You mend and heal me
With your touch
You dissolve the darkness
With your smile
You raise me up
With your words alone
You dry my tears
With your spirit
You sweeten my dreams
With your laughter
You cast aside my fears
With your beauty
You bring me home
With your embrace
You make me perfect
With your soul
[For Kristen. Happy Anniversary. -M]
The late afternoon skies above New York City on Tuesday were a dull and lifeless shade of gray. Small raindrops fell from the sky with no real force or purpose behind them, as if they were the remnants of tears that rolled off a large face somewhere in the heavens. I held an umbrella in my hand as I walked to the train station, but did not bother to open it. There was something that felt right about the cold raindrops that clung to my face. They served as the tears I was too shy to openly shed in public.
Earlier that morning, my Godfather died suddenly from a heart attack. He was 62.
In stark contrast to the day he passed, yesterday’s funeral service took place on a picture perfect early summer day in Philadelphia. Pillowy white clouds slipped effortlessly across the shiny blue surface of the crystal sky. A soft breeze blew from time to time, just strong enough to rustle the leaves of the surrounding trees and curve any blade of grass tall enough to do so. The air was sweet with the scent of nearby blooms and was invigorating to breathe in. What was more beautiful, however, was the moving eulogy delivered by my Godfather’s son that day.
He spoke about the amazing parent, inspiration and friend he had in his father. He shared how his father would set anything aside for him if he needed his help. He moved us with an account of how his father not only eptiomized strength in his eyes, but instilled within him the belief that he could be just as strong as his father, if not stronger. Then, with tears in his eyes, he proclaimed to the gathering this his father was his hero.
I knuckled the tears out of my own eyes and glanced over to my left. There, across the aisle, sat my own hero. Though a slightly smaller and diminished version of himself, my father is still a giant in my eyes and every bit a hero to me.
For the next few moments I wondered what it is that makes so many fathers heroes to their children. Not many dads possess above average, let alone superhuman, physical strength. Few dads find themselves in situations where they need to rescue their children from burning buildings. And I can’t think of any dads who are faster than a locomotive or can leap tall buildings in a single bound. So why is it that the word ‘hero’ comes so effortlessly when we describe how we perceive our fathers? I searched my memories trying to get to the bottom of it – looking for some amazing, out-of-the-ordinary, pivotal event in which my dad became my hero. Surprisingly, I couldn’t think of even one. The eulogy ended shortly thereafter and my musing along with it.
Late last night, my 10-month-old son woke up in his crib and started screaming hysterically. He was extremely tired from the day’s activities and travel back home, so I was surprised he woke up so soon after I put him to bed. I rushed to his room and scooped him up in my arms. At first, nothing seemed to appease him. My only guess was that he had some horrible dream that tore him away from his slumber. He held himself upright with his eyes closed tightly and kept screaming. Tears covered his plump cheeks, now red and flush from his cries. I brought him into the bathroom to gently wash his face with some cold water, hoping that would calm him and help him snap back to reality. It didn’t work. My wife came over and tried to calm him by cradling him, but that didn’t work either – he kept twisting and turning with his arms outstretched in my direction. I took him back into my arms, walked down into the living room and just started talking to him. I started rambling on about how Daddy and Sam were going to check everything in the house and make sure we were safe. We opened cabinets and the refrigerator looking for any signs of trouble. We turned lights on and off to ensure that everything was working properly. We ended up stepping out the front door into the cool night air to make sure there were no bears on the prowl and that our street was safe. While we progressed through this hastily concocted safety protocol, my son’s screaming came to an end. The redness in his cheeks subsided and his tears dried up and disappeared. At one point, I saw the trappings of a smile on either side of the pacifier in his mouth. We locked up the house, turned out the lights and went back to our bed. His eyes closed the instant his little head touched my pillow and he drifted off to what seemed like a better dream world – one that was not so frightening.
As my son’s little hand rested on my face and I heard the faint whistle of his breathing while he slept, I felt like I was starting to understand how children come to think of their fathers as heroes. It doesn’t begin with a grand gesture or death defying act. It begins with a father simply being there for his children in their hour of need.
Thinking along these lines, I could recall hundreds of situations in which my father was a hero to me. It became plain to see why I regard him as my hero to this day.
Watching my son sleep peacefully, now safe from whatever terrible dream had plagued his slumber before, I smiled thinking that maybe his perception of me as something more than just his father had already begun. I found myself hoping that he too might use that short little word to describe me one day: Hero.
