Friday, February 26, 2010

What a difference a year makes, ahamos edition

This week last year was one of hope, travel, and possibility. Just like this year, it began with a birthday party for one of Alastair's friends, but that's where the similarities end.

I had just started a new job. Just over a month into it, I was learning the ropes and still putting names to faces. I'd done a ton of learning in a short time, and it energized me. I like what I do when it's full of challenge and growth.

Alastair had just turned 3.

I was putting the finishing touches on the race car, truck, and trailer in anticipation of a March 1 track event.

And Amanda was en route to Houston to begin clinical trials.

The energy in the house was amazing. She was still hoarse, and not thrilled about leaving her boy(s), but the prospect of a medical team that wasn't about to write her off--one that might have real results to offer instead of just maintenance--put her in pretty good spirits.

We were in a good place.

Sunday Alastair and I went to the same party. And that night he had a night terror (and another one last night).

He talks about death a lot now. He's adamant that he doesn't want either of us to ever die.

I've been at my job for over a year, and the shiny has largely worn off.

Racing season starts soon, and I've done nothing. Absolutely nothing. I've seriously considered selling all of it, but since I've pre-paid for 4 events, I guess that's not a really viable option.

But I don't feel like I'm depressed, so much as I feel like this is just winter blahs. It's hard to say.

The widow I recently met stirred up a lot of emotion that I thought was long-settled. I certainly don't blame her for it--they're emotions that I've put off or simply ignored for far too long.

And even now, almost a year later, I still don't know how to properly express them. My feelings are like one of those crazy fish balls: thousands of fish swimming in a tight and nigh impenetrable ball. Only what predators do I have to worry about? The tuna of conscience? The shark of responsibility?

At Alastair's check-up yesterday I was asked if he'd been lead-tested. I realized that I had no idea. Not because I'd never been told, but because that, like so many other details of our lives, was something I could always rely on Amanda to remember.

I'm rehashing stuff I've said before. And I'm guessing I will again.

I miss my wife.

What my mom did

I feel like I've told this story here before, but in my 18.3 second search of previous posts, I couldn't find it. Seems a bit bass-ackward that I'd spend more time re-typing than searching, but that's how I roll.

So last year, a week after Amanda's memorial service, my mom had her annual Easter party. She does it up pretty big, with Easter egg hunts, tractor rides, horse rides, play-fishing, and other random "only at the farm" events. It was fun for us in '08, and was the last event we did as a family with Alastair before the hospitalizations began.

I told her we'd try to make it, but after mom's arm-clenching at the service (she wouldn't let me out of her sight for almost an hour after the service was over) I just didn't want to deal with her. So we went to the Monument Avenue Easter Parade instead. It's fun and decidedly less stressful.

See, mom tends to make everything about her. Last summer--oh goodness, I guess now I mean summer-before-last--when she came to visit Amanda in the hospital, my dad was there. Mom didn't feel like she got the personal attention SHE deserved, so she left. The day after Amanda died, I called to share the bad news, and she boo-hoo-hooed for several minutes on end about how much this affected HER. How upsetting it was to HER. Then she showed up at the airport after being expressly asked not to, and made me drive her weepy self all around the airport parking lot because "in her sorrow" she'd forgotten where she parked.

And did I mention she was high at the service? She's been high for every service we've both attended for, well, probably all of my life. She was high at her dad's, high at her mom's.

Anyway, I didn't want to deal with her fruitcakery on Easter. BFD, get over it.

So when we got back from the parade, I called to apologize for not coming. I got a 20-minute lecture on how disappointing it was that we abandoned her on her biggest day of the year. Mind you, Amanda had been dead for less than 3 weeks. Then she hit me with the big 'un: "You know, you're lucky Amanda died so you'll never have to know the pain of divorce."


Ok, seriously?


We haven't spoken since. Now, that's not exactly abnormal for our "relationship". Several times we've let almost a year pass without communication, but I feel no desire to ever speak to her again. Every time we speak, it's poison to my soul.

