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November 3, 2013

And So It Goes

In November, the days get shorter and colder. The humidity drops and your skin cracks. I wear a Chapstik around my neck and put on lotion 3 times a day.

The leaves are off the trees now,. In October, the bird bath would freeze at night, and thaw during the day. Only now it never thaws any more. Never it does. Mountain Lilac leaves, faded yellow, suspended in time in this bird bath skating rink.

I place the ice-saucer of yellow leaves on the trampoline, and refill the birdbath with fresh water. Spent all day yesterday repairing the bird feeders. I don't really know what's getting them now. Maybe the bears. Maybe the coons. It's so hard to know. The game camera's batteries died, and it took me a few days to replace them. So it's a mystery, for now.

Drive down the hill to get my favorite toy, Jennifer. The truth is that kids are the best toys on Earth. I try to be a good father to my kid. Lord knows I'm far from perfect. But I pick her up when I'm sposed to and turn her lose when I oughta and there's something to be said for this, I s'pose.

Was always close to my dad growing up. Hunting. Fishing. Hiking. Canoeing. Camping. All this stuff. Not a lot of money laying around, but he was there for me and we had a good time. One day, I asked him, "Dad...why come you never tell me stories about your dad?"

"Ah....he wasn't really around. My parents were divorced. I never really saw him growing up."

And you think about that, right? Like....wow. How bad would that suck? So, I try to be a good father to my kid. I have her every weekend. Been in the same house for 13 years. It's the only place she remembers, really.

Maybe I've spoiled her, but I don't have the lock on that, I think. It's a pardonable sin, IMHO. She's been to Paris, Dublin, NYC, Honolulu, Cozumel, SF, San Diego...I can't really keep track. I try to take her to fun places...the places I liked when I was there...Pensacola, Tulum, Hilo, Playa Del Carmen, Kona.

Jen is the only person on earth that keeps track of where I "haven't" been.

"You've never been to Vermont, have you?" she asks, just to be perfectly certain.

"No. You know I haven't been to Vermont. I've been to Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York...somehow I missed Vermont."

She loves to do this to me. To keep track of where I haven't been, so when I say "I've been everywhere", she'll say something like..."You've never been to North Dakota."

When she turned 5, I got her a 4 wheeler. When she was 8, I got her a cell phone. For a long time, I didn't buy her anything new to drive. I felt like it was time to move on to other toys.

"Do you want a motorcycle baby? A small one to ride around the yard?"

"No...not really."

"OK. That's fine. I"m not pushing it on you. I just didn't want you to grow up and say "I always wanted a motorcycle." And that was the end of the motorcycle idea.

But when she turned 15, I got her a Jeep. I felt like I'd waited plenty long enough.

"Here, take this."

"Why? What is it?"

"It's a key to my truck. And a key to the house."

"Why do I need a house key? You never lock it."

"Look. This is just what you do. You're 15. You have a key chain. You need to have a key to my house, a key to my truck, and a key to your jeep. That's just what people do. You're old enough to carry a keychain now."

She adds the keys, awkwardly to her keychain. Her Jeep is not new. It's a 2001 with 11 trillion miles on it.

After I bought the Jeep, I found a few things the guy that sold it to me jacked me on. Now, sure, I know where he lives. I could go down there at 2:00 a.m., let myself in with a brick, and brand him with a soldering iron until the sun comes up, then send him to Allah through the drain in his bathtub.

But I think now that it's better to buy a used car for a kid starting to drive, so they can learn to do some maintenance on it. I make her lift the hood, and point out the parts of the engine. She knows where the windshield-wiper fluid goes, the anti-freeze, the power steering fluid. The battery. The air filter.

All of these things, she knows. Today, we replaced the "clock spring", a fairly common problem with the Jeeps. Now, she knows how to use a socket wrench. Knows metric from the U.S. sockets. RIghty, tighty. Lefty, loosey.

Maybe my dad didn't teach me all of these things. Maybe he did. The truth is it was so long ago I can't remember. Certainly I didn't have a car or an ATV when I was 15. We had a riding lawnmower with the blades removed.

I never saw the inside of a plane till I was like 18, I think. Those things don't really matter, I though. What matters is that you spend time with your kids. That you include them in your life. That you take them around with you when you can, and show them what you can, even if it's only a walk through a local park.

You show them the things you like.

The other day, Jen asked me what books she should read. And I got so excited. I was running upstairs and down, searching through the antique barrister bookcases for the books I love most in this world. With all my silly little underlining and annotating. Here...A Confederacy of Dunces, Slaughterhouse V, The Grapes of Wrath, Fahrenheit 451, The Trial. Like, how great is that? To have someone say "show me what's good in the world?" It's the best thing on earth.

So today, we were sitting in the driveway, eating pomegranates, taking a break from working on the Jeep.

"Did you have a date on Monday night?" she asks innocently.

"No. Only I went out to dinner with an old friend is all." The waiter asked me "Su novia?" and I was like "ella es mi novia pasada, entiende?"

Pokey sits in the window, staring mournfully out at the world she can see, but not reach.

"Is it safe for Pokey to come out yet, daddy?"

"Not yet, baby. Still there are foxes. And the skunk sprayed the front yard pretty bad. Probably by next week, then she can come out."

Jen spits a mouthful of red pomegranate seeds into the faded grasses beside the driveway. My neighbor mows his yard, and parts of mine. I don't mow. It's not really something I enjoy. I mowed yards as a kid. I'm over it now.

"We need to check the pressure in the tires, don't we?" she asks.

"Why baby?"

"Because, when we went over Guanella Pass, we let the air out with a rock, member?"

"Yes baby. I remember. Get your tire pressure gauge out of the glove box and I'll show you how to check it."

And so it goes.

Posted by Rob Kiser on November 3, 2013 at 1:34 AM


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