Sunday, February 13, 2011

What a life!

For the many people who’ve been kind enough to read my many ramblings over the years, you know that I try to keep things pretty light. It’s not that I am a shallow person, I’ve got loads of political diatribes on my hard drive just waiting to see the light of day, and I have a few treatises on the nature of God and religion, too. But, I think attempts at humor are more entertaining. Having said that, I’m having a hard time seeing the lighter side this week.

Our local news has been headlined by two dreadful stories – the accidental death of two bright and talented high school seniors, out for a day at the beach with friends also engaged in good works, and the trial surrounding the tragic and unspeakable death of a young girl at the hands of her mother. In both cases, the details are heartbreaking and, in one, they are simply unfathomable.

I thought it important to take a moment away from trying to think of clever and witty little stories about my family life, and to focus some serious attention at how fortunate I am, and most of us are, in the lives we lead and the families we have.

If you are like me, you are not living the life you planned to live. It was all very clear to me at one time. I would go to Europe, first walking from London to the northern tip of Scotland and then following the seasons, picking fruit on the continent to support an extended stay. College would follow, probably studying political science or foreign relations in order to pursue a career in government – something with the State Department at first, and then running for office. After the Senate, the presidency, at least an attempt, followed by something with the United Nations. A fabulous apartment, a vast and expensive wardrobe and perhaps a Jaguar rounded out the picture. At some point I moved on to the idea of a life of travel, research and writing. And, finally, I’ve come to realize that my life is not some plan for the future, some distant idea of what I will one day do, my life is here and now.

In that life there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t look at my painted wood floors and realize how much they could use refinishing. I’m also keenly aware that every bit of white woodwork in the house needs its’ semi-annual touch up. Then there’s the perennial problem of the one tiny, albeit charming, bathroom that serves my family of ten. Later in the day, usually just after the mail has come, the question of how to make one income stretch to cover our growing expenses comes up. The bills arrive, sometimes more than a little past due, and the ever increasing letters from colleges addressed to my older children remind me of the vast sums of money that I haven’t saved for my children’s college education.

People have often asked, certainly rhetorically, “how do you do it?!” Well, I’ll tell you… I’m coming out of the closet - it’s a lot of work. It’s sometimes incredibly hard and exhausting work at that. Some days I feel unequal to the task. And, despite my frequent lighthearted answer of, “Well, you just do it”, it can be a bit more complicated than that. There’s the frequent financial juggling that goes on – what bill can wait so you can pay for the school trip of the week. And there’s the endless question of whether you are giving your children everything they need (I am always sure that the answer is a resounding “no”.). In short, there’s not a day that goes by without some time spent worrying about something or someone.

Now, before you think I’m writing a sob story about the woes of parenthood, let me set the record straight. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. If I stop and give it a moment’s thought, I couldn’t be happier. The things that I’ve listed above make little difference and, one day, my endless economic challenges and petty household concerns will mean absolutely nothing. Besides, anyone reading this will probably be able to relate to every obstacle I’ve listed, and perhaps many more that I haven’t.

You see, just this evening, so many things have happened in my home that make me so glad to be where I am now, at this very moment. I made cookies with my seven year old son, a boy whose love of food is matched only by his love of jumping around the house, singing and dancing to Jack Johnson’s soundtrack from the Curious George movie. He also happens to tell me that he loves me every day, usually more than once, and will do anything to make me laugh.

I also spent part of my afternoon alone with my five year old son, looking through a local thrift store for some fun little toy that would keep his attention for an hour or two. Rather than find a toy, he found a rocking chair, perfectly sized just for him, that he spent a good hour sitting in, next to me, as he held his three month old brother. This particular son also tells me, repeatedly, that I am, “so cool”. He falls asleep next to me each night after wrapping his arms around my neck and telling me how much he loves me.

There’s also my ten and eleven year old boys, who would choose to spend time playing games, bowling or just watching television with me over any other activity. Not just great sons, but truly good friends, something I feel about each of my children. My fourteen year old son who, as I was sick and taking a nap the other day, gave me a hug and told me that he loved me. And, last but certainly not least, my fifteen year old son and seventeen year old daughter who try so hard to please and impress my wife and me, and who live lives so exemplary that I can look up to and admire them.

All of this is held together by my wife, the one person who understands, accepts and encourages me in everything I do. It would be impossible to write a coherent paragraph about my feelings toward her, so I won’t even try.

When I think of those two sad stories filling our newspapers, I feel so much sympathy for the parents in one case, and the poor child in the other. The one will be robbed of the love of their sons, and the other was robbed of the love of a family. At the same time, I feel an incredible surge of gratitude for the life that I have, and a huge desire to gather my family around me, not for any particular purpose, but simply to bask in the warmth, love and companionship that we all share.


  1. Great post. I've really enjoyed your blog. Keep sharing.

  2. I'm T's Aunt Diane, and I love this post!

  3. I can relate to this, Jake - although we only have 5 kids life is still soooo busy (and expensive!). I read those same stories and, you are so right...heart breaking. I love reading your blog and am so glad you decided to start all of them! Jamie