Posts Tagged ‘dad’

Two “Heaven”ly Poems From March 1988

April 25, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender



Some poems come out so short, I just call them “thoughts”:


Heaven is a hot summer
day with a bottomless
glass of Coke and ice.
-March 1988
If Heaven
truly is a Paradise,
then my Daddy
is at his Colorado cabin
and telling anyone who’ll
listen about his wife and kids.
written by t. michael pender  3/88
©1988 T. Michael Pender.  All rights reserved.

Can You Hear Us?

April 18, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

Do you know how we wonder where you are?
When Mom blames you, do you deny everything?
Are you with me when I listen to Marty Robbins in my car?
Did you read the poems we wrote for you?
Are you aware of our problems, of our triumphs?
Did you know Kristi got a 100 on that test?
Can you see Debi when she teaches her class?
Are you proud of Scott’s grades?
Do you still laugh and mutter “ugly dog”?
Can you see our faces when we gaze at the stars?
Do you think I look like you?
Do you step into our dreams at will?
Were you really coaching me when I was looking for the dipstick?
Do you like the way I cleaned up the basement?
Are you happy your body was buried at sea?
Do you know what your grandchildren will look like?
Are you a star or a little bird now?
Do you smile when we sit around telling stories?
Do you think I solve my problems okay?
Can you read over my shoulder when I write?
Do you know your grandchildren’s names?
Do you know how Trevor’s doing?
What does God look like?
Is He a nice guy?
Do you get to visit Colorado?
Did you sit with Mom and see me graduate?
Do you see Grandpa, Grandma and Joanne often?
Can you see the ladies that Kelli and Kari have become?
Are you proud of your children?
Do you know how we miss you?
Can you hear us?
written by t. michael pender  4/1/89
©1989 T. Michael Pender.  All rights reserved.

Pointing Out Love

March 31, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

I feel sorry for people who weren’t raised by my parents.  I mean, I know there are wonderful and amazing parents all over the planet, but my parents had special ways of doing things that were fun and loving, and taught us wee three a lot about love, simply by observation.

Back in olden times, like when I was four, fathers went off to work and mothers stayed home to raise the babies, because a family could survive on one income.  I remember eating breakfast together, and then Dad getting up to leave for work.  My parents would kiss and one would say, “I love you,” to which the other would reply, “I love you more.”  As Dad slowly made it out the door, with kids hugging at him, my folks would continue the “argument”:  “No, I love you more” . . . “Nope, I love you more!”

Once Dad was outside the closed door, and audio was suspended, the tiff continued with visual cues.  Both parents would stab their pointed fingers in the air at each other, to silently keep up the “No, I love you more” debate.  Over time, we smaller Penders would get into it.  Debi and I would point at Dad, too, and his pointings began to go all over the place, as he now had three Penders to outlove.  I recall Kristi being there, too, but she was small enough to be up in Mom’s arms, and I don’t quite remember if she pointed with us.

Snapshot memories like this remind me how lucky I was and am to have the family I have.  I have tried to continue what I learned from my parents in teaching my boys about life and love, but we’ve never quite been in a situation where the pointing came about.  We have our own personalized rituals, as all families and generations do, but something so simple and pure as this scene is always sad to lose . . . but a joy to remember!

My Birthday Movies

March 18, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

Every year, from 1978 until 1984, I celebrated my birthday by going to lunch and a movie with my dad.  Beginning in ’78, my parents gave all three of us kids a choice between a party and such an outing.  I think it speaks very highly of my parents that we never really considered a party, in which we’d get a potential trove of gifts, but immediately went for some special parent-bonding time.

Among the seven birthday movies I saw with Dad, three stand out.  I think they are memorable to me because each was a different “kind” of movie to which I was first being exposed.

In 1978, Dad and I went to see a sci fi picture called Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I had no idea what the title meant, being 12, but the television commercials were very intriguing!  What I was most fascinated by during those two hours was not the special effects achievements, not the direction, and not even the story.  I was fascinated by this new exposure to the “PG movie”!  Until that day, all the movies I ever went to see were Disney-level adventures, in which the bad guys were bumbling and humorous, the plotlines were silly and the conflict was absent.  Here was a brand-new type of entertainment, in which people talked like people (and even cursed!), the danger felt dangerous, and you really didn’t know what was going to happen next.  Of course, I had no clue what a marvel Close Encounters was and would become.  I just knew that I liked it.

