Playing Catch and Enjoying the Show

Charlie is playing with the regulation size basketball this summer. He is playing every chance he gets. We live across the street from his school where there are six hoops and two full courts on a patch of pavement where a group of neighborhood kids, the older ones, play a regular game of baseball. Charlie isn’t quite up to that game yet, but it won’t be long. It’ll be a different set of kids, different relationships, different ground rules, but essentially he will join them not too long from now. It was about three blinks ago that I was tossing gently the oversized wiffle ball underhand from a few feet away. It would hit his belly with a barely audible thud and shortly after he’d bring his hands together hoping to catch the ball that was already on the ground and rolling away from him. This morning we already tossed the softer but still relatively hard tee-ball ball for a half hour or so. Full speed, catching in gloves. That happened in the last couple weeks. Forget about hitting. I’ll never throw that boy another underhand pitch again. Haven’t for some time now.

I wasn’t much for baseball growing up. I was in fact rather anti baseball. I was a basketball player to the core. It was my first identity and one I will never fully abandon. I could go a decade without taking a shot and I’d always be a basketball player. A bit past my prime for sure. Rounder and slower. But so long as I have any control over my body I’ll be able to do something with a basketball to feel young and vibrant. It’s ingrained in me.

Teddy is not yet interested in sports. He may become an athlete and he may not. He loves his art classes and his dance class that he powered through for the entirety of the school year. Seeing him on stage with the rest fo his classmates at the recital at the end of the year was incredible. He was so nervous about it that for the weeks before everyone wondered if he’d be able to go through with it. But there he was, the ‘Tin Man’ dancing to ‘Ease on Down the Road’, hitting all his marks, even helping others. He was brave and graceful.

I so wanted to be that brave when I was little. My older brothers were in all the plays at school when I was Charlie’s age and I watched them so intently, wishing I could be up there. When they were done with their three day, four show run I’d collect the abandoned, worn scripts and read them cover to cover, over and over, reliving the story in my head for months. I loved Oklahoma so much that I went to the Seymour Library, nine years old, and would take out other Rogers and Hammerstein plays to read and imagine into existence as a production in my head. When I was of an age I was too self-conscious. I didn’t ever tryout. I wish I had his courage.

They aren’t ever going to be in strollers again. I’ve lived long enough to learn that parents are needed for a lifetime, but the need that they had before is gone. They need other things. They need someone to play catch with and casually chat about school friends and sports teams. They need a dad to take them to their dress rehearsal and talk about the music and where it came from and why its cool to be the only boy brave enough to be on the dance team. Sometimes they need a rebounder to feed them for endless shots at the playground hoop and tell them over and over how much better they are then when I was their age. Sometimes they just need me to get in the dirt and look for worms under the rocks.

Summer Vacation

Spending a summer home with the boys. Exploring and adventuring and looking for work. Lets hope we all find what we need.

Daddy-Charlie-Mommy-Teddy GraduationI’m spending the summer home with the boys. I know that I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do so. That reality is not lost on me though at times other issues are taking up more primary real estate in my brain and in my heart.

I lost my job. Technically I resigned. This technicality allows me to ascribe far more intent to the action than was necessarily present at the time I wrote the letter, packed up my office and walked out. But in reality, I was canned.

It was the first day of summer vacation yesterday and we got off to a great start. We are home bound until at least July 3rd as we have a fairly major repair due on the car so the boys and I spent our days the way I used to during the long, lazy summer days that feel like someone else’s memories by now. We watched some TV with cereal on the couch in our sleep clothes. We hung out in the backyard hitting wiffle balls and bouncing on the trampoline. We even dragged some music out there and played in our tiny, portable, makeshift sandbox.

For the first few weeks, while the boys were in school and I had at least a couple of days home alone I was able to send out mass resume’s and cover letters. I’ve even gotten a few interviews which have gone well but may not lead to anything and certainly won’t for some time. Which is increasingly fine. Frankly, if I could match my income, or even approximate it from home I’d prefer it. I’m not one of those people who will hate retirement. It suits me. If it weren’t for the nagging, inscrutable loss of a sense of self worth that accompanies this part of the journey, when an income is most critical.

We actually did a couple of boxed science experiments that we picked up a few months back. This morning the plaster has set on the citric acid and baking soda volcano we are set to detonate out back. Crystals should be forming in a dish in the garage. We’ll see about that in 4-7 days. I’m dreadful with science. It was actually a fairly comic scene actually, watching me try to pour 13 ounces of water in the bag of plaster/sand mix as instructed seeing as there was about 4 ounces worth of space in the bag to pour into it.

