I get the privilege for the next week of having my 6 year old nephew around with us. Every summer for the last couple of years, he has come up to the mountains because he enjoys the time here and it gives my brother and sister-in-law a little bit of a break. Well, as much of a break as it can be since they still have the 2 year old with them, but still, it lightens the load.
(I will refer to my nephew as B.B. for purposes of this blog, since he is Bacon’s son, he’ll be Bacon Bit.)
So this afternoon as I was headed out to run some errands, I got stopped by B.B. so he could show me his latest LEGO purchase that he just got at WalMart with his money from Uma. Uma would be MY very German grandmother, his Great Grandmother, who he had gone by to see at her assisted living place. Seeing as how things went as they usually did with us kids on that side of the family, she slipped him a $20, patted him on the head with a “Ja, Ja! Gut boy!” and kept an eye on him to make sure he didn’t touch “ze valls.” My brother and I never did figure out what her obsession was with fingerprints on the walls, but it hangs with us to this day. It explains some things, however.
So it started with B.B. asking me to open the box for him, then the bags inside and next thing I knew, I was on the floor with him totally engrossed in putting together this LEGO Police Prisoner Transport vehicle.
Because I don’t care who you are, you’re never too old for LEGO’s, and for the record I think LEGO needs to recognize this and make the Super-Crazy Advanced Mind-boggling LEGO sets for ages 30 and over. Like, when I’m done with it, I should be able to register it with the DMV and drive it to work.
My errands long forgotten, this became our little team mission. He had the instructions laid out before him and mostly my job was to look ahead of him and have the next set of pieces ready for him to put on, but my most important assignment was putting on the stickers.
This job was very important apparently, because if I handed him a piece that had a sticker on it in the picture in the instructions, it had to have the sticker on it when I handed it to him to put on or work pretty much ground to a halt. I found this out very quickly when I handed him a piece without a sticker. Because, silly me, I thought we’d get it finished first and THEN put the stickers on. Clearly I have been out of the LEGO loop for far too long. No, instead he looked at the piece, looked at the book, then back at the piece again, then at me.
Me: “What’s the matter, wrong piece?”
BB: “There’s no sticker.”
Me: *hangs head in shame* “Forgive me, sir.”
Having learned my lesson, I continued doing my job as efficiently as possible and sat there, mostly quiet, and we just assembled that little truck. He informed me a few times about some “extra pieces” and I collected them to the side to be put in a special zip-loc bag that I got for him. Mostly I just watched.
It made me think back on when I was his age and how it was when I was a kid and how different things were for him. I got a huge kick out of sitting there with him and having him allow me the privilege to participate in this endeavor. Time like this isn’t something we had, or at least, it didn’t go down like this. If my father ever sat down with us to do something like this, it inevitably ended up being us watching him put it together or us putting it together and him telling us we weren’t doing it right. Maybe a not so pleasant thought and it may not even be the way it always went down, but in my memories, the bad always made the biggest impression and stuck with me. I tend to go with these impressions of my earlier years because when I look back on growing up as a pre-teen, teenager and even now, the evidence is still there. I have no memories of my father doing things with me.
I’ll not be so bold as to speak for my brother, but I do know not all of his memories are pleasant either and we share quite a few of the same opinions of my father now. Either way, this isn’t really about that, so if you’re here to look for one of my funny posts about my dad, I’m not going there tonight.
As I watched B.B. build his truck, I thought about the many times I’ve gone to my brothers house and walked in to find my brother and B.B. sitting on the floor amidst a sea of LEGO’s. Sometimes they are working together on the same project, sometimes they are building two separate things altogether. It doesn’t matter what they are building with LEGO’s, what I see is them building their bond as a father and son. They are gathered together, quietly on the floor and they don’t have to say much, but everything in the world is going on in there. There’s no screaming or blames for doing things wrong. There’s mutual respect and you can see it on their faces. Dad respects son, because he is smart and creative and no matter what B.B. builds, it’s correct, because it is a manifestation of his imagination and that’s just not wrong. Son respects Dad, because he’s there and participating and being a part of his little 6 year old world. There’s hugs and “good jobs!” and Dad laughs at his jokes.
It extends beyond just some quality LEGO time. My brother divides his time well between B.B. and my younger 2 year old nephew. To see my brother and his 2 year old on the couch playing on the iPad is nothing short of astounding on variety of levels. Not the least of which being that the 2 year old probably works that iPad better than anyone else in the house and screw you if he’s sucking on his fingers while he’s on it, those fingers aren’t coming out of his mouth, the iPad is going to his face and he’s touching that screen with his pinky.
The same thing occurs during these iPad moments on the couch. Little one plays his games or watches his videos and maneuvers himself around while my brother sits next to him with his arm around him watching over his shoulder. Little one is free to explore and there is no interference from dad unless it is requested. Again, there is mutual respect, admiration, and an almost visible and palpable love and it shows in everything he and my sister-in-law do with their kids. Just looking at pictures of his family, you can see it in the eyes and faces of each and every one of them. I only wish I could share those pictures here.