Three years later, I made my dad’s eyes roll when I announced that I wanted to go see Ralph Bakshi’s animated milestone American Pop.  “You want to see a cartoon?” he jokingly whined.  Turning 15, I was determined to be a commercial artist, and turn my bedroom hobby of drawing into a career.  The fact that an adult-oriented animated film was being released was reason enough for me to be intrigued, let alone the fact that two of my other hobbies were history and music, and this flick promised to present the history of American music.  From World War I era Europe to Jimi Hendrix and punk rock, my dad and I watched one family’s generations experience tragedy and success, all with an entertaining soundtrack.  It took many, many years for this little gem to make it to VHS, and longer still for it to be released on DVD, but even after witnessing advances in animation far beyond Bakshi, this classic still entertains me.  Not only for the accomplishment, but for the memory of that first viewing.

The next March, I shocked my dad again by requesting to see Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip.  I was turning 16, and was a big fan of comedy.  I guess my first exposure to live comedy was my parents’ The Best of Bill Cosby album, the entirety of which I had committed to memory by the age of seven!  I knew very little about Richard Pryor when I saw Sunset Strip, but I was highly entertained by the performance.  Again, it was an adult performance, and I suppose in retrospect I wanted to see it to take another step toward adulthood.  Pryor used dirty words and talked of dirty adult situations, and from my rather naïve outlook, this was all captivating.  I was also impressed that he was able to not only discuss in great detail his June 1980 “mishap,” in which he literally caught on fire while freebasing cocaine, but also his hard road through recovery, which included him watching news reports of his own death while in the hospital.  Richard Pryor made me laugh, but he also earned my respect in that performance.

Milestones of one sort or another each, these films, as well as the four others I saw for my birthday, stand out mainly because of the fun and activities of the days out with Dad, but these three also stood out as singular examples of impressive cinema, and all three are highly recommended.

My Fifteen Minutes of Infamy

February 24, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

If this story were an episode of Law and Order, you would hear that irritating double-thump music, and the black screen would read:




DECEMBER 31, 1990

It happened about 5:00 in the afternoon.  Later that night, my family and I were going to go out to listen to a friend of the family’s sing at a local bar.

Bob Morrow was a Bloomfield Hills cop who had worked with my dad for years.  He also happened to be a very gifted singer/songwriter/ musician.  He specialized in Jim Croce songs, but sang all sorts of mellow, fun and classic tunes.  A Morrow audience would hear Dylan, Cat Stevens, The Mamas And The Papas, and even the occasional silly campfire round.  He had a regular gig at Dobski’s, a bar/restaurant in Waterford, where my sisters and I grew up and my mom still lived.  Whenever Bob was singing on a weekend that we were in town, it was common for us to drop in on him.  I had been to many of his performances, but since this was going to be his New Year’s Eve show, I really wanted to mark the occasion.  I got Bob’s permission to audiotape his appearance.  I had made the pilgrimage to Harmony House to buy some blank cassettes for the occasion.

The previous week, my sister Debi had given me a nice stone-washed denim jacket for Christmas.  The weather was actually rather mild that holiday season, so I took the opportunity to wear my new gift.  I drove to Harmony House, and while I was parking, I realized that I didn’t have any ready cash.  Luckily, there was an ATM on the other side of the rather long multi-store parking lot.  Feeling fit and wanting to save a little gas, I left the car where it was, and strolled to the money god.

Cash in hand, I turned on my heel to return to the store.  When some chilly wind kicked up, I started to jog.  Being a former hurdler who liked to see how fast I could run when the opportunity struck, I spontaneously decided to sprint the second half of the journey.  Puffing and feeling good, I slowed as I neared the store.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a police car pulling into the lot just as I was arriving.  Rolling down his window, the friendly young officer said, “Hi there!”

Being a friendly young citizen, I puffed, “Hi!”

“Where are you coming from?” my new friend asked.

Realizing that we were now having a conversation, and that he seemed very businesslike, I stopped walking. “The ATM,” I responded, pointing.

He stepped out of the car.  He then asked me if I had withdrawn any money, how much money I had withdrawn, whether or not I had a receipt . . . and whether or not I had any weapons on me!  Right away, I found this situation internally funny, but I was outwardly serious and helpful to the protector of the innocent taxpayer.

Luckily, my receipt was in my wallet, and I had the matching amount on my person. After I emphatically denied having any weapons of any kind, he asked if he could check for himself. I politely complied.  By this time, the teenage patrons of Harmony House were beginning to glue their collective noses to the inner glass of the front window.  Oh, the stories that would surely fly in homerooms across the township on Monday!

