cherish

Sneaky little toes drill into my side. Ouch! 

Noah is lying on the couch, a blanket right up to his nose. He’s staying warm as he digests the four berry muffin and warm milk that was his breakfast.

It’s -30 Celsius outside, -40 with the wind chill factor. The heating struggles to keep the apartment warm. Hence, Noah’s attempt to bury his toes into my warm body.

He wiggles those little piglets right between my ribs. Ouch! I glance over at him. He’s smiling under the edge of the blanket. Our fat black cat jumps onto the couch and settles down onto Noah’s outstretched legs. She instantly close her eyes and starts purring loudly, like a badly maintained diesel engine.

Ouch! As his pleasure and comfort grow, his toes dig deeper. I slip my hand under the blanket and take his foot. It’s cold. I rub it gently.

“Ouuuhhh…so good dad.” He closes his eyes and gives me a look of satisfaction worthy of that dog who would float into the air when receiving a cookie…  Snuffles that was his name.

The cat leans its head back, prompting Noah to scratch him between the ears.

Cat and kid purr.

I warm his feet with my hands. I remember when they were so small that his fingers and toes were literally transparent. Both his feet held in the small of my palm. I could stare at him for hours. Fascinated by the immensity of nature’s confidence that something so small could grow for decades into a full fledged man like me.

“Dad, could we like skip school, today?”

“No, we both have work to do.”

“But it’s soooo cold and I feel soooo good right now. I don’t want to move … forever.”

“I hear ya. We have at least ten more minutes before we need to move.”

He sighs and slips a little further down into the blanket. The cat stretches and yawns.

“Dad, we could call like my teachers and get the uh, work for today and I promise you I’ll do it this afternoon.”

“That’s a good plan for when you’re sick. But not today.”

Another sigh. The cat opens its eyes just long enough to give me a stare. They’re in league.

His toes are warm now. I slip my hands out of the blanket and push myself upright. That was tough. I move to the kitchen and start gathering his lunch…

Two slices of bread, Italian prosciutto, cheddar cheese, baby carrots, pineapple juice, apple sauce.

Just moving about creates eddies of cold air. I get an idea. Bing!

I gather Noah’s clothes, throw them into the drier and set the timer to … delight!

Five minutes later, the machine buzzes. I grab the clothes and move quickly to Noah. I slip them under the blanket. They’re steaming hot.

“Oh Oh Ohhhhh…” is Noah’s reaction of unmitigated pleasure.

“Quick, put them on while they’re still hot.”

Noah pulls the blanket over his head. The cat meows it’s displeasure and tries to sneak underneath, unsuccessfully.

“Oh-ho-ho-oh yeah….” are the muffled cries that accompany the strange animal movements. When he finally emerges, he stands up on the couch and caresses himself all over.

“Dad, dad, could you like do the same thing with my coat and gloves and uh, scarf?”

I glance at the clock. “Sure.”

Noah breaks spontaneously into song.

“Ooooooohhhhhhh yeah, so sweet and hot, like hot chocolate, like my love for you, oooooohh yeahhhh, like a day in spring, ooooohhhhh yeah…”.

I turn the knob and hit the button and the drier starts its tumble of mercy with Noah’s winter stuff.,,, as my boy continues his ode to hot sweetness.

“Ooooooohhhhhhh yeah, so sweet and hot, like hot chocolate, like my love for you, oooooohh yeahhhh, like a day in spring, ooooohhhhh yeah…”.

On days like this I marvel at my relatively new ability to cherish what I would likely have rushed through not so long ago.

 

ready?

“Awwww-unhh!! Why not?”

Noah is on the line with me. He called from daycare at the end of his school day.

“I’ll explain when I pick you up in an hour or so.”

“But dad, you could pick me up at Stelios’ house instead.”

“No. Now hang up, Noah. We’ll talk about it when we’re together.”

“It sucks, I really wanted to…”

“Noah! Hang up. See you later.”

I can hear him muttering as the line goes dead. I hate arguments, of any kind, but the one’s with Noah get every scale of my reptilian brain going crazy. I get angry, sad, authoritarian and whiny all at once.

I go all PMS.

I have nothing against Noah’s friend, Stelios: he’s a good kid with a great single mom. But he walks home from school, a long walk. And Noah is never-ever-ever without adult supervision. Particularly walking to somebody’s house that he doesn’t know the way to, without a phone, without a penny in his pocket and without my having had a conversation with the other kid’s mom.

