On Glasses of Wine, Sippy Cups of Juice, and Moments of a Lifetime

Everyone can remember moments in their lives, some even recently, where we’ve been touched or moved in way outside of our normal day to day routine.  I’m an emotional person, often times wearing my heart on my sleeve.  Because of this, I’m often in tune with emotional things – sometimes even hearing the right song on the radio can put me in an emotional state (or make me tear up – I’ll admit it).  I react both very positively and very negatively to my own emotional triggers.  When I hit a positive emotional trigger, I often reach a sense of euphoria – where I find myself wanting to write down my immediate thoughts or feelings in the form of words.  Often, especially as of lately (hence the slow blog posts – sorry, I’ll do better), I have not had the luxury to do just that.  But I’ll sure try to make up for it here:

Moment Number One – A True Valentines Day Experience

My wife and I have been married now for over two years, going on 3 in October.  I love her in more ways than what I can count.  However, what I can count is the times we’ve actually been able to work on our relationship just one on one – or together (see Webster dictionary for “dating”).  With three children – or the process thereof of having three children of the last years – it’s been almost impossible to find that time or be rewarded with it, especially given the fact we normally can’t find or afford a babysitter for all three children. We’ve literally gone almost a half of a year without a date before – meaning literally just a two hour dinner with just the two of us.  Thanks to my Mother, who came out for a visit and to help with the kids, we were awarded the opportunity this Valentines Day.  What made it kind of unique for me, is given that we’ve spent so little one-on-one time together; I was actually nervous as I would have been for a 2nd or 3rd date.  I wanted things to go right, I wanted to savor every moment of our time together, as I fully knew the next opportunity would not be for quite some time.

What I realized, as I sat across from my wife at the restaurant and she giggled at me for messing up our wine order (apparently your supposed to let them pour for you, and not go over half a glass -oops) – as she grabbed my hand and smiled… Was that even if I had met this woman yesterday – or for that matter, today – I’d still fall in love with her, still marry her, still have a family with her. I literally looked across from the table at my wife, and in a quick private moment, I was given the divine assurance that this woman was indeed my soul mate – the love of my life.  I felt lucky. I had gotten so caught in the routine, so caught in the pressures of family, children, and duty – that I had not previously seen the obvious. I fell back in love with my wife that night.

Moment Number Two – Discovering Parenting Has Insurmountable Emotions

If you ever want to know what it’s like to go through a true emotional roller-coaster – and not just the one where you might be having a bad day type of roller-coaster… Do the following: 1). Walk your toddler back for surgery. 2) Wait in a waiting room for 3 hours. 3) Walk back to the recovery, and view your baby sound asleep, holding his hand as he wakes up.

My 19th month old went in for a minor surgery – nothing life threatening, but necessary.  In order to perform the 2 hour procedure, they had to put him under general anesthesia.  I literally thought I’d be OK with this, but by the time they gave him the medicine to calm him down – I wanted the medicine as well.  For at that moment, I was entirely trusting the life of my son to strangers I had met that morning.  Moreover, I watched as my toddler really DIDN’T freak out – which in turn freaked ME out, because I realized at that moment he was so trusting in me – so trusting that I would not let him go somewhere or for someone to do something bad, that he remained calmer than I did.  I realized in that moment, that I had managed to create a bond with a child who literally thinks that Dad (and Mom) were always going to make sure things were okay.

So as I sat in the waiting room, I realized something that almost made me hyperventilate.  What if I can’t always make sure things are okay? What happens when he does get hurt? When someone breaks his heart? When he falls and I’m not there to catch him? Will I lose that bond I’ve managed to create? What if he wakes up from surgery and doesn’t trust me for what I’ve done – will he understand? When will he stop trusting me?  Will I eventually break this “faith of a child”? Will I be the one responsible for tearing away his innocence?

