Monday, February 8, 2010

A Day in the Fatherhood

The Fatherhood is a chaotic place. It's a place where daytimers, calendars, and the best laid plans are filed under FICTION at the local library. The Fatherhood's not dull. It's often enjoyable. It's at times frustrating. It's life shot from the hip. Kids keep life full of unanticipated twists and turns. Fortunately, most of the unforeseen swerves aren't major (although some are). Usually, they're minor bumps in your day. But still, even relatively small bumps can damage your car and bruise your butt. As a dad, you just have to choose to have an attitude that doubles as a good set of shock absorbers.

Take, for instance, the other day. I was home alone with the kids while Meredith was working at a client's office. While playing with my two boys in the backyard, one of the little girls next door, Mae, decided to come over for a visit. Mae is a sweet, well-behaved little five-year-old. She and her sisters are best friends with our kids, and we love her to death. Mae is energetic, strong-willed, and never shy about demonstrating her impressive ability to ask 122 questions per minute. She also believes that she must be standing within at least six inches of any adult with whom she is having a conversation. One thing's for sure, she'll never be accused of flying under the radar.

Having just finished throwing a ball to my lunatic dog, Zoe, I turned to see Mae climbing over our fence to join me and the boys. Afraid she might fall, I rushed over to help her. I didn't make it more than a few steps before I stepped in a big pile of dog poop. Slipping and sliding the last couple of feet, I reached the fence and helped Mae down. Irritated that the crevices of my right sole were now filled with doggie doo-doo, I sat down, grabbed a stick, and proceeded to clean my shoe as best I could. All the while, Mae stood less than a foot from my nose asking me questions: Mr. Howard, why are you rubbing your shoe with a stick? Mr. Howard, why does your shoe smell like that? Mr. Howard, is that dog poop on your shoe? Mr. Howard, why do you have dog poop on your shoe? Did you know I have a hula-hoop? Did you know I'm almost six? Mr. Howard, are you ever going to wash your car? How long will your shoe smell like that? Do you always say bad words when you step in dog poop, Mr. Howard?

Finally, having survived an interrogation the Obama administration would have labeled as torture, I turned and hopped up the stairs with my poop-covered shoe in hand--my lovable little visitor right behind me. On entering the house, I soon discovered that the door to the garage was wide open and that both my two-year-0ld, Carson, and my dog were gone! A wave of panic rushed over me. Already I could envision the next day's headlines: "Father Loses Son! Unleashes Cujo on Neighborhood!" I rushed outside as fast as I could, Mae following in my tracks, still asking questions. No sign of Carson! My dog, Zoe, on the other hand, was gleefully running from yard to yard as if screaming the words "I'm free!" through interpretive dance. Confident that Carson had gone next door to Mae's house, I commissioned my other son, William, to rush over and check. Fortunately, Carson was there. I then spent the next fifteen minutes pursuing Zoe back and forth through the neighborhood and screaming "Zoe, come!" while passing drivers turned to get a look at the crazy dog chaser wearing only one shoe.

At last, having somehow captured my rebellious canine, I grabbed Zoe by the collar and limped back to the house. Mae kept pace, the whole incident inspiring yet another onslaught of questions. Mr. Howard, how come Zoe didn't come? Mr. Howard, how come you're wearing only one shoe? Isn't your foot cold, Mr. Howard? Mr. Howard, when we get inside, can I have a snack? Did you mean it when you said you were going to sell Zoe to a Chinese restaurant, Mr. Howard?

Returning to the garage, I soon learned that the fun was not over. Unable to turn the door knob, it immediately occurred to me: I'VE LOCKED MYSELF OUT OF THE HOUSE! My only hope was that, in my panic, I had left the backdoor open. I led Zoe around to the fence, then, picked up my sixty-five pound boxer and lifted her up, gently dropping her over the side. I then climbed over myself, every bone and joint in my forty-one-year-old body creaking as I went. Jumping from the top of the fence to the ground, my shoeless foot landed on a pine cone, sending a surge of pain up the leg I'd just skinned while scaling the fence. Conscious of Mae's presence and not wanting to yell any words that could be used against me later, I simply grimaced and bit my lip. Why are you making that funny face, Mr. Howard? Did it hurt when you landed on that pime comb? Did you know that I can paint a pime comb to make it look like a Christmas tree? Do you like Christmas trees, Mr. Howard? What's your favorite part of Christmas, Mr. Howard? Making my way up the stairs of the deck--again--I was relieved to find that the backdoor was, indeed, open. Knowing that my boys were safe next door, I dragged my muddy, pine-cone-punctured foot indoors. Then, I unlocked the door to the garage, let Mae in, and fixed her that snack. (It's hard to eat and ask questions at the same time.) A little while later, my daughter, Emerson, arrived home from school and all the kids went next door to join William, Carson, and Mae's sisters.

And so goes life as a dad. What started as a seemingly simple plan to spend time with my sons and dog ended in one poop-plastered shoe, a mud-stained sock, a briefly escaped dog, and one near missing child emergency. Yep, your typical bump in the road. Just an average day in the Fatherhood.

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