They call me dad, these children of mine. Sometimes they mix it up and call me abba (Hebrew for father) or daddy. They ask me why I am constantly working and will it always be this. They show me their school work and beam with pride when I praise their work.
Questions come from all corners at light speed. Why do we do this, why do we do that, what were you like when you were my age, why do you look different in your college pictures. I do my best to field them all and I wonder why they think that I have all of the answers.
I am just an ordinary Joe trying to make a buck and support a family. But I’ll grant that it is not like it used to be. This has been a positively brutal year. There hasn’t been a single month where I haven’t wondered how to pay the bills. There hasn’t been a single month in which I have worked normal hours.
They see me sitting here, at the computer and wonder how I could have lived without one. I know, because they tell me that I must have loved the computer my parent’s gave me when I was young. I smile again and tell them that we didn’t have one until I was in junior high and even then it wasn’t close to this. Really no comparison.
I talk about how I rode my bike everywhere, baseball games, soccer practice and all sorts of other stuff. The dark haired beauty scrunches up her face and asks if I am sure about this. She wonders if I am making up a story like I do for bedtime.
Twenty years ago I went through what I thought was the worst time of my life. The reasons why aren’t important. The only significance is that I thought that it was horrible and when it ended I was delighted because I knew that I had survived the worst year of my life.
And now I shake my head and acknowledge that this year has been much worse. It has been a daily grind and battle to survive. Men are taught to take care of our families. That is what dad does. A father goes off to work and he does what it takes to support his family. And when it doesn’t happen or he feels like he is slipping it is painful.
There have been moments where I looked at the mirror and wondered who the failure staring back at me is. Moments where I have felt a profound sadness mixed with a healthy dose of anger. The anger is good. It forces me to move, to stand up and tell the year to fuck off.
And I do. I get up and I force myself to do what needs to be done knowing that activity will help. I remind myself that this too shall pass. I remind myself that the hard work now will pay off later. This is a blip, just a short hiccup.
The battered and bruised ego rises again because it doesn’t know any other way.
The year is coming to a close. Daylight is near. I can feel it. If I can dance in the flames a bit longer I will survive. But there has been a stiff price exacted for this.
I pay it for the children because that is what I expect of myself. See, the expectations that I feel, that nagging weight all come from within my head. I am my own best friend and my own worst enemy.
Sometimes the hardest part of this all is pulling myself away from work to be with the kids. I am tired. I am cranky, impatient, frustrated and then some. I don’t want to be short tempered. They don’t hear me yell often. I don’t need to. My voice is often a quiet rumble and more times than not it suffices.
But they are my children and they yank my chain and press buttons in the same fashion as their old man. I can’t complain because I am not all that different.
So I shrug my shoulders and walk away from work. I chase them around the house and wrestle with them. My son and I build Lego masterpieces and my daughter does my hair. They fight over me and ask for special time. I do the best that I can to give it to them.
They go to bed. Before their eyes close they say I love you and hug me. I give it right back to them. Back to the computer I go. There are emails to send, proposals to write, telephone calls to make and all sorts of craziness to wade through.
Craziness caused by standard care for the homestead. A plumbing issue exceeds my capabilities so a plumber is called in. The window in my door is cracked. Home Depot and the manufacturer are fighting over who is responsible. I curse them both and go Macgyver the window.
Ten thousand other little issues around the house call out and ask for my attention. I do what I can, time is so limited. Priorities are shuffled and reshuffled. Do I pay someone to do what I can do myself? Sometimes I do because my time is valuable and best spent elsewhere.
Time. Time is killing me, or should I say that I am slowly dying. Every day I live I am one step closer to death. I laugh as a I type this because I am not really that morbid. But I am serious about some things. It is time for 2009 to go, I have had enough.
Watch out 2010, I have decided that you will be my year. 2010, the year of Jack. You can bet on it happening for no other reason than they call me dad.