As Mr. Policeman checked my new jacket’s outer and inner pockets, then my pant legs and socks for any armaments, he calmly explained that just about five minutes prior, his radio had reported a robbery at a gas station. This gas station happened to be on that same road I was running down . . . in the direction I was running from!  He also mentioned that the perpetrator, who had been wielding a rather large knife, was reportedly over six feet tall, white, with light hair, and sporting a denim jacket.  The jacket that I hadn’t yet owned for a week, and was at that moment wearing for the very first time, had now made me a suspect in a felony larceny.

The officer asked me to remove my driver’s license from my wallet.  Upon doing that, he inspected the information. Here’s where I almost smiled during my mini-ordeal.  My family has a bit of history with Waterford and with nearby Pontiac, as well. Not only had my dad been a cop, but my Uncle Mike was the chief of detectives in Pontiac at the time, and my grandfather, Millard “Buzz” Pender, had been Waterford’s chief of police back in the ‘50s!  This officer was apparently not up on his police department history.  The investigation continued when the cop asked politely, “I’m not going to learn that you have anything on your record if I call this license in, am I?”

I smiled, and again, I had to fight the laughter. “Sir, I’ve never even gotten a speeding ticket before.”  I waited by the car, taking in the hilarious view of the now-massive crowd of pimply rock fans in the window.  A bit later, he reappeared, and returned my identification.

“Well, your record is clean, but I’ve written down your name and address. If anything leads us back to you, we’ll be in touch.”

It was sort of fun walking into the music store.  Mouths hanging open, the small sea of onlookers parted for me.

“Sorry I’m late,” I told my mom, upon reaching her house.  “I just got frisked and questioned by Waterford’s finest.”

The look on her face when she heard her never-in-trouble son was interviewed about a felony?  Priceless.

Dad and the Dining Room Monster

February 3, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

My mom always had a notorious black thumb with plants.  She could kill innocent ferns and harmless flowers with the greatest of ease.  In fact, it was sadly ironic how hard she tried to keep the poor creatures alive.  She even “plant-sat” for vacationing friends, and wound up having to replace each beloved family member upon the vacationers’ return.

This became a bit of a family joke.  Eventually, she was given synthetic (or “fake”) plants to care for, and most living greenery was kept at a protective distance.  Still, there was this one vine that lived in the corner of our dining room that drooped sickly, yet refused to cross over into the next realm.  Its pot stood a deathbed vigil while the desperately watered leaves curled, turned pale, and slowly became a yellowish white.

Yet, it would not die.

This bothered my dad to no end.  There it was, just beyond his right arm.  Lurking.  Watching us eat every meal, every day.  Staring hungrily at our food, yet refusing to accept the sustenance of Mom’s water.  It eventually got the best of him, and even though he didn’t care for plants, he decided to get personally involved in the life expectancy of this one.  After an otherwise normal meal one day, he turned to his right, and attempted to push the lingering foliage through Death’s door.

“Would you hurry up and die, you ugly beast?!”

It was instantly hilarious, and it became a bit of a daily and nightly routine.  Every breakfast and dinner included some kind of sideways insult, if not a full-blown half-conversation, between my dad and this poor sickly climbing vine that could not climb.

Or could it?

A few weeks after the man at the head of our table began mistreating the dining room vegetation, Mom noticed something a bit odd.  One of the underdeveloped leaves had started to turn.

It had started to turn green!

She was overjoyed.  One of her patients had a chance to make it!  Maybe she had learned a thing or two about watering through trial-and-error.  Not only did the pallor of the vegetative vegetation improve, but the trowel-shaped leaves actually began to grow in size!  Eventually, they increased to the size of an adult human hand, and spawned brother and sister leaves along the way.  This defiant seedling inched its way up the thin pole that had been stuck into its pot, until it was tall enough to look my seated father in the eye.

“Good morning, Monster,” he would sleepily mumble in the mornings.  My mom would defend it against every insult.  This initially frail sprig had fought back and become a literal upstanding citizen in our household.  The entire family . . . including my unconfessing father . . . was duly impressed.

In the summer of 1987, Dad went into the hospital for a much-needed triple bypass operation.  He spent two months in ICU, getting the finest attention from the best healthcare professionals.  Meanwhile, back at home, no one bellowed at the dining room vine.  No one called it names, or wished it away.  We were all a little too worried about Dad to take the time to insult the houseplants in his absence.