Funny how this subjecthas come up repeatedly over the last little while. A friend, a guy without kids, marveled that I would not leave Noah on his own at home when I went out Friday nights.

“But he’ s just ten….” I protest.

“Exactly, he’s already ten. And he’s mature.”

My friend grew up in a Tunisian village where everybody was constantly aware of everybody else. Hardly our situation in an apartment in a densely populated neighborhood of a big city.

When I finally get to Noah’s school he’s got a dark brooding look. The kind that scales my reptilian scales. I fight my baser instincts and smile at him.

“Hi kid. How was your day?” I sparkle with determined good humor.

He shrugs. “Okay, I guess.”

“Cool.”

We step out in the -20 Celsius winter.

“Dad, can we get a taxi?”

“No.”

“But dad, I’m too cold like to walk all the way home.”

But it wasn’t too cold to walk to your buddy’s house now was it? That’s what goes through my mind and bangs against the inside of my teeth. I tighten my lips to hold back the words.

“Walk quicker, move your arms and breathe through your nose. It’ll help.”

“But, dad…”

“Tsk tsk…. keep your mouth closed, or your teeth will freeze.”

He throws me a suspicious look.

“Seriously, and the cold air goes straight into your lungs without being warmed by your nose… it can hurt your chest so bad that it feels like a heart attack.”

“Really?”

Now he’s interested. Sweet. Something else I learned raising a small kid. Change the subject, show them a shiny new object and suddenly the most important thing in the world is forgotten.

“Yeah, it’s happened to me before in winter. Scary, man. Even when you’re young it freaks you out.”

“Aaaaaarrrrrggghhhh.” He clutches his chest and simulates a cardiac incident.

“That’s pretty much what it looks like.”

Damn it’s cold!

“Dad? About Stelios.”

Here we go again. I restrain the urge to preemptively silence him.

“Yeah, you know…I hate to say this…”

He looks up at me…. I frown down at him.

“… but I know why you said no and like I’m sorry I called you when you were like working.”

I grab his shoulders and give him a quick hug.

“You’re a great kid.”

And mature, too.

 

 

 

Japan !?!

“That’s so cool, dad. When are we leaving?”

“Whoa… first I need to find a producer, then get the film financed. Only at that point will we be planning a shoot.”

“But you said the shoot would be in Japan, right?”

“Probably.”

“And for how long?”

“Eh… depends on a lot of things but let’s say, two months.”

“Oh, yeah, would I like miss school?”

“No, I would find an English school for you or a tutor.”

“Nooooo, not a tutor. Dad. That sucks. Because, like, you know, you make no friends and stuff.”

Amazing! I just barely mentioned that I was hoping that my next film would be a script I wrote years ago. A Japanese story. And here I am negotiating with my kid about his pedagogical organization while I shoot the yet to be financed production.

Maybe if I am as convinced as Noah, I might actually get financed. What a change it would be from my usual doubting, realistic, long suffering posture. I’ll try. Why not? If it works I can write a self help book. There’s the problem. I can’t eradicate the ifs and buts and maybes from my language.

“Yeah, but, Noah, when (not if, but WHEN) I”ll be shooting, if you have a tutor you’ll be on set all the time.”

“Really? I don’t know dad. Going to a Japanese school would be cool too. You know, see how it works and stuff, you know?”

“Yup.”

“I’ll let you know, dad, okay?”

“Sure.”

Fabulous. Reality and invention becoming one in my little boy’s brain.

Don’t pine after the possible. Plan for it and make it probable.

I watch Noah licking the side of his hand not to lose one gram of the cherry filling that trickled out of his turnover. He champs and chomps. He’s noticed that eating with an open mouth increases the pleasure.

I’m fascinated at the education that he’s giving me.

“Dad, dad, is like the shoot, you know is it like in uhm, Tokyo, or more like Osaka?”

“No idea, it’ll depend on the scouting, when we search for locations. Why?”

“This is the way it is dad. They like have, you know Nintendo centers in Tokyo. It’s the capital, you know? Yeah, so it’s cool because like you have all things Nintendo in one place, you know. Yeah, but, what’s really awesome is that in Osaka…. that’s in the south, dad… yeah, they have like a whole center that is nothing but Pokémon. Imagine? Nothing else, no, uh, other stuff, just Pokemon for like three floors. Sick, huhn.”