I couldn’t stand the pressure.  I barely talked to my wife in the waiting room.  We both sat there, silently praying and fidgeting, hoping our little guy was okay.  Right about the moment I thought I could not take the questions running through my mind anymore, the nurse called us back.  I think God was listening to my questions, because he managed to not necessarily answer them out loud immediately in the waiting room moments before.  Instead, he let me see my child open his eyes and ask for juice and Teddy Grahms in his baby sign language and groggy baby vocabulary of “MoreHa,” “Cupa,” and “Puhleez”.

So God did answer, a little voice in my head whispered something back – Juice and Teddy Grahms. I just need to stock up on juice and Teddy Grahms – Grantin his eyes, in this moment – that’s what it’s gonna take..

Alright God! You and me,  we’ve got it under control. Today I’m a hero with a Sippy cup and a snack. And today?

Well today’s all that matters.

– Grant

On Finding Haiti on the side of the road..

Yesterday, coming home from work late, I had to pick up some vegetables and some medication. These two seemingly mundane tasks turned into a powerful life thought experiment.  I had two stops on my normal 35 minute commute home, all with the added bonus of hearing my poor wife’s exasperation on the phone of  “When are you going to be home,” as I hear three unruly children in the background wanting, crying, and destroying the overall entropy of the household. I’m convinced that after 6 PM, our children turn in were-children (although without the sudden hairy growth and fangs). I was growing close to not getting home before one of the children (if not all) become aware of the full moon and fully embraced their chaotic side, leaving nothing but destruction and time-outs in their immediate future.

It seems as though, in those moments we are often challenged by the big guy himself (or at least me). After making a marathon run-stop at the Fresh Market for stir fry vegetable goodness (organic of course), I was five minutes from my house, on my way to one of the 8 CVS’s that exist within a 15 mile radius.  I’m really not exaggerating.  You’re more likely to find a CVS on the north side of Indianapolis than you are a gas station. Anyways, as I drove to my last stop (after promising my wife I’d really, really hurry after my second phone calling and hearing what sounded like the beginnings of howling in the background) I noticed a guy about 19-20ish on the side of the road, stranded outside his stranded beater-car waving at oncoming traffic.

He looked scraggly, in sweats. Unkempt, kind of strange and not very trustworthy.  I did what the 7 cars in front of me did.  I drove on.

But I really couldn’t end my blog post there if I didn’t have a change of heart or sanity.  So reluctantly, 1 mile before my final stop of the evening, and almost a mile from the stranded strange guy, I hit my breaks, pulled a U-turn, and grumbling under my breath – I turned back to the kid.  Parking some safe (in my mind, i guess) 5 car distance away, I walked up the motorist.

He apparently noticed me, and was already running to me. That kind of made me nervous.  He proceeded to tell me he’d been waving down traffic for about an hour, as he had ran out of gas. I told him that was strange, because he did not LOOK like a serial killer.  He chuckled.  Then I asked him if he WAS a serial killer.  He said no.  I started to think to myself if I had a good escape plan or something in my car to use as a weapon if he tried to subdue me.  I made the thought go away, as I do a lot of my thoughts that scare me.

I asked him if he’d like for me to take him to the gas station a mile down the road.  He sheepishly told me he would have walked to one, if it was not for the fact that he had no money left.

Great -ugh. I pulled out my wallet.  I had three dollar bills.  I never carry cash. Like, never.  I told him he was welcome to it, and to hop in the car and we’d borrow a gas can and get him going.  We did.

Along the 6 minutes he was in my car there and on the way back he proceeded to tell me his life story.  How he’d gotten into some trouble, had finally gotten an apartment, a job, and was going to school to be an auto mechanic.  I told him before he could go on working on how to fix the cars, he should probably look into first making sure he kept gas in them.  Sometimes, I guess, I think I’m a comedian.  Anyways, he got the gas, I dropped him off.  He gave me a fist bump. He got out of my car. Filled his, and drove off.