‘Well, the sand is porous, so surely they wouldn’t give us a bag to use for this without it having enough space within it to follow their instructions.’ I said, foolhardily. Though in hindsight it was obvious that the bag, minus the mix, simply empty, could not have carried the water it instructed us to add. Learned that trails of plaster mix can be cleaned up pretty effectively with wipes. So that experiment turned out at least.

I’m not defeated but I’m probably a perfect dupe for someone pitching me the secret to making a six figure income from home with only a couple of hours of work a day and a modest $399 investment upfront. I would be real receptive to that kind of pitch right now, so please, have some mercy my friends. Also, if I come at you with such a pitch in the months ahead, please say no but be kind. I’m a little lost these days.

Teddy PreK GradI am so happy to have this time with the kids. I just hope I don’t blow it. It’s a strange time in my life and in the world at large to wallow in self-pity. I don’t really have the oomph for that kind of thing right now. The self doubt may grow, but let’s face it, I’m in a house, with my kids who are 5 and 7 and want more of me than I can give. Kind of the ideal time to get an unexpected break from life, so long as I land on my feet on the other end having landed this midlife Triple Lindy.

If there’s one lesson I can take from how it ended it’s this. I brought myself to the edge months ago. I knew it was not working. The work was good, the people were great and by most measures I was doing very well. Unfortunately the relationship between me and my boss, the CEO, was broke. I certainly did my part to break it and was at a loss to fix it. I tried, but it wasn’t fixable. Not by me at any rate. I had prepared and interviewed, had been for a good 9 months. I’d turned down offers because they weren’t enough. Enough money, sure, but I think it was more than that. I think I needed pushing. In the end I’d packed up and prepared to jump and then I waited to be pushed. I won’t do that if this ever happens again. I don’t think it will, but next time, I’ll jump.

Today is day two of summer vacation. We have spent our boxed activities and run out of lunch ideas already. Netflix will take us to 10 but then it’s out back to adventure and explore. Let’s hope we find what we’re looking for, whatever it turns out to be.

Fireside Chat

I never doubted

Though surely I feared

That all I’d earned

Might disappear

The spigot can’t stop

‘But it can’ says fear

Who inches closer

As I hold hope near

Though silent she waits

Tucked under my arm

Assuring and wasting

My gifts and her charms

So parry and feint

I say to myself

Fear goes first

And offers her help

‘What matters my dear

What you surely must know

That here where you sit

Is easy and slow’

Nestled securely

Hope at my side

Fear made sense

Silent was pride

Though wisdom is surely

Fears winsome tone

Something inside

Grew restless and moaned

‘Fear, you old fart

What tricks you belie

Speaking of ease

As if she divine’

Ease is a fretful

And leery companion

Easy to welcome

Hard to abandon

‘Fear you must think

Me silly and twee

I surely know you

But you hardly know me’

‘Ease is a wasteful

Wanton old fool

But slow has none

Of her restful appeal’

‘Slow’ I laughed

‘Sparks nothing you heel’

Fear reeled back

Hope grew in my lap

The balance was shifting

But that wouldn’t last

Desperate fear gathered

Her strength on the ledge

Found logs for the fire

And rested her head

Finding her balance

She lazily said

‘You almost got me

But I still see your dread’

‘Your dreams are not real

Your not up to the task

Whatever you dream

It won’t come to pass’

Using my weakness

She scored such a blow

Hope hid behind me

I stared at my toes

Defeat settled in

And made a quick home

Shoulder foundations

Dimming the gloam

What confidence appeared

Left in an instant

I forgot that my fear

Knew my greatest weakness

Quiet I sat

for weeks it seemed

Feinting and faking

What I’d always been

A valid and winking

Preposterous self

Who faked his way to

The top middle shelf

Who only need fear

To settle, abate

Dragging self doubt

To add to the weight

But though she hid

Hope never was absent

Though silent she surely

Wanted for presence

But quiet I waited

Til fear took a nap

Finally betraying

Her weak, gentle grasp

Quiet I whispered

To my partner hope

I knew she was stronger

Than fears loosened ropes

So I fed her and nursed her

And quietly whispered

To hope all the dreams

My fear had withered

Hope found a ledge

Toes found purchase

In stoking my dreams

While fear lie useless

We worked and proved

Our dreams to ourselves

Plotting and planning

Like off season elves

But as we grew strong

We started to stumble

Would fear bring with her

Our final tumble

Feeding and building

And growing in strength

We finally committed

And slowly embraced

Our fear as she lie

Dormant by slumber

Embraced by the arms

Who needed her thunder

I drew her closer building courage

‘Fear’ I quietly spoke in her ear

‘Don’t worry, it’s hope and I

Who draw you near’

‘We will not release you

That you must know.