“Sick.”

Who ever said video games don’t have an educational value? Noah clearly learned all about Japanese geography. And there’s no way he would be so excited about moving to Japan for a few weeks if it wasn’t for Nintendo and Pokémon.

“Dad, can I have my own email account?”

He’s already asked me several times since the beginning of the year. I’ve refused each time. He’s too young and will be inundated by soliciting of all kinds if he has an account.

“No.”

“But, I’ll need it like to talk with my friends here while I’m in Japan, you know?”

“We’re not in Japan yet.”

“But when we will be, can I?”

I notice the “when” rather than the “if”.

When we will be, we’ll talk about it then.”

“Awwwww-unh. All my friends have accounts dad.”

All in his life generally means the one or two he’s actually asked.

“And how many of your friends are going to Japan?”

“None…”

“You see, everybody has a different life. Now, Noah, we’ve got to hustle or you’ll miss the bus.”

He gets up with a sigh and a grumble. He turns back just before disappearing in the bathroom.

“Dad, can I learn Japanese.”

“Sure thing. Great idea. I’ll find an online course with pronunciation and all that.”

He has that sudden full toothed rabbit smile that just liquefies me with love.

“Sweet.”

Looks like we’re going to Japan. Yay!!

 

duuuhhhh….

“Yeah, okay, whatever…”.

The teen boy deadpan, years before the time. Noah’s ten, and mostly still sweet, but he’s a teen-dork in waiting.

“Come on Noah we have ribs and chicken and Coca-cola. All wonderfully junky stuff. Let’s dig in.”

“Yeah, okay, whatever…”.

My dear friend and brother-in-creation, Marcel, and his wife are vsiting from Paris. He’s a football fan so we’re all ready to watch the playoffs and load on cheap fatty foods and soda. Party time, right!

“Yeah, okay, whatever…”.

What an endorsement.

And yet, Noah really likes Marcel. Normally, the two chat each other up. The big guy treats the little guy with respect and challenging ideas. The little guy feels big.

But this year…

Noah has acquired the dead fish, limp hair, brain dead attitude that the whole world is expecting of him as a rite of passage.

The TV blares the beginning of the match. We’re all set up on the couches, food and drink and plenty of napkins on small tables before us.

Marcel does a gig, happy to be in North America right at the playoffs. One of the most painful trade-offs of moving to Paris was losing the NFL.

We cheer at kickoff. Even Noah gives it a whoop… self-consciously.

Soon we are full of sticky fingers. Noah stares down a fat, beefy rib, before sinking his teeth into it. He chomps and champs and slurps.

“Good ribs, Noah?”

He nods a wide-eyed endorsement complete with an uplifted, sauce dripping thumb.

Fill his stomach with saucy junk food and the better part of him is exposed. Sure he’s a preteen and soon a teen and probably a semi-obnoxious, totally ignorant and loudly so, young adult.

Still. The seeds of a wonderful man are there to be seen even through the noxious fog of growing up.

“Noah, we have to play a game of chess, before I leave.” My friend , Marcel, points a rib at him.

“Really?”  Noah is surprised.

“Sure, I gotta check how good you’ve become since last year.”

“But you’ll miss the game.”

“I’ll keep an eye on the game and beat you.”

“Naw-hunh… no way.”

Noah licks his fingers and runs to get the chessboard.

Hah! He completely forgot to cover himself in the cloak of indifference exemplified by his habitual…

“Yeah, okay, whatever…”.

Tell you… the seeds of a really good man.

 

you and me and…

“… but the amazing thing about that, dad, is that you know Ash, yeah, well he, uhm, goes like from gym to gym to win uh, what do they call them, uh, oh yeah, to win badges yeah, so he battles, you know but to battle he has to capture new Pokémons all the time, you know, so it’s like this, when he wants…”

His unending stream of words floats up to me as we walk side by side on the way home from his school.

“… but the most important, you when he catches a Pokémon is that like the new uh, uh, creature has to want to become a,a, a, friend, or else it cant work, you understand?… yeah, so then…”

I want to tell him to pause, to breathe, but there’s no real point. I know it because that’s exactly what my Father used to say to me. Apparently I was an unending verbal flow. The injunction for air was more of a joke than an actual recommendation. So, as a kid, I just kept talking. Maybe I sensed that the moment I stopped, it would be for a long time.