Amanda and I had long-since agreed (actually before Alastair's birth) that mom would never have unsupervised time with Alastair. Her lies are so thick and told with such sincerity that they were hard for me to unravel--I will not have that pain inflicted upon my son. In the wake of such a charming encounter, I see no reason for her to ever be allowed to speak to him. Supervised or not, her presence is toxic.

I resent my mother.

Where to begin?!

I worry a lot about what kind of father I am.

Alastair is a great child. Really, he is. He's easy-going, well-mannered, and very gentle. He apologizes for his wrongs, shares well, and tells me all the time how much he loves me.

So I feel bad when I reprimand him, but then I wonder if maybe the reprimanding is why he's so well-behaved. It's a catch-22: I want to be lax and non-restrictive with him, but that is exactly what I think leads to ill behavior. I distinctly recall some early interactions with my mother as being very negative, and I don't want him growing up afraid of me, but I also don't want him growing up with today's whacked-out sense of entitlement. Respect must be earned. Privileges may be revoked. These are truths of life, and treating a child like a prince or princess will not prepare them for the world.

On the other hand, I want my little boy to be my little prince forever. I shower him with love and hugs and affection. He's all I have, and the only reason I'm still even remotely sane after 11 months without Amanda. Hell, he's probably the only reason I didn't kill myself after she died.

So I hate myself whenever I'm short with him. TV shows and movies don't help, where they always show a father and son who've grown distant. I couldn't bear to be distant from him.

And yet he apologized to me the other day for "always making me angry." Oh how I died inside! Have I become what I fear most? Overbearing and unyielding? I try to pick my battles carefully, and I told him that he doesn't always make me angry--that I only get upset with him when he doesn't listen (just like his sitters, his grandparents, and everyone else in his life). And my being upset is nowhere near as vehement as it was a few months ago.

I've said before that this is going to be Alastair's year. I mean it. He's not gonna be little for much longer, and I don't want to miss a moment. We got a Wii recently, and now, in addition to our nightly monster truck racing and wrestling, we try to sneak in a game of Mario Kart or a bit of flying in Sports Resort. He loves it, and both games force me to relax and let him just be a crazy little kid.

And this morning he learned that what works in the games does not always work in the real world. In Mario Kart, it's just fine to slam into things. In the kitchen, on his Lightning McQueen ride-on, slamming into things hurts his crotch. So yay for learning!

Right now my poor little guy is suffering from a bit of a fever. Yesterday he had his 4-year checkup, and he had to get 4 shots, including his MMR, which made me the sickest I've ever been in my life. But he got great marks everywhere else, weighing in at 41lbs and measuring 41.125" tall. His vision is like mine: 20/30, and he's my sweet angel.

I love my boy.

Please Stand By...We're Experiencing Emotional Difficulty

I have so very much to say, and on so very many things, that I let the day go by without posting anything. Mind you, February 25 did not go by unnoticed, and my heart has been heavy.

I love my boy, I resent my mother, I miss my wife. There's more, but that's the crux of what's been on my mind.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

M-M-M-Monster Jam! Thunder Nationals!

Yup. I did it. Put aside my high-brow tastes and took Alastair to see the monster trucks. And ya know what? It was pretty awesome.

I made a decision a few weeks ago that 2010 will be Alastair's year. Last year we didn't do very much. I let our Children's Museum membership lapse, we did one trip to the beach, and hit Busch Gardens on the hottest day of the year. But this year he's old enough to really get excited about exploring new things, so we're gonna try to pack it all in and see what works and what doesn't.

It's gonna rock hard core.

He's been watching the monster trucks on TV for the last two years or so. He has at least 50 of the toy trucks, a monster truck ramp, and a rotating platform smash & crash stadium thing-a-ma-bob. So when I found out they were coming, I bought tickets. Nosebleed section, just in case the show scared him.

He had toys of 2 of the trucks that were there, so he brought those with him, along with a fancy set of headphones that he never took off his head ("Daddy, I'm gonna keep my headphones on the whole time. I promise.").

