Day of the Daddy

"I miss Daddy."
- Ian, pretty much every day the last few weeks

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We talked about how I miss him too. We talked about how having him back with cancer would be cruel because he was in pain. We talked about how having him back without cancer is impossible. I don't try to fix it because there's not really anything to fix. It just is. I listen. 

"I get one less holiday than everyone else because my dad's dead."
- Ian, last year around Father's Day and again last night

He's been sleeping with me every couple days. Usually he shows up around 2am with some complicated story about how the dog is hogging the covers. I just tell him to stop talking and get in the bed. Then he squirms and digs and snores all night. But he sleeps. He woke up in pretty good spirits this morning. First thing he said as he opened his eyes was, "I wonder when I'll be taller than you." I sleepily said, "Next week, at the rate we're going."

"What day did Daddy die?"
"February 20th, just before midnight."
"Is that a school day?"
"It is this year."
"We should celebrate it."
"I wondered about that. Is it weird to celebrate a day someone died? They couldn't control that date. Then again they couldn't control their birthday either. Hunh ..."
"If we celebrate that day, then I'll get my holiday back. The one I'm missing. The Mexicans have Day of the Dead and they celebrate dead people that day. So we can have Day of the Daddy."
"Deal."

And then he popped out of bed to get socks and go have breakfast. So next Tuesday, we'll have some Mexican food and cuss inappropriately (more than we already do) and watch Blazing Saddles.

Simple gifts

We had a rough start to Christmas this morning. My parents had helped me wrap my gifts for Ian last night while Santa delivered his under the tree. I felt like the items were on par for previous years. I went to bed optimistic.

Ian had only requested one thing from me - soccer goals. I found some that are pretty cool and I'm hoping it means he can persuade some neighbor kids to the yard to play. 

His list for Santa, though, was a bit more outrageous and impractical. It included a Nintendo Switch (which retails for $300), a flat screen TV (he already has a small one in his room), a new computer (his computer works fine), a BMX bike and a track built in the back yard, new headphones (his current ones are fine), and a real horse. 

The items he wanted were either duplicates of things he already has (and never uses) or were so outrageously impractical or expensive, Santa couldn't deliver. I just took him on a Caribbean cruise two weeks ago, so I wasn't interested in giving him a ton of high dollar items. And as I perused my Excel sheet of Ian's gifts from previous years, I noted a lot of items he said he wanted and then never actually used. It made me weary.

Santa got him two cool board games (Qwirkle and 7 Wonders Duel), a football, a sling shot, and the third illustrated Harry Potter book. His stocking was also full of neato little things that he'd never even knew existed but are fun. 

Ian wanted a BMX bike. When he came downstairs, the first thing he said was, "None of these look big enough to be a BMX bike." As he opened his items from Santa, he noted that none of these things were on his list. My mother offered that her children had said things like that before but ended up really liking the things they got. So maybe Santa knows best. Ian was not persuaded.

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Santa had written a letter to Ian about his desire for a horse. I thought it was pretty clever telling him that he could take a lesson at the farm for free and just tell them that Santa had sent him. He read the letter and his face fell. 

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My mom asked what the letter said. At first Ian said he didn't want to talk about it. Then he said, "It says Santa doesn't care what I asked for." He stomped off to his room with gifts still wrapped under the tree.

I steeled myself and went upstairs. Tears welled up in my eyes as I sat with him. I told him that Santa had talked to me. That he got Ian's letter and he was concerned about some of the things on the list. Santa wanted to get him what he had asked for, but he wasn't sure if Ian really knew the things involved in it all. I told Santa that Ian already had a computer and video game systems. Santa and I agreed that a BMX track in the back yard would make it hard for the dogs to use the space, and for Ian to play catch or soccer or anything else he wanted to do out there. 

Santa offered that a horse was something he could maybe find, but he was worried that it would be a burden for me. I told Santa that leaving a horse in our yard would be a disaster. Where would we keep him? What would we feed him? How would we ever go out of town? And what if Ian likes horses for a few weeks or months but decides he would rather skate board. It's a living animal. It's a responsibility. It's not really a good gift from anyone. 