But worry not

You’ll come where we go.’

Fear jerked and jumped

Writhed in our grasp

Not knowing what strength

We’d built while she napped

‘Unhand me you slob

You ungrateful jerk.

I was trying to help

Your inevitable work.’

‘How do you figure?’

I started to blurt

But hope held my hand

And helped me divert

The rage that fear

Could bring to my bile

Reminded me of

Fears useful desire

‘You aren’t whoever

You think you are fear.

Hope has taught me

To limit and steer’

‘How can hope know

Fears mighty purpose?’

She blurted

Exposing her delicate surface

‘Fear you aren’t a driver here.

Now listen to me and sit in the rear.

I’ll call you to service when it is heeded

For now your presence is all that is needed’

So hope and I turned our eyes to the road

While fear settled in and shared the load

A tool that is useful to stoke the fire

That hope shall tend with me as the driver

Impostor!

Impostor syndrome is exactly what it sounds like. It is the belief that you are a fraud and you will be discovered and exposed and it will all come tumbling down when it happens. Okay, the last part, about it all tumbling down, perhaps that’s more projection. The syndrome as I know it is self diagnosed and I’ve been self-diagnosed with it many times throughout my life.

I have to be the last one awake. I need to know that everyone is asleep before I can start to tune out from the outside world and tune in to me. Before than I’m obsessed with capturing everything. Every joke and laugh. Every sidelong glance and thoughtful expression. Every conversation and concern, cataloging all of it. Every show. Every game. Everything. It’s been this way my whole life. When I was young I remember actually thinking that I didn’t want to go to sleep because I didn’t want to miss anything. For a brief time, from my early teens through early  middle adulthood I think a good part of that feeling was that I didn’t want to miss out or perhaps give the space for people to start bad mouthing me. Impostor Syndrome can make you a tad paranoid. It wasn’t a great look and it speaks to a certain neediness I have to cop to. I want people to like me and only like me. Which can be as wearying, I’ve come to understand, for those people who love me as it is for me.

When I was a kid I didn’t realize I did it. Being from a family of night owls, like SERIOUS all night owls, I didn’t put it all together. But when I got out in the world I recognized it. I wanted to know every detail of every story. I wanted to be in on everyones’ feelings and watch them evolve, shift, change and be fully processed out. I was obsessed with the stories going on inside everyone else. I think watching others process everything, from the tiniest disappointment to the rending and breaking of alliances and relationships was an obsession. I am from a giant, diverse family and I was in the middle and it’s possible that as much as this was my temperament I was also sculpted by my situation. There were endless connections sprouting, flourishing, growing and suffering, thriving and recovering around me at all times. Watching the most intimate moments of transformation, tiny and grand from up close and pulling them apart to try to understand them was my way, I think, of trying to usnderstand myself. I’ve felt an odd distance from myself my whole life. Watching others and trying hard to see as many angles as I could has been my work in many ways. My life has been lived in this labaratory.

I’m again feeling a bit of the impostor. It’s not traumatizing in the way it’s been before, but its there. I’m my own worst enemy at times. I recently made a book. A collection of some of my better parenting stories. I slapped it together. The writing had been done over years and I didn’t give it enough before I let it out in the world. I’ve since announced apologies, but it doesn’t change the embarrassment of it. I think I did it replicating the process of clearing the initial hurdle of becoming a ‘writer’, which was on my blog and eventually on others websites. I put down something meaningful and personal as fast as I could, gave it the most glancing of once overs and put it out in the world before I could lose the courage and edit out the real stuff. This is a GREAT way to get over the fear of vulnerability. This is a terrible way to make a book.

