After a too brief reunion in D.C., it was time to for Elise and the kids to say goodbye to their bffs.
Friday, June 24, 2016
Posted by eliseandpaul at 10:05 AM
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Though the days have been long, I was able to pull myself out of bed again at 4:30. I got home from work around 8:30 the night before. As I shrugged out of my jacket and put my wallet, keys, phone, and badge on the bench next to the door, I heard Clementine calling me from her bedroom. The kids were all in bed (in soft new pajamas), reading. I pretended I didn’t recognize them in their new pajamas—easy laughs—then listened as they told me stories about their days.
Clementine said she went to the zoo. When I called her on it, she told me she was, “just faking.” Though Sam had Field Day, he was tired, and I didn’t hear a lot about it. I gave them hugs, kisses, turned the lights out, got them sips of water, moved Clementine to our bed when she said she couldn’t sleep (because she took a nap) and a got her a book, ate leftover mac ‘n’ cheese and cold green beans (delicious, despite the description), made gin and tonics for Elise and I, sat down on the couch, not even bothering to change out of my work clothes; I knew I wouldn’t last long and all I wanted to do was talk to my wife.
The stresses of recent days have left both Elise and I perhaps feeling exposed. The kids (thankfully) have no idea what is going on in the world and don’t understand why we are on edge. And I am to keep it that way. In fact, one of my major goals as a parent is to let them be kids for as long as they can be, blissfully ignorant of all that goes on in the world. Despite an overwhelming need to hold my family close, when they go about their usual craziness, it takes Herculean effort to grant them the patience they deserve. I know it has been no more difficult to get them into bed or off to school than usual, though it seems that way.
I don’t know how to process my own feelings. I know Elise doesn’t either. It’s not something I can consciously do. I have nothing to say, no wisdom to impart, no meaning to parse into what has happened.
I know a lot of commentators have chimed in. I haven’t read a lot of their remarks, but I did hear those from Stephen Colbert:
“Naturally, we each ask ourselves what can you possible say in the face of this horror,” he said. “Then sadly you realize you know what to say because it’s been said too many times before. You have a pretty good idea of what most people are going to say. You know what a president, whoever it is, will probably say. You know what both sides of the political aisle will say. You know what gun manufacturers will say. Even me, with a silly show like this, you have some idea of what I will say. Because even I have talked about this when it has happened before. It’s as if there’s a national script that we have learned. And I think by accepting the script we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time. With nothing changing. Except for the loved ones and the families of the victims for whom nothing will ever be the same.
Colbert continued, saying it’s easy to be “paralyzed” by what he called “a monstrously hateful act,” “to despair and say, ‘Oh, well that’s the way the world is now.’”
But, he added, that mindset was a slippery slope to more trouble. “I don’t know what to do,” Colbert said. “But I do know that despair is a victory for hate. Hate wants us to be too weak to change anything. Now these people in Orlando were apparently targeted for who they love. And there have been outpourings of love throughout the country and around the world. Love in response to hate. Love does not despair. Love makes you strong. Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives up hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script.
“So love your country, love your family, love the families and the victims and the people of Orlando,” he said, closing the remarks. “But let’s remember love is a verb. And to love means to do something.”
For the last week and a half, the trains between two stations on my line have been single-tracking, taking an hour of my day I don’t have. Last night, as I headed west toward home, toward the sunset, I wondered what would happen next. I think about what happened exclusively through the lens of what it means for my kids, for Sam, Peter, and Clementine, who have no idea what happened or what politicians are saying about what happened and why.
What will happen next? What will come next? Another incident? More deadly and monstrous than the last? How many times can one condemn something in the strongest words? Invoke that superlative? Words can only be so strong, and the strongest words, too, only so strong. There is finite power in their strength, until the acts exceed our ability to condemn them. We will no longer have the vocabulary. Is this the world we live in now? The kids know no other way to get on a plan other than to take off your shoes. When overseas and kids didn’t have to take their shoes off anymore, we had to coach them out of taking off their shoes. The act had become so natural to them and they never questioned why they had to do it. They just did it as though it were a normal thing to have to do to ride on an airplane.
I got out of bed this morning and went for a run. I ran hard. I hurt my foot. I’ll have to ice it tonight and take tomorrow off. On my way home, the sun started to come up. It had been drizzling ever-so-slightly for the last mile or so, and as the sky turned golden, a full rainbow appeared in the sky, over the morning commute, amidst the cantaloupe-colored clouds. As all these thoughts were whirling in my head, as my feet were pushing me from below, trying to put miles between me and my thoughts, unsuccessfully, the answer appeared.
I fought back tears as it all became to clear. I wish you could have seen it.
And at that moment, I knew exactly what would happen. At mile 3.5, I knew Sam, Peter, and Clementine would be okay.
They would be just fine.
Posted by eliseandpaul at 6:28 PM
Monday, June 13, 2016
I pulled myself out of bed at 4:45. The kids had stayed up until 10:00 the night before, and Elise and I didn’t go to bed until 11:00, after having spent the evening with old friends from Brazil at a cook-out at Oakwood.
It was not easy and the gravity of my warm bed was strong, but I knew how disappointed I would be if I didn’t get a chance to run later in the morning, so I pushed against the mattress and placed the soles of my bare feet on the hardwood. I creaked across the house, having learned over the past few months which floorboards creak louder than the others. Our house creaks loudly, and I guide myself down the hall, holding on to the wall in false hope of keeping weight off my feet. I descend to the basement where I had set out my running shoes and watch the night before. I move slowly. It’s hard to get motivated. I have a few sips of iced coffee I stole from the fridge.