The beast in the corner of the dining room slowly changed again.  This time, its deep green leaves began to retreat.  Its color paled.  It shrank back into the depressing vine it had been long ago, although this time there were more sickly yellow extremities for Mom to water.

Dad passed away at the hospital in October.  He never returned to his chair in the dining room.  He never came back to challenge his old nemesis.  Eventually, it became clear that it was the attention – regardless of how comically abusive it was – that the plant thrived on.  The vine, along with the rest of the family, never recovered from Dad’s loss.  Shortly after his passing, the plant left us, as well.

As strangely sadomasochistic as the relationship was, it had indeed been a relationship.  The plant needed carbon dioxide to live, and therefore, interaction.  Even though Dad hadn’t given it the type of interaction that most nursery employees would recommend, it was still attention of a sort.  The plant had drunk up Dad’s taunting as thirstily as it had Mom’s water.  In the end, it felt the family loss right along with us.

My dad had a great personality and many friends.  We knew this.  But how impressive is it, and how much does it say about a guy, that a plant would refuse to go on living without him?

Our Igloo Away From Home

January 27, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

Every family has rituals.  Some are pleasant, some not so much.  One practice that my family used to put into action on a fairly regular basis was one of the most enjoyable.

The Baskin-Robbins run.

I don’t recall exactly when it started, but I believe I was in junior high.  We had moved some years prior into my grandparents’ house, in order to take care of them.  We three kids started at the local elementary school, commenced to make friends, and our family ended up living there until many years after each child grew and left home.  During our stay at that Waterford address, however, it became a regular habit to get two volunteers (one of which was always a parent, until my sister Debi was old enough to drive) to go about a mile and a half from the house to the town Baskin-Robbins and get five pints of ice cream.

Before leaving the house, there would be the list-making.  The list-maker would get a scrap of paper, and go find the three relatives who were not going on the treat trek, and wait for them to decide which of the available thirty-one flavors they wished to gobble.  Sometimes this took quite some time – I admit I was a difficult decider – and sometimes this was a foregone conclusion.  My dad, for example, lived on peanut-butter-and-chocolate ice cream alone.  We would ask out of respect and courtesy, but everyone knew what he was getting before he did.  I actually tended to write down his answer before asking.

We often joked as a family that we should call the orders in ahead of time.  Despite my ponderings, we each had a “usual” flavor, and we believed that we could probably call in to the shop and say “Penders in fifteen minutes,” and be greeted by a sack pre-filled with our order, complete with pink plastic spoons, when we arrived.

Even though we lived in Michigan, where the winters were fairly serious business, the B-R missions were no less routine in January than they were in July!  In fact, I believe that we as a family kept the doors of the ice cream haven open during the snowbound months.  We’d rush inside, shivering and numb, retrieve our ice-cold treats, and rush back out in the shivering-and-numbing weather.

We may not have been a family of geniuses, but by God, we knew what we wanted!

Our addiction spread even to our dogs.  The household pets varied over the years, as pets will do, but whether there was one, two, or three dogs in the house, they would all sit fidgeting as we humans ate from our familiar pink-and-brown containers.  Once we finished and lowered the empty vessels toward our canine housemates, it was a party.  Tails a-waggin’, they would simply attack!  Our afghan Gillian would, in very ladylike fashion, remove the ice-creamed cardboard from our hands and carry it to her own little space in the room.  Then, with her furry arms crossed over the top – so as to prevent escape, I imagine – she would sink her long nose and attached face deep into the tasty box.  We have pictures of this.  The container would literally disappear under her blonde arms, and she would look like she was hiding her eyes for a game of hide-and-seek.  To the untrained eye, however, I imagine she would look like a large pile of hair on our family room floor!

Dogs came and went, and kids grew and moved out.  It’s been decades now since we attacked our local Baskin-Robbins store en masse, but still, every time I see a B-R store, or get to the bottom of an ice cream container at home, I do get a twinge of nostalgia.  I miss the family missions to retrieve the treats, and the canine chorus of whimpers that would always be heard as you were nearing the three-quarter-done mark.

What can I say, but that when it came to my family, Baskin-Robbins was always “cool”!

Bob Morrow LIVE on New Year’s Eve!

December 30, 2010

by Thomas M. Pender

He should be a superstar, played on radios and stereos worldwide right alongside Jim Croce and Bob Dylan, two of the artists whose songs he sang.  Probably the only thing that kept Bob Morrow from international fame was his love of family.

