Being Papa

I ought to leave enough hot water
 For your morning bath, but I’d not thought
 I hate to hear you talk that way
 But I can’t bring myself to say I’m sorry
 The past is always knocking incessant
 Trying to break through into the present
 We have to work to keep it out
 But I won’t be the first to say it’s over
 I used to want to plant bombs at the last night of the proms
 But now you’ll find me with the baby, in the bathroom,
 With that big shell, listening for the sound of the sea

For most of my life, I was pretty content with being an uncle, with working with kids in schools and not necessarily having the day-to-day responsibility for raising a child. I could never really imagine how much my life would change once I had my kids. I was pretty good with other kids, having patience, understanding and a willingness to just yell when I needed to and not be angry all the time. Having your own kids is a complete different world. Obviously the whole pregnancy and preparing the house was super important, but you never really knew the intensity of the responsibility that one has for bringing up a decent human being. It starts in the whole birthing process and witnessing that miracle but it really hits you, when a nurse says to you, “okay you can go home now.” And you’re like “really”, we have no idea what we are fucking doing. It’s surreal in this day of government overreach and the nanny state, that perhaps the most important thing you’ll ever do is unlicensed and virtually unregulated. When Elena was a day old, it was Christmas Eve and we were headed home, although the car seat was installed, we had really no idea of how to actually put this living being into said car seat and leave the hospital, yes if you’re having your first one, always practice how to do this, you’ll be tired and not interested in learning new things.

Having children was like being reborn yourself, you are entirely different person, you’re a mom or dad. The only thing I can really compare my stroke to was this feeling of becoming a parent. It was equally as exhausting albeit having the children was exciting, positive and new as opposed to depressing, dark and terrible. Nonetheless, a major part of my recovery is becoming Papa again.

Most of you who are reading this know me and my children. For those that don’t I have two interesting and active little girls who I’ve referred to frequently in these writings. They are absolutely different and both of them take a little bit in personality from both me and my wife. My almost 10-year-old, Elena is a super student at school, tall and really pensive and is very helpful to other adults but often a pain in the ass at home, Marisol, my six-year-old is a maniac, can be loud and obnoxious and as one of my friend’s states, “she’s feisty” and is just a crazy ball of energy, she also behaves in school but at home is sometimes a piece of work. I think most people, both adults and children enjoy their company but I’m pretty biased.

I was a pretty active person. I spend most of my off time in the spring, summer and fall kind of futzing around the backyard and working in my gardens, I try to drive my girls out there who don’t really help but I get to laugh at when they play all the games they make up in the silly things they do. My best days are these, a beer or two, podcast and music and watching my girls be silly and creative without a real care in the world.

I was scared that I would lose all the fun parts of being a father and perhaps a lot of the necessary parts. I was never afraid like some people in my situation of being here to put food on the table, provide for their every need and whim or support them economically. I know that I am blessed in this fact, we are financially sound. What I was thinking more about was the affective pieces of parenting. This has not entirely gone away, doing things like taking the bikes of the shed or taking the kids on walks through the city still seem like a struggle. Teaching Marisol to ride a bike right now seems like a bit of a pipe dream. Elena took a lot of sprinting up and down Allen Place holding her handlebars before she could actually ride, physically I saw a lot of work towards. We have had a couple times in the backyard, including one special day where Marisol was raking leaves into a pile as I was leaf blowing the gardens and patio, it’s days like this that mean the most to me. I need to work myself up to hikes to the Fells and trips to the science Museum and things of the like that really make me feel more full as a parent. As we speak, Rebecca is helping the girls to clean their room, though simple movements of being able to pick multiple things off the floor over a long period of time are still impossible to me. I look forward to those days where it is as automatic as it was in the past.

In the hospital, I was terrified of not being able to be whole again, slowly this is coming back, a return to work has assisted me. Going to some community events with my kids has made me feel better. Having Elena and even Marisol help me out from time to time and seemed to treat me the same way even if I am somewhat physically slow has been an important part of the healing process. At one point I even managed to pick Marisol up and throw her on the bed and we even started do a little bit of our fighting and karate.

Being a parent is the hardest, most exhausting but also most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my life. I’m never more proud when someone else says how well my kids are doing in school, moments when they have showed compassion or empathy or helped somebody else. It is impossible to explain to someone who is not apparent how these things feel.

We are now moving in the holiday season, in fact me and Clubba go on our annual Christmas shopping trip tomorrow morning. This Thursday is my favorite day of the year, Thanksgiving is a day filled with children and adults, communing together in gratitude amongst an incredible bounty of food, drink and love. It’s during this holiday season, that I hope to solidify a major piece of my recovery with my children. Some of this is physical and some of what I will struggle with, how to put the Christmas tree up, how to get the decorations out of the attic, how to organize all the dinners and do the traveling I need to do. But with help, this too shall pass. That seems to be a major part of this whole recovery, “this too shall pass” is a consistent reminder that a lot of what is happening to me is fleeting and temporary and that I will always be “Papa” until the day I die and beyond. It is a role that I inherited through the birth of my children, but must earn through a lifetime of work. This challenge of injury and illness is a speedbump along this arc of accomplishment. Being Papa is sometimes trying to be Superman, to be all-powerful, knowing and present and able to do everything you can and are expected to for your kids. I’m still afraid I won’t get to where I need to be but I’ll keep moving forward.