Cayden · family

Fine Standing Still

“Dude, we suck,” I say, gripping an orange ball and glancing at the scoreboard. We haven’t broken one hundred, collectively, and we’ve only a few more frames to go. Cayde’s even requested bumpers, though he’s twelve and should be able to bowl straight enough to avoid the gutters.

But it doesn’t matter. The lane keeps breaking down, enough so that we’re now bowling for free; we munch mediocre pizza in the green light of the East Village Tavern and enjoy each other’s company.

I’ve always liked non-sports sports. Pitch, scrum, gridiron: whatever. Hand me some darts, a shuffle-puck, or a bocce ball instead. The halfways sports that are about communion over commiserate broke-body battle; I’ll take a trip-twenty over a touchdown any day of the week.

“Shuffle-puck?” Cayde agrees and we slide spinning discs over an over-fast board back and forth. Thunk. Thunk.

“Do you want more sand on the board?” the register-guy asks.

“Naw—this is kinduv fun.” It’s like dancing on a newly waxed floor. Thunk.

Eventually we get the hang of it, throwing hangers and knocking each other’s pucks off the board. We’re better at this than bowling. It’s a delicate game where restraint is key—finessing the board like a jazz drummer brushes the snare, discs caroming into certain space, spinning on their axes.

I beat Cayden handily. But he beat me on the last frame in bowling AND decimated me at gin rummy last night. ‘Never let your kid win,’ I say, ‘Let them win on their own merit.’ When they win, you win, too. I mean, in solitaire there are no high-fives.

I danced with Finn earlier this morning, in the kichen, spinning centripetal while listening to Father’s Day music. I famously can’t dance: I’m the erstwhile maypole while all those dance around me. A disc spinning in place like on the shuffleboard table. Dizzy standing still.

Jenn and I went out last night to a restaurant where my friend Michael played jazz guitar, and people were whirling in close orbit, swing dancing, smiles on their faces, bows in their hair. I wish I could dance, but there is the interplay otherwise—bad bowling even—and letting others dip and sway. On this Father’s Day, I’m fine standing still.

Cayden · family · parenting

My Simon

“Dad, can you pick me up?” the text message read, “This is not my jam.”

This was a complete turnaround from an hour prior when, excitedly, Cayde triumphed: “This is gonna be the best birthday party ever! A bunch of sixth graders beating each other up with swords!” It even sounded fun to me: an anachronist society hosting a bunchuv of boys to ‘Lord of the Flies’ it out with cloth-covered swords and shields. I would have dug it as a kid. My cousins and I used to roam the neighborhood, after all, playing ‘guerrila warfare’ with toy guns and camo fatigues, seeking each other out in an elaborate game of hide-and-seek, replete with faux firefights and friendly snacks afterwards.

I honked the horn at the park, and Cayde came bounding over with a cup of Chex mix, barely turning over his shoulder to wave goodbye. Kids were wailing on each other with play swords in the background, ‘Tis but a flesh wound!’ and Black Knight tomfoolery.

“What’s up, Dude? Not your jam, huh?”

“Naw,” Cayde said picking through his cup to select the rye chips, “After a while it just seemed…”

“Seemed what?” I asked, pulling out of the park’s roundabout and clicking on the blinker toward home.



“Yeah—just didn’t seem right. I played for a little bit, then just sat out to watch.” He munched laconically on a Chex crisp. Cayde was not exactly bothered, but there was something nagging his heart, and I chose to let him work it out.

“I get it.”

“Just not my thing,” he repeated, which initially surprised me because he spends hours on Fortnite, with all its electronic glyphs of skins and guns and friendly combat.

There was a look in his eye, which spoke suddenly of his fast maturation, adult even, hair falling across his forehead in a weighty block. He shook the hair out of his eyes and contented himself sharing the Chex with me.

Cayde is growing up, and his empathy is growing along with his inseam. He is stubbornly a non-reader, but his emotional quotient is encyclopedic.

To wit: Matthew, his non-binary friend reveres him as an ally; Isaac his Lilliputian buddy on the playground came out to him as bisexual before even whispering a word to his parents. The friends he brings over are black, Latino, girls and boys—he gets along with everybody and eschews racism with the heart of a seasoned protestor. One night at bedtime, I had to assuage him when he found out MLK’s house had been firebombed way back in the Sixties.

