Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Home


Eric, Andrew and I caught a plane home to Pennsylvania yesterday. On average for the three of us, it has been two years, more or less, since we were here. Simply looking out the window, as the plane descends, at the rolling hills and rivers warms my heart. As we exit the Fort Pitt tunnel, "our city!" as the boys used to chime as toddlers, splayed out before us, welcomes like a dear old friend. Andrew pumps his fist in the air. Eric gazes out the backseat window. I get a lump in my throat every time.

Typical, I suppose, of late March, the landscape remains drab, draped in hues of chestnut and sepia, brave forsythia the only bright spots. At least the snow has melted. Mom tells me to look closely and I'll see buds on the trees. With warm weather, up to 80 degrees on Saturday, predicted for this week, the brown may burst into spring green before we leave next Monday. Lots to do before then, many friends and family to visit. The time will pass too quickly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Parenthood

Something new on the blog today-- I'm welcoming a guest blogger, my good friend D.B. Grady. D.B. wanted to write to my (loose) theme of transition, but except for a stint in Afghanistan, he's lived his whole life in Baton Rouge. So he's writing on a transition of another kind. Take it away, D.B.

It's a thrill to write for Angie's blog today. She is truly the Obi-Wan Kenobi of freelance writers, thoughtful and generous in word and deed. Her guidance led to my first paying gig, and she continues to inspire with assignment after assignment. She's written for more magazines than I've read. (And I am late in submitting this piece to her, so clearly I've still got a lot to learn.)

After mentioning the Red Planet Noir virtual book tour, she was kind enough to offer her website for me to scribble on. She suggested the topic of transitions. It soon became very clear that there's been only one real transition in my life, and that is to fatherhood. Everything else was a warmup act.

I don't remember much after my daughter was born.

Amelia is fifteen months old. She may as well be fifteen years. Everyone's heard, or said, "Oh, they grow so fast." They're understating things. Amelia is like a runaway stagecoach. One day, she could roll. One day she could sit. Then she was crawling. Standing. Cruising. Walking. Dancing. "Mama." "Daddy." "Dog." Baby food. People food. She presently chatters endlessly in her own secret language. I remember the first time she laughed, but don't remember why. I remember the first tooth, but don't remember when. Sometimes when she's tired she'll give me a little kiss.

A couple of months after she was born, I dropped by my old office. Everyone commented that I'd lost weight. I hadn't noticed. I hadn't been eating. It never even occurred to me. There wasn't enough time. (I've since made up the difference, and then some.)

I didn't sleep for a year. That's how it felt, anyway.

Nothing can prepare one for parenthood. It's binary; there is Before Baby and After Baby.

Before Baby, I noticed every screaming child within earshot. Now I go to Chuck E Cheese and it barely registers that I'm not at the library. It's as though I've become a Zen Master. Like there's an IV of Halcion dripping into my bloodstream.

When Amelia was born, I wondered why she was crying, or why she wasn't sleeping at night.

Then I started worrying when she didn't cry. Why she was sleeping for eight hours. I started waking more than she did.

After becoming a father, so many things start to make sense. Life is clarified, and the important is put in perspective with the truly important. And this is the most important thing I will ever do. I work from home, and am grateful for that opportunity. To watch her grow, learn, think and figure things out. She explores the house -- no cabinet is safe. When she finds something of interest, she usually creeps toward me with hands outstretched, not for permission, but for approval. "Look what I found, daddy! This is the new best thing in the world."

Fatherhood is a tremendous responsibility, but it is never a burden. When I grow frustrated, it is always at myself, for not knowing what to do. She is learning faster than I am. There is no resting on my laurels, no kicking my feet up and taking the week off. Every day brings a new discovery, for her, and for me.

Recently, I met an old friend and her husband for lunch, and we brought the babies. (Are fifteen-month-olds still considered babies? I don't even know that.) She is an artist in Washington DC, and works from home. She lamented that she would do anything for a daily, four-hour block of uninterrupted time with her craft. I'm a writer; I know the feeling. Then she said, "But it'll only be like this for five years. Then she'll be off to school, and I will never get to spend the whole day, everyday, with her again."

As Amelia fed herself Apple Jacks from a ziplock bag, I did the math. Three and a half more years. And I felt terribly sad.

They grow so fast. I'll never catch up.
--

D.B. Grady is the author of Red Planet Noir.
He can be found on the web at http://www.dbgrady.com/.










