This is love, yo (a Poem for my kids – but not yet)

18 07 2017

dad-comforts-son

I recently posted this to twitter and reposting it in an easier-to-read format.

I wrote this about being a dad to two teenagers. Maybe you’ll recognize something familiar.

This is love, yo

Me on the chair

Reading a book

With you at the water’s edge

It’s ok

Pretend

I am a stranger

Yes, you may be too old for this

Me, too

But this is how it has to be for now

One and three quarters eyes on the page

A quarter on the base of your feet

The only thing I can see in the bottom periphery

As I try to maintain attention

On the biography I am reading

Because this is love, yo

And certain to the touch

Is the odd teenage reaction

Of bending your neck so I may receive the back of your head

Sweaty, matted hair

As a surrogate hug to say good night

I will continue to comment

“Is that all I get?
Because this is love, yo

Encapsulated by a love that is beyond romance

As if it existed before you were born

Before I was born

When the universe was born

Streaming through our bloodstreams

Like quarks and stardust

Crossing paths again

For the first time

In 7 billion years

Because this is love, yo

That maybe only a parent can understand

Though understanding is a falsehood

Does an addict understand the pull of the drug?

Does a mother goose understand the urge to attack an innocent runner

Passing by knowing that

Time is finite?

This is love, yo

And when I pull up that phone for a photo

For the thousandth time

I know the rolling eyes

And guttural objections

Are only a way of expressing what is a disturbance in your day

And painstakingly

Here you are

Because I had to only endure a slight glance at a camera with a flash

That my mom never adjusted as I grew taller

For a handful of photos that all ended at my bottom lip

And now I can’t help but chronicle every glimpse in passing

Though a smile from you in just one of them

May cut down on my need

This is love, yo

And when the trying turns to hope

And the talking turns to prayer

And the seeing turns to memory

All we have is what we had

And all we had is what we were

To each other

Me to you

You to me

Us to each other

Because this is love, yo

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Open Heart (Surgery)

10 01 2016
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I am trying to open my heart to the fact that this is a schmaltzy image.

My mother had open heart surgery this past week. Nothing snaps you out of the self pity associated with job uncertainty, divorce, financial instability and overall restlessness like sitting 175 miles away in your home while you know the person who gave birth to you is on a ventilator while someone rewires her heart.

My kids and I just returned from visiting her (and my dad) and there were some key takeaways (sorry – that was so disgustingly corporate) – there were some important messages (that’s better) that I felt compelled to write down and share:

  1. Sometimes you have to sweat the small stuff. When I was visiting my parents with my kids just after Christmas – my sister was also there with her family and for all the articles and morning talk shows that insist upon the importance of having those “difficult conversations with your aging parents”, it never happened. Certainly, with the knowledge that my mom’s surgery was essentially a week away, that was not the best time but it wasn’t going to happen anyway. Instead, we played board games, got annoyed by incessant calls to eat more junk food and dealt with familial familiarities, good and bad, that would be of inconsequence to most people (yes, apparently it does matter who takes what food home with them and how much). This is as small as it gets but you know what? It is exactly the type of diversion that helps get through times when the gravity of the situation just seems too great to bear. That’s why I think sometimes (and only sometimes), sweating the small stuff isn’t such a bad idea.
  2. We need doctors. I, for one, have had many dealings with arrogant, self-centered, “cry me a river/claim poverty” U.S. physicians who have lost both their empathy and their perspective but…there are many, many physicians who are saving lives, every single damn day. I don’t give a shit about a single doctor who is interested in making some 50 year-old rich, entitled socialite look 30, but for every single doctor helping with cardiovascular disease, the onslaught of neurological-based diseases and children, etc. – thank you, thank you, thank you.
  3. I am a series of computer programs in dire need of software upgrades. I have written before about the scripts we carry around with us and the self-talk that we do and impacts us, either for better or for worse. As I took a shower in my childhood home, it occurred to me after cleaning it out, that there are tons of rituals I do that have been embedded in me for decades that are in need of a little mindfulness. Let me explain briefly. Since I can remember, the last person who took a shower had to clean out the tub and walls. I have always followed the same pattern: faucet, shelf, top half sides, bottom half sides, little stool, left glass door, right glass door and the shower bottom – in that order – since I ever even had a reason to take long showers (which is code for “a long time ago”).  I did it again this morning (the cleaning, not the long shower) and realized that I have tons of these rituals – some physical, some mental, that I never change. How I react after taking a shower in my parents’ house is one thing but what about how I react after being dismissed in a social situation? My thoughts follow a similar pattern every time – and it’s not good.
  4. Friendship is the #1 most vital component to a sustainable marriage. My mother can give my father a hard time. My father can selectively hear and not hear what my mother has to say. But they are friends, tried and true. It was never more apparent than during our visit this weekend. They respect and love each other in a way that transcends (or is exclusive of) romantic love and at least, in older age, seems to be the vital ingredient to a meaningful marriage (or partnership).
  5. I am so thankful for my kids. We were in the hospital for 6 hours and they never complained once. Mind you – they are on the verge of being 15 and 13. 6 hours with their dad and grandparents – in a hospital – on a Saturday – can seem like an eternity. And they were great. There were cell phones and untied shoes but there was also a tremendous respect and love. I am a lucky dude.
  6. Trump, ISIS, my job situation, Kardashians, cat videos, who got a promotion, who is headlining – they will all go away. Every single second focused on the irrelevant and stupid is a second wasted on the relevant and important. Every damned, single second.