“How could they DO that?” he cried, “MLK’s kids were in the house.”

Cayde is sensitive to cruelty. He asks me about Gandhi, he is aware of Stonewall; he worries about the bombing in Yemen and the loss of life.

“It just didn’t seem appropriate,” Cayden summarized, thinking back to the party where kids gleefully pounded each other with sticks and played out their aggressions. “I mean,” he said polishing off the last treasure rye chip, “It’s better to be kind.”

And I reached over and patted him on the knee, my heart swelling with infinite pride, with us pulling into the driveway where no hate exists.

“Indeed, Kid.” If Lord of the Flies was the du jour, my kid was definitely Simon. Peace on, my little bodhisattva.

Down syndrome · family · Findlay

Finn’s Eyes

brushfieldIt’s said the first person to live to two hundred is alive today, the wonder of science and this constant clambor for the New Methuselah. Why you’d want that kind of misery, I don’t know, but I’m just happy that my son has a new life expectancy, that the triplicate 21st chromosome doesn’t mean he’ll be living an antediluvian life-span before having his forever exeunt.

He’ll have eyes open sixty years at least, with eyes that are beautiful.

The nurse first noticed his eyes, his eyes being first notice. Awake and watchful in the recovery room, his orbits were wells of blue constellated by circles of concentric and white spots. Brushfield markers, cholesterol scars ringing his turquoise irises. It is the inheritance of his diagnosis, to have his eyes tattooed in quartz, like the face of an iridium watch.

And his pupil in the middle a wide and expanding thing, to take in the world while the stars keep watch over the incoming light. His eyes are the universe contracted, the necessary beauty of a confused chromosome, and Findlay, what do you see? When the images pass through these cerulean gates and before they hit the brain, these irises fantastic?

It’s said the first person to live to two hundred already walks the earth, but the immeasurable and infinite already exists beneath blond lashes, and when Finn sleeps, almond-eyed and innocent, the universe, too, sleeps.

Cayden · family


“Dad, let me ask you a question.”

“I’ve got an answer. Maybe the right one.”

We are munching pretzels and burritos.


“What about it, Kid?”

“Why is it so important in the Bible?”

I pause mid-pretzel. My antennae are up.

“Like how do you mean?”

“Like 40 days and 40 nights. Noah.”

“Hmmm,” I say to placehold the moment, “Hmmm.”

“You mean also like: forty years in the desert, the Israelites?”

“And Jesus’ expedition: forty days,” Cayden says.

“Oh—the temptation in the wilderness. Yes—forty days.”

And I ponder a pretzel.

“Forty days in the wilderness, forty years in the desert, forty days in the rain, forty days before the ascension, forty days SPIES”—and I say it with drama—“That espied the Land of Milk and Honey before reporting back to Moses. You mean that forty?”


“I dunno, Kid.”

“You said you had an answer.”

“I said I MAYBE have one. I’m not a numerologist.”

I continue crunching on pretzels.

“But I’m 42, which is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

“The what?”

“A good book. Never mind. I dunno, Kid. Forty’s a good number.”

“Is that it?”

I shrug. “Good an answer as any.”

We eat pretzels.

bipolarity · family · mania · mental health · people

My Brother

When my brother and I were young, my mom used to zip together sleeping bags on the floor in front of the television and we would watch our favorite shows while cuddled close. Battlestar Galactica, ChiPs, Happy Days, etc. We ate graham crackers with chocolate frosting.

Here is the breakdown of how we identified with our favorite TV characters:

  • Battlestar Galactica: He was Apollo; I was Starbuck.
  • CHiPs: He was Jon; I was Ponch.
  • Happy Days: He was Richie; I was The Fonz.

Polar opposites. He was the studious one, I flew by the seat of my pants, but we both got good grades. We have always been alike but very very different.

I lost touch with my brother for a long while. It’s complicated.

I was talking to my brother last night, and in the rain, because I felt compelled to call him and I stood in the drizzle while the car idled.

“If I’m taking up your time, please feel free to say so, Brother.” He was studying anatomy for his finals. He’s a good student. His wife is going into treatment for cancer; I am riding a crest of mania, currently, consistent with my diagnosis.