I also reminded Ian that while Santa is magic, he's not perfect. No one is. If Santa could give everyone anything they said they wanted, no one would ever be hungry or homeless or sick. You can't tell Santa you want to go to the moon and wake up Christmas morning with two tickets to outer space in your stocking. The man has his limits. We all do.

I also told him that there are three boxes of presents downstairs from him for me and I loved them already, having no idea what's in them. Because gifts are about love. Ian curled up under the covers and said he was sorry. He didn't want to be ungrateful. He just felt like Santa hadn't really read his letter.

"Dude, he totally read your letter. How else would he have told me about the BMX track and the horse? He cares a lot. He wants to give you things that make you happy. And sometimes you don't know what will make you happy. Or sometimes the things that would make you happy can't fit under a tree."

He started crying and blurted out, "I miss Daddy!" 

"I miss Daddy too, Stink. It sucks and it's not fair that he can't be here for Christmas. But Santa can't fix that. And I can't fix that either. All we can do is love you super hard." 

By some stroke of luck, the last Advent book we read last night was "My Penguin Osbert" about a boy requesting a live penguin from Santa. He realizes that owning a live penguin isn't all he thought it would be and ends up sending a new letter to Santa saying if he wanted to trade that would be ok.

While Ian and I were having a heart to heart upstairs, my folks were downstairs comparing notes on their childhood experiences. Mom asked Daddy if he'd ever had a bad Christmas. He just said, "All of them." Daddy grew up incredibly poor so he learned early not to get his hopes up. Mom recalled getting the same type of elegant movie star doll as her sister requested versus the baby doll she wanted. She cried and cried because she didn't feel heard. 

And in a lot of ways, I think Ian felt not heard today. He's not sure what he wants, but he wants someone or something magical to fix the ache he feels. He's learning that we're the only ones who can heal those holes in our own hearts. 

Ian rallied and came back downstairs. He was genuinely excited to see me open my gifts. He admitted that he really wanted a sling shot but hadn't put it on his list. I told him Santa pays attention to him all year long and makes notes. Sometimes Santa may know what we need and give that versus what we say we want. 

We've unpacked a board game to learn. We watched the rest of "Die Hard". We've tested out the sling shot. Christmas is saved. And we'll look forward to better days ahead.

Happy 50th Anniversary, Mom and Dad

My parents were married on the Friday after Thanksgiving, November 24, 1967. Coincidentally, that date also falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving 50 years later.

Daddy had been drafted into the Army that year. He went to Ft. Sill in Oklahoma for training and while there received his orders to go to Vietnam. He called my mom from the payphone at the PX on Halloween and told her the news. 

Mom, somewhat in shock: "Well, what do you want to do?"
Daddy: "I think I wanna get married."

And that was that. Less than a month later they got married at Langley Air Force base. It was important that my parents be married because the Army doesn't care about your girlfriend and he wanted to make sure they would be taken care of. 

My mother wore a light blue velvet dress that her friend made for her. Daddy and Doug (age 8) wore matching suits. Uncle Jack was the photographer, so the pictures got more blurry the more he drank.

 Wedding day, November 24, 1967

Wedding day, November 24, 1967

Daddy left for Vietnam in January of 1968 and was gone for a year. The Army actually insisted on counseling Daddy before he got married because Mom was three years older and divorced with a child. She may have just been trying to get his Army pension (or death benefits). Daddy was insulted. 

In these days of instant communication, I'm amazed that they went that whole year with only letters. Mom sent a letter every single day. They did get one week in Hawaii for a honeymoon. Friends warned Mom that war does horrible things to a man and to prepare herself that he may not look so great. She said that he was tan, in the best shape of his life, and really happy to see her. 

 Doesn't my mom have great legs?!

Doesn't my mom have great legs?!

They had two more children (Perry in 1971 and me in 1977) and would have had more if biology would have cooperated. 

My parents have disagreed over the years, like most humans do. However, it was always very clear to me that they adored each other, supported each other, and loved fiercely and unconditionally. 

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Happy 50th anniversary, Mom and Dad. They're not big on fancy celebrations, but I want to give them credit for being each other's #1 fan, incredible parents, and doting grandparents.

 October 2013 - courtesy of Megan Boyles Photography

October 2013 - courtesy of Megan Boyles Photography