Defending Dads

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Category: Relay for Life of Phillipsburg Series

Relay For Life of Phillipsburg III – It’s Goin’ Down

Once Joscelyn and I were able to pull Julien off the computer, it was time to hit the street. My head is going in countless directions at once, so the sequence of events got kind of crazy. While the kids were preparing themselves for our day, I whipped up a few batches of weed killer and went to work in the front and back yards. Imagine: life long Bronx boy trying to kill weeds as opposed to smoking them. Anyway, the kids got themselves together and off we went.

You talk about pride? Forget it. I found myself wiping away tears. What a day. And we pretty much improvised it all.

Spontaneity is the spice of life, baby. I had general guidelines of what I thought we could do, but no specific destination. We drove over the border to Phillipsburg, New Jersey where gas is 25 cents per gallon cheaper than in Pennsylvania. They have a couple of parks there, too. Cheap gas, clean parks. What could go wrong?

We grabbed some sandwiches for a picnic, then stumbled across a cancer benefit taking place at the Phillipsburg High School football stadium, the Relay For Life. Music, games, food and a worthy cause…pay dirt. We parked, unloaded and set up.

I had thrown their bikes into the minivan in the event they wanted to ride. For once, they did. They specifically asked to ride. More than that, they took hills! Of course, with hills come spills, but they took their lumps without immediately calling for medical attention. I kissed and rubbed the boo-boos, offered some biking advice and life moved on. I was blown away. Previously, I often had to encourage them, especially Juice, to do what came naturally to my generation. Heck, when no one was available to teach me to ride, I taught myself! Kids today? For them, physical activity is — er — not always convenient. Not yesterday.

There’s nothing unusual about kids having fun on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but here’s the thing: Wings seemed to sprout from their backs and did they ever spread!

We had our picnic. After the kids wolfed down their sandwiches, as James Brown would say, they got on up, got into it and got involved! I watched in awe as they independently took part in the activities. Joss signed up for karaoke. Juice joined a pick up kickball game. They each got into conversations with the organizers. They asked questions about the causes of cancer and what they could do to help find a cure. Juice even drew anti-cancer posters and left them at the registration desk. The confidence. The maturity. The grace. My God.

You talk about pride? Forget it. I found myself wiping away tears. What a day. And we pretty much improvised it all.

Relay For Life of Phillipsburg II – The Setup

Breakfast went down easy. Then, there were questions.

Very qualified people have talked with the kids and me about our futures. I have received excellent guidance on how best to bond with and help the kids live up to their potential. In my son Julien’s case, it’s been suggested that we figure out what most interests him and let him dive head first into it.

I asked if he had interest in any particular after school activity and his answer about put me down laughing: “Anything that doesn’t involve me going to the hospital”, he said. Turns out he’s into working with digital imagery. Little chance he’ll wind up in a hospital finagling with images on a loaded iMac, though bearing the cost of such a box might send me there.

In the past, I tried to bond with Juice the old fashioned way; I taught him how to throw and catch a football. Though he’s definitely got skills with the pigskin, he’s not really into the game. Oh well.

I asked if he had interest in any particular after school activity and his answer about put me down laughing: “Anything that doesn’t involve me going to the hospital”, he said. Turns out he’s into working with digital imagery. Little chance he’ll wind up in a hospital finagling with images on a loaded iMac, though bearing the cost of such a box might send me there.

He asked me to install Paint.net, a freeware kind of Photoshop, onto my laptop for his use. What? Done! Once the software was installed, Juice expressed to me exactly what he wanted to do. I showed him a few things and he picked up on them immediately. Eureka.

Juice dived so deeply into his work, it took half an hour to bring him back to surface. The next step is to help him channel that passion into other critical areas of his life. We can do this. And yet, there is more…

Relay For Life of Phillipsburg

This morning, my eyes popped open from a dead sleep at about 5:45. HBO was running a marathon of Six Feet Under, one of its groundbreaking original series. I turned it on and was immediately reminded why it was must-see back in the day.

I kept checking the clock because I knew time was short. You see, the kids were here and the second they knew I was conscious, they would be downstairs to crawl over me like ants and commandeer the remote.

Once they get bored with SpongeBob SquarePants reruns and treating me like part of the futon, their thoughts turn to breakfast and what we’re going to do after. Typically, that would not be a problem. They are great company and tend to brighten any room they enter. This morning, though, I had things on my mind. The path I have chosen is not an easy one and my struggles have darkened many a dawn, this one included. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to do a Saturday with the kids. The thing is, I don’t get many. I gotta make ’em count. Nine o’clock fast approached. I hadn’t yet heard any thumping on the floorboards, but a parent knows. The kids were awake and awaiting my signal that the day had begun.

I have told people forever that though I am not religious, I do believe in a higher power. It’s mornings like this that confirm my faith.

Crippling doubt that I could handle a whole day of the daddy thing kept my butt glued to the futon and my eyes to the screen. I thought of them waiting for me and I asked for the strength to stand up and engage my children. Some might call it a prayer. Within seconds, I was overcome with a burst of energy. I stood up and a plan for the day materialized in my mind as if a flash drive had been inserted into my frontal lobe. I went upstairs, the kids heard me stomping about and the calls for “Dad!” started to rain down. I was ready, but even I was surprised at just how ready…

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