We swap roles of Big Brother with a kind of fluidity that is counter to our respective ages. Like we were twins, actually, and not two years apart. Romulus and Remus. I’ve always found twins wherever I go in life; suddenly it’s my own brother, which took me forty-two years to figure out.

“You ok? I know you’ve only got a few minutes to talk.” My brother has a hard test coming up. It’s a way, too, of asking myself if I’m ok. And he says, “Yes, a few” but he closes the door to his office and we spill for two hours.

He confesses his fears about his wife’s cancer; I confess my fears that my Superman persona is gonna die soon and that I hope to change into Clark Kent gracefully.

He liked Superman; I liked Lois.

And I am standing in the rain talking to my brother, and I am calm, like we were in sleeping bags again watching The Cosby Show or something, and I am crying though my voice is steady.

“Remember when…?

The story doesn’t matter. We tell stories when we’re in danger and afraid.

He liked Luke; I liked Leia.

The important thing—the important thing–is, I’ve got my brother back.

“I love you, Mike.”

“Love you, too.”

Cayden · family · home · parenting

School Pictures

My son Cayde sat opposite the couch from me mired in spiral-bound notebooks and three-ring binders. He had one ear bud in, the cord of which trailed to the computer, and there was the small tintinnabulation of EDM playing incessant 6/4 time while Cayde typed on the keyboard. His face was illuminated by the laptop screen, underlit like a boy playing with a flashlight beneath the covers, eyes and nose done up in alien shadow. I studied him from across the way, surreptitiously, so as not to interrupt him with my gaze. In between keystrokes he’d reach over and pluck a few grapes from a plate next to him, else crunch on a pita chip dipped in hummus: just a boy doing his homework, without rile. He could almost be described as inexpressive, which made studying him that much more an objective exercise; me tracing the lines of his face with my eyes; following those rounded cheeks down to the jut of his chin; remarking his brow, smooth, yet to be furrowed with the worries of age. The block of his hair fell weightily to the right and threatened need of cutting. Behind Cayde, the living room window reflected the night’s Spanish homework, now beyond my reading level, but Cayde’s eyes flickered along comprehendingly, and the window flickered as quickly, displaying flashes of light and color while Cayde parsed through the various screens.

It occurred to me suddenly, that though Cayden was wrapped in his custom makeshift nest of cushions, pillows and blankets, obviously at home and content; that though his mom and dad were in the room and reflected in the window screen as well; that I didn’t know exactly who Cayden looked like anymore, that I could’ve been looking at a stranger across the playground. Perhaps it was the under-lighting, the martian glow provided by the computer, but suddenly eleven seemed a world away from every myriad age Cayde had been up until this evening, back when his features were recognizable morphs: my eyes, Jenn’s nose, his grandmother’s cherubic cheeks. Now he was just Boy, caught somewhere in between features, on his way to something pre-adolescent and independent of his heredity, if briefly. As if his genes were unloosed and given free expression for a moment, allowed to rearrange to their own liking.

I cocked my head and tried looking at him from a different angle, trying to take him in. I was reminded of the time I visited the Grand Canyon when I was in high school. I was with my friend Ryan, and we were perched on the East Rim overlooking one of the canyon’s sprawling vistas. Unlike anything embossed in miniature on a postcard, the Canyon was immeasurable, irreducible, and no matter of perspective allowed the eye to capture it at once. So, too, looking at Cayde was like trying to minimize something far too expansive to take in at one time. I searched his face for something essential, something recognizable, that would frame him in the moment, as readily as the windowpane behind him squared his figure on the chaise, the reflections in the glass haloed his head in illuminative graphics. He continued typing on the keyboard, occasionally shaking the bangs loose from his forehead; I studied his mannerisms, still careful not to disturb him with my stare, and slowly Cayde emerged, by nature of his small movements. It was like watching a painting come alive, a two-dimensionality wrest its away into the unlikely third, and it was the gestures, the particular way in which Cayde reached for his grapes or the way in which he adjusted the laptop screen, that reminded me of my boy. Still, I couldn’t see myself in him, his mother for that matter either.

On cue, Jenn tapped me on the shoulder from her perch behind me on the orange recliner. “Take a look at these.”

“Hmm? What?” I asked, woken out of my reverie. “Oh,” and I collected a portfolio she had handed me.