Bob was a policeman with my dad on the Bloomfield Township Police Department.  At camping outings, planned each summer for a few close-knit cops’ families, Bob would pull out his guitar and sing at the nightly campfires.  Strangers would come and sit at our fires and join in on our applause for this very talented player, singer and songwriter.  In fact, more than once, campground employees had to “break up” the events, due to sleeping children.  They always did so regretfully, as Bob’s concerts were good, clean fun for all.

In the late 1980s, Bob got a regular gig as the weekend performer at Dobski’s, a bar/restaurant in our hometown of Waterford, Michigan.  My dad didn’t live to witness his friend sway the local crowds, but the rest of the Pender clan went to see Bob sing whenever possible.  When I learned that Bob was going to be performing on New Year’s Eve night, turning 1989 into 1990, I got his permission to tape the concert.  I wanted to be able to listen to him sing wherever I went.  I positioned the tape recorder so it would pick up his voice and guitar, and kept an eye on the old-fashioned cassettes’ progress, flipping or changing them as necessary.

My only regret with Bob’s choices of songs that night was that he did not sing the two songs he’d written for his kids, Annmarie and Matt.  They were wonderful loving lyrics, and I wish I had them on the tape.  Other than that, the concert was full of various songs, both fun and soulful, silly and sad.  He wove his original songs in with popular songs, and all were well received.  My sister Debi and I had fun adding the well-known background lyrics to The Mamas And The Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” even though only our table could hear them!  Bob sang “All the leaves are brown,” and before he got to “And the sky is gray,” Deb and I echoed with “All the leaves are brown,” and so on.  We felt between the two of us that we had added to the night’s talent!

As midnight approached, the sounds of the crowd nearly drowned out Bob, whose only defense was the microphone.  At one point, the management passed around chin-strapped hats and noisemakers, but when a Dobski’s employee approached the modest stage, Bob announced very seriously into the microphone, “I’m not wearin’ no stupid hat.”  He was a man of integrity, our Bob!

During a slow and tender song, a man from the back of the bar, who was keeping an eye on Dick Clark on the ceiling-slung TV, yelled “One minute!”  Bob stopped to make sure he heard the man right, then continued with the song . . . which was not going to be finished in one minute!  In the background on my cassette, I could hear myself as I yelled to Bob, “Sing faster!” and the musician sped up the ballad.  At thirty seconds to midnight, I repeated my instruction, and Bob sang us a 33 RPM ballad at 78 RPM speed!  After the countdown and the noisemaker noises, Bob led us all in a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” and wished everyone a Happy New Year.  He continued to entertain until 1 a.m., and then I stopped the last tape.

Sadly, years later, after he had been widowed, fallen in love again and gotten engaged, Bob passed away.  To my knowledge, no other recordings of his performances exist, and my cassettes are long gone.

New Year’s Eve and campfires will never be the same for those of us who knew Bob Morrow.  Still, we’re lucky to have known him as long as we did, and our memories will always be music to our ears.  We miss you, Bob.

The Worst Christmas On Record!

December 23, 2010

by Thomas M. Pender

I’m not sure of the year.  I was young enough to still like big Christmas packages and colorful, flashy toys, but old enough to be growing at the rate of six inches of height per year.  I’m going to guess it was Christmas 1977 or ’78, which would have put me at eleven or twelve.

That year, Santa loved the Pender kids!  We awoke to a Guinness-record-level pile of boxes, wrapping and ribbon.  In the pre-dawn, with semiconscious parents dragged from their bed to witness the mayhem, we simply attacked!

First box: Socks.  Toss aside half-opened.

Second box: Socks.  Toss aside barely opened.

Third box: Underwear.  Toss farther aside and begin to lose patience with St. Nick and his impish ways of hiding the goods.

Socks.  Underwear.  Shirts.  Pants.  Socks.  Underwear.  Shirts.  Pants.

While my older and younger sisters were squealing with delight at Easy-Bake this and Barbie’s Dream that, I was apparently being groomed to open a haberdashery!  My Christmas grin faded into an underwear pout.

Now that I’ve had a few Christmases to reflect, yes, I admit that I see my parents’ side of this tragedy.  Freakishly expanding legs and arms on a child equals longer clothes every three to six weeks.  Best strategy: stockpile during the Christmas sales.  I can even say that I understood the need for the gifts back then.  What I didn’t understand was the absolute absence of any form of bribery.

C’mon, Santa, be a pal.  Toss me a robot that walks and glows in the dark.  Would it really kill an elf to slap together a dirt bike?  Just one big box with a big toy in it could have washed away all the school-clothes blues.