My mother has a ways to go in her recovery. The good news is that her cardiac vitals are very good and if she can take the long-term view, I really think everything will be for the better. It is hard to see your parents age, for both the knowledge of what no one wants to talk about and the acknowledgement of one’s own aging and mortality. But it makes one so thankful for the days that do exist where we have to bite our tongue, sweat the small stuff and think about opening our own hearts a little more, which is a lot tougher sometimes than a 6 hour operation.

Until next time,

Marc





Don’t Come In

28 10 2015
When else am I going to be able to use an image like this?

When else am I going to be able to use an image like this? It’s a mother, not a father, but we do have the same hair.

I feel like the fact that there are technical difficulties right now as I sit here with my boy watching the World Series is a higher authority telling me to not let myself off the hook for writing tonight. So here it goes.

Tonight, I wanted to write about a text that I got from my daughter yesterday after dinner.

She plays field hockey, which just ended today, and on a weekly basis, a different parent sponsors a “pasta party” where the girls all gather to celebrate field hockey, friendship and homework procrastination.

I usually pull up with the other parents and walk to whatever opening I can find – a garage door, a front door, the back yard – and look for my daughter and her ponytail amidst a sea of other middle school girls with ponytails.

Yesterday, I was given strict notice by my daughter that she would text me when she needs to get picked up, rather than the agreed upon time of 7:30 unless I hear otherwise. I relented since it was the final party and they were celebrating her coach, who was very, very good.

We started our text exchange at 7:35 PM:

Her: “can u pick me up?”

Me: “On my way !”

Her: “k…..tell me when your outside. dont come in” (lack of punctuation excused)

Me: “Here”

Her: “don’t come in”

I’m not sure if you got it but she really, really did not want me to come in. I get it but I had to ask her why? She told me what I already knew – she didn’t want to me to “embarrass” her. (Who? Me?) I get it.

The irony was not lost on me that she and I are on different ends of the spectrum. She is defining herself, setting boundaries as any good teenager should and deciding who gets past the velvet rope and who stays behind. I, on the other hand, am finally taking the step to define myself as I am but saying “everyone come in and see because this is how I roll.” It’s an age thing and for us to take each other’s approach would be more like “Freaky Friday”.

It’s hard as a parent to see your kids silo off where, when and how they want you in their lives. It’s growth and it’s expected. It’s healthy but it’s hard. For me, I have been framing it in a different light, though. It seems that this is another force out of my control that is telling me that I have to think about myself and my needs more, too. It’s too easy for me to distract myself from my insecurities by relying on my role as a father. Being a dad is difficult but it’s also an easy distraction from facing who I really am sometimes. Believe it or not, it’s easier to get all the kids’ games, practices and rehearsals on a calendar than put it aside and force myself to write or anything else that I need to do to move the other parts of me forward.