“School pictures.”

I slid the photos from their sheath, and there was Cayde’s face in multiplicate, matte and frozen in smile.

“Doesn’t he look like my dad?” Jenn asked. “Like young pictures of him,” she elaborated.

“I dunno,” I said, squinting. “I was just wondering that I don’t know who Cayde looks like anymore.”

Cayde looked up from his screen, face still illuminated in silver light, and deftly held up his hands between philtrum and his chin. “From here to here, I look like Mommy,” he announced, before returning to finish his Spanish.

His self-awareness is sudden relief and once he closes the laptop, the light-show turned off so that there’s just the nothingness of the window behind him, I in part recognize him again, and he looks up at me which are my eyes, surely; headlamps are passing vagaries in the street and Cayde is occasionally silhouetted, and we look at each other with shared eyes and I slide the school pictures slowly back into their sheath.

Cayden · family · neighborhood · parenting

Think, Feel, Behave.

“Coach, two,” I say to John who’s barking at his boys in a Ugandan accent. He nods assent while I toss him deuces.

I sit against the chain-link behind Cayde who’s the itinerant goalie, pink shoes and leather gloves.

Cayde glances at me, then returns to the game, which—considering the practice lot’s vicinity to the street—is really just a keep-away game from the cars. He tugs at the thumb of his left glove with front teeth and readies himself for another drive.

“NOW NOW NOW!” and Coach John urges his mid-fielders forward toward Cayde’s cage. There’s the inimitable sound of a ball being punted, then the sound of Cayde crashing to the grass with an <oomph> having deftly caught it.

“Alright, Cayde. Let’s go. End on a good one.”

I shake the coach’s hand.

“Gotta pull him early, Coach.”

“Awight. YOU GO GOOD.” Coach has no volume button. I’m being instructed to leave early, well, though I asked permission. Story of my life. I have a deck of cards in one pocket, a pen in the other.

I show Cayden to the car, which is parked to the side.

“Where are we going?”

“Not sure yet.”

We drive.

“Why’d you cut seventh period, Cayde? And why’d you destroy your phone?”

(This is all my fault).

“I dunno. BUT they were the worst mistakes I ever did.”

There’s a green light on 30th, so I turn. I know about worst mistakes, so I take pause while the intersection clears.

“Lemme get this straight: you like photo class, right?”


“Why ditch it?”

“They’re only talking about how cameras are made and boring stuff.”


I look at Cayde and smile.

“That’s not boring stuff, y’know.”

The lights on University are Green and we circle aimlessly, like the universe is telling me to ‘go’ but I don’t know exactly where. It’s six p.m. and most the reputable coffee shops are closed.

I clear my throat.

“My friend Brad teaches photography, and the first thing he teaches his students to do is to make a camera out of a Quaker Oat box.” I downshift and park.

We exit the car.

“You see, Cayde,” I say, as we leave the car tick-ticking its heat, “It’s not about the instrument. It’s about YOU.”

We’re in front of the North Park Observatory, where Cayde and I saw one of our first shows. A Starbucks is built into its lobby. We’re going to Starbucks.

“Whaddya mean?”

“I’ll tell you. First you tell me why you destroyed your phone. Then we can talk.”

(A note about the Observatory: I took Cayden here when he was ten. Phantogram show. He was excited to be with his Dad. I remembered a TV episode from years back—Black Sheep Squadron—and, TV lieutenant to Major Pappy Boyington: TJ told Pappy he was unsure if he loved his dad, that it was getting in the way of his flying. Pappy told TJ that it was ok if he didn’t love his dad. Hearing that, TJ could fly again.

‘Love you, Kid—Jeezus, just settle down.’ And Phantogram came on, and we struggled to the midsection; Cayde fell asleep on my shoulder while the amplifiers played in clip, and I thought, ‘Fucking TJ. Just love your Dad already.’ Me and Cayde walked home, and Cayde narrated the entire walk back to make me remember why I’m a Dad , and why it is that he will never ever be a TJ).

“Why’d you break your phone?”
“I was angry,” we are dealing gin rummy over a hot chocolate and an Americano. We have met the barista. His name is Tomaso. I instruct Cayden to always introduce yourself to your ‘server’.

