It was after I had had my quiet times this morning. My second cup of coffee was down to a quarter of a cup, which usually stays out on the counter for the rest of the day. I’d read the morning devotional, followed the daily morning readings for the day from the book of common prayer, and was feeling pretty good really. I’d moved on to a book I’m reading slowly, Wilco: Learning How To Die. Chapter Four entitled “No Depression” on the band Uncle Tupelo, which if you read me you know is one of my favorite bands. My son (who is nine) comes in and Martha and I start talking about vacation. We’re on a limited budget this year. $1000 and probably 1000 miles. No doubt $200 in gas one way. We’ll do our traditional shoe-string trip that involves freeloading with family and staying ten days in a borrowed domain. This year brings us to Eureka Springs Arkansas. Halfway through the conversation my son starts going on as he does about not getting what he really wants on vacation.
He wants a Gameboy Advance and we say we’ll put it on the list. We explain we can’t guarantee it but we do want to get it for him. Soon the thought that he may not get it gets too overwhelming and he begins tearing up and then really bawling. And there I sit reading my book. I’m beginning to get overwhelmed with irritation and I just choose to ignore my feelings in that situation. And then it occurs to me, am I a distant dad just like my dad was when I was that age? I look back and realize I got into books, nonfiction, theology, sociology, philosophy, in a desperate attempt to get close to my dad. It worked sometimes. But mostly he was gone or when around I did his chores or just stayed out of his way. The door was locked all week so he could prepare his sermons. I remember knocking for nothing in particular and it really pissing him off. He’d say “What do you want?” And I’d say “Nevermind” and leave and then he’d grab me and say “No now you’re going to talk to me.” And then whatever I had to say seemed terribly insignificant to me.
Truth be told I could hardly care less about Pokemon and Gameboy advance. He’s into it because all his friends are into it. Otherwise he wouldn’t care really. He’s got a PS2 that we play together. Pokemon to my knowledge makes no products for PS2. That adds to the irritation. Anyway, will my son look back and remember that I didn’t care about Pokemon? That I showed no love that day and buried my nose in my book and punted to Martha? Well yeh that bothers me. Somehow I’ve got to hurdle my stupid little irritations and connect with him. After vacation I’ll have finished the Wilco book and I’ll have grown closer to this old drunken band that broke up and will be no closer to my son. God help me connect with my boy! And God return my lost youth to me and soften my crusty old heart. I wasn’t allowed to have a childhood of significance. Games, toys, and baseball cards were of no significance to the Kingdom of God. But I think toys and recreation are important to God now because they’re important to kids for development.
Why was I irritated by this little boy sitting next to me with tears streaming down his face? The thought of not getting that game really rocked his world. I want to give him this toy but more importantly I want him to know that he’s important to me. We’ll find ways of connecting in the next few weeks. I tell him all the time that he’s my favorite little boy in the world.