I’d always wanted to be a writer. In some ways it felt unreal and unattainable to me than the idea of being a professional basketball player had been when I was younger. It was the type of thing I’d only tell someone if I got very close to them and telling them was the closest I’d come for a very long time to pursuing it. In some ways it seemed like enough. Just expressing it. It was really more a wish, really. I guess I wanted to write, but only because I wanted to ‘be a writer’. I wrote some embarrassingly terrible things, real attempts on real things called word processors that never ever will be retrieved. I genuinely can’t recall the stories and if they start to come back to me I will immediately do whatever it takes to stop it.

Of course there was also reading. Books. Stories. Closely observed familial dramas. Fantastical tales of lifelong interest packaged to fool adults into thinking them children’s fare. Humorous absurdities disguised as adventures poking fun at everyone, even the readers. Tales of the weird aloneness of being a teenager. Great works of earnest vulnerability that can only be grasped after leaving ones youth. Grand epic tales spanning centuries that happened half a world away and a millennia ago. Sweeping historical fictions relishing the details of times the author can’t have breathed in, telling the story from surprising points of view that lend well known subject matter infinitely more depth and granularity. I’ve loved being spun by the great masters and the hidden gems, my authors who speak directly to me. I have not read nearly as much as my friends who are great readers, but I can’t imagine anyone’s ever been as enraptured and enamored as I’ve been. Or more awed by the force of an individuals determination and constant creativity when I finish a great book. A big part of saying I wanted to be a writer was a certain idolatry you could say. I was and remain inspired and diminished by how I imagine these books came to be. I wanted to be a writer. Sure.

Than I got married. I was working, paying the bills, we were paying the bills, then we had kids. I didn’t think they’d make me a ‘writer’, but they sure enough did. It opened up the art to me, this new found love and frustration and bemusement and exhaustion and love. Writing helped me understand what was happening. And not just the ‘honest, heartfelt’ stuff. The funny things were important too. Important to seeing it was achievable, damn near unavoidable, that there were any number of ways to fail and to succeed and most of them contained at the very least some small amount of humor and at times a huge helping if I could see it. And you have to see it. Even if I had to go looking it was nearly always worth it.

The heartfelt came more naturally. Truth is that I lost my filter. I was always tired, constantly running on empty and wondering what the hell I was doing. But every day, in the minefield of misgivings and doubt, there was always a million graces that they brought to me. In their sleeping faces and their silly laughs. In the funny progress a kid makes to roll over. In the moments when we were shattered and together wondering if we could raise these kids right. I’d transition through most of these things most days and as a man that is extremely different. I’ve gone years in a single mood. Based solely on emotional transitions I lived a lifetime every day before breakfast with kids. The raw vulnerability that permeated the air found an outlet in the writing. I mostly embraced it and sought it to relieve the pressure.

That impostor thing sticks though. We’re over seven years in to this whole parenting thing and most days I still feel like I’m doing a poor impersonation of my parents. Also, the thickets are cleared and I’m in a meadow at the moment. There’s not so much to pick apart. Not so much to make a laugh out of, though I’m sure I could find some if I tried. Which I don’t so much. I like to play with words now. Try to fiddle and fit them into something approximating poetry so I can stay sharp and express more associatively. But my writerliness was tied to parenthood and I’m feeling a tad unwriterly in this fallow phase.

Which brings me back to stories. I’m back to that original curiosity. That original sense that I want to do what writers I loved did. I want to write a great story. I want to write a lot of them. Which is daunting as I’ve never done that. Never come close, in fact, without it being based in my life. But here’s where I’m scared. Scared to fail. Scared to let go of the tiny toehold I have on being a ‘dad blogger’ and ‘parenting writer’ as it’s the only teenie bit of writing success I’ve ever had. Scared my stories won’t resonate and no one will read them. Scared I won’t be able to pull it off.

I’m also excited to give it an honest go. Excited to know that I have a toolbox now. One that is filled with the tools I’ve stumbled upon by following wonder and curiosity and simple wish fulfillment. Excited to try to write a tale that I know that I can imbue with so much more than I could have before.

Like every great and terrible impostor that has come before me, I guess it’s time to start faking it.

Used

We were lying prone and sleeping 

In a bed that wasn’t ours

The fog that had encircled us 

Hid us from the stars

 I’m not one to think out loud

Neither do I drink it proud

But never should you confuse this

With any of your unearned bliss

Chances are my thoughts aren’t deep

Lying crying while you sleep

So shallow laid you in my palm 

Enticing stupor renouncing calm

Had I gathered all your kisses

Collected tears, called you Mrs. 