(“They’re not your ‘server’, Cayde,” scratching my beard, “You have no idea what they might be outside of serving you a drink or a movie ticket or your groceries. Introduce yourself, always. ALWAYS know their name.”)

“I was angry. It was stupid.”

“Thoughts become feelings become actions, Dude. I know it. You gotta stop at the ‘thoughts/feelings’ part.”

We play gin. The rhythm of the game allows me time to think. Cayde’s gotten pretty good, so I have a worthy partner. ‘Bout being a Dad? You make this shit up as you go, and no matter how smart you are, you need time on the ropes to wipe the blood off your face.

“I’m sorry you….”

Cayde lays down ten cards. “Beat you, Daddy!”

I have no time to finish.

“Yes. Yes, you did.” I swipe up the cards.

I quietly lay a pen down on the table. “What’s this, Cayde?”

“A pen.”

“What does it do?”

“It writes things and makes essays and stuff.”

I shake my head.

“Try again.”

“It writes?”

I shake my head again while I replace the pen in my front pocket.

“It does nothing.”



I re-shuffle the cards, and my Americano is getting cold.

“It does nothing. It sits in the goddamn store until someone buys it and uses it. THEN it means something. It’s why you probably shouldn’t have destroyed your phone; there’s a nice camera on there. It’s now like an unbought pen. Lemme show you something.”

It’s near eight at the Starbucks and the baristas are starting to stack chairs and express steam from the machines. The neon lights have come on.

I walk Cayden across the store.

“Look at our coffee cups.”


“Gonna teach you something. ‘Taught this in New Orleans. Look at our coffee cups. OK? Now let’s walk across the store and look at them again. They’re different, right?”


“Let’s walk here.”

“They’re different again.”

“Exactly. Now if I had a pen or a camera, I would take either which one and *note* how things are different while staying the same. I haven’t moved my coffee cup, but it looks different because we’re looking at it from a different angle.”


“Tomaso is cleaning up the floor. What color is his apron?”


“How does that make you feel?”


“No—gimme a word that describes green.”


“His apron is not a plant, but you called it a plant. That’s metaphor, and we’ve just seen how things can look depending on where you sit in the room.”


And I point to his forehead.

“That’s your brain working, Kid. Nothing in this room has changed, except that we’ve moved around it. Good thing I’ve got a pen to write it all down: the simplest, stupidest of all things.

“Don’t wreck your camera. It’s got worth, Dude. Learn how it works, but learn how better to work it. ‘S all important, every part of it. And—seriously—Think. Feel. Behave. In that order.”

I’ve not entirely lost Cayden at this point, though I’m in part talking to myself. We close out the Starbucks and we hold hands on the way to the car, cards neatly tucked away into my pocket.

Think. Feel. Behave. Think. Feel. Behave. Ad infinitum.

death · family

What is Real and What is Not (unfinished vignette)

“I just pretend it’s not real,” Josh says. “I mean it’s not my family. It’s not my girls.”

The chaparral is flaxen in color. The spring has already been glaringly unkind and things are not green. There’s dry grass and the backdrop of boulders, both very present as we sit in our lawn chairs on an Easter afternoon.

Grasses hollow as they dry, becoming insubstantial straw; boulders meanwhile exemplify what’s solid.

Just ten years ago, within the same landscape of granite, my aunt’s fruit tree drooped with limes and the society garlic gave up onion blossoms. The surrounding hills were verdant and we exploded the suburban lawnscapes with teenage abandon, wielding guns and guitars while playing music loud.  Now we are tame in comparison, and have kids of our own.

Earlier in the day, the kids held an Easter egg hunt, scaling the trees and bending the shrubs in anarchic joy. My eldest, Cayden, dangled from a tree limb, having found the Golden Egg.

“I found it, Daddy! I got it,” and I held my breath, hoping he wouldn’t fall.

“The guy was, like, fetal,” Josh says. He cracks a beer and sets it aside.

Josh hits the marks of ‘tall, dark, and handsome’. He’s my cousin’s husband, clean-cut and athletic with angled jaw and high sculpted cheekbones, something of laconic. He works for the California Highway Patrol.

“He was just curled under the dashboard, like he was asleep.”

Josh doesn’t even blink. There are boulders behind him as backdrop, and we adjust our chairs to get out of the sun.