I open the back door; it crack open like splintering wood, and I don’t know how the entire house doesn’t bolt awake or maybe it does before settling back to sleep. It’s warm. Summer has arrived. Highs were in the nineties all weekend. I set off, slowly, with an aim to go nine. After two miles, I falter, the humidity stifling, but decide to soldier on, again the prospect of facing my own disappointment pushing me. I make it to the turn-around, stopping for water on the way out and one the way back, and as the sun comes up, the humidity comes down, and I find a groove. I finish the last two miles just over eights. I’m happy, though I have a few new blisters and I know I will be tired later.
I sneak back into the house. Everyone is still sleeping. I change and stretch out on the couch, sweaty. Elise would be mad at me if she knew I were getting sweat on her new pillows. Sam wakes first, but soon all five of us are on the couch—me, struggling to keep my eyes open— after I feed them leftover cinnamon rolls. We have friends from Chennai and their kids coming over to grill hamburgers at four, so we decide we need to head to the store.
We drive through Seven Corners on our way to Bailey’s Crossroads. Elise needs to stop at Home Depot to buy more metal chain links in order to convert our newly-purchased and installed swing from a trapeze to the swing (the seat currently sits about four feet in the air). She will get the chain, but in what will go down as her most frustrating customer service experience of the week—if not month—the clerk will forget to put the carabiners she bought in the bag with the chain. The kids watch their new favorite show, Thunderbirds are Go!, on the iPad in a rare capitulation.
We stop at Panera before going into Trader Joe’s. Everyone gets plain bagels. Clementine gets hers with cream cheese and she soon has a goopy white smile from cheek to cheek that makes her look a little like the Joker. Elise and I shop with tiny coffee in our hands. Sam helps run for groceries. We buy a $50 bottle of champagne to break open tonight for Elise’s birthday. She hasn’t asked for much. (She hasn’t asked for anything, really.) But she does want cupcakes and champagne for her birthday.
Waiting in line to check-out, Clementine catches the eye of a baby in the cart behind us. Soon, Sam,
Peter, and Clementine are giving the baby high-fives and letting her pinch their noses.
We head home and there is mention of taking the kids to the comic book store after we swing by the house and put the groceries away. I start getting everyone motivated to head out the door when I am vetoed by Elise, “I think everyone would be better off taking naps than going to the comic book store."
Clementine and Pete are exhausted from the late night and immediately crawl into bed and under the covers. Sam starts jumping up and down and squealing, “It’s not fair!” as I threaten him within an inch of his life to get into bed and quiet down, promising him we can go to the comic book store some other day, maybe one day after I get home from work, knowing full well it will be too late by the time I get home this week to go. I slide into bed with Peter, the bottom bunk. Sam is in the top bunk above us, thrashing about in spastic protest. I yell at him and he stops crying long enough to pull out a book and start reading. Pete wraps his arm across my chest and falls soundly asleep. I hear
Sam turning the pages in the bunk above. I think about telling him to put the book away and lie down, but decide not to. I struggle to keep from drifting off. I badly want to sleep, but took a nap yesterday afternoon and spent the rest of the day in a haze. I hate that feeling and decide I’d rather be exhausted. Plus, I still need to run to Giant for baked beans and angel food cake. (Elise is making strawberry shortcake for dessert.)
I carefully extract myself from Peter’s embrace and sneak down the hall. I take a peek at my phone, at Facebook and the latest headlines. I become numb.
Sam follows me. I don’t make him go back to his bed. I run my fingers through his hair; it’s getting long, but he doesn’t want to cut it.
I stick my head in Elise’s office where she has been quietly working for an hour or so. She is staring blankly at the computer screen, not really reading or editing pictures. Her gaze is far-off.
“Is there anything else we need at the store?” I ask.
The corners of her mouth turn down. I hug her. “I feel sad,” she tells me. “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.”
Sam and I step out into the sun. It’s hot, but the wind has started blowing. It hasn’t cooled anything down yet; it’s more like a blast furnace. We walk to the grocery store, Sam squinting against the sun.
I know I should talk to him, say something, ask him about his day or about school or a book that he is reading. I know I should take advantage of this rare and precious one-on-one moment, father and son, but I can’t think of anything to say. I have trouble swallowing around a lump in my throat. I fight back tears.
“How is your new book?” I finally manage.
He likes it. It’s about animal wizards, a book for a kid who is not quite ready for Harry Potter. Sam may never be, and that’s okay. I now wish that remains the case.
We take our time at the grocery, mostly because I have no idea where anything is. I start toward one end of the store looking for the bakery until Sam steers me toward the opposite end.
I stop at Starbucks for iced coffees, one for me and one with coconut milk for Elise. It helps somewhat, but my hamstrings and legs are in smoldering pain. I can’t sit for long periods of time because of my hamstrings and glutes and I can’t stand because my legs are so damn tired.
Home, I cut watermelon while Elise puts out the burger fixings. She stops me in front of the refrigerator and hugs me, telling me she loves me.
Our friends arrive. Perhaps the distraction is welcome. Perhaps not. I can’t decide or can’t tell or am too tried to care. I drink three beers very fast and unapologetically, then turn my attention to grilling, finding distraction in the manual task, the raw ritual of preparing food.
Later that evening, she takes baths while I clean the kitchen. I am patient as I help the kids into their pajamas, not wanting to escape them, not wanting to be anywhere else, not wanting them to ever think that I don’t appreciate them as people or that I ever do not value their company. I have become more conscientious about listening to them when they talk or, at least, I try to. Sam falls asleep immediately, not having napped. Peter needs water and complains that he is hungry and wants carrots, though I tell him I’ll get him some in the morning. I am in bed, reading, too tired now to move. Eventually, Clementine’s is the only voice left, a tiny echo. I don’t know who falls asleep first, me or her.
Posted by eliseandpaul at 3:00 PM