You would still be gone you see

While I’m right here alone with me

I still know that you were real

And hope that you have learned to feel

The pain you poured so thoughtlessly

Inside a man you’d set to sea

Death and dying will encroach

Us left upon this orbits brooch

 When I assign my life it’s meaning

 Ours won’t have been worth repeating

When I look back on our mistake

I’ll be relieved that all it takes

Is soft and sunny love repaired

By one that never used my cares

Rondon and Roosevelt, River of Doubt

‘And the smell. I merely walk in his wake, with a fair few between us I should hasten to add, and still it is as if a rotting water buffalo were in my nostrils.’, said Gustavo.

‘I’m afraid that is not him. He is clearly a Walrus on land. No water buffalo would whinge as much. At least none that I’ve met.’, replied Lucas.

Both chuckled quickly and regained their composure as fast. They both looked sheepishly up from the fire  to gauge the Colonels reaction. His smirk was not supportive but neither was it an indictment. It was knowing.

‘He is at heart a good man. Surely. He didn’t know what he was in for and is on occassion losing himself. Surely he will be better in the morning.’, said General Rondon. 

  But he was not. He was not more patient for having rested. Nor more judicious in his expression of disagreement. He was as he’d been for some weeks as disagreeable a companion as a man in the unmapped Amazon could be deemed to be. He did not, however, allow that to effect his confidence, which was forever foisting it’s assuredness on the Col. 

‘It’s okay. I don’t mind the teasing. We are all away from home, struggling against the river and I understand the inclination. But once you have relieved the pressure please return the cap and secure it tightly. He is a proud man who thinks he is failing. We can’t confirm his fears.’, said the Col. upon rising from the small circle of the fire.

At night the men were equal. Not in rank or in accomodations, but for the time around the fire they were of one comportment and able to let their shoulders down. Truth was that the great man had made no bones about his primacy and did so in such a manner as to leave anyone unaware thinking that there was no gradation between the dual ranks of the team assembled to escort him in his exploration.He was long past his days of service, though he couldn’t know that heading into the forest, but his respect for the uniform, any military uniform it turns out, was enough for him to differentiate Col. Candido Rondon from the remaining crew whom he saw as servants and porters and minimally skilled sherpas of the Amazon at the journeys inception. 

‘Col. Surely even you must be considering a different way.’, suggested Felix. 

‘My friend. I assure you, I consider all the ways I can see. Have you a solution I’ve yet to consider.’, asked Rondon. 

‘No, Sir. But he is not relenting.’ 

‘Indeed. I suspect you are right. It is possible I haven’t given that enough consideration.’

Gustavo and Lucas were prideful men, but the forest was unyielding. They were surprised to see Rondon considering what they’d all been regretfully feeling. In fact, had the President had any tact instead of a constant questioning and pleading and pouting he might have found allies in the Col.’s camp. Instead he had forged an even stronger allegiance in Rondon’s men. But Felix was not a hired man. He was a considered and considerate gentleman of letters and a man who’d strategically or not, managed to develop a comraderie with some of the President’s men. Him making the case was something they could get behind.

‘Sir, there is not one amongst us who doesn’t see the wisdom of your dedication to the mission. To a man, we agree. What good have we done, what at all have we done if we do not survey this tributary. It is our stated purpose, our only purpose. But he is a foreign dignitary and I feel comfortable saying, he isn’t fairing well. For all his American bluster and bravado, his type of strength is less than advantageous on such a treacherous track.’, suggested Felix. ‘His is not the constitution you possess, sir. Nor is his sense of duty your equal.’

They were establishing camp with the fading sun. The day had been yet another in a long line of treachery. The weather was unrelenting. Still, Rondon was fond of reminding his men that the rain was a blessing all the way up until it was a curse, and for now it alleviated the rancid odor of man by granting every one the ability to clean up. 

Rondon took Felix’s words to heart and was quiet while he worked. 

‘Felix, I’ve seen you walking with his son. How is he faring. How does Kermit say he is doing.’, asked Rondon. 

‘He is deferential, but he will suggest whenever we speak that we might consider traveling rather for time  now that we have discovered the river. He will not betray his father’s bullish confidence, but he is worried I can tell. Not to mention exhausted.’ replied Felix.

‘Yes. But he is in good enough spirits, no? Seems a good man if not an altogether able explorer.’ 

‘Perhaps.’, said Felix, ‘But You must keep in mind, their exploration has been of the American west. Open spaces and horseback, from what Kermit tells me. Accompanied most recently by great naturalists bending nature to meet him with their own agendas. I don’t think this was what they ever could have imagined.’ 

