Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sandcastles and Yard Work...

Okay, so I was feeling a little tired, until the kids decided to stay awake until 10:00 on Sunday night, I could see it was going to be a long one after two long wonderful days together - they get worked up about Mondays - they get worked up about everything - they are nine  and twelve, and their energy level surpasses only that of a rabid hyena set for blood and preparing to raid some village of all of its newborns (I don't know where that analogy came from, except to say that after non-stop 110% energy, Sunday night seems like it should be that time when "winding down" is more natural than being ready to play Monopoly twenty minutes before Dad turns into an ogre and starts bitching about the chocolate chip ice cream that has become concrete on the linoleum floor - that sentence should provide some interesting auto ads that pop up to the right of this, I will have to check that one out...) 

We went to Mr. Aaron's beach on Saturday - we like Mr. Aaron's beach - there is always a parking space, and although Mickler's is certainly beautiful - it is usually about as crowded as a port a potty at a rock festival, and the folks there, well, they just don't seem to be that beachy anymore - in fact, they seem to be down right towny, and have found a good thing - note to folks who want a slower beach, with better food, and just as close (after factoring in the amount of time it takes to find a parking space and a clear area free of screaming children and those folks who think that going to the beach means bringing a screened enclosure complete with portable air conditioning and marking off their quadrant with enough beach towels to keep a sweatshop in India working on overdrive at Mickler's) you should head down to Anastasia Island - that is where the beaches are just as long and as beautiful as they are in Jacksonville Beach, but half as crowded, and twice as easy to get onto. 

One mudball at a time is how we build our sandcastles.  The mudballs come in three distinct sizes - one for my hands, one for my daughters hands, and one for my sons hands - we build them all day long - just adding onto them, digging a hole, taking a swim break, adding prisons and markets and bridges and towers and lakes - Saturday was no exception.  It was eighty four degrees, the breeze was blowing just hard enough to keep you from sweating, and the ocean is starting to get warm enough that you can actually enjoy it - I don't know what the draw of building these twenty foot long and three feet high sand thingys is - perhaps it is the way I get to hear my daughter dream and talk of her perfect house, with tennis courts and a place for kids to play where they can stay up late, or my son putting in his personal dojo for karate lessons - maybe it is the other kids who stop by for ten or fifteen minutes and gawk, or better yet, start digging - and soon, there are ten kids all building little castles one mudball at a time - my son is the fearless leader of those groups that show up - telling them there are simple rules - don't cave anything in, and you have to build it one handful at a time - no mass digging allowed - you have to place each handful of sand on the castle wall, and then, when you come back, it will be dry and sturdy and look like a real castle wall.  It is easy to build sandcastles with them - C.S. Lewis talks about living in the moment - and I think, when we are together doing something so simple as mudballs in linear fashion, that we don't have any other choice but to keep on building our dream castle - they do get bigger, and at the end, they are just as satisfying.

Needless to say, when we left the beach, we snapped the photos, named the castle, and left it for the other folks who happened by to inherit, and hopefully add to - or just enjoy.  Saturday night - pretty routine night - except the kids wanted Sunday dinner - they wanted to cook - and we did - I pulled out just about everything a single dad who travels most of the time would have in the ice box, and we figured out how to make cream sauce with cilantro, threw in some freezer burnt grouper, cooked up some angel hair pasta, and had a feast fit for someone who has not been grocery shopping in a while.  When you don't spend all of your time at home, it is a challenge to cook things - you don't have all of the spices you need, you don't have the fancy pots and pans, you just have two kids, an imagination, and the hope that if you slather everything with enough cheese that it will be palatable - don't get me wrong - they ate it (I am back on this thing of not being able to float in the water again, which means avoiding pasta and trying to get to a gym to do more than just occupy time) - and I am not a bad cook - but it does get frustrating when you have to substitute mayonnaise for whatever else, because you never bothered to by vegetable oil.  That's cooking though - we did the same tonight - we had a real Sunday dinner, just like every Sunday that they are here, and they look forward to it - we go to the grocery - we get fresh vegetables (tonight was Sweet Corn on the Cob) and pick out their lunches for Monday - we know where the whoopie cushions are (they are about mid-way through the cereal aisle - and of course, that is the first place we go - not for cereal, but so that my kids can walk behind me, and squeeze the whoopie cushion so that most folks either laugh or give you that ten dollar stare as you walk by them - for me, it is worth it just to hear them laugh...farts are funny at their age, and aside from being the butt of their jokes - I like for them to laugh at things as innocent as that) and we walk through and each one of them makes suggestions on the creations - tonight, it was dinner rolls and chicken stuffed with bread crumbs and bacon and cheddar cheese - there were scalloped potatoes and corn - my son was slightly disappointed by the lack of mashed potatoes - but was fine when he saw the "juice" from the chicken and scalloped potatoes - that gave him enough to sop his rolls in.  My daughter helped make the stuffing - her little hands mixing in the olive oil and the spices, eating more bacon than mixing, but that's okay - she actually helped stuff the chickens too - and looked up at me, and in simple terms, said to me - Dad - I love cooking with you - you are teaching me good things - it was nice to get that bit of reaffirmation - sometimes you wonder what you are teaching them - and then you realize that something as simple as cooking together is teaching them something. 