I see her
From across the room
Curious curly haired creature
With hazel eyes
So full of a fire
That consumes my breath
And a smile so sincere
It steals my soul
I see her
Our faces one
Locked in a kiss
The sweet scent of her curls
Fill my mind
With thoughts of us
Watching one sunrise after another
For time eternal
I see her
Walking towards me
Precious feet treading petals
Her curls flowing in the wind
As tears fall
From our eyes
With the promise of forever
On our lips
I see her
With graceful porcelain arms
Cradling our precious treasure
Who lifts his hands
To play with her curls
And cling to her bosom
Drawing life and strength
From her endless love
I see her
Beside me every night
The greatest gift I don’t deserve
To pull her close
Feel our limbs intertwine
See her cheek on my chest
And let my fingers get lost
In her curls
Between the diaper changes and crying fits, I spend a lot of time watching my 8 month old son and musing about what kind of man he will become one day. I watch him while he sleeps and while he plays. I watch him as he figures out how to use his little fingers and toes. I watch him watching me as I’m getting ready for work in the morning. A few nights ago, I was watching my son as he wiggled in my lap from arm to arm, treating me like his personal jungle gym. At one point, he abruptly decided to dive backward from the standing position he was in facing me. Without a thought, my arms and back adjusted instantly to compensate for the shifting of his weight and the change in his body’s shape. A second later, he was comfortably laying with his back across my lap, secure in my arms, and playing with corner of my t-shirt. I turned to my wife – who had been witness to what just happened – and said, “Isn’t it amazing? He just always assumes that I’ll be there to make sure he doesn’t fall.”
No sooner did those words leave my tongue than I started to ponder the wondrous depths of that observation.
My son is not able to speak, communicate thoughts, or fully comprehend the complexities of our Father-Son relationship. However, being able to do all of those things pales in comparison to his ability to express unequivocally who I am to him and what he feels for me – something we grown-ups struggle to do and spend years trying to get better at. By leaping backwards while in my arms without the worry of falling or the fear or injury, my son expressed his pure perception of me.
Daddy is safety.
No ornate words are needed between us – no gifts of appreciation to be exchanged. My son simply lives unfettered in the light of the fundamental truths he has gained from his experiences. There is no reasoning or process of deduction he goes through to determine how he should be with me.
Daddy is safety. I can do anything when I am with Daddy.
He does not recognize the existence of those who would harm him. He does not ponder what is good and what is evil. When he stretches his hands out to me to pick him up, when he clings tightly to me when we’re around strangers, when he falls asleep in my arms – my son proclaims his view of me over and over again.
Daddy is safety. I can do anything when I am with Daddy. I am safe with Daddy.
We adults go to great lengths to learn how to express ourselves in such pure ways. At practically every retreat or team building event I’ve been to, I’ve seen or participated in the trust building exercise where one person closes his or her eyes and has to fall backwards into the arms of a partner. Those who participate as the one who must trust in the exercise often look back before falling – visually confirming that their partner does not have the intention of letting them fall and measuring the distance between them and their partner to minimize the chances of an accidental fall. And if the one who falls is caught – which they always are – he or she is awash with relief and joy that they weren’t hurt even though the chances of any serious injury were slim to begin with. So it amazes me all the more that children not even a year old can do this with such ease.
Sadly, losing the ability to express ourselves this way is a part of growing up – a casualty of maturation. Watching my son, I cannot help but wonder what kind of place our world would be if we never had to lose that ability. Perhaps Heaven is such a place.
But right now, I’m going to try and engage in a pure expression of my own. I’m going to stop thinking about how the expressions of my son – who is curled up in bed sleeping next to me – make him the personification of purity. I’m going to put away my laptop, wrap an arm around him and close my eyelids. Hopefully, this simple expression of mine will let him know…
Daddy is with you. You are safe.
Upon closer examination, we found them to be rather thoughtful and unique toys that had a ‘high-end’ feel to them. We ended up buying a set of their One Two Squeeze blocks for Sam – our rapidly growing (nearly) 8 month old.
Back home, we opened up the packaging and were delighted to find even more thoughtful details. In particular, each B. toy includes a small booklet of quotes of children on a variety of topics. They were sweet, and some were laugh-out-loud funny.
I was impressed with the construction of the packaging and product. It was especially good to see that these toys for babies were BPA-free, since everything they get their hands on go straight to their mouths. In terms of good design, these toys do not disappoint. The choice of colors and content were really pleasing to the eye. Whoever is designing these toys is really passionate about what they’re doing.