The days were brutal. This had not been lost on Col. Rondon. The President’s much ballyhooed vim and righteous vigor were not exactly the match of his worldwide legend. Once, on a detail with a 200 man crew hired in port Col. Rondon ventured hundreds of miles across the great forest clearing land that seemed to bend and bow to avoid and even challenge his men’s dominion. If this was testing his meddle there was little to no chance that Mr. Roosevelt could have survived those nights, let alone the days. 

Still and all, Col. Rondon very much respected the President. He was a proven leader and his presence may have been lifting the veil from some of the greater exaggerations that surrounded the man, but his presence and persistence in the face of what he clearly hadn’t expected, and not as a particularly young man, spoke to how he came to possess such a peculiar and masculine reputation. 

Once the camps were set Col. Rondon cleaned as best he could and took his seat at the fire. It was the end of another long day. There were eight men in all, and each had shown signs of breaking throughout the journey downriver. While the communal nature of the endeavour was real and the comraderie, though slow to ignite and challenged in times of stress, had survived. They were growing into a family of sorts. One with dubious prospects for long term success, but not devoid of warmth and understanding. 

‘About the unfortunate incident upstream, Col.’, said the President.

He trailed off and didn’t quite look at the Col. 

‘Yes, sir.’ Said Rondon.

‘Well, do you think it was necesarry. Did we have to leave him like that.’, said Roosevelt. 

‘Why do you ask?’ 

It was a fair question. Roosevelt considered it staring into the fire. He could feel the Col looking sidelong at him as he gazed at the cracking flame. 

‘I don’t suppose I know for sure. I can’t speak to his character, but it occurs to me that we are not wanting for work and a set of hands, however compromised is still a set of hands.’, said Roosevelt. 

Rondon was not to be fooled. 

‘Sir, what good are those hands once they have killed. He might as well be a useless beast of our burden.’ Rondon straightened up in his seat a fraction and crossed his thin legs and returned his gaze to the fire. ‘It is like I said at the outset, Mr. President. Die if you must, but never kill.’ Every person who’d ever worked for or with Col. Rondon was familiar with this tenet. There are few things that can’t be changed, adjusted, reconsidered and blithely ignored when you are encroaching on nature and her inhabitants, but this was one area where he would not budge. 

‘He has surely, long since perished one way or another.’ 

It was a harsher statement than he’d intended and he knew it by Roosevelts instant reaction. 

  If the circle around the fire had been the family table, the tents had become the parlors. Each culture went to it’s own tent to unwind at the end of the day. It was where they could rest, certainly. It was also where they could, and did, talk about this journey and it’s meaning. Not to mention gripe about it’s seeming relentlessness and the decisions that were quibbled over every day. 

‘I have to hand it to him. He’s staying the course and there’s a lot to be said for that.’, said the wearied Mr. Roosevelt. 

‘There’s no doubting that.’, Mr. Cherrie agreed. ‘I don’t actually know how he does it, though I should suspect it must have at least something to do with his incredible smallness. Were he a figure brought to the curators at the museum they’d send him back and curse the fabricators for trying to safe a few pennies in material.’ 

Roosevelt granted a small chortle and smiled.

‘I suspect you are right, Mr. Cherrie. He indeed may need less than the rest of us to sustain such a small frame, but my god, his fortitude is downright Herculean. He handles malaria in much the way many a man in the city would handle an annoying but innocuous cough.’, said Roosevelt.

‘I for one think him rather foolhardy. What difference does it make if he maps and charts a remote river when balanced against the lives of his men.’, said Kermit.

Roosevelt loved his boy, but he couldn’t stand his bearing at times. It wasn’t just Kermit. He often lamented the ease and comfort they were so often afforded, but these were concerns long settled and he knew there was a point. Moreso he knew that some of this, if not all came from a concern for himself. 

‘We elected to come on this mission and like you I can become, from time to time, somewhat frustrated by the Colonel’s singleminded focus. But we must hold. If we fracture fully we will all fail. Besides, I’m not as old and infirm as you might think.’, said Roosevelt. 

Through the night discussion grew of the concerns and tensions of the traveling party. Separate conversations weighing similar concerns against opposing consideration. The Roosevelt party wishing to prioritize survival and the Rondon men knowing that there was only one way out and wondering how to placate the needs of the great man. 