I am not sure if this makes sense or not. I truly am figuring this all out in real-time, day by day, sometimes minute by minute. I miss those moments of parenting that escape as kids grow up. I am no less close to them, perhaps closer. It’s just the normal independence that all parents hope to see comes with the price of loosing both time with them and those long-lost parts of you that may have existed before they did. Maybe long down the road, we will merge again and when I’m visiting my kids in college, I’ll get that text that tells me where their apartment is followed by “come in.”

Until next time,

Marc





A Tribute to Fathers who “Work It”

21 06 2015

You don’t have to be a father (or even a male) to be that “go-to” person for someone in your life – a special someone, a friend, relative, co-worker – even a stranger. This Father’s Day – acknowledge and celebrate that part of you and feel proud!

As a tribute to my own father and others like him, I am re-posting an article I wrote for Working Mother magazine 2 years ago. Happy Father’s Day to all those dads who are really working it! – Marc

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Picture courtesy of my favorite daughter.

WORKING FATHERS

By Marc Kaye (as written for Working Mother – June 2013)

This Father’s Day, I’d like to pay tribute to Working Fathers – those men who help many a working mother. In particular, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my very own working dad – let’s call him Bernie (which is coincidentally his name).

Now, Bernie is no Mike Brady. He’s no Ed Bundy, either. Bernie is just “Bernie” and as such, he’s good at imparting valuable lessons to his kids by just being himself (Lesson #1).

In all transparency, this is not a man without his flaws. His propensity for dismissing expiration dates on everything from barbeque sauce to antibiotics as simply “a suggestion” coupled with his ability to nestle within each other different size plastic containers into what can only be described as a cheap man’s version of Ukrainian nesting dolls leave something to be desired. However, beyond that, if you were going to design the perfect dad, you may say my sister and I hit the jackpot.

Let’s not beat around the bush (lesson #2) – when we hear “working mother”, working is often an adjective, referring to as “having paid employment.” When I refer to “working dad”, working is the noun as in “the inner workings of being an engaged dad.” In the former, the focus is on the mother who also works. For the latter, stereotypes often assume the reverse – the worker who also parents. Not so with my dad.

It is interesting to read so much over the past few years about the increasing roles of dads when it comes to raising kids, helping with homework, managing the household and generally being an equal partner with the mother of his children. It seems that society, though still with a ways to go, is catching up to my dad and others like him who have been doing this for the past 40 years. Yes, indeed, these men exist and they are no less “breadwinners”. They, like many women are faced to do today, have also made deliberate choices that were hard, gut wrenching, mature and necessary at the time. These men are unassuming, quiet, reserved and focused on their families. It’s about keeping things simple (lesson #3) and as balanced as possible (lesson #4).

I have learned, as a dad myself, that this is truly hard work. The “father” in “working father” never goes away and that makes the “working” part so important because it’s not a job, it’s a life.

It’s hard to live up to Bernie. This is a guy who does everything on his own. He had a full time job, had a family, was a true son to his in-laws next door, not to mention his own parents, cut the grass, helped build our house, and can seriously fix almost anything. I mean, please…can I catch a break? (After all, this is about me, right?). I can barely get my son’s Lego Star Wars Commander ship to stay together. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone (lesson #5) but I mean, really – c’mon!

As good as a dad as this guy was, he is an awesome grandparent (along with my mom, his partner in crime – and by crime, I do mean the crime of slowly killing me as I watch my kids get away with everything, and I do mean everything, that was punishable by death to me and my sister as kids). My kids really looks up to him – particularly with respect to his corny sense of humor that only the Catskills set could truly appreciate. This is a guy who says what he does and does what he says (lesson #6).

So, on this Father’s Day, let’s take a moment to celebrate Working Dads – whether in the office, at home, driving the bus or taking time to write a silly blog post – these are the guys that are “working it” hard and taking the “Father” part of “Working Fathers” as seriously as the “working” part. (That could have been better worded – Lesson #7).

We love you Dad and to all the Father’s out there – Happy Father’s Day! With that, I’m going to get out of here before I overstay my welcome (lesson #8).








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