Saturday, March 20, 2010

Soccer

Don't ever tell Eric Dilmore he can't do something. Word of the day -- determination.

(Photo disclaimer: Eric was on the opposite side of the field. I cropped these to get closer. Guess I need a camera with a good telephoto. Photo key: Eric has on a white t-shirt, black shorts and socks, and red cleats. Andrew's also in this first photo, purple shirt, black shorts.)








Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rodeo

Last night, Bob and I and a business associate and wife trekked west to the Houston Rodeo at Reliant Stadium. The place is huge. Makes the Civic Arena (home to the Pittsburgh Penguins and countless concerts) look like a high school gymnasium. Over 65,000 people in attendance last night. I saw enough cowboy hats and boots to fill a silo. And the rodeo goes on for three weeks. Big name entertainers, mostly country, every night. Colorful carnival outside the stadium, on-going livestock show, petting zoo, shopping, etc. Till Bob got out of work later than he anticipated, and we met our friends in Beaumont, drove through Houston traffic, found a parking spot, and grabbed a bite to eat, we missed most of the rodeo. We saw a bit of bull riding on the TV screen in the long concession stand line. We saw some barrel riding and calf roping. But the surely the rodeo highlight had to be the "Mutton Bustin." Check it out here. I found this clip on youtube, it wasn't from last night. Please know that the kids last night wore protective vests and helmets. So funny -- the kid who won last night, the one who held on the longest, came out on a sheep that, instead of bolting out of the gate, practically crawled, then mosied over to the other sheep, as if it didn't know what it was supposed to do. Didn't seem quite fair, but nonetheless entertaining.

I wasn't terribly disappointed about missing most of the rodeo. The family and I went to a rodeo here in Lake Charles a couple years ago, and I thought then once was enough. The real reason I wanted to go was to see one of my favorite bands, Lady Antebellum. As you can see from the photo below, we couldn't see them all that well, but they sounded great. Fun show. Here's my favorite song. They didn't play it; too mellow for a rowdy rodeo crowd, I guess.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Bob and I saw the Preservation Hall Jazz Band last night, on tour and here in Lake Charles. Great show. I learned this band started in 1961 as an effort to preserve the culture of New Orleans jazz music. Preservation Hall holds the heart of the Crescent City. It hasn't changed over the decades, no air conditioning, no alcohol, it's rough facade still welcomes visitors and regulars. Bob and I vacationed in New Orleans back around 1990. I remember strolling through the French Quarter, stumbling (literally, no doubt) across Preservation Hall, and standing outside staring in through the windows for several minutes. The place was too crowded to attempt going in. Check out their website, and take a listen. Come visit us sometime. We can road trip three hours east and you can see them in person.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reading the Obituaries

A writer friend of mine begins her novel with an obituary. Which got me thinking about obituaries. In Pennsylvania, I routinely read the obituaries because I wanted to know if anyone I knew had died. I worked for over 25 years in healthcare, so I often recognized the names of long-time patients, sometimes an elderly person from church, or a neighbor. I haven't lived in Louisiana long enough to know very many people, certainly no one whose name I'd expect to find in an obituary. But I read them every day anyway. Maybe out of habit. But more, I think, because I'm fascinated by the names. Dupuis (dew-pwee), Soileau (swallow), Arceneaux (eaux = O). The combinations of letters and their corresponding pronounciations both delight and boggle my French-lacking mind. Gauthreaux, Robicheaux, Babineaux, Broussard. Can you believe those vowels? How do the kindergarten kids learn how to spell these names? I have good friends in Pa. named Szwaczkowski. Those kids would understand. One would be hard-pressed to find names like Wozniak or Kasinski, common Pittsburgh names, here in SWLA. But Duhon and Fontenot might as well be Smith and Jones. Guillory, Guidry, Hoffpauir, Sonnier, LeLeux, Richard (ree-shard). The list goes on and on. Birth announcements and my sons' school yearbooks excite me the same way. These names are tricky. Aucoin and Ardoin (something like are-dwan, but I always get it wrong.) Farque, Farquhar, and Fusilier. Comeaux and Cormier. One of my favorites is LeBlanc, where you both pronounce the c and don't pronounce the c at the same time. I truly believe one would have had to been born here to get it just right. Boudreaux and Thibodeaux are two classic Cajun names. There are a whole slew of Boudreaux/Thibodeaux jokes, but I haven't lived here long enough to know if they're in bad taste or all in good fun. If you know for certain no one will take offense, feel free to post one in comments.