My Father died this week, eight years ago.

A grade 2 dropout in his native Italy, he was barely literate in the English and French of his adopted Montréal. Yet, he told stories and made mostly salacious jokes in whatever language was needed. I quote him often, or at least that’s what I say. But I’m pretty convinced that many of the pronouncements that I begin with ‘as my Father used to say…” end up in inventions of my own. It would be more accurate to say that it’s in the spirit of my Father.

But, as my Father used to say ” never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

I resemble my Father in many, mostly ineffective ways. But also in some terribly beautiful ways.

I will pursue the idea of woman to the ends of the earth and to exhaustion. Like he did with my Mother. They met during the war, when he was a 19 year old soldier from the North, stationed in her southern Italian village. She was 14. He had a penciled mustache. It was instant love that became marriage and lasted more than sixty years.

But she was not woman, she was a woman. She was very often unhappy… and angry. I think he was very often happy… and angry. They based their lives on a foundational myth, an illusion. A never satisfying proposition.

I’m often angry. And happy and not. And I’ve made my illusions my metier as a filmmaker and writer.

“… and you know what sucks, dad, it’s that when you like …”

I look down at my verbal tsunami machine as he hops and skips and talks and talks. His hands are flying to accentuate his words. His sweet little face is a canvas of fleeting emotions and ideas. He’s a storyteller. And I know he’s happy.

“Breathe, Noah…”.

He stops in  midstep.

“Wha?”

“Stop talking just long enough to breathe.”

He shakes his head. He’s heard it before.

“Dad, if I wasn’t breathing when I talk, I’d be blue and dead, you know. Gotcha, gotcha, oh yeah, oh yeah..” He wets his finger, touches his butt and makes a sizzling sound.

“I’m sooooo hot….”. He laughs and i join in. Then he starts talking again.

“So, like I was saying, the best Pokémon of the new series….”

He starts hopping and skipping as he unpacks the boxes and boxes of ideas in his head. I follow. I wonder if my Father was like that as a kid. Smart, cute, sensitive and brilliantly talented. Until fascism, misery and war stomped on all that.

Talk, Noah, talk until you’re blue in the face and beyond.

I feel a sudden urge to scoop Noah up in my arms and hold him tight like I wish I could hold my Father tight, once more.

Guaranteed…

“Dad, dad, dad!!’

I’m accepting the thunderous applause that has greeted the projection of my latest film. I’m on stage at the Venice Film Festival.

Finally!

“”Dad, dad, daaaaaddddd!!”

Through the sounds of adulation comes the plaintive, urgent call of Noah. My son needs me. I peer in the audience but don’t see him. His voice rings out from the wings. I look stage left. He points at me.

“Daaaaaaaaddddd!!”

I look down at myself. I’m totally naked, on stage.

I wake.

“Dad, daaad it’s 7:40.”

“Whaaaa…?”

“We both like slept through the alarm. We gotta hurry now. I’ll get myself breakfast.”

He charges out of my room. I resist the weight pressing on my eyelids. If I close my eyes I’ll fall instantly asleep. But, dammit, I’ve rolled around so much that I’m now trapped in a tight cocoon of blanket and sheets…all of which are soaked. I must have had a fever rush during the night. I’ve been fighting the onset of some illness or other for a few days. I vaguely remember having gotten up at 2 a.m. dizzy and in pain, head and stomach. I stumbled to the bathroom for two painkillers and fell back into bed.

Noah goes by carrying his dish and a glass of milk.

“Dad, get up now. I’ll miss my bus.”

I get a flash forward to when I’ll be old and he’ll be at the outset of his adult life. I’ll stay in bed and he can run for whatever bus he needs to catch.

“Hey, Noah, can I have breakfast in bed this morning?”

“Daaaaaadddd,”  says his pastry filled voice from living room.

With a sigh and a grunt I roll left and right and left again and finally succeed in loosing the shroud of sheets. As I slip out of bed a shiver runs through my body. I’m soaked in cold sweat. But there’s no pain.

No pain after having suffered pain is a fuller enjoyment than never having pain. Human nature. Or maybe it’s just because I’m Italian and we like to suffer. A tough victory is more satisfying than an easy one.

I would love a shower. I glance at the clock. Ten minutes to bus time.

“Dad, I’m almost ready.”

