Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Thrill of Victory...In One End...

     We were walking down the lane way to the school, it was wet and miserable and she was wearing shorts.

      Daddy: "Aren't you cold?"
      Isobel: "Nope. Are you?"
      Daddy: "Yeah, I am. It's because it's damp and I always get cold in weather like this."
      Isobel: "And because you're old."
      Daddy: "Yep, that too."
      Isobel: "I'm not cold at all."
      Daddy: "Well, you're much tougher than I am."
      Isobel: "How am I tough?"
      Daddy: "You closed your fingers in my car door and you opened the door and took your hand out, then you closed the car door. You did all of that and THEN you started crying. That's pretty tough if you ask me.
      Isobel: "That's not tough, that's just the smart thing to do."

      I wasn't particularly good at sports as a kid. Shocking, right? I played hockey and though I enjoyed it a great deal, my skills left a god deal to be desired. I was a leg breaker-in the eight to thirteen year old sense. I was fat and not particularly fast but I was solid. If there were a particularly troublesome player on the opposite team, it was my duty to take him out. I became adept at tripping, low elbowing and flattening against the boards and spent a gigantic amount of time in the penalty box for it. I could have played for the Flyers in their heyday.
     I think then, that when Isobel wanted to sign up for soccer, I just assumed that she would be more interested in running around around, maybe picking some dandelions and spinning. Endlessly spinning around the soccer pitch. Anything but actually playing. To my surprise, I couldn't have been more wrong. She jumped right into the thick of things and mixed it up with the best of them.
     Now I don't think Real Madrid is going to come calling anytime soon she had a light in her eyes that I don't think I ever saw before. A light you can't get from barking at the minions. It's the light that comes from the thrill of playing on a team and pitting yourself against your peers. The light of competition.
      I have to interject a couple of things here; firstly under eight soccer is not so much about the skills and positions of the game so much as it is about running back and forth ad nauseum. (which is kind of the game anyway, right?) It's like something from an our gang movie, a lone ball rolls down field followed by a gaggle of screaming, thronging arms and legs all trying to capture it with little or no discernible ability to do so.
      Secondly, after only two regulation games and not a single practice I might add, that if the object of the game was to hurtle down the field and then kick the ball at a perfect right angle away from the goal, my daughter would be champion of the world. She can face the goal head on and boot the ball but it always ends up near the feet of the opposing team's coach. Remarkable really.
      It was the same with The Boy for the most part. He was bored and probably better than most on his team. He was certainly faster than most on his team,though you wouldn't know it because they kept sticking him in goal. Not a position to put a wiry kid with ADD. Goal is a position for fat kids with decent reflexes. Did I mention I played goal quite a bit? The Boy, to his credit stuck it out much longer than I thought he would. I think he kept hanging on thinking if he could just go one more year, it would get better but they didn't separate his teams by skill level as they did as much as they did age. He was stuck playing goal on a team rife with flower pickers and cloud busters.Good on him for making it as long as he did. 
      This year they seem to be more concerned with the teams being more evenly stacked so, though there are a couple of ringers on some of the teams (Izzy's included as far as I'm concerned) every body is at about the same level. It's nice to see fewer break-aways   from the 'really' good kids and more of everyone   laughing and chasing an unbelievably elusive ball. I think the best part of all of this is the absolute break in the chain of thought between running with the ball and shooting the ball. All of the kids, mine included, will run full tilt with the ball and then come to a full stop, position themselves just so and have a good hoof at the ball. Mostly to little effect. This alone is worth the price of the uniform.
      But I'm wandering away from the tour...On this particular occasion Izzy was raring to go as soon as we got there.There was no childish hand holding, I would have to sit by myself as she ran off to be with her team. She practiced a little bit and did some routine stretches and then it was go time. Naturally she sat by the sidelines, completely uninterested in the goings on of her team.
      "Isobel," her coached shouted. "You're on."
      She dashed to her position and as the whistle blew, she made a bee line for the ball. Unfortunately, so did every other child on the field. Some of whom were not playing soccer on this field. She touched the ball at one point with her foot, which is about as close as I figured she was going to get to any real action. Some time during the second half hour of this back and forth and back and forth and nobody really touching the ball except that blond haired kid who'd managed four goals on his own already, the ball came toward Isobel. She ran for about three feet, stopped dead and kicked the ball as hard as she might. They say in tense moments like this, it seems as though time stood still. Time did not stand still however, the ball damn near did. I'm not convinced that it wasn't the wind rather than the force of her kick, that sent the ball toward the net. Nevertheless, toward the net it did slowly and determinedly roll and the goalie, seized by some rare and twisted form bowel distress squatted as though he might relieve himself there in the crease and the ball leisurely strolled by him.
      I don't think it registered with her that she had scored until the coach shouted at her.
      "Way to go Isobel, I told you that was your ball."
     Izzy looked at me, beaming and gave me a gigantic thumbs up. I returned it, beaming myself and so proud of her for this accomplishment. After the game, she downplayed her pride at her goal. The mark of a true champion. I promised her something special for her first goal and she settled for a bag of jumbo sour gumballs, most of which were in her mouth before we got home.
      I don't know that she will continue with sports, I hope she does. She has the drive to succeed in anything she sets her mind to and the optimism to not be afraid to try anything. If I wish any quality about her to remain, it's this one. Too many of us, myself included, are jaded by what others think and what others say. We end up afraid of the unknown as a result. Izzy is fearless...and tougher than I'll ever be. If she ever figures that out, I'm screwed.  