I ask: “How do you deal with it all?”

Josh shrugs.

“It’s not real. Well, when there’s kids involved it’s more real, I guess.”

He pauses. The guy, fetal, beneath the dashboard, crashed himself into an apostrophic position, beneath the ignition block. The guy actually crashed twice, the second collision relegating him to a mortal trifold.

Josh talks at length: “I don’t think about it. I mean, the accident happens at 2 a.m. and I have to pick brains off the road.” And he says this all, nonplussed, while the kids celebrate their brimming Easter baskets and wrestle in the grass.

“I’m surprised at how cold the brains are—I have gloves and all, but I can still feel how cold it is, you know. There are body parts everywhere.

“Then the sun comes up and the crows start picking at the brains on the roadside, and there’s a piece of skull in the middle of the highway.”

We collectively blanch. The kids are  meanwhile laughing among the geraniums and trading candies.

“But you know the one thing that bothers me? The one thing—the only thing–that gets to me?  There’s a slug, suddenly a fucking slug, crawling across that piece of skull in the middle of the road. And I ask: ‘Why is there a fucking slug in the middle of the road in broad daylight?’”



I won’t forget. My dad and I were in the kitchen and a vat of stock was coming to a simmer. I was teaching my dad how to make chicken soup: sustenance stuff.

Earlier in the day, there had been conversation in the living room. A shooting had occurred—on any day there’s a shooting—but this one triggered discussion. I think it was when Gabrielle Giffords got shot outside the Tucson Safeway. The topic ventured from gun violence to  war.

My dad—he was an OR tech in Vietnam, and not a field soldier. He was always and safely behind cyclone wire so far as the story goes, always in triage, never in the jungle. When he arrived at his station, it was Christmas and celebratory firecrackers syncopated the night air. Carols played from within the base’s breeze-block hallways, but, beyond the fenceline, there were sounds of gun-pops.

Explosions can be confusing. What constitutes a firework versus gunfire is probably a matter of semantics. It’s all saltpeter, just with different intent.

“You weren’t ever in the bush, right Dad?” I asked amid conversation.

I’d only heard stories about him being a doctor to the American soldiers but never shoulder with them in the bivouacs. He talked about white phosphorous burns and brain surgeries; operating rooms behind reinforced walls; refrigerated sheds where amputated limbs were kept. Still, he said nothing about the uncertain jungle, which was decidedly, probably, worse.

My dad cleared his throat in a two-note fashion, looked down.

“Well, we all had our turn in the bush.”

I never knew this, he had never said as much, and I felt awful seeing his eyes go unseeing for a minute.

My youngest, Finn, is the one kid in the family who shares my dad’s blue eyes. His eyes are constellations of sorts, blue with pixellations of white. They’ve not seen much; Finn is four. My dad’s eyes are lighter, clearer, but years older and endure the recess of having seen more.

I love my dad, so don’t press him to elaborate. Later, though, we’re in the kitchen making soup. We’re at that point in the stock-making process where we have to skim and clarify the pot of liquid, rid the bones and spent onion peels. A soggy sachet d’epice barely skates the surface, the thyme leaves separating from the stems.

I don’t ask: “What did you see?” That would’ve been inappropriate.

I’ve had eye surgeries, awake, and I have memories of needles inside my eyeballs. These are things I’ve seen, but anesthetically; things I’ve seen that are procedural, and traumatic in only a very local fashion. They’re not events that happened outside the aqueous humor of my eyes, but in it. How we see things is different.

I settle on asking: “What’d you feel, Dad?”

He pauses, says finally, sighing and placing a spoon on the range-top porcelain. : “I dunno.”

He looks up, has his own skull stories. “I was scared.”

Dropping to a whisper, and with things suddenly and incontrovertibly  real, he says: “I was very, very scared.”




Cayden · family · Findlay · home · wife

Hummingbird Heart

hummingbird heartTwice in the canyon today. Once at daybreak when it was 37 degrees and the birds were waking; second time in a more crepuscular hour when an explosion of parrots dominated the eucalyptus, conure hybrids from escaped cages happy to be alive.

