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When the Headbeams Were Otherwise Stopped

At Costco the other day, Cayden scales everything the least bit climb-able. The bin of tomatoes, the refrigerator displays. He puts ‘Hawaiian King’ rolls (the 24 pack we’re certainly not going to buy)in our cart. “Chill!” I say–and less than kindly–while returning the rolls. I grab his hand as means of timeout and this, mind you, makes selecting cottage cheese difficult. “Da-deee,” he whines, “Let me go.” He stresses that holding my hand hurts, and does so–gallingly–in front of the Pellegrino display. Which means: we we are not fancy at this particular moment. I eventually let go when we can check out safely.

This evening, I take Cayden to a family movie event at a local restaurant. This means I can catch up with some guys over pints while Cayde watches a movie in a reserved section out back. I don’t feel guilty in the slightest: we have the ten-block walk to Waypoint and back. Cayde and I talk about my new schedule, the fact of Daylight Savings Time, and there being sunshine when now again I can pick him up from school. He skips ahead of me in a ridiculous Ninja Turtle sweatshirt, sometimes hopscotching ahead of our conversation.

“Monkey–get back here.” (I’m not finished with my sentence, most times). Cayde comes back. He hugs my hip, else jumps on me, and usually inconveniently. Injuries aside, I’m beginning to feel I know this kid better than anybody else even if he’s opposite or, perhaps, the same as me. I endure the sometimes violence of his affection and keep asking questions.

“Think hard, Dude,” I say. “What do you want to do? We’ve got time now. Daddy’s home earlier.”

We come up with: the playground (natch), hikes, visits to the nursery because our front porch is bare. (I tell him about the Mission Hills Nursery where dragging a wagon around is the simplest pleasure. The nursery was founded the same year our gable was constructed). Cayde decides, among all this talk, that we must include Finn always. How good a brother is that. Also–yes–plants are needed for the front porch.

I’m finishing beers with my friend Andy, and settling the bill. Cayde’s wrapped around my neck–he’s practicing some move wherein he leaps off the neighboring bench and catches himself around my collar. I could feign choking or get annoyed. But, no.

Finn is often labelled the ‘good’ kid because he’s so easy. Cayden’s good, but not easy, as I can attest to while paying the tab. Cayde’s impinging my carotid; I’m just trying to sign correctly, and with appropriate blood flow. He hangs on my neck because he’s excited his dad is–from now on–off early. I think in the end I get the signature correct. I know Cayde’s happy.

Cayden’s a good kid. Last night he went to his friends’ house to find out that they had moved away–unexpectedly–in some custody battle. He was wracked with sobs, the same sobs he cries when he watches movies where family members are separated. Such things devastate him. And look: I understand my kid’s smart. But I also know that empathy has its own quotient, and that he’s got that going on, too. He was desperately sad but quick to repair; we took a walk around the block as short-cut to some relief.

Similarly (and because my kid’s just like me) Cayde says tonight : “Daddy–I found a secret way out of here”, meaning the restaurant. And, seriously, he did. It’s something I would do to duck out in an inconspicuous measure. I say good night to Andy and then Cayde shooshes me in confidence and guides me out the back of the restaurant through a series of doors that should belong only to the line-cooks and wait-staff. Coursing his cleverly found-labyrinth makes me wish I had left a better tip.

Back on the sidewalk, we venture home. Past an art gallery, where people are studiously painting still-lifes, Cayde says that he just smells paint. It’s an earnest thing to say. Just as earnestly, he also decrees he wants a cheeseburger when we pass the Jack in the Box. He reaches for my hand when we cross the street and with that suddenly not being punishment, I’m quick to say ‘yes’ when he asks to skip the rest of the way home. Around the corner he goes, and down the alley. ‘Go ahead, Cayde.’ I lose sight of him, but at least he held my hand when the light was green and when the head-beams were otherwise stopped.

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