His mouth is covered with powdered sugar but he is fully dressed. Cute.

“I just need like to brush my teeth and yeah, uh, put my boots and all that.”

“I’m impressed, kid.”

“Thanks dad.”

He skips away into the bathroom. I hear water running and then Noah singing through the tooth brushing. Great kid.

I wonder if I have time for a coffee. I glance at the clock.

Noah peeks out of the bathroom, his mouth foaming.

“Dad? You have to really move it.”

“Right.” No time for coffee.

I turn back into my room, grab the clothes on the floor and start untangling sleeves from legs i the hope of eventually getting dressed. Oh, the travails of teh disorganized!

I finally succeed in clothing myself in a haphazard mix of this and that. Both of us are ready. We head out barely a couple of minutes later than usual.

“Wow. A good thing you were there,Noah, or we would never have made it.”

“Yeah, you were real slow, dad.” He chuckles. He’s been chuckling a lot lately. He must be enjoying his life.

“And you were real fast, so here we are team Barichello is on schedule.”

“Yo man! We’re good.”

We reach the bus stop.

“You”re an awesome dad, dad!”

“Thanks Noah.”

“I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t like true you know.”

“Even better then.”

There you go. Old age is going to be cool. With a kid like that, it’s guaranteed.

 

hehehehe…schizophrenia

“You know my friend… Brenda?”  

“Not sure…”

“Yeah you know the one that has poop for brains.”

Now I know who he means. A girl in his grade who is 3-4 years older because she has some intellectual difficulties.

“Noah! Really?”

“What? It’s true.”

“She doesn’t have poop for brains. She has some problems in her behavior, but she’s a nice girl.”

“Yeah, but like you know she gets up in the middle of class and, uhm, starts singing and dancing.”

Happy?

“She’s weird, dad.”

“Don’t you ever feel like doing that in class?”

“Yeah, but I don’t.”

“Well, you’re lucky because you have the switch in your brain that tells you it’s not the right thing to do, or that it’s the wrong time to do it.”

“Hum.”

He looks doubtful. He pauses at the window of a toy story we pass every day on the walk home from his school.

“Dad. Dad. Look. It’s the new Lego characters…you know the Chima that I told you about.”

“Yup. Let’s move Noah. You have homework and I have to make supper.”

“Dad. Can I just go in for a minute.”

“Nope.”

“Awwwww-unh. I promise I won’t ask you to buy anything.”

“It exhausts me to always be shopping for stuff, whether or not we buy it. Fills my head with useless noise.”

He grumbles but follows my irrevocable forward movement.

“Yeah. About Brenda, dad. What I wanted to say was that she got a Chima set.”

“Maybe she’s just saying that.”

“No, no, like she brought it to school. And it’s so cool, dad, you should see it.”

“Lucky kid.”

“Yeah, she has a Grandmother. You know how grandmothers are. They always say yes. Remember dad, Nonna was like that. I miss her.”

My Mother died last year. He has no grandparents left.

“I miss her too.”

We walk in silence for a while. It happens more often lately. He’s ten now.

“Dad?”

“Doe my Mother have like a switch missing? Like Brianna?”

His Mother is schizophrenic and violent. A whole control panel of missing switches.

“You’re Mom has a mental illness, called schizophrenia.”

“That’s why she hated you?”

“Didn’t help that’s for sure.”

Silence. Half a street block later….

“Dad, do I have the schizo…uh, the schizo…”

“Schizophrenia.”

“Yeah, do I have the schizophrenia, because you know how it is with the genetics, you know.”

Yeah, I know. This is a recurring question of his. Heredity is not destiny but…

“Probably not. You have a great family that loves you. Your mother did not. And you’re your own person, you’re not her and you’re not me.”

“Yeah, like I’m really good at music and you suck. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, dad.”

“No, no, it’s true.”

“Dad, was my Mother like, uhm, Brianna at school.”

“No, it’s a whole different set of problems. When I met your mom she was fine.”

“She caught that schizo thing?”

“No, you don’t catch that kind of illness. It just develops in the brain and shows up eventually.”

“So how do you know that I won’t like develop into it, you know?”

“I don’t know for sure, but it’s unlikely. You know anything can happen. You could get hit by an asteroid.”

“Hehehe … imagine! Right here on the street like, boom, I just blow up and leave just like you know a shadow with my arms like this.”

