A Fortunate Man

I am a very fortunate man. It's important to acknowledge that every now and then. Otherwise, why bother?

I am a very fortunate man. It’s important to acknowledge that every now and then. Otherwise, why bother?

If you enjoy the deep and abiding love of a spouse or a lifelong companion who you also love deeply, you are a fortunate man.

If you have under your roof two loving, bright, beautiful children with a lifetime of promise and wonder ahead of them, you are a fortunate man.

If you have a roof, you are a fortunate man.

If you spent 24 years pursuing and living a career that fulfilled your adolescent dreams and stirred your creative impulses, you are a fortunate man.

If that career was sidetracked because of the changing economy but you were able to find a job that — while perhaps not quite as exciting and fulfilling as your past career — was stable, secure and provided for your family, you are a fortunate man.

If you have lived into your 40s and your parents are still around, and not only that, but are relatively healthy, capable, self-sufficient and happy together after nearly 50 years of marriage, you are a fortunate man.

If you have lived into your 40s, you are a fortunate man.

If you married into an amazing family, with in-laws who love you and appreciate you for who you are and for the life you’ve built with your nuclear family, you are a fortunate man.

If you have friends near and far who are happy to see you again — and who you are happy to see — even after several months or years have passed since your last meeting, you are a fortunate man.

If you possess fond memories of loved ones past, you are a fortunate man.

If you managed to extricate yourself from an unhappy marriage that lasted only long enough for you to know that you were in the wrong situation, you are a fortunate man.

If you have experienced the love and enduring affection of a furry animal companion for a stretch of many years, you are a fortunate man.

If the worst thing you can say about your life is you dread your miserable morning commute into work, you are a fortunate man.

If you have found a pastime or hobby that gives you a sense of accomplishment and scratches the creative itch, you are a fortunate man.

If you possess all your faculties, and understand who you are and where you’ve been, and can summon at least a semi-substantial vision of where you might be going in life, you are a most fortunate man, indeed.

You are a fortunate man if you can laugh and cry and sit in silence and contemplate your great, good fortune.

It is important to acknowledge these blessings. It is important to remember them. It is important to be able to look at your life, consider it as objectively as possible and render a fair judgement. We can be as hard on ourselves as we want to be, and Lord knows I’ve been hard on myself over the years.

Every now and then, though, I’ll wake up with a smile on my face because something beautiful worked on my subconscious while I slept. Some wonderful facet of life fought and clawed its way to the surface, and ruptured the veil of insecurity and diffidence that shrouds all our adult lives and gave form and voice to a lifetime of blessings that demand to be counted.

It is in those waking moments that I can honestly say that I am, in fact, a very fortunate man.

The Books on My Bedside Table

I have a Nook, and I have a Kindle, both packed with dozens of titles. I also have the apps for both on my iPad mini. Finding ways and words to feed my mind and soul is not a problem.

I still love books, though.

Mind you, I’m talking about actual books, bound volumes with covers and paper pages that are chemically composed of organic and inorganic compounds. Cellulose. Lignin. Calcium carbonate. Clay. Titanium oxide. What have you.

Basically, dead trees and filler material.

Despite the fact that my Nook/Kindle/iPad mini give me access to more books than the Library of Congress, books – actual, dead-tree books – accumulate on my bedside table.

Bedside Table Books

The books on my bedside table gather dust, but they bring me joy.

What does it say about me that a double stack of books sits gathering dust on my bedside table? You might think I’m too lazy to take them back to their shelves. You might be right.

I prefer to think better of myself. I like to think that once I’ve finished with a book for the evening, it’s not goodbye. It’s merely good night.

I have always found comfort in the proximity of books.

Why these particular books?

They are, in no particular order (and not by way of endorsement):

  • Caesar’s Women, by Colleen McCullough
  • The Creators, by Daniel Boorstin
  • Field Guide to Birds (Eastern Region), published by the National Audubon Society
  • Hemingway, by Jeffrey Meyers
  • Walt Disney World (2013, Unofficial Guide), by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa
  • Western Philosophy, edited by David Papineau
  • The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop, by Stephen Koch
  • Joseph Campbell: the Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers
  • Insight Guides: London, published by the Discovery Channel
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell

What do the books I’ve chosen as bedtime reading over the past few weeks say about me?

