Tag Archives: fatherhood

Works of Art

23333990_10154824095986784_819298701828859346_oOf all the things I have been called in life, art aficionado is nowhere on the list. Now if art is defined broadly to include beautiful things like a perfectly executed squeeze play, well that’s a different story, but the traditional definitions leave me out in the artless cold. I am not a hater. I am simply an art doofus.

Our recent two-week vacation in Madrid that included a weekend jaunt to Paris provided more opportunities for art appreciation than in the combined 47+ years of my life that preceded the trip. We visited the colossal Louvre as well as the Orsay in Paris. We toured three amazing art museums in Madrid, including the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen. We witnessed the jaw-dropping art and architecture involved in the cavernous 2800-rooms of the Royal Palace in the Spanish capital city and multiple cathedrals in Toledo, Madrid, and Paris. We marveled at wonders such as Plaza Mayor and the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe and Sainte-Chapelle.

I am so full of artistic appreciation right now that I should not operate heavy machinery. But of all the things I witnessed during this unforgettable vacation, there is one moment that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

We were somewhere in the Louvre. Who knows where we were really—without the art involved in creating the exit signage I might still be wandering lost in the Louvre. But we were somewhere in the Louvre when I noticed that we were in a room with a gentleman and his daughter with Down’s Syndrome. They were wandering at about our pace through the maze of paintings.

I am so thankful that I happened to look back as I exited one room for another and noticed that the father was down on one knee to take a picture of his daughter in front of a massive and colorful painting created by someone whose name I am sure that I cannot pronounce. I did not know then nor do I now which uber-expensive painting the man’s daughter was standing in front of, but for the rest of my days I will remember precisely my view of the massive posed smile the daughter had on her face but more importantly the exuberant joy on the father’s face as he saw his beautiful girl through the camera lens in all of her glory. It was obvious that in that camera lens was the most enchanting and priceless picture that he had ever seen.

And that, my friends, was the most beautiful thing I witnessed in all of Europe.

As the father of two amazing daughters of my own, I have long appreciated that kind of art.

Advertisements

One Love

Fathers DayMy sweet daughters took me to reggae night at the Hollywood Bowl last weekend for Father’s Day. It was a beautiful evening that featured Ziggy Marley, and it was extra special to hear him perform his father’s classic music on a day that honored dads.  It was also a little, ahem, “foggy” in the Bowl on reggae night, and let’s just say that I was glad it was an open air venue.

You can’t tell from looking at me, but Bob Marley remains one of my favorite artists. My daughters knew this, of course, and it was sweet of them to endure an evening of reggae with old dad even though reggae probably doesn’t crack the top ten on either of their favorite musical genres list. Those two girls are sure at the top of my list of favorites.

I went about this whole dad thing unconventionally. I fell in love with sweet Erica before meeting and marrying her mom and skipped straight to the homework and bicycles stage of Erica’s life. And I was there from the start with sweet Hillary, complete with diaper duty and sleepless nights and everything that followed. They are different people with different talents and different approaches to life, and I have had different experiences with each of them. But they are sisters and daughters together who love each other very much, and I love them both with my whole heart.

It’s a stretch to claim that our unique approach to family formation is an ideal approach, but I have to admit that it has turned out pretty crazy fantastic for me. I have two separate amazing relationships with two separate amazing young women.

But it is one love.  And one heart.

Give thanks and praise to the Lord.  This dad thing has turned out all right.

Cardinal Baseball

My favorite baseball team swung through Los Angeles this past week, and I had the rare opportunity to catch the Cardinals in person both at Angel Stadium of Anaheim and Dodger Stadium.  The Anaheim game increased the number of places I have been the “visiting fan” to six stadiums.  For those scoring at home, in such a hostile environment I choose to wear my Cardinals gear but adopt a low-key approach—in part out of respect for being in someone else’s house but mostly to avoid trying out my Jackie Chan impersonation when under attack from inebriated fans in a post-game parking lot.  I hate to hurt people.

I love baseball because of my dad.  He grew up as a Depression-era Cardinals fan in Missouri, and in our daily games of catch in the backyard, told mesmerizing stories of seeing Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang in an exhibition game in the 1930s and of later games at old Sportsman’s Park, including a doubleheader that pitted Stan Musial against Willie Mays.  I was hooked.  My dad, of course, was my first hero, so when your hero tells stories of heroes, well, it is sort of hard not to be forever influenced.

My first trip to see the Cardinals in person was in the middle of a sticky St. Louis summer in 1979.  We couldn’t afford a St. Louis hotel or to leave our family without a car, so my dad bought two bus tickets for our first ever father-son trip.  We left before sunrise and arrived in time to wander around the city.  We checked out the zoo in Forest Park and gazed in awe at the mighty Gateway Arch, but we came to watch baseball—and we watched the Redbirds get destroyed by the Cincinnati Big Red Machine sixteen to four.  The score didn’t matter.  I will never forget sitting in the left field loge seats behind Lou Brock at old Busch Memorial Stadium with my dad.  Afterward, we boarded the bus and rode home through the night with me asleep on his lap.  At that point it was the best day of my life, and now so many years later, it remains pretty darn close.