    The gum after Izzy's amazing goal got me to thinking about The Boy. Four or five years ago we had bought him a pack of gum and, like all kids who find something they enjoy, ate virtually all the pieces at one go. I'm certain we told him not to...or maybe we didn't. At any rate, he ate all twelve or twenty four pieces of sugarless gum and off he went to bed.
      "Mummy," he moaned at about three in the morning. "My belly hurts."
      "Like you're going to throw up?" Mrs. Narrator asked.
      "No, like my belly hurts, like I don't know what I want to do." The Boy said in that broken sickly voice that only a kid has.
      "Maybe you need to go to the bathroom," she said. "Sit down on the toilet and maybe you'll feel better."
      He did as he was told and thank Christ for that, the flood gates burst open. I am amazed that he didn't come off the toilet with the force of the jet stream leaving his body. He sat awhile until he was convinced it was all OK and then quietly went back to bed. We heard no  ore of it that night nor the next day and just figured it was some weird sort of stomach thing.
     A couple of days later Mrs. Narrator and I were watching one of favourite programs at the time, House. Long story short some one came in complaining of chronic diarrhea. The diagnosis? Too much aspartame from the sugarless gum he was always chewing. Who knew that aspartame in large amount was a laxative?
     The Boy sure as hell did...funny, he doesn't chew a lot of gum anymore.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Anguish In Her Voice...Sometimes You're Just The One...

She walked over to me tonight and asked me a question with a defeated look on her face.
      Isobel: "Daddy?"
      Daddy: "Yep?"
      Isobel: "Can I just ask you something?"
      Daddy: "You can always ASK anything."
      Isobel: "Can we go to the playground after supper?"
      Daddy: "We'll see."
      Isobel: "So probably no?"
      Daddy: "No, probably yes."
      Isobel: "Really!?!?!"
      Daddy: "Sure."

         Not the usual intro I know, but this has not bee the usual week. I am a health care worker. I have seen all the bodily fluids of all colours and descriptions and I have managed to keep a cool head through all manner of crises regardless of what they may be. None of them however, involved my children. I have to admit that where my children are involved, all senses of rationality go out the window and I become singular of purpose  and motivation and if you happen to be in the way when the situation occurs, be helpful or be elsewhere.
     Monday, I was looking very forward to seeing my daughter play in her first official soccer game. She was outside skipping and playing in my car and I opened the door to call her in for supper. She couldn't see me for the reflection on the car windshield so I went closer to the car to get her attention. She acknowledged that I was there and I motioned for her to come in. She got of the car and time stopped.
       I was about fifteen feet away from her and I could tell by the look on her face that something had gone terribly, terribly wrong. I knew from my own experience that one or several of her fingers were now in the closed door of my car and I felt the sickness gurgle around my stomach and rise in my throat.
    Now Mrs. narrator and I (along with I'm certain a bazillion others) have been down this same path. I was being dropped off back at school after lunch and had a hockey stick and skates in one hand and not a lot of attention was being paid the the safest mechanics of closing a door. My thumb entered the door and the fear and the pain ripped it right back out. Mrs. Narrator has a similar history. I lost Thumbnail, a pair of ugly home made mittens and got a week off school. By comparison, I am a weakling. My daughter is no weakling...not by a damn stretch.
     I said before, once she had closed her finger in the door, we both knew instantly what she had done. Here is how tough my daughter is. She had the forethought to actually open the door, extricate her trapped thumb and then close the door properly. If i live to be a hundred and seven, I will never be that tough.
      After she freed herself, the panic set in...for both of us. I went into a flat out run trying to close the distance between us as quickly as I could. I picked her up and held her tight and turned to face the house, seemingly in one motion. I ran as hard as I could. It is only about fifty feet to the porch and the front door from where my car was parked but it may as well have been fifty miles. And here is the thing that killed me...still is killing me.
     By the time I picked her up, the initial shock had worn off and now the pain was coming on hog wild. Oh the terrible throbbing that just won't stop no matter what you do. She was in such agony that she just started screaming 'Daddy, Daddy. Daddy, Daddy...' over and over. My heart broke a little right there. I didn't know what to do but hold her and run for the house. I asked her about that when we went to the playground and she said it hurt so bad, that was all she could think to say, nothing else was making sense in her head.
      I barreled through the door and barked at Mrs. Narrator to get out of the way. I threw open the freezer door and started grasping at anything cold enough to put on her thumb... Thankfully Mrs. Narrator remained calm enough to actually find something frozen and useful. Note to self, while frozen dinners may be an outstanding taste treat, they are entirely useless as a first aid device.
      She was miserable for longer than I have seen her in a while and she absolutely did not want me to leave her side. I mentioned that I would go to the soccer field and get her uniform and then it was OK if I went for a while. By the time I got back, she was eating a little and already in better spirits. She ate mostly sweet junk but it all helped her feel better and what parent won't indulge a sweet tooth when a, decently serious, injury has occurred.? She was OK to go to school but was disappointed that she probably wouldn't be able to write.
      That night I didn't sleep well and I could hear her voice echoing in my ears, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." I woke more than a few times expecting her to be standing at the foot of the bed, in some catastrophic condition. She wasn't but the message was firmly in place...I see now why Mothers become Smothers in a heart beat...hell, I was afraid to let Isobel get into the car by herself after school.

