Perfect Birthday

Wake up 5:30am.

Practice yoga and seated meditation (listen to my body speak to me in a chorus of creaking sounds).

Take out dogs (Spike, who knows the sound of my meditation timer jumps on me and licks my face when it rings its ending zen tone).

Make M-ito’s breakfast (challah bread with peanut butter, strawberries, glass of milk) while Mom-ita tries to wake him up and get him out of bed (I have the easier job by far – but then it is my birthday).

My son gives me a birthday hug. Ahhhhh…

Make my tea (English breakfast with honey and milk) and take first sip.

Drive M-ito to  school while talking about books for half the trip (Mom-ita told him he had to talk to me – sigh – for half of the trip before he started to read which is what he usually does on the car ride in).

Realize I forgot M-ito’s cleats at home. Plan return trip in my head and call Mom-ita to prepare her for early journey back.

Come home.

Drive back with Mom-ita to M-ito’s school to drop off cleats.

Go to Dolphin Bookstore and order the perfect latte.

Order Andrew Smith’s new book, Passenger (arrival in two days) for me.

Write two new pages of WIP (I am Nobody).

Pick up M-ito early at school so we can watch him practice lacrosse. He is awesome. The coach speaks and my son listens. It never works that way with me. Ahhhhhh.

Drive to Starbucks. M-ito does homework. I shop for new messenger bag… and order it from Timbuk2. Ahhhhh…

Take M-ito to Tae Kwon Do and write while he kicks and punches his way towards his black belt.

Drive home.

Feed and take out very appreciative dogs.

Order in from Louies Pizza (Margarita with chicken).

Read Andrew Smith’s King of Marbury (absolutely awesome).

Check Facebook birthday wishes. Overwhelmingly sweet.

Watch presidential debates and try not to scream or throw things at the TV (Go Obama!).

Sleep.

Time to Do, Time to Be (dobedobedo)

 

Time

Do Be Do Be Do

The clock is ticking.

My son is in Fifth grade and part of the fifth grade experience at his school is to play on two team sports during the year. He shall receive the team experience one way or the other. M-ito enjoys playing soccer but it is not, at this point in his life, his thing. Other sports are, though they’re mostly individual sports so in some ways I’m glad he’s playing a team sport so he gets the experience. His life, I hope, will be richer for it.

Team sports were a big part of my growing up so I see their value (even if I also see their horror – oh the horror!).

What this means is this summer I had a fatherhood crisis of sorts. Because I could see it coming. M-ito would be playing games during the week in addition to his usual after-school activities (taekwondo, art, play). Then back in June my son said…

M-ito – Why do you work all the time?

Me – I don’t work all the time.

M-ito – Yes you do. Even on vacation.

Me – Oh.

Mom-ita – Sage nod of her head.

What do I work at besides attempting to be a dad and partner to my wife? My day job as a Director of Training at a not-for-profit in Manhattan. I do some consulting work in the same field also. I teach yoga two-three classes a week. I write when I can (these days during lunch) and try to keep up with the marketing of my book.

How was I going to make time to see games? I didn’t know.

I’d stopped teaching stage fencing a few years before, because I didn’t have time. I still miss that very much. Then I started teaching yoga. I know, I know. It’s a long story for another time. But I did teacher training and started teaching when M-ito was 4. Five and a half years of teaching later…

Last one in, first one out. It was simple, really. Just like an accounting system.

Hollow Space – Part II

BUNK BED $198

Drop off was hard, but we did it. We met two families for lunch earlier in a town near the camp and the boys had a chance to talk, fool around, and settle their nerves. Us adults sat, smiled at each other, and made small-talk. Some of the adults were veterans and a few of us were newbies.

At the camp we were too late to get a bottom bunk. We’d been early but not early enough. This doesn’t seem like a big deal at first glance but M-ito was a little freaked out by the closeness of the tent roof to the bed and the challenge of getting up into the bunk without a ladder. He’s never been in a bunk bed before.

Mom-ita came to the rescue. M-ito said it was okay, but I could tell it wasn’t. He was holding himself together the best he could but this was unravelling him. Mom-ita set to work. M-ito and I went to get the mosquito netting while Mom-ita wrangled with the counselors to see how our son could end up on a bottom bunk. His tent was the only one with all four bottom bunks taken. He was the fifth one to arrive.

This kind of thing always happens to me when I travel. I get a room with a brick wall outside my window, or a dumpster, or soiled carpet of a suspicious nature, or my reservation is missing, or it was for the following week. Sometimes these things happen to M-ito too.