‘What does he become so agitated about, sir. If you don’t mind me asking.’, said Gustavo. 

‘I don’t mind. I suspect his concerns are concerns we’ve all had in due course.’

Gustavo lay in the dark always aware that there were native people hiding in the forest prepared to descend on the unprepared party. Talking into the night gave him comfort in the small ball of light amidst the crushing dark.

‘He is pleading the priority of the mission. He is of the mind that we should abandon our stated goals and merely seek the most expeditious route to civilization. Today he went so far as to suggest that we abandon the river and stop wasting days crafting new canoes. He says he is worried for his party.’

Gustavo considered the sentiment and found a good deal to agree with. But he was a Rondon man and knew to tread lightly in areas suggesting retreat. 

‘What was your reply, sir.’

‘I understood his concerns. He is with men who would not be here at all of their own volition. I respect his generosity of spirit and sense of responsibility. At this point however I sincerely believe we are making the best time that is safe and responsible and that we should continue to explore and document new flora and creatures and we might as well map judiciously as we are taking the journey.’ 

Gustavo had seen this before, men who were frightened by the mission who wished to influence Col. Rondon. But this case was indeed special. America was a new player on the world scene and no one more typified the American spirit than this man. Whether it came from within or was an accident of birth, he was the face of a new world and it was hard to properly calibrate his true weight in the scope of history. 

What was indisputable was that Col. Rondon must return this man safely from the journey which was in fact amongst the most hastily planned and frankly most harrowing of his already long track record of nearly impossible missions completed. They were at a breaking point. There was only so long that he could wield control before the great man recognized and splintered off with his men. It was simple discipline and training that had gotten them this far.

Rondon laid in the dark considering the wisdom he would never consider in the presence of his men. The great man was simply not as young as he once was and there were bound to be treacherous days ahead. On the one hand he could not turn back as death surely lied that way. On the other hand, he needed to gain the confidence of the fellow who’d so brazenly and boldly led the march into the woods with twice as many men just a month earlier. He weighed and pondered over the relatively few options that lie before him and remained befuddled. 

Before long his rotation as watchman had arrived and he had barely slept a wink. 

‘Sir. Sir. Good evening sir. I’ll be heading off to rest now sir. Please be careful out there.’, this exact phrase had become a much honored secular prayer between the men. Rondon knew his men were stressed but handling the conditions far better than the American party. 

‘Thank you, Felix. Please rest well.’, said Rondon. 

Rondon gathered his things and made his way out into the night. Aware that they were still a day at least away from breaking camp, Colonel Rondon considerably reduced the fire and returned what wood was salvageable to the pile of dry and flammable wood that was maintained throughout. He considered the cast off detritus of the lumber used for the canoe and after a moment made his decision. 

The morning fire was stoked and the modest breakfast of foraged berries and plants was meekly awaiting to further drive down an already low morale. The men ate quietly while Rondon sat serene sipping boiled water from his tin. Beyond standard pleasantries the men ate in silence. Once they were done, Rondon stood.
‘Gentlemen, if you will follow me to the river.’, he said.

He turned and began to walk. 

‘Colonel I’d just as soon get started on the work of the day.’, said Roosevelt. 

‘I appreciate that Mr. President. I assure you, this will not take more than a couple of minutes.’, said Rondon. ‘Mr. Cherrie, do you have your camera equipment handy?’

‘George, please, if you don’t make it snappy, will you. Much to do today.’, said Roosevelt. 

In a moment they were approaching a post, clearly fashioned from wood that Roosevelt knew could be used for greater purposes than whatever this was. ‘Col. Rondon. I hope you know that I don’t stand on ceremony. Please, whatever this is make it quick.’

As the party rounded the post and followed Rondon in turning their backs to the river, the sign that hung from the post came into view. 

‘Rio Roosevelt’ 

Carved painstakingly perfectly. 

‘In thanks to you and your men, in honor of the relationship strengthened by this mission, on behalf of the Brazilian people and with the authority vested in me I declare this river, Rio Roosevelt. Congratulations sir.’

Had he been asked there’d be no way the great man would have known that he’d respond so emotionally. Without thinking he’d taken off his hat and held it to his chest. 

‘Thank you, Colonel. Thank you.’, he said. 

The entire party took turns commenting on the design of the signage. Commending the Colonel on his decision and admiring the skill so obvious in the work. 

