and so on and so on until forever

Forever ago, I remember Washington state and the pouring rain, the heaviest still of the trip thus far. It’s where I discovered the roof leak at the front passenger side of the cab, the leak I fixed long ago in what feels like another, different adventure.

We walked on the beach, out along a natural strand of sandstone jetty, picking through tidepools. We ate dinner out less, cooked mostly in the RV, something we’ve agreed we want to go back to… as it feels better.

We got cheap gas at a casino on the border and got better at the setup and teardown with each successive night. We walked miles of gorgeous bike trails because Cohen wasn’t as proficient as he is today. Today he could ride.

School for the kids felt more formal, we planned further in advance and they were more respectful and offered less protest. I’d like to get back to this, too. School has become difficult and a bit dreadful, we can do better.

That rainy day we walked through the lava tubes, underground and safe from the rain. I can remember it clearly but it really does feel like another time. I like that, that the trip’s appreciable enough to have memories that feel an age ago.

And now, in my brain that loves to segment things, we’re starting the next phase. Exploring far South into Florida, coming back up north and east, and then switch-backing our way through the middle of the country, ratcheting north by latitudes as the weather permits.

Soon I’ll remember this Christmas part of the trip through gauze like the rainy day in the lava tubes in Washington, and the lava tubes will be another epoch obscured.

And so on and so on until forever as far as I’m concerned.

Goodnight, love ya.

detox

I feel better, in almost every regard, when my phone is not with me and I’m unable to compulsively pull it from my pocket to check it or waste my time staring at it, seeing nothing else around me.

I’m realizing the strength of the attachment I have to this device, how addicted I am to it, how much of my time and free-thought I allow it to rob me of. It’s not the device that’s evil, it’s me and the priority I give it, the time I sacrifice to it.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it yet. I talked to Sharaun and she gets too practical too fast: “So what are you willing to do about it? Nothing will change unless you do something different.” Will yeah, duh… it sounds easy when you make it all simple like that…

But, what am I willing to do about it?

I’ve found what works best for me is not having any access to the device. I’ve tried time limiting apps and Google’s built-in Wellbeing tools, but it’s the physical removal of the device from my goings-on that actually gets me back into reality – I need it gone, not just locked-down.

I want to get away from it in day increments. Never even once pick it up, sunrise to sunrise. That’s my intent. I love being able to be in instant communication with people, but waiting a day or two is fine.

Gotta fix this. Life is moving fast enough that I can’t give it any additional advantage by letting it slip by around me as I stare into a phone.

Goodnight then.

bunkbed bonfire

Tonight we sat around the fire at our campsite, one of several small clearings hewn from the tropical jungle that pressed thick around us, ever-growing, inches by the hour, perhaps made habitable just for us, cleared long enough for our weekend reservation, then promptly to again be swallowed-up by hanging vine and saw palmetto and tall, Spanish-moss-drenched, oak, the whole thing entirely absorbed back into Florida overnight, consumed.

It was in a place very much like this, a clearing deep in a thick Florida forest, that I can recall attending my magical coming of age ceremony. A very physical rendition of death and rebirth; a transmogrification, from youth into adulthood: a bunkbed bonfire.

I must have been about fifteen when I asked my parents if I could get rid of the bunkbeds I had long had (bunkbeds just for me, not shared, don’t know why) and upgrade to a waterbed (all the rage at the time). For whatever reason, they assented, and my old bunkbed was moved out back alongside the house to be trashed.

Don’t know who had the idea, but suspect it was me. The bedframe was massive, tall, wooden. It took the three or four of us a good while to chop it into pieces small enough to fit into wheelbarrows and wagons. It was so much wood. We used our bikes, and many trips back and forth, to cart it, splintered and still ridden with nails and staples, across the subdivision to Kyle’s place. There, we piled it to be caravanned once more into our campground.

We then moved that entire chopped-up bunkbed, the very cradle of my youth, by hand the final quarter-mile of trail, bushwhacked by us with machetes, from Kyle’s uncle’s backyard out to the little sandy-bottom clearing where we often camped on the weekends and in the summer.

And then it was there: The bed that I’d read all the Hardy Boys and Ramona Quimby books on. The bed that I’d taped pictures of women in lingerie I’d clipped from the JC Penney catalog to. The bed where I’d awaken from nightmares so terrified I couldn’t make myself scream for mom. The bed I’d had forever. Now just a pile of sharp sticks; tinder, fuel.

And that night we burned it in a large hole we’d dug with shovels, a burm of displaced dirt ringing the thing. Piece by piece, early into the morning, we reduced that childhood heirloom entirely to plasma and heat and smoke and soot and ash. Gone; burned; offered to the Gods in exchange for facial hair and a learner’s permit. One childhood: well-done, extra-crispy, blackened.

And so passed the era of the bunkbed and thus began the era of the waterbed. Fine epochs both, to be sure, but the latter with far more sexual energy than the former.

A funeral pyre, a bier for my childhood, adolescence chief pallbearer.

left behind

Cohen hasn’t quite mastered riding a bike yet.

OK, so he can ride his bike… meaning he’s mostly able to stay up once he’s up, but he struggles mightily with the starting and stopping. So every time he wants to get going he needs the tiniest little push from someone. (Actually, he doesn’t really need any forward momentum, he just needs the bike held stable for the smallest of moments so he can get his foot around and get going, but he doesn’t realize this and thinks he needs the push-start.)