They speak to my pretensions, certainly. I want to know what thinkers like Boorstin, Campbell and all those Western Philosophers thought of it all. Especially Campbell, evidently.

They speak to my lifelong ambitions, too. I bought the Meyers biography in 1989, when I was 20 and still thought of myself as a contemporary of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, separated only by time. Now, I know that time is not the only thing that separates me from them, but the Meyers biography still gives me hope. And although I own about 100 books on writing, the Koch book (purchased in 2003) remains my most inspirational and insightful.

These books speak to my wanderlust (London and Disney are dear to me). And they speak to my hubris (McCullough’s meticulous characterization of Gaius Julius Caesar makes him human, and therefore makes us believe we could have accomplished what he accomplished, or still could, given the right circumstances and motivation).

I’m not sure why the bird book is there. One of our sons must’ve added it to the stack. (They, by the way, have their own stacks of books on their own bedside tables, and I couldn’t be prouder.)

Unfortunately, I’m not often able to stay awake long enough to get through more than a page or two. These days, the words blur quickly. My eyelids grow heavy. I might drift off in the middle of a particularly enticing passage about Caesar’s illicit dalliance with Servilia, or an illuminating piece of Campbellian wisdom. I have fallen into a deep sleep still gripping both sides of the book, with my nose still pointed at the page, and woken hours later in the same position.

Is it parenthood that has robbed me of my ability to stay awake while reading? Middle age? The stresses and demands of the 21st century middle-class American household? Middle age? Wait, already said that. What was I talking about?

Oh, yes. Books.

I guess I should return these to the shelves. Maybe it’s time to start a new stack.

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What books, if any, do you keep on your bedside table? Or, if not actual paper-and-ink books, what volumes do you keep on your e-reader or tablet? I’d love to know, so please share in the comments, if you’re so inclined. Also, if you’re into such things, please take a moment to “like” my blog’s page on Facebook.

 

There Will Be Tears (or What to Expect During Your Toddler’s First Visit to the Magic Kingdom)

They used to let you into the Magic Kingdom for free on your birthday. This was a very nice thing for Disney to do. I mean, when’s the last time you gave someone you don’t even know a $90 birthday present? That’s what I thought. They don’t do it anymore, but hey, generosity has its limits. Even in the Happiest Place on Earth.

MomScribe and I took advantage of Disney’s (former) generosity by taking Jay to Disney World for his birthday two years ago. It was a nice way (we figured) to mark his transformation to Little Boy from Toddler. On paper, it seemed like a great idea. In practice, his first trip into the House of Mouse was pretty damn miserable.

Smiles were few and far between. One corner of his mouth might have twitched in an upward direction when he saw the Indycars. But that was about it. Would he ride Peter Pan or It’s a Small World without melting down? He would not. Would be ride Dumbo? Nope. Would he pose for a photo with Goofy or Buzz Lightyear? Hell, no. Would he eat anything except a giant piece of cake from the bakery on Main Street USA? Forget it.

Granted, all of the above could be said about me that day, too. But my ticket wasn’t free, was it? It’s different when you’re actually paying for access to the People Mover. It moves PEOPLE, people! It’s the transportation of the future, today.

Jay’s favorite thing? The stupid playground in stupid Toon Town. Here he was in Kid’s Paradise, and all he wanted to do was go down a slide. A slide! And not even a full-size slide, either. One of those pseudo-slides, like they have at daycare centers, that takes about .3 seconds to go down. Hey, look! A sli … oooops, all done. Oh, we managed to pry him away from there (kicking, screaming) in time for the afternoon parade. But he watched the floats go by grudgingly, occasionally picking at old gum on the sidewalk while his Mickey-shaped lollipop melted (virtually unlicked) down his wrist, and we left shortly after.

So.

We’re going back. And this time, it won’t just be the three of us out for a charming interlude of theme park Americana.

Chris is coming, too.

Um, Mickey? Duck.

Now, a toddler is many things. “Consistent” is not one of those things. There’s every chance that Chris might get there and magically be transformed into a well-mannered, calm-headed, curly-haired, bright-eyed bundle of wonder. He might see the Monorail and squeal and laugh and exclaim in that sweetest of sweet voices what an incredible world we live in, after all, and can we ride it again? Again? Again?