He was thankful, but did not make a huge deal about being thankful.  I was actually myself thankful for that.  People that over thank make me uncomfortable.  As I drove on to my destination, only about 12 minutes off course, I started to wonder about all the people that really did pass him up.  I then started to wonder if these were the same people that “texted” their 10 dollar donation to the Haiti relief fund.  I started to wonder if those were the same people, that if given the “safe opportunity” would have “texted” the kid stranded on the side of the road, hard on his luck for whatever reason, 5 dollars to get some gas. You know, so they did not have to talk to him or anything. Don’t engage. Don’t get involved. Just send money.

But that’s kind of ridiculous isn’t it? He needed more than 5 dollars.  He needed someone to give him a ride.  Someone to take him 3 miles after the round trip in the 23 degree weather.  He needed someone to hear his 12 minute life story, and someone to crack a joke with.  Sending him 5 dollars in a care package would not have done that, even if it was someone famous handing it to him.  In fact, I’d argue it would have done him little or no good.  Bottom line – what he needed was someone to get involved.

So why are we (me included) so reluctant to get involved, to engage?  Why are we willing to sniffle at a Haiti star-studded telethon donation television special, but not step up and actually DO something?  I hear over and over again America is a generous nation, that we constantly give – and I’m not disputing that.  But when did I (we) start thinking it was okay to just send another organization a check? I understand these organizations NEED funds, but do these people that ultimately receive this money REALLY want JUST money?

Or do they want a gas tank, a ride, a light hearted conversation, a fist bump, and then maybe five dollars?

I don’t know.  But it sure made me think.

– Grant

On turning 27 and Goggles in the bathtub…

So Saturday was my birthday.  It’s really entertaining to me, that as we gain another year older, it seemingly becomes less and less significant. However much of a great experience my birthday weekend was, I’m one of those people that has quiet revelations outside of the norm.

My daughter Emma was astounded – astounded, mind you – that I was not having a party with cake.  In the world of a six year old, not having cake at a birthday party is like not having a toy in the happy meal.  You just don’t do it.  I was more than content with the Hodge-podge of events that did surround my birthday – such as one of my closest friends taking me out to a comedy show and consumption of a collection of different beers at the downtown Irish Pub.  Or the “put the kids to bed early” take out Chinese dinner with the wife. When you turn 27, I guess you become easier to please.  And I’m just fine with that change of events. Sorry Emma, no cake. Except that takeout cheesecake from Cheese Cake Factory.  But you don’t know about that :-).

While I struggled to find writing material in my increasingly “normal” birthday festivities, I was quite amused and touched with something that happened to me during my get-ready-for-work-half-awake ritual Friday morning.  Normally, I take a shower in the bathroom outside of the master bathroom to allow my wife that 10 minutes of extra precious sleep she’ll get till the kids hear the door swing open as I leave for work.  In doing so, as I stepped into the shower I about broke my foot on a pair of pink child’s Speedo goggles I’d purchased my daughter the previous year on a vacation where the hotel had a pool (side note – want to impress a child under the age of 10? skip the money of Florida – take them to a hotel with a pool, apparently that’s simply AMAZING.. ooh to be young again..).  After a brief string of obscenities (yes, better left unsaid I’m sure – but I am human), I found myself touched and full of laughter – which turned into a great morning at work.

Why? Because there were goggles in the bathtub, that’s why.  Barely enough water to even submerge yourself in the standard issue bathtub,and my daughter evidently was on her own little Discovery Channel adventure.  Silly? Of course. Delightful? Absolutely.  So as I pondered and considered what was going through her imagination and play I asked myself a simple question – when was the last time I had goggles in my bathtub?

OK, not literally.  But figuratively, when was the last time I gave up reality for imagination?

Seriousness for silliness? When was the last time I was able to diverge from the path of adulthood – which tells us over and over again – goggles are for swiming, snorkeling, diving – not the bathtub?  When did the world get the opportunity to tell us such behavior was not okay? Or worse yet – when will my daughter find out that’s “just silly” and “we don’t do that…”

I hope never.  I hope she keeps that alive, the world needs more of that. We need more of that.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go wear my racing helmet to bed.

– Grant