To The Best Moms Ever

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I’ll begin with my mom, because she is the only mom I ever had.  We lost her way too early, and that has created an uneasy void in my life that has tinged my existence immeasurably.  You can look back at your time together with a person and see shadings from all different angles.  Like most parent/child dynamics, we had ups and downs.  But my mother helped form me into who I am today, and I have only good things to remember and retell about her.  She taught me endurance, fearlessness, willpower and reason.  I can’t say that I’ve always used those traits correctly in every situation, but she has been with me as my guide always. 

Although she never considered herself a good cook, she created meals for me that I still remember fondly and attempt to re-create.  I experiment in life and in the kitchen, in part, because of her.  She never hesitated to take on new challenges, even if the outcome was unknown. 

She was also very mechanical, and I definitely inherited that quality from her.  Mechanics, diagnostics and repair come very naturally to me and have served me well over the years.  I have limits, recognize them, and have my mom to thank for that distinction. 

My grandmother taught me about patience, innocence, curiosity and generosity.  She was much more of a role model than she ever knew.  She was taken from us later in life, quickly.  There was no time for suffering or even a complete understanding of what was happening.  Her life was tragically altered after the death of her only daughter, my mom.  Following that, we became extremely close and essential to each other.  My grandmother was one of the kindest and friendliest people you could ever have the privilege of knowing.  She had a magical ability to make friends with total strangers, while always seeing the best in them.  I have some of her unconditional optimism in me; it's a good quality to have, but always puts you at risk of being hurt by others.  She was a great mom to my mom.

My wife is the current mom in my life.  To me, she is a wife.  I have been fortunate to find a person that is on the same wavelength as me.  We are completely different people, and forgive me for using the clich├ęd phrase "she completes me," but that's exactly what she does.  She has many of the strengths that I lack, and conversely, I have some of the strengths that she lacks.  Together, we are a complete team that is well equipped to handle most of the life events that are thrown our way.  I can tell her how special she is to me, but she will never know what an important role she has in my life.  We began at a slow simmer, but over time have steadily come to a full boil.  I can only hope that when memories are all she has left of me, she will know how integral she was to my survival following the death of my parents. 

You always wonder in life what kind of things your own children will remember of you and your modus operandi.  I hope that my kids will have some positive stories to remember about me.  As far as my wife (their mom) is concerned, I have no doubt that they will lovingly follow the example that she set with respect and thankfulness.


Dictaphone Dad

Thursday, May 5, 2011

There is nothing more frustrating than watching my little girl work on a writing assignment for school.  Try as I may to stay out of her business, I can’t help but inject some tidbits of wisdom into the project.  Call me a concerned Dad; call me an anal retentive wannabe writer; call me a stickler for logic and detail.  It doesn’t really matter what you call me, it takes incredible strength for me to encourage her to write the paper all by herself without partaking of the festivities. 

You may have seen some of my work:  The Eagle and the Fox, The Fox and the Grape, and my personal favorite, Elephants.  There is a problem that I am all too aware of:  my writing voice is nowhere near my daughter’s writing voice.  My daughter’s thread of reasoning is also on a different plane than mine.  Did I just use a geometry term?  I’m sorry; I must still be in my math homework mode. 

To help a young writer, from a teaching standpoint, it helps to deconstruct the story to its core.  I like to use parallel examples from real life to help illustrate the theme of the project story.  “What would you do if you couldn’t get what you wanted?”  “How would you feel if someone said that to you?”  I encourage original thought while attempting to guide the process in a linear fashion.  Kind of complicated for sixth grade; but if not now – then when? 

She spins, she squirms and she looks at me with those eyes.  “What do I do next?

“What is the story about?” I say.  “Just write about it, in your own words.  What are the characters doing?  What happens?”  She pauses, stumbles and then reads me her entry.  She looks at me again, with hesitation, waiting for my response.   “It’s almost there,” I say.  “Let’s clean it up a little.  It’s not a complete sentence.  Keep going.  You’re doing great!” 

She’s so close, but not quite there yet.  I know she can write a meaningful, compelling story.  I’ve seen her in-class journals.  One of these days I know that she’ll impress me with a totally original story.  She definitely has the potential; it just hasn’t fully sprouted yet. 

Writing comes naturally for some, while it’s a chore for others.  I’m hoping for a day, in the not so distant future, when it will come more naturally for her.  I’m not prepared to help her write college level papers. There will certainly be more sophisticated tools by then, and a dad making some simple verbal suggestions will be an obsolete concept. 

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