There is a crazy cool baseball website that has box scores and game information from MLB games dating all the way back to 1913, and I discovered that every play of my special baseball trip with my dad is recorded there.  It was a Thursday evening (July 19), and 27,228 were in attendance.  Dave Collins led off the game by grounding out to Keith Hernandez, unassisted, followed by a walk to Joe Morgan.  Lou Brock went three for five with three ribbies.  Ray Knight hit a grand slam.  Johnny Bench hit a single to left that scored Dave Concepcion.  Mario Soto struck out Tony Scott to end the game.  The game lasted two hours and fifty-two minutes.

Nobody cares about the details but me, but I care enough for the whole world combined.  It reminds me of an innocent kid with a hero dad on a grand adventure.  I suspect that is why I fought Los Angeles traffic twice this past week—just to tap into that special feeling from thirty-seven years ago.  My dad has been gone for over twenty years now, but when I watch the Cardinals play baseball in a major-league stadium, he is right beside me.

 

Believe in Love

[I beg your pardon for one more trip down Nostalgia Lane. This is more fun than inspirational, written in February 2003.]

“Know you what it is to be a child? . . . It is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into liftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul.” – Francis Thompson Shelley (1859-1927)

Yesterday was one of those days when being a dad is tough.

It started on the way home after I had picked up both girls from school. Thankfully, there were no problems with my teenager. There was a disciplinary issue with my five-year-old, though. When we got home, we had a rare session where I had to be tough, and she had to be in trouble. She cried a lot. I sentenced her to thirty minutes in her bed with no toys, no television—no nothing. When I checked on her at the end of her prison stay, she was asleep. Overall, I thought things went well.

Then, it happened.

My teenage daughter informed me that the goldfish appeared to be dead. She was right. My little girl’s first pet, lovingly named Goldia, received for her fifth birthday, had gone on to that great aquarium in the sky.

Hillary begged for a pet long before Goldia. We are not pet people. We barely take care of ourselves, much less animals. However, we succumbed to the sweet little pleas and settled on a goldfish. Hillary learned to be content with that. And now, Goldia had passed on.

When Hillary woke up from an emotional afternoon of getting in trouble, her tear ducts prepared to let loose once more. I told her the bad news, and it did not take long for her emotions to get the best of her again.

In the midst of her shivering sobs and huge tears, she let out sweet words like, “I think I might cry all night long.” And, “I miss her so much.” And, “She was the best fish I ever had.”

She was the only fish Hillary ever had, but that in no way lessened the sincerity of her remarks.

She requested a call to my mom, ripping her heart to pieces, too.

I, of course, had the job of finding the words of comfort. I have sat with lots of people given my profession, finding those types of words. My experience helped little, but I tried nonetheless. As I tried, I found myself using words that I could not believe I heard myself saying.

“Goldia was a very good fish.” In fact, Goldia spent all of her time begging for food and then dirtying the water. She obviously took after me, but a good fish? Oh well, I was trying.

I even ventured into the, “Do goldfish go to Heaven?” waters (no pun intended). Hey, when you are desperate, you will say pretty much anything. Besides, God let down a sheet full of animals for Peter to see. Who knows what he has up there?

My best statement of the afternoon, though, was, “Goldia sure was a lucky fish.” A good friend and I had a discussion on the word “luck” recently. Bear with me, it would have sounded even worse to say she was a “blessed” fish. You see, Goldia swam constantly in a little tank with nothing in it, begging for food. She was a lucky fish? What was I saying?

I explained the bliss of Goldia’s life this way: She was lucky to have an owner like you who loved her so much.

You know, in the midst of my desperation, I think I said something right. She was lucky after all.

I explained that of all the fish in the world, Goldia was one of the few that had someone special that cared for her very much. That is worth something, isn’t it? When I attend a funeral and see many tears, I don’t know how to phrase it properly to the family, but I consider it such a compliment to see such sadness at someone’s passing. What better thing could we have than that—someone who loves us that much?

I did the proper thing. No swirling funeral for Goldia. We said a prayer. I took her outside and gave her a proper burial. I have to buy flowers this afternoon.

Hillary got over it fairly quickly last night. At bedtime, I discovered that Goldia had not gone far from her mind. She said a sweet prayer for Goldia, thanking God for the good times, declaring her sadness that she was gone, and requesting happiness for her up in Heaven. This morning, on the way to school, Hillary declared that she wanted four fish this time—just as her kindergarten teacher did after her fish died.

I thought—now I get to do this four more times.

Instead, I should think: Four more lucky fish.