Another season begins to wind down. Another set of ups and downs, highs and lows, “down low you’re too slows”. I’m not sure I’ve ever been a summer kind of guy so I’m okay with the endless summer coming to an end. I sweat too easily and don’t look all that good shirtless mowing the yard. Pasty white and love handles are never something you want to see walking in formation behind a lawn mower in the front yard. No, I’ve always been more of a Fall fella. Even as a kid I’d count down the days until I could break out the Chicago Bears jacket my mom bought both my brother and I at the Concord Mall. Way back when it wasn’t considered politically incorrect to worship two hillbillies driving around in a Dodge Challenger with the confederate flag painted on the hood. Back when Reagan was still in his first term and no one had yet succumbed to the cuteness of an adorable little orphan named Punky Brewster.

I longed for rosey cheeks and seeing my own breath as I walked to the bus stop. I looked forward to the grass crackling under my feet because of the frost. There was something quite grand about walking the aisle of 3D and looking for the Halloween costume that would up the ante at the inevitable night of trick-or-treating. When I was really young you could buy them in a box that contained a fragile plastic shell of a mask and a meat cutter’s apron fashioned into the body of Darth Vader, Strawberry Shortcake, or Michael from Knight Rider. As I got older I opted for the thick latex jobs that were formed into the bloody mug of an undead goon, a vampire with blood trickling from the side of his mouth, or some sort of alien creature with a severed human hand hanging from its extraterrestrial mouth(all of these were ones I’d owned.)

One year when I wasn’t quite small enough for the all-in-one box and waited too long to pick up the faux Rick Baker special I went as a robber. I wore an old ski mask, the aforementioned Chicago Bears jacket, and carried along my A-Team-certified M-16 toy rifle. This was the early to mid-80s, so this was acceptable. Nowadays that get-up would get you sent to jail or shot dead by some sweaty, trigger-happy cititzen. But at the time no one batted an eye.

“So what are you supposed to be, son?”

“A robber.”

“Oh my. Take two then.”

For me, both then and now, fall felt like the inevitable step towards an end. An end to summer, an end to another year, an end to green leaves and grass. For some that might be depressing, but in my head with an end there’s a beginning to something else just around the corner. A new year, a new chance to make your mark at school, and a new fall line-up on TV. The season of wither was open to so many possibilities. Brisk fall walks traipsing through the woods behind my house, Halloween decorations ornamenting nearby neighborhoods, and the smell of burning leaves and pine needles in the air that pushed me to some otherworldly level of childhood contentment. It was that feeling that though things were beginning to wither and die off, the windows could be opened and the ghosts of summer could escape. That touch of chill in the living room as you watch some old horror movie on late night TV…there’s nothing like it.

I welcome fall, and all the disintegration it brings.

The last week and a half have been trying times, for those of us here in the states and for those abroad that have been through this kind of social and political upheaval. I haven’t said much regarding what happened in Charlottesville and the reaction of President Trump. Mainly because I don’t know what to say. I’m appalled by the fact that there are American Nazis marching the streets of an American city in the year 2017 and by the fact that the President of the United States can’t even call them out for what they are. He stoops to straw man arguments about “Well the alt-left are just as bad”. How do you justify that? How do you say that there were some “fine folks” in that sea of sweating, swastika-toting Nazi ghouls? There’s no justification for that behavior and our President’s blase faire attitude towards it. I won’t say I’m ashamed to be an American, because I’m not. My grandfather liberated Jewish prisoners from concentration camps in 1945. My dad served in the Army Reserves in the late 60s, and I had two uncles that fought in Vietnam. I’m a man conflicted by the actions of my government(both with this administration and past ones), but I’m not conflicted about who I am and where I’m from. I don’t take for granted the opportunities allowed to me for being born and raised an American. I don’t think there’s a single nation that doesn’t have its share of nasty skeletons in its closet, and has not put its best foot forward in regards to electing officials from time to time.

I know that we’ll right the ship. Those that wore blinders to the voting booth will(hopefully) see what a mistake they made in voting in who they did. When “your guy” is emboldening men to take off the hoods and walk freely putting up Nazi salutes, carrying torches and yelling “BLOOD AND SOIL!!” and “JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US!!” in your average American city, things are coming off the rails. We’ll get it back on track. Not without some serious soul searching and looking this existential crisis right in the eyes, but we’ll do it. We’re not all blind to the insanity here. I promise you.

