Ryan Bingham – “The Weary Kind”
And we pick it up, one last time. It’s around 3pm, Saturday, March 12, 2011…
– We’re tired. Worn down. Ready for rest. We head up to the restaurant for lunch before we hit the road. I’ve always wanted to make my own meal in a restaurant kitchen. I get the green light from Mom and go to work on Bob’s World Famous BLT. It’s a pretty perfect creation. Toasted bread. Lettuce. Tomato. Bacon. Parmesan cheese. Homemade Caesar dressing. It’s a joy working in that environment. Somewhere, not too far down in my soul, this is a dream of mine. I grew up cooking right alongside my Mom. Learning her tricks (add more butter). The simple task of making this perfect sandwich is somewhat cathartic. That and the homemade potato chips. The whole process felt like Adam Sandler’s character late at night in Spanglish. If you don’t know the scene I’m talking about, listen to my advice…again…and see that movie. Lunch hit the spot. In every possible way.
– We say our goodbyes, load up in the Subaru, and get ready to head on back to North Little Rock. Ames is driving. Abe’s in the back. About 20 minutes down the road, he begins to get fussy. Part of me begins to clench up. Another part of me reaches to the CD player, turns on a beautiful song I’ve been drawn to recently, and witnesses my baby boy ease into peace like Florida’s waves at night. I drift off to sleep. All is well. All is well.
– I wake up with an hour to go in the trip. I look back and see Abe still napping. He looks like a gift. I take a picture. I hold on to this moment as long as I can.
– Shortly thereafter, Abe wakes up and is ready to be home. He communicates this clearly. Effectively. Maybe he should be a politician one day. Or just cut the crap and be a dictator. He knows how to let you know what he wants. With authority. And he’s relentless. “Passionate”, Amy says. “Feisty”, she adds. “Menacing”, I mutter.
– Abe won’t give up. Amy’s driving and trying to entertain Abe at the same time. This might be a safety hazard. Abe drops a toy. Amy reaches back into the floorboard to pick it up for him. As a consequence, tiff number twelve happens. Just drive, I “politely” tell her. Believe it or not, that last sentence may have been the first use of fiction in these blog posts. I think I said something else. I’ve since blocked it out.
I decide my energy will best be spent, for everyone’s sake, in the back with Abe. I climb back, committed to entertain this boy like a circus clown. We will be happy. We will be happy.
– Abe laughs without abandon. Over and over. Wholeheartedly. Fully. Joyfully. I read to him. Sing with him. Laugh back at him. I’m wearing myself out and this magician is just about out of tricks, but there’s no greater reward than keeping a smile on your child’s face. Cliche? Sure. But true? Never written anything truer.
– As we pull closer and closer to home, with the sun beginning to set and the day drawing to an end, I reflect on the events that have unfolded. I’d written down all the hard stuff earlier. Now it was time to write the good. Like making a good sandwich, I needed this experience. My wife has been doing a great exercise all throughout 2011. She regularly keeps a list of things she’s grateful for. What a beautiful thing to do. Inspiring. So much so that I had to create mine. In the midst of a royally crappy day, I decided to take off the blinders and see what I’d missed. While sitting next to my boy, with a scribbling pen and fading daylight, here’s what I wrote:
* One of the greatest rear-window-sunsets of all-time. Brilliant. Beautiful
* Handing Honey Nut Cheerios one at time to Abe for a car ride snack. Seeing his hand reach into mine and clasp. Thinking of all the bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios I ate next to my dad growing up. My spoon racing to keep up with him.
* Seeing a colt dashing thru a field. Running full steam with those little locomotive legs to a larger horse. To Dad? That’s what I’m gonna believe.
* The continual landscape portraits being painted outside my window. Gorgeous countryside. Cattle. Trees. Water. Hills. Sun. Grass. Eat your heart out Thomas Kinkade.
* Birds formed together like a black cloud, flying high in a massive group. Splitting up. Joining back together. Smoothly. Gracefully.
* “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? I see a white dog looking at me, ” I read. “Ruff ruff,” Abe responds. Genius.
* Handing my boy his bottle. Those strong arms tilting it up. My hands running thru his soft hair.
* Breaking off a couple of cardboard pieces from two old hangers. Letting Abe use them as drumsticks or magic wands. Seeing him hold them out the window, enjoying the tension the wind provides. Pulling them back in. Repeat. Release. Cardboard swords sent back to the wild.
* “Free Falling” on the radio. Cranking it up in the dark of the night. Abe clapping along. So the boy likes Tom Petty. Score another one for Amy’s genes.
And that’s the list. A couple more notes before the day ends…
– We pull into town, make our way home, unpack the car and put our boy down to bed. I run to the score to grab us a pint of ice cream. As I turn off my street, I see giant fireworks in the distance. Blue and gold lighting up silently in the distance. I drive quietly, looking up among the trees and streetlights to see these colors explode into the black. And fade. The blackboard erased. Chalked up. Cleaned off. Just enough to make me look even higher up in the sky and say a quick, “Thank you.”
– At the store, I was looking for something else, but I come across a Ben and Jerry’s flavor named Dublin Mudslide. It’s our 5 Year Anniversary trip to Ireland in the form of sugar, milk, and lots of chocolate. Manna. But much, much tastier. God is good.
– I head home and we turn on a movie we’d rented earlier in the week. 127 Hours. We sit and watch as this man fights for life. To live. Even days like this. That days like today would be a welcome blessing. That he’d probably be okay with a life full of days like today. 127 Hours made my 12 hours look like dust. My heart is softened. Awakened. Filled.
– Amy and I head to bed. I’d love to stop typing now, to let you know that tiff number 27 didn’t happen. But somehow, flesh came forward once again. And I have no idea what the fight was about now. Fitting, right? But I know that as I lied down to bed, knowing a time change was happening, that tomorrow was coming faster than today had the night before, that I was ready for morning’s mercies.
I was frustrated and tired. Yet I felt God would win. I believed the light of day would be a return to running in form. I knew a change was gonna come. If not in this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day…then surely in tomorrow.
– And Sunday was good. Not just good. Very good. Sunrise to sunset.