Or …

He could act bat-shit crazy from the moment we set out up I-4 until we drag our rumpled, ruined forms down Main Street USA, stumble out the park gates, trudge up the Monorail ramp, and stagger away away away from there for all time.

I don’t think there really is any middle ground.

It could be this:

Or it could be this:

The Omen

My optimism wanes as the hour grows near.

Why are we doing this, anyway?

Because it’s fun, dammit.

And as for Jay … he’s out of luck. Toon Town’s closed down. He’ll have to settle for Pirates of the Caribbean and singing mechanical birds. He can slide on his own time.

UPDATE:

In a word … beatific.

More next time, but suffice to say my fears were unfounded.

An Open Cover Letter to the Delta Beta Fraternity

Dear Brothers of the Ancient and Illustrious Fraternal Order of Daddy Bloggers (ΔB):

Salutations. Let me begin by expressing my deep and sincere admiration for your esteemed organization. I confess I have never been a joiner, but after exhaustive research conducted over the course of several minutes I have concluded that the Delta Betas are my kind of people.

In short: I want in. Let me clarify: if you’ll have me.

What makes me think I’m Delta Beta material? Let me enumerate:

1. I’m a dad.

2. I have a WordPress blog.

3. I used to be a sportswriter.

Granted, only two out of those three qualities actually apply. But considering the army of applicants I’m sure you’re considering for membership, I decided to include one colorful detail in my cover letter to burnish my credentials.

Did it work? Can I become a ΔB?

Oh. I see. So, that’s how it’s going to be.

Well, perhaps I should add that I can recite the dialogue (verbatim) of every episode of Phineas and Ferb. I know from the pirated copy of the 2012 ΔB Handbook that I found on Twitter that this skill is required for consideration by your august body, so maybe I should have listed it among my qualifications to begin with. But also? In my car’s CD player RIGHT NOW is Volume I of the Phineas and Ferb soundtrack.

That’s how I deciphered the ultra-secret ΔB password: Bow-chicka-bow-wow. And furthermore: Gitchi-gitchi-goo.

I’m sure you’re impressed. I know my wife was.

But why? Why would anyone willingly seek the peril of life on the front lines of daddy blogging? What kind of imbecile would actually choose to forego a peaceful life of solitude, broken only by the constant din of bedtime wailing and playtime bickering between my kindergartener and preschooler?

THIS kind of imbecile, evidently.

To be frank, my future ΔB brothers (fingers crossed!), I need the creative outlet. As I might have mentioned earlier, I used to be a sportswriter. That meant I worked nights and weekends, and I traveled – a lot. It was the best of jobs. It was the worst of jobs. But mostly, it was a job that allowed me to go to games and write about them.

It wasn’t really that simple, of course. Sometimes the games got rained out. But for 24 years, there was always another game to go to. Now? My boys know nothing of that life. That’s good, in a way, because I believe the life of a sportswriter is not compatible with being a daddy. Some guys can do it. I don’t know how they cope with missing so much of their kids’ lives, but they do it and apparently are none the worse for it. Apparently.

Anyway.

It’s also bad that my sons don’t know anything about that part of my life. Because man, it was cool being a sportswriter. If there’s one thing I miss, it’s that sense of BEING THERE. I want them to know what it was like for me to have BEEN THERE for so long. I’m glad they aren’t exposed to it now, because otherwise I couldn’t be HERE for them the way I want to be. The way I need to be.

But one day, they’ll care about what I did before they came along, just like I care about my dad’s hell-raising days in the `60s as the lead guitarist for the Stones. At least, I think that’s what he did. Yeah, I’m sure that was it.

Do you see, though, future ΔB brothers? I come to you in all humility, hoping you will allow me to join your ranks in order to share stories with my young sons (and you, my ΔB brethren, as well as anyone else who accidently stumbles across www.dadscribe.com) about my life as a sportswriter, and how it might (or might not) have shaped me prior to fatherhood.

Or something.

How, exactly, is my old life connected to today?

Um. Aw, hell. I don’t know. Never mind.

Sincerely,

DadScribe