The part that gets me the most is that I almost can’t grasp where it comes from. We didn’t have that. At least the feeling that I have growing up is that we had mom, and she served as a buffer between us and our dad. Dad had his world and his idea of how it was going to run and mom tried to maintain it that way and keep us from getting in his way and it seemed to me that we were an inconvenience to him. He had an idea in his mind as to how his children were going to be and we didn’t turn out to fit that idea. We didn’t have father/son time where we went to movies or sat on the floor and built LEGO’s together. We were the “knuckleheads that left the damn LEGO’s on the floor!”
I have already and I will again, I will give this to my father . . . he is an extremely intelligent electrical engineer. What I see from him, however, is that the laws of electrical engineering applies to EVERYTHING. It is black or white and totally logic based and human feelings or emotions don’t very often involve logic so he has very little use for them. It doesn’t matter how you feel or what you think to him, only if it fits into a neat little plan and there is absolutely no chance for anything to sway outside of logic is it even feasible to him.
He gave me a perfect example the other day. My 16 year old son, Tiger, has a girlfriend that lives 30 miles away. Friday night they wanted to go to a fair just across the state line in Tennessee, but they had a ride from his girlfriend’s house in the next town. I was doing something else that day so my mom offered to run him down there. Dad hit the roof. The usual crap about mileage on the car and the price of gas and how going down and back twice was 120 miles and nobody needs to be doing that every day, because now instead of the 2 times my son has gone down there in the last 2 weeks, it seems to have become EVERY day. For the most part, it was just his usual general spew that I’ve learned to ignore, but then he made the statement . . . the one that crawled right up under my skin and hit the nerve.
“He needs to find himself a girlfriend that lives closer!”
Because it’s just that simple.
As far as I’m concerned, that statement alone further proved that the man has no heart. Where your girlfriend or boyfriend or significant other lives or how far away you have to go to see them is not even an element in deciding who your heart is drawn to. Attraction, chemistry and love don’t give a damn what the price of gas is or the fact that it costs 14 cents a mile to drive the car to see the person you want. Those feelings and emotions can not just be “switched off” because it doesn’t numerically work out well on paper. Love does not involve logic. If it did, somebody would have been able to define it and that hasn’t happened yet. It just is, and you feel it and it doesn’t just go away because it’s fiscally inconvenient.
And he will never understand that.
In my own experience as a father, I have been far from perfect. I have been a father and a step-father and I’ve had my struggles with it. Now it’s just me and Tiger and I try to do the best I can. Sure, I get frustrated with him as any father is going to, but I watch myself and it is something I have practiced doing, because when all is said and done, I don’t want my son to feel about me the way I feel about my father. I give him “good jobs” and “proud of yous” and try to show support for the things he wants to achieve and do. I give him the space to make decisions on his own and offer only advice when he is trying to make up his mind.
No, we don’t always see eye to eye, but that is 16 year old to father and that just isn’t going to happen and sometimes I’ve just got to make the rules. Most times he accepts that and doesn’t hold it against me because in the end I think he knows he’s got it a lot better than I did with my dad. We’ve got mutual respect for each other and we hang out and do things together sometimes while other times we take off and do our own thing. I don’t judge him for the things he likes to do (although I pick on him about things in good fun and if you’ve read any of the rest of my blog you know that is pretty much what I do most of the time and he understands that and laughs with me) and he respects me and my space for what I do. He knows when I write, I go in my bubble and he stays out of it. When I’m not around, he misses me and wants to get together and hang out, and as far as I’m concerned, that means that despite my mistakes, I still did ok.
Because at 16, when my father went away, you NEVER would have heard me say I missed him. In fact, he used to go on long business trips overseas and when he left, there was a tremendous feeling of . . . there is just no other word I can find for it . . . relief.
So when I consider the relationship my brother has with his family, I guess I just have to say he wanted to be what we didn’t have. My brother is the creative one. Not that I’m not, mine just manifests different. He is the musician and the artist. He can draw and paint and create images. Like writing, those things contain emotion and imagination and feeling and they don’t necessarily require logic. In that vein, we indeed didn’t turn out to be dad’s ideal children. We think on our own and as much as I hate to pull this cliche’ out, we think outside the box. I don’t think dad knows there is anything outside the box.
No, my brother and I don’t always see eye to eye either, but we’re brothers and that’s what we do, but we do enjoy hanging out with each other and have helped each other out who knows how many times because we’re not keeping count. I’ve had some of the best laughs ever hanging out with my brother and wouldn’t trade them for the world. I absolutely love that he has managed to assemble the family that he has and the environment they live in.
And it was an incredible honor to have the chance to share some LEGO time with his son today.
[Side note: I had something completely different in mind for today’s post but as I went through my daily list of fellow bloggers to see what they had for today I was surprised to find something very different when I got to OhNoa. I recommend reading her blog to EVERYONE on a daily basis because she is funny and irreverent and will say just about anything. Today she pulled a 180 on me and went totally the other direction and her post was filled with true, honest and completely from the center of her heart feelings about the loss of her father. The post was incredible and is easily going to be my favorite post she has ever done. I feel for her loss and envy her that she had the opportunity to feel that way for her father and so honestly put it into words to share with us. I encourage you to read her post and the comments people left with it, but if you have suffered a similar loss, don’t go without tissues. Thanks, Noa. OhNoa: Papa]