He throws his arms out and freezes with his tongue sticking out.

“You look just like Brenda.”

“Dad!”

He punches me and chuckles.

“Dad, do you have any like switches that don’t work, like in your head?”

“Absolutely. And some that work better than most people’s. I have talents and I have fears and I have loves and I have handicaps. Like everybody.”

“Awwww, I’m starving, what are we eating dad.”

“Brodo (chicken soup) and little toasts with melted cheese.”

“Oh yeah! You make the best brodo, dad, even better than Nonna‘s.”

“That’s one of my talents.”

“Yeah, and cleaning is like one of your handicaps.”

“Oh you little dork.”

“I throw him down on the snowbank and try to bury him.

He squeals happily. I rumble just as happily.

 

blackberries and cats

“Dad, I find our life has like, I don’t know, gotten better, like.”

“Oh?”

I’m hanging onto my bowl of caffe latté. 7:37 a.m. My body is tired, from nothing, my mind is flat lining, for no reason.

Delightful lack of desire or ambition.

“Yeah, like we’re cleaning the house and like I,m not really interested in TV anymore and we’re eating fruits and vegetables.”

This, as he fills his mouth with blackberries, juicy, sweet and perfectly shaped. The idea of blackberry become reality.

“Yeah, and you know dad, I feel like older, like you know…”

A blackberry, so gorged with goodness, can’t hold back and squirts lavishly out of his mouth onto the table. Noah, turns to me, unsure how to react. He knows it stains.

“Wow, kid, that was one heck of a blackberry. Show off!”

Noah sucks up the juices and chuckles.

“Good one, dad!”

I suck up the last of my coffee and push off the chair.

“I’ll get the socks.”

“Thanks dad.”

Socks are a subject of concern every morning. Finding a pair in the drier is my job. An extension of being the family launderer. I generally make no attempt at matching. Gave that up years ago. But, this morning, I’m feeling generous.

I call out to him from the depths of the dryer. “Noah, I’ve got a match, the striped socks you really like.”

“Sweet.”

I hear him running off to his room. He starts singing the tune he’s memorizing for the school’s musical. They’re doing the Aristocats. He’s playing Roquefort, the mouse.

“Everybody wants to be a cat, because a cat is the only cat that knows….everybody wants to be a cat…”.

By the time I come out of the bathroom, he’s already fully dressed.

“Wow, Noah that was quick.”

“Pretty good, huhn?”

“Nope. Not pretty good…”.

He looks up at me, seriously. Damn, he’s still only four feet tall.

“… aweeeessssssooommmee.”

He smiles spontaneously. My kid is a full-faced, full crooked toothed smile. Radiant. At his age, the best I could command was a Gioconda half smile filled with as much sadness as mirth.

“Mr. François says that like if the play was tomorrow I could do it. I’m the only one who knows all his lines and all the songs. Cool, huhn?”

“Sure is.”

I hand him his toothbrush laden with gel. We both clean our teeth to the rhythm of his brush that flashes for a minute since that’s the time recommended by the Canadian Dentist’s Association.

Yup, I know things!

Kmows sings while brushing. Normally I would tell him to brush and then sing, but what the hell….I join in instead.

Everybody wants to be a cat,
because a cat’s the only cat
who knows where it’s at.
Everybody’s pickin’ up on that feline beat,
’cause everything else is obsolete.
Now a square with a horn,
can make you wish you weren’t born,
ever’time he plays;
and with a square in the act,
he can set music back
to the caveman days.

 

simple…

How sweet it can be!

At 7:30 I caressed Noah’s head…to wake him. His eyebrows arched, but his eyes stayed closed. I gently ran a hand down his short ten year old body.

So small.

He stirred and stretched audibly. His eyes fluttered.

“Bonjour, Noah.”

He smiled. Waking with a smile… a gift!

He curls back up with a sigh…. of pleasure.

“Two more minutes, dad.”

“Sure.”

I go warm a cup of milk and unwrap the Italian cherry cornetto for breakfast. By the time I place them on the kitchen table, he’s stepping out of his room. He looks up, bleary-eyed.

“It’s bright today, dad.”

“Sure is… “.

In fact the windows were awash with bright winter sunlight. Even succeeded in blurring the traces of dirt. I don’t often wash my windows.

“I slept like a dog.”

“You mean a log.”

“Yeah.”

He sits and sips his milk. His ten toes intertwine under the table.

