Month: June 2017

(Not Quite) Ready for Takeoff, Batman


This little fella is on his way. Actually, he has been on his way for quite some time. An object in continuous motion. From the moment we first laid eyes on him in the hospital room nearly 16 years ago.  Before then, really, since he was an active little bugger in his mother’s belly, as I recall.  To date, no matter how far he’s sprinted off, his little figure in the  distance was still perceptible to the human eye.  To my human eye. 

I feel that’s about to change.

We have had some test launches, to be sure.  Sleep-away summer camps during which Max would effectively hover on the dark side of the moon, incommunicado, for weeks at a time. A month-long sojourn to China — I still don’t have a firm grasp on the far-flung villages he visited; it all seemed so surreal.  The Terra Cotta Warrior statuette stands vigil on my bedside table, a subtle reminder as I sit here typing in my pajamas, that my firstborn has stood in places I can barely comprehend and likely will never see.  And it feels as though he is poised to do it again. Only this time, to me, feels different. 

We have twisted the dial two years into the future, more or less.  The dreaded thud of college-trunk-on-dormroom-floor will twist my innards two years earlier than they expected to be twisted. My boy is headed to boarding school in the fall. Two thousand nine hundred eighty four and four-tenths of a mile from home. I’ve had a couple months to mull this over. To conjure up the poignant, anticipated images in my mind’s eye, affording my head and heart an opportunity to process things. To try to make peace with it. I am forcing myself to get there, because this is the right thing for Max.

But I’m clearly not there yet.

This streak of consecutive nights I plod up the bedroom stairs to the living room couch?  I have been telling my wife, and myself, that the couch offers respite from the frequent snoring emanating from my bed and/or from the dog’s bed.  There is snoring, but that’s not what gnaws at me.  The bowls of cinnamon squares at 4 in the morning are not the result of low blood sugar or simple hunger. The obsessive Twitter newsfeed binges that settle me back to sleep just as the birds outside begin to wake do not stem from a need to stay abreast of breaking news.  

I am wrestling with what happens — what I know will happen — when a parent gives the greenlight for takeoff. 

I vividly recall watching my preschool, race-bibbed Batman pump his little legs down that short stretch of macadam. I guess I didn’t realize the nondescript strip of pavement was actually a runway. And that he would continue running right through the finish line tape. Off in the distance now, he’s nearly off the ground, feet barely in contact.  I can still see him if I squint, but just barely. And I need to get myself ready.  

Thanks for reading.  

The Monopolist in the Mirror

I pretty much despise board games. I think the genre is misspelled — “should be ‘bored’ games,” I’ve often smartassedly protested. Not at all sure from whence this aversion came. But an aversion, nonetheless, it most assuredly is. Bordering on a full-fledged phobia. Don’t tell me the DSM-IV sits conspicuously silent when it comes to Yahtzee-induced hyperventilation. I recognize a diagnosable malady when I feel one. 

So it was with considerable trepidation that I bellied up to the Monopoly board on our living room carpet last night, ill-advisedly consenting to a competition with my wife and my 11 year-old. Our Little League season had just come to a sudden end, my team losing in the championship game two days ago. So the after-dinner ruminations of the past several months — noodling over various lineup combinations and scanning spreadsheet data describing our opponents’ tendencies — have ceased to ruminate. (Yes, I realize these ruminations likely are covered by the DSM-IV.) 

My annual, post-playoffs, hazy funk left me vulnerable.  Head cocked to the side, drooling a bit, staring off into the distance. Lingering in this addled state, I numbly heard some faint murmurs about “playing a game” as the dinner table’s chairs were pushed back from the dinner table. I vaguely recall the click of the door that secures the closet bursting with boxes of anxiety-provoking “games.” And someone I think asked me if I wanted “the shoe or something else” as my game piece. My head swam a bit as I distractedly shouted from the kitchen, “I’ll take the guy with the top hat!” 

Everyone knows that there is no gamepiece guy with the top hat. Everyone except me, that is. That guy is the iconic, Robber Baron logo who graces the box cover. You can be a schnauzer or you can be a wheelbarrow. But evidently you can’t be the mustachioed industrialist who presumably is or was a constant presence in the local society pages. My wife and son, of course, knew this critical piece of information that I did not. And I have no doubt that, sitting crisscross applesauce in the other room from me, the two shared a knowing, conspiratorial look. If you walk into a room not knowing who the mark is, welp, you, sir, just might be the mark. 

The game did not go well for me. 

We played at an accelerated pace, due to an impending  and agreed upon bedtime. I had little time to ponder my moves before making them. And I exacerbated my poor decisions by going on a property and utility buying rampage. I also deliberately shouted “Yes!” with each roll of the die, knowing this distracting tactic was likely a breach of die-rolling etiquette. An attempt, in retrospect wholly unsuccessful, to mask my general ignorance and bitter disappointment with the piddling $6 “rent” promised by my just-purchased property. I enthusiastically shelled out $50, over and over again, to spring myself from Jail. Sporting a sweaty-faced maniacal grin, probably exactly as a genuine convict would do if given the opportunity to purchase his freedom for $50. 

If I was going to go down, I was going to do it loudly, with style, and following a game strategy so preposterous and wrong-headed that my adversaries would be confused. A little intimidated. Maybe a touch frightened. And with any luck, they would never invite me to join them again. I hope they learned their lesson. 

Thanks for reading.