chord.
My son is me at that age – less messed up because he’s growing up without the chaos and dysfunction that I endured early and often. Yet the teen he’s becoming is very much a mirror of myself.
Peace is a lofty and elusive concept. As a young Jew, I learned that the word Shalom means ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye,’ and ‘peace.’ In the latter case, Shalom is that instant, perfect and temporary, when all is right in the world.
The phone rang late Friday afternoon, as I was in the middle of a planning conversation with Maggie. Caller ID said it was Denver Hospice, the place where my father spent his last 16 hours last February. I picked up the phone out of respect.The caller identified herself as a ‘grief counselor’ just wanting to check in and see how I am doing now, nearly six months after losing my dad. I stepped into the next room, settled into a comfy chair, and answered her like this:
My teenage son awoke from a classic anxiety dream the other morning: he dreamt he was sitting in a high school math class, totally unprepared, and fearful of the consequences. The timing of the dream is right, since today is Continuation Day at his school.
In the months leading up to launching this blog and my web-radio show, I had been on something of a search for folks who might offer me wisdom and guidance during a time I felt confused and adrift. You’ve met and heard some of them on the program.
Picking up the USA Today on my flight home from Toledo after burying my father, I recalled how he read this paper every day. I was never sure how much information he retained, although my dad did frequently surprise me with some fact or tidbit he must’ve gleaned from those pages. I felt a slight wave of sadness creep into the back of my heart, a slight welling of tears in the back of my eyes, as I let myself think for just a moment about my father and his daily routine.
I would like to learn to ask permission. With my teenage son Jordy, it would be at those times when I want to lecture or make a point, or teach a lesson, and I would actually do well to ask his permission first.
This week, as I prepare to offer a training class on CHANGE MANAGEMENT for a local municipal client, I am aware of the changes all around me, and how much I need to keep in mind the challenges that this can cause.
I remember standing in the front yard of the first home I really remember living in as a child. I’m only four or five years old, in my pajamas, barefoot in the damp grass on a summer morning. Standing next to me is my father, in a business suit, ready to leave for work.
In my ‘day job’ delivering training and development for folks in the workplace, I’ve had a lot interest in my workshop on the topic of Time Management. Back when I worked with an instructional designer to create this class, she suggested that I read the lyrics of the Harry Chapin song “Cats in the Cradle,” to bring home the point of the course.
“The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is to not fear at all.” These words, adapted from the writings of the great 18th Century Hassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, keep coming to mind as I think of my father, his life and his times. Especially this recent memorial day, which also marks the passing of my little sister, Toni Lynn.
I honestly don’t remember getting much advice from my father while growing up, so I guess what advice he did offer, I may have taken to heart. One thing I do recall him telling me, at about age 14, had to do with shaving. It was time to do something about the dark hair sprouting above my upper lip, and so my dad gave me his old electric razor to use to shave it off. And with it came the advice to employ this Norelco Triple Header for as long as possible:
Every week on The Grateful Dad Radio Hour I offer a quick update called ‘The Full-Circle Fatherhood Report’ based on an essay I contributed to the Men’s Anthology titled Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Lives: Defining Moments and reflecting that I am a member of the ‘sandwich generation,’ caring for both my son and my dad. Here’s this week’s installment.
This week, in the holiday spirit, I am offering something a little different, based on the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah, in the form of A Four Worlds Gratitude Prayer:I am aware and grateful for the four worlds in which I live…
I’ve always been big on celebrating, and after becoming a father, celebration became even more important. Each week, month, and year in my son’s life brought new joy, and another excuse to celebrate something special.