“I don’t know why dad, but I feel awesome. It’s sick.”

He stares at his pastry before taking a bite worthy of an Orc. Then he stares at it again. The cherry filling oozes out. He laps it with his tongue.

Master of his Universe.

I sit down beside him with my caffe latté. I dunk an S-shaped cookie and suck the the coffee.

Master of my Universe.

The cat jumps onto Noah’s lap and turns in circles, searching for the sweet spot.

“Oooohhh…the claws.” Noah grimaces but doesn’t chase the cat away.

“She’s stepping on my balls, dad.” Finally the fat feline settles and goes instantly to sleep.

Master of her Universe.

“We have a great life, huhn dad !?!”

“Yes we do.”

As I say it, I realize that I believe it. No ‘yes…but’ anywhere in my usually disappointed mind.

Could it be this simple?

 

 

Double digits…

“Awwwww….”

“What?”

“Awwwwwwww…”

Noah is now ten, since just before Christmas. “I’m double digit now, that’s sick, man.” was his uber-cool comment.

Maybe being double digit explains why, this Monday morning he’s acting like an adult who hates his job.

“Noah, it’s 7:30, gotta get up. First day of school.”

I shook him gently. But he just rolled over and kept snoring. I shook a little less gently. He grumbled.

“Come on kid. I know it’s hard…you’ve had two weeks off.”

“Dad, just two more minutes…”.

“Okay…I’ll get breakfast ready.”

That was 10 minutes ago.

“Noah, move it now.”

“Awwwwwww….”

“What?”

“Awwwwwwww…”

The gentle mommy part that made me wake him with loving caresses and cooing words of reassurance flips to the daddy side. The Hyde to the Jekyll of single parenting.

“Move it now! Or you’ll miss the school bus… and then I’ll kick you all the way to school.”

Awwwwww…. I don’t want to go to school. It sucks…”

I turn on the brutal overhead light.

“Awwwwww… dad! That’s mean.”

“Stay in bed and you’ll see ‘real mean’.”

“Ouuuuuufffffff….”

He stumbles out of bed and shuffles to the bathroom.

Double digits!

I hear him pee. He stumbles out.

“Wash your hands.”

“Daaaaddddd…”. He goes back in. I hear the perfunctory, tip of finger rinse and he comes back out.

“You didn’t feed the cat.”

“Reaaaaalllly?”

“Really!”

He grumbles back into the bathroom.

Double digits!

“And don’t forget her water.”

He gripes but low enough so as not to be understood. Finally he comes out and settles down for milk and muffins. He looks like hell. Dark circles, mussed hair, an expression on his face that reminds me of bad breath.

“Oh god, today is Monday, so I have Miss Tanya and she’s sure to give us homework. Oh god!!”

And we’re not religious.

“Yay! Homework! Finally some brain work!”

He throws me a side look. Knows better than to get into the nasty humorous tit for tat that will lead him to an ignominious defeat at the hands of his more experienced precursor.

Double digits!

“Noah, if you start your day with such anegative attitude, you’re programming a shitty day. Guaranteed.”

He huffs!

I eventually succeed in getting him off to school despite his ill-tempered foot dragging.

At 12:30 precisely my phone rings. It’s the school.

“Noah banged his head, running in the hallway and now he has a bad headache and he says he feels like vomiting.”

Concussion?

They hand him the phone. He’s crying. My mommy side kicks in.

“Noah, Noah….tell me what happened?”

Through his sobs, he tells me that he fell, fainted, found himself sitting in the office…. I know my kid, I can hear that it’s only half true.My daddy side takes over.

“Stop it, Noah. Tell me the truth, focus, it’s important. Otherwise, I run to pick you up and we rush to the hospital.

He sucks up his snots and tells me exactly what happened. Daddy-doctor asks a few more questions, and determines no concussion. Just a double digit kid who screwed himself up by starting the day wrong.

Suffer!

“Noah, relax, take two tylenol’s from the bottle that’s in you bag and the headache will go away in less than an hour. I can’t pick you until after school, so…”

He controls his sobs.

“Okay dad. Dad…I’m sorry I disturbed you but like my head hurts and I know that it’s my fault because I started the day like not happy, but it hurted anyways.”

“I know kid, I know. It’s okay. You’re double digits now, so it gets complicated.”

“I love you dad.”

“I love you, too.”