Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Early morning.




JAB, dammit!

Time to interpret. I had my good ear up, so I must have been snoring. I changed my head position, and burrowed a little deeper. Then I heard it; I was being paged. 

"Daddy, Daaaaddy..."

3:45 am. 

Here we go again.

Once Jay heard my crutches clacking on the floor, he quieted down. It impresses me when he does that, as patience is not a strong suit for him. I suspect it's that way for many two-year-olds. I stopped at the fridge and filled a sippy cup of milk. I clicked and clacked to his door and opened it. He quietly whimpered, then began to cry. "I'm scared." 

Daddy's here, honey.

I picked him up, knelt down to the floor, and the crying intensified. I handed him the milk, and he suckled himself back to some point of comfort. I pointed to the glider rocker and asked, "Do you want to rock?" 

He pointed out the door, to the living room. Okay, we wanted THAT rocker. I said, "That's fine, if you want to walk out there with me." He slid down to the floor, and waddled, with his thick overnight diaper and sleeper shaping his movements.

We assumed our normal position in the recliner, rocking slightly while he sucked down about half of the milk. He handed me the bottle, and rolled chest-to-chest with me. He rested his head under my chin, and went back to sleep. I reclined a bit, and relaxed in hopes of going back to sleep myself. My thoughts wandered so many places, but seemed to settle on recounting any number of my social and physical failures.

The original fall which shattered my ankle 14 years ago, was both. I was in a downward spiral personally. I began my role as director of an 81-day Outward Bound Semester Course emotionally exhausted, and anything but clear-headed. The staff did not get the emotional or physical support needed from me, a problem that became especially pronounced as the weather in the Sangre De Cristo range was miserable for the first two weeks of the course. Once we got to the Sonoran Desert for the rockclimbing portion of the course, I was bent on making it up to them. Of course, this tainted my judgment. I took on a climb near the outer reaches of my ability, and I hadn't climbed much during the summer. The looks on the faces of the instructors who helped carry me out was enough. No one needed to say how disgusted they were. In the end, I would become the model for "things not to do as an Outward Bound Course Director." 

Jay shifted his weight, lifted his head and turned from his left cheek to his right. He pulled his hands under his face to form a pillow. He cooed in approval of his new-found comfort. He jammed his elbow into my throat.

I gently shifted his arm, and turned my head. He grunted, but accepted the new position.

I returned to my reverie. 

The snow fell heavily. My wife, with a history of two herniated discs earned as a large animal veterinarian, is wearing down. The extra burden of taking care of two horses, wrenching one wheelbarrow load after another of manure, hay, and bedding, lifting and wrestling with Jay, shoveling out large snowfall after large snowfall, driving Jay to daycare and picking him up a few days a week (on top of long, hard workdays), she has stepped up to the challenge and then some. However, it's wearing thin, and her back is getting toasty. There was no way to predict this winter would come about the way it has, not back when we scheduled this. She has adapted, using snowshoes to tramp down a path to the barn, and to help her make the climb back up. My mind rolled from movie clip to movie clip of her day's activities. The genesis of this situation is not lost on me. 

Jay stretched mightily, thrusting his foot into my crotch. I arched my backed reflexively, and he flopped to his side. I pulled his foot out and placed it more comfortably. Well, at least it was more comfortable for me. He objected, and slammed it back where he had it. I let out a grunt, and did some quick biomechanic reckoning. I changed the angle of the recliner, and that allowed him a more relaxed angle for his legs. I sighed in relief. 

Finally, sleep came.

I am at a street fair of some sort. I wander from exhibits to games, to entertainment. As I stroll along, I feel some discomfort in my ankle. I realize I no longer have my crutches. I hobble around trying to locate them, hazily stumbling, hoping to find them before my ankle gives out completely. An unfamiliar but friendly face stepps in front of me. "I think you might need these."
"Hopefully not for much longer. Thank you."
When I turn around, I am with my family at the trailhead for Haystack Mountain. We are heading into the unknown, about to test the surgeon's work, as well as my own concurrent efforts. Have I done "enough"? Have I honored my wife's efforts? Are we ready for this?

The alarm blasted away from the bedroom. Jay had tampered with the volume dial the day before, and turned it up full blast. I heard a grunt and a "smack" from the bedroom as Laura responded in disgust. Jay didn't budge.

I was starting to feel the effects of the past two hours of this 33-pound lump on my chest. My lungs were fussing a bit, so I raised the recliner to a more upright position. My breathing eased. Jay straightened out his legs, and nearly slid onto the floor. Still, he didn't awaken. Finally, he dismounted, rubbed his eyes open, and turned to me. 

"Hi daddy."

Good morning, Jay.

The snow is falling again. We're supposed to get one to three inches, but even inside the house it feels like there will be more. Laura is in the garage, strapping on her snowshoes. Time to feed the horses.


  1. … a nice back and forth here. Nurturing and pondering - the wee hours are so quiet and I often can't get back to sleep. It seems during the day, I can doze right off when my child reads phonics to me, or I read a storybook. But the middle of the night does soothe and relax - but my mind seems to roam. :) Very sweet and well told moments.

  2. Thank you so much. Pondering for sure.