On the way to get the netting. M-ito said, “Why do these things always happen to me?”

I didn’t know what to answer. “Mom-ita will take care of it. Have faith,” I said.

Two weeks of build-up was showing on his face. We sprinted a few times on the way to the store as if he needed to burn off something and leave it behind.

“I don’t think I can get up onto that top bunk,” he said softly, his head down, his hands in his pockets. “There’s a pin on the ceiling of one that will probably poke me in the head or take my eye out. And did you see the graffiti above the other beds? It’s creepy.”

“Let’s see what Mom-ita can do to fix things,” I said. “Have faith.”

We got the netting and slogged back up the path to the tents of the 10-11 year olds. Mom-ita was at another tent talking to a new counselor. M-ito’s things had been moved. “You’re over here now,” she said, “Bottom bunk.” His friend had switched with him, bottom for top, tent for tent. This was his second year at the camp so he was a veteran and didn’t mind.

M-ito’s face lit up.

We said goodbye and he ran off, leading a new boy who had the bunk above him whom he’d just met, to the camp store. I wanted to hold him a while, tell him I loved him again, but he needed to go.

I have a hollow space in the center of my chest. It’s amazing how I could find a true smile as he left and feel such sadness at the same time.

Now it’s time to look for his picture in the daily photo gallery. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

Lacrosse – Sideline Observer

I swear I was only watching my son play lacrosse. It was just past the midpoint of the second day of lacrosse camp and over 90 degrees again. I was baking so I knew the boys must have been feeling the heat. The boys were just finishing up a water break and four kids from the older group were sitting and fiddling with their pads. M-ito was out with the less experienced and younger group. Two boys asked me to help snap their helmets on.

One boy, frustrated, asked me, “Why can’t I snap these on? All the other kids can do it. Why can’t I?”

“Keep at it,” I said, snapping first one side then another. “You’ll get the hang of it.”

“And why do you need a chin-strap anyway? It doesn’t do anything,” he added.

“First it protects your chin. Second it keeps your helmet on,” I said.

“Protect it from what? Nothing can reach in there.”

“You never know,” I said, tapped his helmet and sent him on his way. “go get ’em.”

After a few minutes there were only two boys left. I turned around and asked the closest one if he needed help getting his pads on. “No,” he said shrugging and letting his shoulders sag forward.

“Did you drink enough water?” I asked noting the red face.

He nodded, took a big breath in and played with the grass for a few moments.

I went back to watching M-ito. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the boy put his helmet on, snap the straps, and stand up. He hesitated a moment as if deciding whether or not he was going to play or leave, then, head lowered, moved slowly towards the pack of boys in the older group.

The last boy I went over to, to see if he needed help also. I couldn’t help myself.

“My elbow pads don’t fit,” he said as soon as I came over to him. I started to adjust his straps for him and fit the velcro. I tried to help him a few times and each time he said they hurt too much and pulled them off. The velcro wasn’t working. Then he threw them onto the ground.

“You all right?” I asked.

“I’m not good at this and none of my equipment fits. My shoulder pads don’t cover my shoulders, they’re too big and these elbow pads hurt. And I keep trying but I’m no good at this game.”

“That’s what camp’s for – to help you get better –”

“I’m better at baseball. I don’t play this well and I’m not getting better.” His voice lowered to almost a whisper. “I don’t want to hurt anyone either.”

“You don’t have to hurt anyone to play.” I hesitated a moment. “In a good game there’s not so much checking,” I said. “Some of the kids get carried away here. A good team passes the ball a lot and moves the ball up the field that way so there’s not as much contact. You don’t have to hurt anyone when you play.”

He nodded and stood up. “Nothing fits,” he said and walked off to join the pack. I went back to watching M-ito play.

Revisiting Day 1 of Lacrosse camp

Just to put things in perspective. On a gut level I knew the coach working with M-ito was not very good from the moment I saw him. It was the nervous energy and the swinging of the lacrosse stick around and around that was the clue. He was posturing and that’s never a a good thing for a coach to do. The flips, the shooting at the goal himself after telling the kids not to shoot, the no guidelines for checking, the no seeing if the kid who was wiped out was okay – all came after. On a practical level, it took me all day to figure out the details of why that was so and why it would be good for M-ito to play with the younger less experienced group. Mom-ita knew instinctively what was what from the moment I started explaining the day to her. The first thing I said was, “It was okay overall… ” She knew. She trusts her belly barometer more than I do. And she knows me. I minimize and she zero’s in.

