This past Thursday night before I left for my trip to Ohio, I thought I’d better prepare Elliott that I would be gone over the weekend. I didn’t want him to wake up Friday and be surprised by my absence. In the past, my “being gone” has meant nothing more to him than a long trip to Wal-Mart, so I didn’t expect it to be a challenging conversation. Times have changed. I guess Elliott has reached the age that he understands the concepts of “gone” and “couple of days”. He latched on to me and cried until I was nearly doing so myself.
I was caught off guard by this. As recently as November we were able to escape relatively unnoticed to an Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, then our absence passed them by while they were in the hands of both sets of grandparents, so I suppose that made a difference. And that isn’t to diminish the role of their mama who flew solo with them while I was in Ohio. Trust me, I realized a long time ago that if the boys were given the opportunity to choose their parents out of a lineup that consisted of Katie and I, sandwiched on both sides by the grandmas and grandpas, that line would soon dwindle to a set of former parents with long faces watching their boys skip off to the grandmas’ and grandpas’ houses.
So when Elliott offered me a sign that he would not only notice I was gone for 48 hours, but that my absence might also have some negative impact on his life, I loved it in a sad sort of way. I promised him a speedy return, which brought him no comfort. When I promised him a speedy return that included gifts from Ohio, well, the world was magically right again.
My mother-in-law pointed out to me what our men and women in the military must face these separations so frequently and for longer periods of time. That didn’t make the separation from my family any easier, but it did increase the respect I hold for those who serve our country.
I should point out that the conversation about my departure went much smoother with little Ian. He clearly understood that gifts were in the future and he was all but shoving me out the door and wishing me a safe and very speedy return. That’s our Ian.
The two boys are so entertaining these days that I hate to miss a second of their act. You never know when you’re going to miss a new twist to their show.
Last week Elliott got into one of his deep thinking modes. He asked me, “daddy, when I get old like you (and I really love all of these ‘old like you references I get these days’), will I still learn? And he looked almost anxious that my answer would be no. So I had to assure him that, yes, of course you keep learning when you’re older. I should have known by now, but you don’t get to answer Elliott in broad generalities.
“How do you keep learning?” he asked.
So my mind kicked into scramble-to-find-an-answer-your-kid-will-buy mode.
“Well,” I answered, “Like this morning, you taught me all about that alien Humungusor, I would have never known a thing about Humungusor if you hadn’t taught me. I know something brand new now.”
Given that every second is precious to the process of getting the four of us out the door on time in the morning, I had just given Elliott the absolute wrong answer. He suddenly became a kid that had wanted to be a teacher his whole life and he was just handed his first classroom. This notion that he could teach me something turned him into an alien. He was firing the names of every foreign creature and planet he had ever seen or heard of, most of them from the show Ben 10, And because of my stupid answer, I was obligated to show interest.
This was not a solo teaching effort either. As Elliott taught me the names of the growing list of creatures from who knows where, Ian was running around with his arms spread in the background, roaring like a Lion. A side note here, it is clear that in Ian’s world, all aliens look and sound and fly alike.
I was relieved to finally get out the door that morning. I was never a huge fan of school, and I just knew a quiz on the existence of life on planets that don’t exist in this universe was just around the corner.
I got home from work that night and had forgotten about the conversation of that morning. We sat down at the dinner table and I was ready to take my first bite of food when Elliott says:
“Daddy, are you ready to learn about some of the aliens I didn’t teach you about this morning?”
Ah yes, in the world of a father, teaching and learning never ends.
THE THREE OF US RECENTLY GOT HAIRCUTS ON A SATURDAY. ONE OF US HAD LESS CHAIR TIME THAN THE OTHER TWO.
IAN CATCHES A FISH ON OUR RECENT OUTING TO GRANDMA AND GRANDPA’S POND.
ELLIOTT WASN’T HAVING AS MUCH SUCCESS AS IAN AT CATCHING SOMETHING, SO HE STOPPED FOR A MOMENT OF PRAYER. HEY, IN FISHING YOU HAVE TO TRY EVERYTHING.
IN THE END, ELLIOTT WAS PERFECTLY CONTENT CATCHING A WORM.
AND WHEN IT CAME TO ACTUALLY REMOVING THE FISH FROM THE LINE, WELL, ONE OF THEM WAS A LITTLE MORE CURIOUS THAN THE OTHER.