I don’t normally check out kids’ toy maker websites, but I found myself wanting to learn more about B. after seeing their products, so I went to their website – justb-byou.com. Beautiful website. But what impressed me even more was the amount of thought they put into their products…particularly with regards to the environment. All of their products’ packaging is fully recyclable. They’ve omitted packaging wherever possible. They even offer a line of ‘self-wrapping’ gifts - toys with cleverly designed reversible packaging that results in a ‘wrapped’ gift. As a Product Manager, I can’t help but be impressed with the amount of thought that went into this product line.
Lately, I’ve been trying to choose/buy products made in the U.S.A. (or at least North America) over those made overseas because I believe it does help the economy. Along those lines, I was a little disappointed that these products were made in China despite the company being based out of Plattsburgh, NY and Montreal, Canada. However, I am glad that the company addressed it openly on their website:
Our toys are designed in the USA then manufactured in China. Affordability is a big goal of ours. Our production partners in China allow us to offer our high-quality toys at prices most can afford. We have strong relationships with our production team overseas. We also conduct random on-site audits of factories to ensure the highest standards are met in manufacturing and in employee health, safety and human rights. We are happy that Target, our largest retail supplier, requires an equally firm commitment to human rights from any brand they carry. (You can read more about Target’s commitment to the global community.) Regardless of where our toys are made, we only use lead- and phthalate-free materials.
Additionally, our production partners have been integral in working with us to create packaging that has as little impact as possible on our planet. We treasure our overseas partners.
On a brighter note, one thing I was very happy to see was the company’s position to contribute $.10 for every toy purchased towards Free The Children. Good to know that your purchase goes towards helping and educating children who can use all the help they can get.
All in all, I’d highly recommend these toys to parents of small children or those of you looking to buy a good gift for little ones.
Before we take that first big step in a new direction in life, many of us hope to see or experience a ‘sign’ – some form of cosmic or supernatural validation of the direction we are about to take. Sometimes, the sign appears. Sometimes, it does not. Regardless, we move forward and hope for the best.
I am about to take a big step in a new direction in my life. Next week, I start a new job at SpaFinder – a company I had never heard of before in an industry I know nothing about. While I feel great about the opportunity there, I did find myself hoping for a sign to let me know if I was headed in the right direction. Surprisingly, my sign came to me on Monday night.
Earlier in the day on Monday, I received an email from a recruiter for another company I had previously applied to and was really interested in interviewing with. The company is a well established international firm, generating billions of dollars in revenue each year. The email stated that they had an opening that I would be a fit for and that they wanted to meet me. The attached job description seemed like it was tailor-made for me too. But I had already accepted the offer from SpaFinder a week before, so I told them I wouldn’t pursue the role.
During the car ride home from work, I told my wife, Kristen, about the email and what a strange coincidence it was that this company I was so interested in contacted me now that I had already accepted an offer. We talked about it briefly, then went about the rest of our evening – picking up our groceries and tending to our 8 month old son, Sam. Though the conversation ended, I still found myself wondering if I had made the right decision in accepting the offer from SpaFinder when I did.
Those of you who have been in our home while Sam is awake have undoubtedly noticed the TV is on and tuned to the same channel all the time – Sprout. It’s a wonderful channel that features programming for Pre-School children. We have the TV tuned into the channel so often that Kristen and I often find ourselves singing the songs and theme songs of the shows on it even when we’re nowhere near a television. For us, the Sprout channel has become synonymous with Sam, and our day is not complete without watching it with him.
On Monday night, the three of us tuned into Sprout as we usually do. Sam was sitting in our bed watching his TV shows while chewing on a stuffed animal. Kristen and I were talking about future plans. Admittedly, during our conversation some part of my mind was still pondering the same question from earlier in the day. I couldn’t stop myself from hoping for a sign to let me know that I had made the right decision – for my career, for my family, for our future. The show that was on had taken a commercial break. For no apparent reason, I started to pay more attention to the TV – perhaps because the only things on Sprout designed for parents are the commercials. However, I lost interest a minute later and started to turn my head away from the TV. At that moment, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye flash quickly on the TV that looked familiar. I turned my head back toward the TV quickly, but it was gone. I frantically searched for the remote hoping to rewind and see it again. Of course, when you need the remote, you can never find it. After a brief shuffle through the sheets and pillows, Kristen located the remote on the dresser beside her and handed it to me. Eagerly, I rewound back a few minutes till I saw the familiar sight once more.
There, unmistakably linked to the channel I associate with my son and in a context that included my wife, was my sign (image below – click to enlarge).
Of course, it could mean absolutely nothing. However, it is just what I needed to see and feel just before taking this new step. In an instant, seeing the image of the SpaFinder logo on the screen in a way that I associated it with my family – the real reason I work as hard as I do – washed away my doubts about my decision.