Having regained a modicum of composure, the President called out, ‘Okay, George. Set up. We need a picture of this. . Colonel, please do me the honor and stand on the other side for the camera.’

  After the picture was made the party returned to camp and got vigorously to work. The air seemed less full with humidity that morning. 

The Colonel got back to work on the fashioning of the canoes while Roosevelt, full of energy and purpose was commanding his men in all manner of works. Collecting and recording local flora, mapping and drawing the detailed course of the river. Preparing and collecting the bounty of the forest for the days to come. Standing there amidst the hum of activity Roosevelt recognized a renewed committment in his men. In himself. 

For just a moment he got lost in thought. He looked over to the men working the canoes and sought out Rondon’s eyes. Looking up, Rondon simply nodded at his counterpart and returned his attention to the task at hand. Roosevelt smiled broadly for a brief moment and returned to his work. 

*******************

This story was inspired by ‘Into the Amazon’, American Experience on PBS. I encourage you to find out more about this fascinating piece of history. The piece I’ve written is historical fiction.  

The Curious Nature of Time

Time is immutable until it isn’t. For me it got all out of whack after kids.

  When Charlie was born I became a dad. That’s when time first shape shifted. From that point on I haven’t been able to get a hold on it. When I catch up to it and live and move with it, when it all sycnchs up it’s magic. Before long I’ve lost the thread again and even in my memory that moment has morphed from a point in time to a blessed eternal experience that will live outside of time and space for the rest of my days. Other times, times like the colossal journey of the early years are even more inscrutable. The days were repetitious and overwhelming. Too large to be effected by the spinning of the earth. It felt like one never ending day. Until a morning came that looked different and the remembrance of it all now seems to grow smaller, ever more brief the further I am removed. 

  The first moment, the instant I saw my first child broke all understanding and left me a mess. It is easy to look at it and see the 30+ hours of consciousness that buttressed his arrival and think that time was aided in her transformation. Perhaps. What flooded me in that moment though was not due to exhaustion or elation. The full scope of the allotted time for a person became very tangible that moment. I was alerted very directly in that moment to my exact spot on the line that starts with my birth and ends with my death which is now incredibly important that it stretches as far as I can hope out into the timeline of this little mans own linear track. Life was abstract and time accompanied it before. Not tied to anything, not rooted in another’s story. Now it was finite and fading and valued like never before. 

Soon after we were home. Days were like years. Almost literally. I may have conceded to times dominion before I knew it could be questioned, but I knew the differences the years made. I was different at 4 than I was at six than I was at 16. It basically tracked with a standard deviation, but each year brought more knowledge more understanding and dare I say, ocassionally some earned wisdoms. They were absorbed, the ones I could recognize, passively. The learning you achieve by breathing more. By the uncontrolled firing of synapses making connections inside and out. I may not have put it together, not have put words to it, but years came with more than numbers. They brought growth. I grew years in those early days. Not the journey around the sun years, but the equal of them in terms of learning about me, the world, what it all means, how to feed, clean and care for something more than myself. Those are years. And they happened every day their early on. Some days more than others, but every day brought something that gave time a new track to explore and play with. 

  Baby world melded together from one to two. Charlie was just at his first birthday when we learned there was a Teddy coming. So no sooner had we nailed a bedtime routine than we added competition to it. Regression met emergence and envy and competition and compassion and peer-ish relations entered our home. We rolled with the punches much better the second time which was somewhat by necessity as life seems oddly to respond to addition with multiplication in many ways. That said, whatever more there was, it was fed by more and more love and concern. To paraphrase myself from an earlier time, if Charlie came and taught us how long the days could be, Teddy was the child who taught us how short the years could be. 
  Now I am as much observer as participant. I’m a dad of kids who need a good deal of observing. I am also a dad who can’t stop himself from watching as they explore and navigate the world and ideas and their abilities and challenges. They are compelling. They demand attention and I’m now walking with them. I may still retain control but that’s mostly a height thing at this point. Honestly. Their instincts are what drive us now. We maintain rules of the road, but they are driving in every way other than literally, and in many ways they are doing so figuratively even at those times. 

Time is uncatchable for us now. It is surging forward too fast or stopping completely. Slowed to crawl or dancing to its own rhythm and we are learning to find some of the wisdoms we can find from its nature. But mostly, we are finding that the wisdom is knowing we are at the mercy of time and we try as much as we can to respect her and do as much as we can to invest as much as we can that is of value in her.