Lacrosse Camp – Day One

9:15am

Momita and I are driving out to Long Island for lacrosse camp – day one. M-ito is in the back seat all geared up. We’ve got shoulder pads, shin guards, cleats, helmet, stick, and mouthpiece. We hear a knocking sound, like a knuckle on wood. It’s the sound of M-ito knocking on his cup. It’s his first one and he’s been fascinated by it ever since he put it on.

“This is so cool. Can you imagine if you got hit super hard with a ball right here?”

“It would hurt,” I say from the front seat.

M-ito ignores me and keeps knocking on his plastic cup.

I can’t remember the first time I wore one, but it was probably when I was seven and played my first year of football. I don’t remember it being anything fun to explore. But for my son – it is.

Knock, knock, knock.

9:55am

All the parents have pulled out, the moms, the dads, the aunts and uncles. There’s thirty kids and three coaches, and me. M-ito goes with the older kids, sixteen in all and one of the coaches. the younger group goes with the two other coaches. I talk to one coach about my son and how new he is but the coach assures me they’ll figure out his skill level and put him in the right group soon enough. M-ito’s friend from school is four months younger and goes with the younger group.

I last sitting on the sidelines for half an hour, watching the young man with a lot of energy but not a lot of skills when it comes to keeping sixteen rambunctious kids of all different skill levels occupied, try to coach them through some drills. He’s young enough to still try and show off, doing back flips to impress the boys. He yells a lot and is constantly trying to get the kids in line. But he’s alone and doing drills with one boy going at a time leaves too many idle. That means fifteen are waiting around looking for something to do while they wait on line. That’s trouble waiting to happen. The temperature is high, already over ninety degrees. When he ends a drill I yell, “Water break,” and the coach says, “Good idea. Go get some water!” As he passes me I offer to help. “I’m going to be here all day so if you need any help, I’ll be glad to. Just tell me what to do.” The young man hesitates a second, then says, “Sure.”

I walk on to the field and I hear my son say, “Why does it have to be you?”

I know he’s talking about me and it stings but a Dad-dito’s gotta do what a Dad-dito’s gotta do. I get placed on a line and tell the kids to shoot on goal when they get to me while they’re doing drills. I tell kids to chase the ball they threw past the goal. I ask kids to get in line. I help them put on helmets , snap chin straps, put on elbow guards, put on mesh jerseys, hand out oranges to the kids who want them because I brought extras. I tap each one on the helmet when I’m done helping them with their equipment and tell them to “go.” One boy makes two comments about girls that are as old and sexist as they come. Some of the kids laugh. The coach asks him to watch his mouth the first time. The second time I go over to him on water break, tap him on the shoulder, point his face up to me a few inches away, and quietly say, “I don’t ever want to hear that language again. You understand?” The boy looks at me then nods and looks away. I tap him on the helmet and he keeps his mouth shut the rest of the day.

Mostly I keep my mouth shut and watch, do what the coach tells me to do and try to make sure no one gets hurt.

M-ito does well in the drills, is tentative in the skirmishes as he should be as a first timer, needs help on where to position himself on the field  on both offense and defense but the coach is hot and tired and hasn’t explained the rules or any team tactics so he along with the other inexperienced kids are left to guess. I shout some suggestions during the scrimmage. “Spread out. Pass to the open man. Some concepts are the same no matter what sport.” Maybe the tactics talk will come tomorrow. There is one kid who knocks another kid down, cleans his clock actually. It was uncalled for and done not while he was going for the ball. He’s made to take a lap. He head checks another kid a few minutes later and I see it but the coach doesn’t. I let it go even though there are words between the players. It’s the same kid I talked to about his mouth earlier. That one’s trouble.

The first day of camp ends in a deep sweat with the kids getting hosed off with a power washer and the coach glad his first day is over. I wonder what he’s got in store for tomorrow. I talk to Mom-ita and we both agree M-ito ‘s going in the younger group with the newer players tomorrow. He argues at first, but his friend convinces him. He signed up to play with his friend in the first place and it’s a good reason to play with the other two coaches, who seemed to be a little more adept at what they were doing.

1:31pm

Gino’s Pizza and M-ito and his friend are laughing and fooling around, tickling each other and chomping their pizza alternately. The air conditioner is on. It’s 96 degrees outside. They both said they had a good time and want to go back tomorrow for more.

I hear it’s supposed to rain.

At least it’ll be cooler.