Ten years ago, on a hot Tuesday night, my little boy came screaming into the world. He was a little peanut, 5lbs, 1 oz. He was so small his cries for the first few weeks were soft, like a kitten.
I don’t have to describe how your entire world changes when you become a father. All that was important isn’t and you find yourself worrying about feedings, diapers and sleep schedules. James didn’t like to sleep when he was born, and there were nights I’d hold him for hours, walking around, signing a lullaby version of “Franklin’s Tower” until he fell asleep.
He’s 10 years old today. My little boy isn’t so little anymore
Happy Birthday James. Daddy loves you so very, very much.
I find that things get more and more complex as my life goes on.
Wait a second, I’m not referring to decisions about life, love, money or time, I’m actually just talking about Legos. As I’ve stated in the past I was a huge Lego fan in my youth. I had a giant cardboard box of Legos and I’d spend hours of the day digging through it and building whatever my mind could come up with. I was limited to only what was in my imagination.
But of course, even this had to change.
Today Legos are sold in kits. They come with a 7000 page instruction manual and twice as many parts, and you don’t build whatever is in your mind’s eye, you build what you see on the outside of the box. When you’re done, you dare not touch them because they’re delicate and fragile, so they wind up sitting on the shelf, untouched and unplayed with. It they are played with, be careful, because if that one tiny piece rolls under the couch – and you know it will – you’ll never get it back to wahtever it was supposed to be in the first place.
And, of course, my kids love them.They also love buying their own stuff, which worked great when their Uncle Mark gave them git certificates to the Lego store. So off we went, and the boys picked out what they saw and what they liked and what they wanted to build. They used their own money to buy them.
It took three adults to help put them together when we got home, and even though the boys were happy, I guess I was just missing that big old cardboard box and the smell of an imagination at work.
And then there’s some loss just to balance things out. – Lou Reed
That line ends Lou Reed’s masterpiece album “Magic and Loss“. If you haven’t heard it, you may find it a bitter pill to swallow at first, except for that time when you need it. When your heart is heavy and breaking with grief, it just works.
This has been a week of loss. A personal loss hit my children, something they will deal with for a long time. A great woman, their grandmother, who was generous and kind and filled their lives with love and happiness departed too soon. Their world, and ours, is a little sadder without her here.
I was also stunned to learn of the passing of fellow blogger and photographer Charlane G. Her blog Ramblins… was a favorite of mine. Her southern charm and sassiness reminded me of my Grandmother – maybe that’s why I was drawn to her. I admired her photography style as well, and I’ll admit, I often tried to imitate it. Visit her amazing flickr stream to see for yourself.
So if Lou was right, and it’s a balance of things, then we’ve expressed the loss, so where’s the magic? For that, I’ll give you some images of smiles and laughter from a day at the park. And no.. the dogs aren’t ours.. they belong to some great people who were nice enough to let three happy children invade their dog park for a while.
I’m gonna work like I don’t need the money … I’m gonna laugh like I’m not afraid to cry … I’m gonna dance like nobody’s watching … I’m gonna love while I still got the time
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.
Everyone who knows me, knows I don’t really like the holidays. I like them less than my birthday, and to be honest, I’d love to go somewhere remote and secluded from a week before Halloween until a week after New Years. I get argument after argument about this, so lets just accept it as fact. I try never to hamper anyone’s good time, I guess I just have too many hang ups to enjoy it all.
Tomorrow I think will be the most difficult Thanksgiving I’ve faced for quite sometime. My life is nowhere near where I’d like it to be. I’m broke, out of work, on the edge of giving up the freedom that I had decided to get back into my life, and 1,500 miles away from the person I want to be with.
Yeah, it’s gonna be a bleak day, inside of a bleak month, buried in a bleak winter.
But I’ll have my kids. My boys. The two greatest things that have ever happened to me. I’ve forgotten a lot in life but I like to think that even when I close my eyes for the last time, I’ll remember the exact seconds that I held them both for the first time.
Needless to say, I take a lot of photos of my kids. To begin with, they’re easy targets. They’re my flesh & blood so there’s no way they tell me stop anyway. Jack hides from me now, but I manage to catch him when he’s not looking. James… well James tolerates me. He’s started to play with my camera, but he still has trouble working the buttons. My mother got a new camera recently and we gave the old one to the boys. James especially loves it, he takes photos of all sorts of things, and I love seeing what he sees. He’ll be better than me someday. The interesting thing about that is he’s named after my Grandfather, James Killeen, who was a great photographer who passed his talent to my mom, who passed some of it to me.
So tomorrow will be another day of tickles, playing on the floor, goofing off, and me hitting the bed exhausted after them both wearing me out. I’ll sleep good. I tend to briefly forget my woes for the time being, even if it’s just for a few minutes while I play “I spy” with Jack or James is sitting on my lap. Sure things are pretty crappy right now, but Jack and James are still smiling, and they both still say “I love you daddy.”
It’s a difficult thing to go most places with class of children on the autistic spectrum, but the Queens Science Museum was probably one the most ill-conceived and poorly executed trips I had ever been a part of. To expect five to seven year old autistic children to be even mildly interested in concepts that quite frankly bore older mainstream children was simply ludicrous.
But like the say, when handed lemons, right…?
So we ate lunch in the cafeteria, which was a timed affair, BTW, since there were so many schools there that day. The teachers huddled and all of them saw this as going south really badly of we were to stick with the museum plan. I was called in because I was the only one from the area. I suggested a few ideas, but then someone noticed a small playground across the street. We were all in agreement, so once the children were done eating, we all marched out the museum doors (“No return admittance!!”) to the playground.
The rest of the day was spent forgetting about the science of the how and why and just living in the reality of a sprinkler, jungle gym and slides. Since there was already one teacher or para for every child (and me) all the kids got individual attention. It was so warm out that soon almost all the children were in the sprinkler. I played with James on the jungle gym where he climbed to the highest perch like the monkey he is. We rested at the top and I began shooting.
I took several shots that day, most of which can be seen here in slideshow form.
The shot though that most consider to be the shot of the day is the one I call “Joy”
This one, as in all of the shots of that day, is of a child experience the unique summer time fun that seems to fall away when you grow older. Something about a child and water just leads to pure happiness.
To me though, the real joy in that playground that day was the fact that for a few hours they were just kids. For a short time they had broken the chains of autism and were speaking in the immortal language of just having fun.
I’ve been asked if the subject in the photo above had autism and the answer is yes. I saw him at school awhile later and he was having such a rough day he had a pressure vest on. He was screeching and wouldn’t get on the elevator. He was lost in the sucky world of his condition. However, I knew somewhere inside him was the same joy that was on his face that day.
Maybe all he needed was a sprinkler.