remember being a youngster, old enough to stay up late enough to be in the room when the adults were watching the evening news on TV. It was the Regan-era and although it wasn’t the height of the Cold War, the sabre rattling and the ideological posturing between super powers was as fevered as ever. Although I was too young to appreciate the nuances, I could certainly appreciate the gravity of what was being reported. I knew what a nuclear bomb was. I knew we were pointing ours at them and they were pointing theirs at us. I knew exactly what nuclear war meant, and it scared the shit out of me. There were at least a few nights as a young boy where I remember staying up in bed unable to sleep, too anxious and afraid of what would happen if… *if* somebody pushed that “button.”
Since then I can’t remember ever letting the “news” du-jure effect my mood. Sure, I cried when the Challenger exploded, but in my defense I was in 6th grade at the time and I was convinced I was going to be an astronaut when I grew up. Beyond that, I am too much of a relativist by nature to take the “news” to heart. Newscasters sensationalize stories to look important and networks pander to narrow-minded ideologies to sell commercials. I like to think I float above all that stuff, avoiding getting caught up in the weeds… but damned if I didn’t find myself in a funk yesterday.
Sometimes it seems like the entire world is on fire. Russia is again making trouble, this time in Ukraine, and daring the world to do anything to stop it. ISIS is beheading children in Iraq. The genocide/civil war in Syria has become so old-hat the media has stopped reporting on it. Israel and Palestine have decided that they like bombing one another more than they like talking to each other. Unarmed teenagers are being shot and killed by police officers right here in the US. Children are coming across our borders, fleeing violence in Central America, and we’re trying to send them back. CHILDREN! Two friends of mine have recently been diagnosed with cancer, one of them terminal. Ebola is running unchecked through Western Africa in a way that mirrors every disaster/plague/zombie movie we’ve ever seen. And of course earlier this week every website in the world was talking about depression and suicide and Robin Williams
My entire 2-hour commute was awash in those news stories yesterday morning, and after duking it out with the big city commuter traffic I was in a dark mood when I finally arrived at my destination. I pulled into the parking structure and checked my phone quick before I went in to work. When I turned it on this was the image I saw:
It’s a picture I snapped of my daughter at a local beach more than a year ago. THAT was precisely the image that I needed to see… that the WORLD needs to see. Yes, we may live in a world that sometimes seems to be falling apart all around us, and as a responsible citizen of that community we are obligated to be aware of what is happening in that world.
But that world isn’t my life.
You see, I am a father – and there is no greater joy in the world than the joy of loving your family. When I saw that picture I immediately thought of the young lady, just on the cusp of entering the “tween” years. She loves legos and all things Harry Potter. She conquered a task in the heavy surf this summer that would make a grown man think twice. Her biggest concern in life right now is whether or not she gets the 3rd grade teacher she wants when school starts up on Monday. She bosses her brothers around, has drama with the boys on the playground and still likes me to do the voices when I read to them at night.
*SHE* is my life.
Then I thought of my oldest son. He has recently turned a corner in his skill with a soccer ball and a baseball. He boldly tries any meat he can order on the menu (much to my vegetarian wife’s disgust). No animal is too esoteric. He just lost his first tooth and he requested fish, crab and BBQ’d shrimp (and beer!!!) for his 6th birthday party. He can build a Lego set faster than anyone I know and he has a special relationship with his grandmother. Although he’s the youngest kid in his class he loves the fact that he is also the tallest (by far). He loves to figure out multiplication problems in the back of the car. He loves guessing the movies for the film score music I play and he still likes me to do the voices when I read to them at night.
*HE* is my life.
Then I thought of my youngest son. He loves getting grownups to smile by being silly in any way he can. He loves naming the Star Wars characters he sees in books or on t-shirts (and he knows them all). He loves putting on his brother’s/sister’s/mother’s/father’s shoes and clomping around the house with the declaration “I’m wearing tap shoes.” He puts the poor dog through more trials than any dog deserves and he pleasantly says “OK” when you tell him to clean up his mess. He loves steamed tofu (plain, yuck!) and is happy to point out all his body parts to anyone who will listen… yes, ALL of them. When you ask him how old he is he either says “ten” (he’s 2) or “I’m a big boy.” He’ll sell his siblings for an M&M and he hates it when I read to him at night “No Daddy get me ni-night. MOMMY get me ni-night.”
*HE* is my life.
Then there’s my wife, who is so far beyond my station in life words fall utterly short. I could blog for 100 years and still not say enough about how lucky I am to have her. She is neat where I am messy. She’s organized where I’m cluttered. She’s calm where I’m obnoxious. She’s strong where I’m weak. She is the rock-solid center of my universe…
…and she still looks damn good in a bikini.
*SHE* is my life.
You see, the world may very well seem like it’s burning, especially when you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you. But my life? My life is big and beautiful and brilliant and wonderful…
…because I’m a father.