And to be honest, the monster trucks themselves were perhaps a bit anticlimactic. He can't play with the real ones, they're really loud, and he'd seen 'em on TV. The only thing the live experience could add was the nauseating smell of exhaust and tire smoke. But the jet-powered go-karts, now THOSE caught his attention. And the battling robots? Oh, yeah.

But the absolute best part of the whole show was the R/C monster trucks. There was something of an intermission during which a few dudes brought out some really high-dollar R/C trucks--the kind that really do go about 60mph. They set up ramps and one of them was able to jump all the way over 5 cars while doing two back-flips. And the crowd went wild. More so than for the real trucks, honestly.

As it was winding down, Alastair started to get kind of tired of the whole show, and told me that he wanted to go. Turns out we were watching the last truck do its last performance, so he made it through the whole show. Good for you, buddy! Then we got as close as we could to one that was parked near our seats, and I got a great picture of him grinning like a loon in front of it.

If you have a young boy, go see the daggone monster trucks. And make them wear hearing protection--those go-karts made the whole building shake, and when the monster trucks do donuts, it's positively deafening.

Next up: the circus!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

My Thoughts on Lost S6 Premiere

I've not seen these ideas discussed elsewhere (but frankly I'm too lazy to look much farther than the first 20 comments on Pajiba), so here are some randoms:

1. Jack recognized Desmond not because his mind is splintering, but because they have met before. When Jack was running up and down the bleachers in that stadium, they chatted briefly. Long before Desmond went sailing around the world. AND HOLY MOTHERFUCKING SHIT, YOU GUYS!!!!! DESMOND IS WEARING A WEDDING BAND! You only catch it in a couple of frames, when he's standing to let Jack into the seat, but it does flash brightly.

2. But maybe Jack's mind really is splintering, a la Daniel Farraday and Desmond Hume.

3. Fake Locke / Smoke-Monster wants to go home. He is, however, hundreds of years old, so home cannot be so simple as "Paris" or "Madrid". It has to be some place unaffected by the passage of time. Hell? Possibly. Heaven? Equally possible. If so, then Jacob is (was) either an angel sent to keep him trapped or a demon sent for the same purpose. Odds seem likely that Jacob was an angel, given FL/SM's conniving efforts to escape through the centuries.

If FL/SM is a demon, and the island was an energy prison of some sort, that would explain the need to continuously move it, as God would seek to protect man from the evil, yet man's fall from grace would also explain the continuous need to seek it out.

Sorry to drop the obvious heavy-handed religious themes here, but either Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are the smartest two guys in the whole history of story-telling, or it's gonna go Matrix on us. I don't see any other way out.

4. Richard Alpert. FL/SM said he was glad to see him out of those chains. Was Alpert a slave on the Black Rock? This I have seen covered, but it seems unlikely to me. I've long thought Alpert was a crew-man on the ship, that Jacob was its captain, and that at some point there was a serious mutiny. There are not other "others", but two groups that can both trace their history to that one ship. Those who served, and those who mutinied.

5. The split time-line. I can't be the only person who noticed that the 2004 non-survivor passengers are being forced together in spite of their good landing. There are threads tying them all together, and I'm curious to see whether or not they need the island physically to be forced into interaction. Perhaps the differences in the alternate time-line were imposed by whatever energy/spirit/whatever in order to produce the same results. Sort of a manifest destiny, if you will.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Everything hurts

Epic snow-pocalypse #2 for this wintry season, #3 in the last 12 months. Richmond, as a rule, just doesn't get snow. We're nestled between the mountains and the ocean, and most big systems either stall out in the mountains or sweep just north of us. But we've had 3 snow-storms with accumulation in less than a year, with more expected this weekend. Holy crap.

Since it doesn't snow much here, there's not much call for having fancy snow-toys. Yeah, sure: we have an inherited old sled (the kind with the wooden deck and metal rails), but it's heavy, doesn't glide well on anything other than packed powder, and requires maintenance. Screw that!