Cayde was away in the desert with his cousins, watching the jet planes do their practice runs, and there was a particular ease to the day. I had Finn for the better part of the morning and—typical—he asked for ‘Wench Wies’ (French Fries) so I atypically took him to the fast food joint where we could get a cheeseburger to share, and where he could get his potatoes. We sat in the breakfast nook, and passed the burger back and forth, exchanging bites. Later, when I was writing, he snuck into my closet and—discovering some foot powder—gleefully antiqued the house with aplomb, dusting everything in white. Little imp. Too tired to clean things up, me having been awake since three, we just retired to bed leaving the house white as an Elizabethan mask, his stuffies and rugs resolutely covered in talcum snow.

Jenn and I cleaned things up later—together—a quiet team, and it was then that Jenn showed me the mail. We received some monies—substantial monies, monies with promised and residual return that will change our lives.

And I celebrated by taking a walk to the canyon where I would see the paraques and warblers, but first I passed the bar where Mac was working and I swung around the countertop to hug and kiss her because she is beautiful and teaches piano to children; still I said: “just passing through.” And Mac gripped my hand seeing that I was happy and because my life is an Altman film starring Richard Gere, and I sat in the canyon with the leaves all fire-shot and stared at the beauty of a telephone pole which peeks out over the canyon rim.

On the way home, I serendipitously ran into Jenn who was just leaving in her car to pick up Cayde and I climbed in so we could all be together. Once in the backseat Cayde said all these bodhisattva things, my little foul-mouthed empath, who also said: “Mommy—you have a shitty memory—sometimes you say things to me twice in a row.” My little bodhisattva boy whose head is matched by his heart and who remarks to me that he wants to help the homeless and cries at movies when families get separated.

We went to a chicken joint to celebrate where we sat beneath space heaters and were warmed inside and out, me enjoying a bed of chicken oysters and celebratory libation, and where I looked lovingly at my bride, my champion, my girl, my Isolde, the love of my life (and I’m the Story of hers); and felt the contentment of being in absolute control of my destiny, no longer feeling lost as the setting moon, wanting only the sunshine of better days.

Every day is a new day, some better than others, and today was a day writ in giant red letters, like the Beatitudes, and I was happy for everything in my life: napping with Finn in a talcum-dusted house; hearing Cayde, my backseat Buddha, speak his compassion; working together with my wife in loving our family; the explosions of birds, which not only populate the trees but which explode thrice in this, my hummingbird heart.

Cayden · family · home · parenting

The Compact Universe, His

solarMy son Cayde asks me for a peppercorn this morning.

“Do you have peppercorns, Daddy?” he asks as we pull into the gas station on the way to Family Friday at school.

I deadpan: “Black, white, Tellicherry, Cubeb, Sizchuan, or green?” because I am obnoxious about food.

“I dunno. A peppercorn. I’m making a diorama at school.”

Turns out, it’s that time of year we make solar systems. WE meaning it’s that time of year, like last year when it was California Mission project time, when kids trundle up to school with their dangle-some solar system projects, Styrofoam Jupiters clanging off ringed Saturns, and everything painted just so, Dads having done their work in the garage to paint Uranus the right shade of green and Mars the right shade of red. I thought I’d be that kind of Dad. But, no—I’m not.

I took Cayde to the SD Mission last year and took a bunch of pictures so he could create his project with Minecraft. And this year my contribution will be a peppercorn, because—I’m so proud—my kid wants to make an ugly but ACCURATE scale model of the solar system, which could span the entire length of the school were he and I to paint Styrofoam balls and do some Calder thing all suspended and pretty. No—he tells me the sun is the size of a soccer ball and—he’s done his research—everything else is going to be right tiny in comparison so that it’s transportable in the back of a mini-van and not exploding the school grounds.

The sun is a soccer ball. Earth and Mars are pinheads. Other planets are peppercorns. I provide the peppercorns, while he measures out, exactly, the particular scale.

I came from work tonight, everyone asleep, and find a papier mache sun dangling over the kitchen sink, the start of Cayden’s solar system, and the spice cabinet is conveniently to the right; all that’s needed is to shake out the grains of the universe from some spice bottle and the project is complete. My sun, my son, glaringly stubborn and brilliant and me not having to paint the red eye on Jupiter, just having to give him a single peppercorn which he’ll plaster to a board and offer as evidence that, when, after shaking the hair from his eyes, the universe is in fact compactable, and it’s ultimately his.