He was a late learner to begin with, never really showed that much interest. For a while a had a lot of “dad guilt” about it, actually. Maybe I hadn’t spent enough “man time” with him, hadn’t spurred him on, maybe I’d failed to impart just how much independence and freedom betting able to ride a bike lends to a kid. I mean, I never taught him to throw or catch, either… maybe I’m screwing up all the father stuff.

Wait, this is not about me and where my ego is thin when held to the West’s toxic version of masculinity, let’s move on.

Anyway, we’re camping with the cousins on Jacksonville beach this weekend and all the kids are biking. Zooming around the campground loops, bombing down the sandy Florida hills, conveying themselves to the beach or wherever they please. They’re all starting and stopping and riding and not crashing…

And Cohen wants so badly to participate, to be part of the crew, to run with them – but he can’t keep up. Oh, guys, I’m telling you it’s positively heartbreaking for me to watch his spirits flag as he realizes they’re leaving him behind because he had to stop and now must wait for a push to get going again. I swear I’m experiencing his frustration and sadness myself, maybe moreso than he is.

Worse, he lets this frustration morph into an absolute fit, a breakdown of tears and anger and lashing out at anything he can blame. A root, a speedbump or pothole, a sister riding to close astride… anything will do as long as it’s not the fact that he just hasn’t got it mastered yet. Sadly he also doesn’t get that this behavior also sets him apart in his peers’ eyes, also as someone “younger” or “babyish,” dealing a double-blow against his desire to hang with the older kids.

I say it’s hard to watch, but watch I must, and he’s got to learn. In fact, yesterday Sharaun’s sister helped him (he’s got very little patience for lessons from me, especially when he’s frustrated) and he was able to get going without assistance several times. Fingers crossed that maybe today is a watershed moment for him & it clicks.

Go Cohen, I love you little dude. You got this.

christmas morning 8am

Kids, somehow, slept in until a little after 7am. Think they were up most of the night so suspect true sleep just caught up to them late.

Sitting on the couch, coffee in hand, watching them open gifts, palm trees and oak and the river the backdrop out the window. Going to be a beautiful sunny 73°F Florida Christmas.

Among other things, Keaton got a new ukulele, Cohen a DIY terrarium kit. As it does Christmas morning every year, their excitement kindled that deep joy in me. Fueled further thinking about the wave of simultaneous generosity and happiness and family rippling westwards across America’s timezones for the next several hours.

I think I could see, with Keaton, at least, that some of the sense of “magic” heretofore experienced may have begun maturing into regular grown-up sentiments of anticipation and happiness. And I’m good with that; as I much as I lament them growing up I do enjoy watching them turn into who they’re going to be.

Soon the brothers- and sisters-in-law and cousins will arrive. We’ll open presents. We’ll eat ham and potatoes and Pop-Pop’s cornbread dressing and Sharaun’s sweet potato casserole. Later we’ll take a walk along the river and the crazy kids leave their new toys idle for a bit and jump in the pool.

Merry Christmas, friends and family. Love and miss you all, for serious.

growth

One of my favorite memories from when my kids were small is them falling asleep on my chest. Warm little heads nestled up under my chin, bodies gently rising and falling with my breath, and little feet not even reaching my belt.

Sharaun has a picture I adore of Cohen napping on me this way, me prone on the airport terminal carpet, during a long layover. He’s sucking his two fingers like he used to do and he has that whispy baby-white blonde hair.

Last night Keaton cuddled up with me while we watched a movie. As tall as her mom now, dad’s chest has long ceased being an option for comfy naps. Holding her hand, I took a moment to consider its size… pushing that of a full-grown adult. I felt the prickle of stubble on her legs, the clasp on her bra pressing into my arm around her back.

When did this happen? How did this happen? It’s going to keep happening, isn’t it? Is it always going to be this fast?

dichotomy

I’m up, showered, dressed. Fresh cup of coffee, sitting outside on the porch in the temperate humidity of the Florida morning. Can see the river from where I sit, hear the windchimes in the breeze. Last night we all had chili at the youngest sibling’s place. The older brothers-in-law helped fix a ceiling fan, because we’re family and why not. I’m safe and happy and not wanting for anything at the moment.

Somewhere not far from here, a career alcoholic is rolling over in bed, groaning as he realizes, perhaps a bit bemused, that, for at least one more time, last night wasn’t the last night. Even if, maybe, he’d thought it really might have been… even willed it a little by going out for a third bottle after the first couple. Not for lack of trying, then, he supposes.

Yesterday morning he grabbed all his cash, got on his electric bicycle (COPD and a permanently suspended license), got two fifths and a cheap motel room in a sketchy part of town. Forgot his oxygen, but who needs it this is going to be a bender, boys! Maybe his sister will bring it to him later, just to up the odds a teeny bit in his favor, not give Death all the cards.

That’d be nice. She shouldn’t come alone, though. I’ll bet her son-in-law will ride shotgun just to be there with her, probably stay in the car, though, while she goes in to plead with him to not drink himself to death. He’ll sit there, mostly thumbing through his smartphone but occasionally stealing a peek through the crack in the curtains, trying to be sure everything’s OK in there, that this impromptu intervention is still peaceful.

Budget Inn room 114 is around the back, there are kids running around and riding scooters even though it’s dark out. A guy eating take-out on the trunk of his car with a plastic fork from a styrofoam container. His driver’s and passenger doors are wide open and his music is unjustly loud. “Bitch suck on my dick and put your pussy on my face. Pussy on my face. Pussy on my face.” The kids sing along gaily.

Today, though, I’m clean and fed and surrounded by friends and family. Wish everyone had the same.