When it does snow, the 3 or 4 places in town that stock toboggans are inundated with requests. I didn't want to be "that guy", and I knew my little boy was statistically unlikely to see much more of the white powdery stuff around town too terribly often, so I splurged.

Wednesday of last week, I ordered these two pieces of pure awesome:

For Alastair, the Zipfy Freestyle Mini Luge. It's bigger than it looks, but still by far the smallest thing out there on the slopes. Alastair had little trouble keeping it upright, and was actually doing some moderate steering by the end of the weekend.

We did find another little boy who had one, and we got to do some racing.

For me, the Flexible Flyer PT Blaster. This one is actually smaller than it looks. I had thought--based on some reviews--that I'd be able to put Alastair in front of me, but that turned out to be extremely cramped.

This things FLIES. Holy crap. No seriously: holy crap. It was the fastest thing out there, went farther than anything else, and could steer. Everyone who rode it raved about it. You should buy one.

My in-laws kept Alastair most of the weekend, taking him Friday night and keeping him thru Sunday afternoon, so I got a chance to try out both sleds before taking him out (didn't want to trudge all the way out only to realize they were both duds). But when we did get out, whoa.

I was scared to let him go down by himself the first time, since almost all hills in Richmond end with creeks, so I tried running down the hill beside him. I was able to stay right at his side at almost a full run, but at the bottom of the hill, I didn't correct for the flat ground and face-planted. Not wanting my son to get his first exposure to freezing water, I flung my arms out like a diving football player and managed to catch him as my face hit the snow. TOUCHDOWN!! And the crowd went wild--literally. I got cheers for my save.

We moved over to another area with a longer run-out and spent over two hours trudging up and down, trading toboggans, and having THE BEST TIME EVER. He got the hang of his mini-luge in a hurry, and we didn't leave the park 'til after dusk.

Monday I had to stay home with him because the babysitters were unavailable. I needed to get a bit of work done, so I figured we should try Forest Hill Park (I'd heard good things about the crowd-levels and quality of hills there). Man o man is that place out of control! Mostly in a good way, but still a bit bonkers.

Their snow has been packed into moguls on one side, and nearly-flat surfaces on the other. Of course Alastair was drawn to the moguls. So here's my son, not yet 24-hours into his first sledding adventure of his whole 4-year life, jumping moguls. Fairly successfully, too. Sure, he fell plenty of times, but he also landed that Zipfy like a pro. Twice he mashed his face into the snow, and both times came up grinning like a loon. The first time was good enough to elicit cheers from the crowd. He'd gone straight down like a rifle-shot, hit a small mogul, launched off a larger one, flew sideways through the air, and came down pretty hard. There was a collective gasp from the crowd when he launched, and cheers when he sat up (with snow mashed behind his sunglasses). No tears, no whining. He just rubbed his head and said "ow", grabbed his luge, and headed back to the top. My kid is hard-core.

After an extremely late nap, we dashed back to Bryan Park to get in as much more fun as we could before the cops closed the park, and with temps in the 40's and 3 days of sledding behind it, the hill was slick and fast. FAST. And extremely dangerous. Alastair got clobbered by an adult at the bottom of the hill. Solid hit to the ribs that flattened him. He did not get up quickly, and when he did, oh boy was there some crying. The guy felt awful, but really it was Alastair's fault: he likes to sit at the end of his runs and relish the moment. Everybody understands that it's the responsibility of the walkers to get out of the way of the sleds. Everybody but my son.

But after that, he got it. And we found that little boy who had the other Zipfy, and the three of us had race after race after race. Alastair is fast and stable on that thing, but in a race he looks around too much. One time he careered into the other little boy, cutting him off and making him fall. Alastair "won" that race, but I'm pretty sure he should have been penalized.

Again we sledded until it was too dark to do so safely, and I hauled his wet tired butt out of the park on my sled.

My ass hurts, I'm exhausted, and they're calling for more snow this weekend. Hells yes.