I kind of breezed through Sunday to focus on the meal - we cooked - but today we spent another three hours at the pool (in two separate outings - the kids wanted to swim while the chicken baked, and had just finished a rousing squirt gun fight) we went bowling - and my son, officially recaptured his title of bowling champion from his sister - he was disappointed that it did not affect her as much as his losing the title at the last outing affected him - but he still grinned all the way home and relished his "sitting shotgun" prize - bowling alleys are great places - but that's another story entirely.

That was my weekend, but that is not the only thing that I had on my mind - I pulled up to my house on Friday, well let me rephrase that in a more appropriate term - I pulled up to the house that I pay for - the house where the kids live, and lo and behold, my former father in law, Dan, is standing out front in a pair of khaki slacks and a blue pinstripe shirt, watering some new flower beds (apparently I was not the only one complaining about the yard) while Christy scurried about with a look of a pissed off boxer toting around garbage bags.  Confused was the first thing that came to my mind - I don't get confused that often - I don't have issues with confrontation or talking with anyone - whether they like me or not - that's a good thing about being a little stupid - I don't have a very good emotional intelligence quotient, so it makes it easier to be a little aloof in situations - whether I want to be or not.  Christy, with her apparent familial courage standing behind her with a water hose, came to the car, and in her best "You are a dick and I hate you" voice - said something to the affect of "St. Augustine Grass, flower beds, grunt, pshaw, frickle frackle, St. Augustine Grass" - her lip curls slightly when she is annoyed - her eyes get clear like a pool of water - and she attacks - if only verbally, but you can see it coming - it was my cue to turn up the Cake CD a little bit louder and see if Italian Leather Sofa could help me get some sort of footing to either ignore the scene around me, or make a decision to compliment her on the yardwork.  That's what I don't understand - Dan mouthed Hi George to me - now I understand lawyers are the cordial type, and have to deal with their own in the courtrooms across America - but a feeble mouthing of Hi George caught me completely off gaurd - I would think that after twenty months of contact being limited to a shitty email written in the form of legalese that he could muster one of two things - enough intelligence to realize that Hi George was about as stupid as a monkey making passionate love to a football, or that Hi George just really meant fuck you in Gallagher speak.  That's what I just don't get - sometimes you can go through your life spotting folks who really care - not the kind of care you see on the television commercial, not the self promoting care that you see when you go and have drinks at these charity functions that cost as much, if not more, than the charity check at the end of the night - just genuine care - I was literally and figuratively in a state of confusion.  Did he think that I had little more to say to him than, "nice shirt" - perhaps my reaction of turning up the stereo, and letting Christy snarl was enough - just enough to hint that I spent a good twenty years listening to them scrutinize my wife, my job, my child rearing skills, my wife's choices, my home decorating taste- twenty years - I listened to them as they talked about their family members as if they had not crossed any boundaries ever - and Hi George - that is what amazed me.

Yard work was tough when I was married.  Doing twelve loads of laundry and cleaning the house sucked after a long week of work - when I just wanted to enjoy my home.  Listening to stories about tennis, and hearing about the things Christy could have been doing whilst not doing anything but adding a few extra pounds sent me into a world where my lack of compassion was limitless and my hope was less than there - it was all a challenge - and it was even more of a challenge to feel like I had to do it by myself - and in most cases, I did.  I paid the bills, I cut the grass, and I made sure that everything that our children needed, they had - and in doing that, I forgot what they needed the most - a dad - now, I don't do any of those other things - the homeowners association dues pay for the yard work, the laundry, well aside from towels and sheets - most everything else goes to the cleaners.  I don't have to bother with stories of downtrodden friends or family members who are less than worthy of their love - but what I do have - and what Christy and Dan should both know, is much more valuable to me than their chidings and passionate hatred - I know that I have my kids back - and my kids know that they have their father back - and that, is worth every step that I have taken to get as far away from that life as a court case and child support can allow.

That was the weekend - sorry for the last couple of paragraphs - but I am still a little confused by it all, and it seems to help to write it down, maybe once or twice, and then move on - I love Sandcastles and Sunday Dinners...and don't miss the yardwork and all of the things that came with it - one single bit.


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