    After she mashed her thumb, she didn't want me to let her go. Even after Mrs. Narrator made several offers of cuddles and even the offer to feed her her favourite food, she wanted to stay with me. I wasn't complaining but you know me, I was curious. I asked her why she wanted to stay with me after all that good stuff was going to come her way. She thought about it for a bit and said;
      "Your lap is more comfortable that Mummy's and sometimes you're just the one I need."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On Unfamiliar Ground...Ummm...what now?...

   We were doing her homework, plurals when she wrote down a word that I began to erase.
      Isobel: "Hey, what's wrong with that?"
      Daddy: "You can't use that word, you can't."
      Isobel: "Why not, it's OK."
      Daddy: "It's not right. What word are you trying to write?"
      Isobel: "Foxes."
      Daddy: "And how is that spelled?"
      Isobel: "F-O-X-S."
      Daddy: "ES."
      Isobel: "ES."
      Daddy: "And what did you write?"
      Isobel: "F-U-X-S."
      Daddy: "Sound it out."
      Isobel: "...gasp! I'd get kicked out of class."

       I find it a touch ironic that in there last couple of weeks this column has become a little bit more about me and what is happening in my life and just little snippets of what is happening with our Isobel...but I think it was always as much about my growing as it was her.
     So here I am a college man and I figured I would have an easier time finding a job of some permanence with my new skill set...when it rains it pours. I was hired by one place more or less before I had even graduated  another interview followed soon after that and another after that. I am in a place where I have never been before...I am the popular choice of employees, they want me as much as I want them and that truly is uncharted territory for me.
      It is an odd thing to be able to sit through an interview and actually answer the questions they asked you with absolute certainty and a measure of intelligence that just doesn't happen in any of the factory jobs I've ever interviewed for. George Carlin had  it right, they want you just smart enough to run the machines and just dumb enough not to question the shitty situation you have found yourself in. I've worked a lot of factory jobs and I was either handed them or bullshit my way into them or a little of both...but no more.
      One of the interviews I had, was a series of questions ranging from conflict management to witnessing of abuse concluding with a question I have never been asked in a job interview. 'If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?'
     I was taken rather aback; "I wouldn't wear glasses anymore." I blurted out followed by a short chuckle. I went quiet after that, intrigued by the question and actually trying to come up with some kind of intelligent answer. The interviewer looked at me uncomfortably when she saw I wasn't going anywhere beyond this question until I had said my piece.
      I took what seemed to me to be an unusually long breath and said; "I don't think I would change anything. I am pretty OK with who I am. It's taken me a very long time to get here but I kinda like who I am now."
      And I think do...mostly. There are always going to be things I could point out as needing changing, like I wish I had less grey hair and fewer wrinkles, , I could use a moderately thinner waistline and more time to tend to the lawn but these are things that don't keep me up at night wondering if I am a good person. I think maybe I holler at the kids too much when I get frustrated but this career seems to make all the little things I used to holler about seem really insignificant.
     I used to think that maybe I was selling out in a way...trading my Rock and Roll credibility for something else entirely. Maybe there are a few people who think that way too...maybe I'm paranoid or just thinking too much. It's the change, the change of the routine that terrifies me and makes people edgy and angry. I felt so out of place and frightened those first few days of school. I'm certain I was just as grey and ashen looking as Isobel was on her first day of kindergarten. And then all of it changed. School's out and it's on to the working world but how do I feel about it?
      I have a close friend, like an older brother who has a a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system and should the need arise, I am completely capable of taking care of him. My parents, most of your parents, all of our parents are getting older and who is there to take care of them as they become frail? Well OK, it likely won't be me but it will be someone like me hopefully.
      So what would I change about myself? Contrary to popular belief, I wouldn't change a thing. Do I think I sold out? Sold my Rock and Roll soul but gained the world... I think I bought in.

      So Izzy came downstairs with the belt of a smoking jacket wrapped around her hand and wrist.
      "Are you going to box somebody?" I asked.
      "No," she said "I have a broken hand from a fisting accident."
      Stunned silence is the best way to describe what followed as that particular phrase left my daughter's lips.
       "Ummm...what now?" I asked cautiously.
       "A fisting accident. Isn't that what you call it when you hit somebody with your fist, fisting?"
      "That is exactly what it is called."
     Honestly, you couldn't make this stuff up.