11 OctLife Isn’t a Disneyland Event
I am a bit obsessive when it comes to the trivial details of life. I’ve always had the feeling that real life happens in-between the big Disneyland events. I recently read the biography of Eddie Rickenbacker. Eddie Rickenbacker lived big. I think the fact that most of you reading this don’t know who he is would really bother him. He won the Medal of Honor in World War One for single-handedly attacking seven enemy aircraft and shooting down two of them. He survived twenty-six days in the Pacific Ocean in a tiny raft without any food or water supplies. He owned the Indie 500. He owned a large Airline. He survived a horrific airliner crash where the rescuers left him for last because they wanted to take anyone who had a chance to live first. When I got done with this book I was blown over by the big things he had done, but I still didn’t know who this man was. There didn’t seem to be any room for life between the events.
After I married and started having children (eight of them in the end) I became worried that somehow their lives would get away from me. I was right. I have four children out of the home now, and guess what? I can remember little to nothing about their childhoods. You fathers of young children are thinking this won’t happen to you. You are having all these precious moments. How could you possibly forget them, right? It was like that for me, too, I think. I can’t quite remember, now. Recent and current life pretty much washes all the early memories away. Their childhoods are from another life which is like a fading dream.
Somehow I knew this was coming and I acted. I started writing journals for each of my children when they were babies. Many people take pictures as a way to record life. Pictures are great. I love picture; however, someone has to be present to explain pictures. If my Mom or Dad aren’t present when I go through old albums I don’t know who is who, where we were, or what were doing. Also, a picture couldn’t have captured this trivial little moment with my third son when he was two:
November 15, 1992
You are a real buddy to me now. When I go to work you are very understanding and just wave and say “Bye bye, Daddy. Bye, bye.” But when I am going anywhere else you run and hunt for your coat and your shoes even if I tell you that you can’t come and scream so as to break my heart if I make a move to leave without you. I have taken you to my writing group meetings. You have been so good at these meetings. You quietly play or sit on my lap and make eyes at the others in the room who think you are so cute.
The other night I couldn’t take you with me. You had gotten all ready anyway with your shoes, your coat, and your hood on so I took you out for a walk around the apartment complex. I held you close and could hear your little two-year-old breaths. You pointed out and commented on many things you saw, but it was the moon that impressed you most. It was full and floated beautifully in the sky.
You pointed at it and said, “Moon.”
I said, “Yes, it’s the moon.”
“My moon?” you asked.
I decided that it was yours as much as anybody else’s and said “Yes, it’s your moon.”
“Oh, my moon,” you said.
You looked at it for a long time. I saw its reflection in your eyes and its pale light lit up your face. I’ll always remember that night and that the moon is Rory’s.
I had no memory of this moment with my son until I read his journal a few minutes ago. I expect this son will have some big events in his life, but for me this quiet, little moment is life at it’s richest. I’m so glad I took the time to capture it.
I’ve been keeping one of these journals for all eight of my kids. That’ll teach me to have eight kids, won’t it. On the other hand just imagine how many moments so many children can make. And now I can remember many of them.
Here’s a moment with my second son when he was four. I just read it and thought, This happened to us? How wondeful.
March 16, 1992
You are trying so hard to be a “big boy” now. This morning you put on your Sunday clothes all by yourself without me or Mom knowing. You did a very good job too. Your suit coat was buttoned up wrong and your collars were all skiddywompus but other than that you looked good.
We walked to church today. The weather was so beautiful. You walked beside me and hung on to the bag I was carrying. You said, “I like you Dad.”
“I like you too,” I answered.
“Because I’m big boy,” you said.
“I loved you just as much when you were a little boy,” I said. “And I’ll love just as much when you are even older.”
It’s true. He is grown and married. I love him every bit as much.
As long as you are breathing life if flowing on. When I reach the age where kids and even adults look at me and think nothing more than “old person” I still want to be able to remember what happened during that blink that was my life. Writing down those moments in-between events is my way of doing that.