A caution to parents everywhere: such childhood catastrophes stay with a person all the days of their lives.  Don’t even get me started on who broke my astronaut glass!

(Teasing, Mom.  Love you!)

Bonding With Garrett

November 4, 2010

by Thomas M. Pender

As my middle son grew from infancy to school age, there were some significant moments in our relationship.  To prove that Garrett is just as naturally goofy as his dad, I’ll tell you that the first sign of our unique connection all started in his butt.

Yes, his butt.

Garrett’s toddling derriere apparently could sense my presence, and it would seek me out, seemingly without his head’s or eyes’ knowledge!  I was seriously amazed by this.  I would come into a room where Garrett would be extremely busy, either standing in the middle of the living room staring at something on the TV, or concentrating on a toy, and I’d sit.  I loved watching my son just be himself, and I would quietly take a seat to be his audience.  No matter how silent I was, as soon as my long legs were folded up on the carpet to form a lap “chair,” Garrett would gravitate . . . backwards! . . . and plop his diaper-wrapped rear end down on his dad’s legs, all while continuing his activity.

I was amazed, I was stumped, and I was very, very flattered.  I never once witnessed this maneuver with another member of the family, nor did he ever turn to see who was behind him.  It got to the point where I would deliberately sneak into the room and stealthily come to rest behind his peripheral vision, but he was never fooled.  Garrett’s behind knew when Dad’s lap was present and available.  His radar never failed, indoors or outdoors.  Once, I came outside to find him playing in one part of the covered patio, and a birthday present I had given him months before still sitting in the box in another part of the patio.  I commenced to pull out the parts and tools, and to put together the rider toy, when suddenly, the instruction sheet was knocked aside by Garrett’s tushy.  Plop! He happily continued on with his activity, not minding at all that I now had to work around him . . . and neither did I!

This little skill started to fade around three years of age, and by the time Garrett was almost five, his new little brother had taken to lap sitting . . . but never quite “backed into” the job as Garrett had!

Around age two, Garrett became a television hog (which I take partial blame for!).  In any room with a TV screen, Garrett would zip right over, and turn the silent box on.  One particular afternoon, I found myself repeating and re-repeating the phrases “No, Garrett,” “No,” and “No TV, Garrett.”  Growing weary of the repetitive repetition, and without a better idea, I simply spouted nonsense at the child . . . which sounded to me rather like amateur Japanese!  The first time I did this, my child stopped his procession to the TV immediately, turned to me curiously, and laughed uproariously!

Now, Dad had started a game, which would last about a year.  Garrett no longer sped to the television screen, ignorant of any present parent, in order to turn it on.  No, sir!  Now, my son would start slowly toward the box, and turn his head over his shoulder with a wide smile to make sure I caught him.  It was no longer the television noise he was after; it was the weird noise coming from Dad’s mouth!  I always tried to make it a unique form of gibberish each time.  I just loved the rapid-fire giggle reaction!

Around Garrett’s third birthday, he and I went out for a father-son afternoon.  After lunch and a romp through the mall, the birthday boy announced that he wanted to go to a movie.  I foresaw this as problematic, since his eyes were already starting to droop.  The young man would not be dissuaded, however, so off to the theatre we went.  Garrett wanted to see a noisy, silly cartoon, which I would have happily taken him to see, had I not foreseen that he would soon be unconscious and Dad alone would be left to “enjoy” the animated hijinks.  I therefore sent my son to the window, and had him ask for two tickets to Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River.  Sure enough, after two “Who is that guy?” questions and five minutes of film, my child was out cold, with both of his arms snaked around my left arm.

I enjoyed the dramatic tale of childhood friends who experience tragedy, then reunite as adults, only to have one of their children experience another tragedy.  Still a young father, I was emotionally affected by Sean Penn’s paternal anguish in the film.  Not the macho type, but not wanting to look silly, I fought the tears as Penn cried over his daughter.  Just then, shortly before the end credits rolled, my son Garrett awoke, crawled up into my lap, wrapped his arms around my neck, and said, “I love you, Daddy.”

Commence waterworks.  Forgetaboutit!

I’m happy and proud to say that even as he is about to turn eleven, Garrett still brightens when he sees me.  I know girls, pals and cars will soon distract him from thinking his dad’s “cool,” as happens with all boys-into-men, but I do have these snapshots of our private times together, when it was just me and Garrett and our love for each other.

Thank you, God!