What am I getting at here? I don’t know. Fall is approaching. Things will start fading and withering. With endings come beginnings. Let’s hope for some new beginnings this season of wither. Let’s go for a brisk walk on the trail and say nothing because we don’t have to say anything. Let’s tell our loved ones we love them. Let’s teach our kids differences are strengths. Let’s walk through the fall afternoon and take the smell of burning leaves home with us in our jackets and hats.

Let’s go buy a goddamn Darth Vader Halloween mask and have some fun.

Blue Suede Tap Shoes

My earliest memories are of me sitting on the bare wood steps that led down to my parents half basement and attempting to spy on my mom as she practiced her tap dancing routines. It would start out as me going all ninja, thinking I could somehow blend my stocky, big-boned 5-year old frame into the painted cement blocks behind me and pine steps that were under me. I’d watch from my aerial view from atop the stairs as my mom would tap dance over a repetitive voice that emanated from an old reel-to-reel recorder. Even at that age I imagined that voice belonged to someone that looked like a cross between Richard Simmons and Jonathan Harris from Lost In Space as the flamboyant voice repeated “shuffle-hop-shuffle-hop-shuffle-ball-change-turn-reverse” over and over to the accompaniment of a tinkling, chime-y piano. As I sat there thinking I was the sneakiest 5-year old around the sound of those taps as they hit the cement floor would begin to lull me. I don’t know what it was, but it was almost mesmerizing to sit and listen to. The rhythm of those hits, the distant, muffled sound coming from that old reel-to-reel, and the smell of laundry detergent in the air would put me in a daze. A “shuffle hop coma”, if you will. Soon enough my mom would turn around and see me sitting there and yell “Get back upstairs, John! I don’t want you playing on those steps!”

I never asked my mom why she started tap dancing. My mom, like a lot of moms back in the 70s, stayed home and was a “homemaker”. Now we know now that what that means is that she took care of everything. I mean everything. She wasn’t dusting in a dinner dress and pearls while watching soap operas and waiting at the door for pops to show up from work with his slippers and the evening paper. No, she was handling the down and dirty of home life. The cooking, cleaning, bill paying, grocery shopping, laundering, and making sure me and my brother were washed, clothed, and getting to where we needed to go. She also was the caregiver when we were sick. My brother wasn’t sick very often, but I was sick all the time. Ear infections, bronchitis, lots of fevers and vomiting, and did I mention bronchitis? I was the sickly kid that spent his 4th Christmas in the ICU with pneumonia. My mom was there by my bedside every night. This was back before hospital rooms were like studio apartments with pull out beds and comfy chairs for guests. In 1977 they were still white, cold, and unforgiving to the sleeping guest’s back. My doc when I was 5 years old thought I had Leukemia until my mom nearly strong armed him into testing me for allergies. She was right, I was just allergic to cats, dust, mold, and lima beans(okay, not lima beans.)

I love my dad. He worked his butt off for all of us so we could have a decent life and a roof over our heads. But if it weren’t for my mom we’d a been a bunch of wild animals roaming the Pines searching for food, water, and clean underwear.

So looking back at this whole tap dancing thing I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe this was an outlet for my mom. Some “me” time to get away from the insanity of domestication. I can remember going to the tennis courts near the Green Acres mobile home park with my mom and she’d play with her friend Shirley Bell. I’d play on the playground with Shirley’s daughter Sherry as mom and Shirley would do their best Billie Jean King. Later on my mom was on a bowling league. She played that for years. Every Thursday night she’d meet a couple friends and they’d bowl till 7 or 8pm, then have a few beers afterwards. But in-between the tennis and bowling was tap dance.

I went with my mom a few times to her tap class. It was in the basement of the dance instructor. She’d fashioned a dance studio down there, complete with mats and a wall covered in mirrors. In one of the corners there was a milk crate filled with various toys and puzzles for the brats of her students to play with while the women danced and joked about Dallas, The Stepford Wives, and key parties. The one thing that had always stayed with me over the years was a particular song they would dance to a lot. I never knew what it was called, but it was this pretty piano melody that built up to this classic 70s crescendo filled with orchestra, tight bass, and super compressed drums. I didn’t notice the drums and bass till years later. That piano melody always stuck with me. It was sweet and sad. Music always had an overwhelming affect on me(I can remember my eyes welling up whenever Paul McCartney got to the high notes in “My Love” as it played on the car radio.) There was even a recital that I remember going to. It was at the high school auditorium. I remember as soon as my mom coming out onto the stage to dance I started yelling “It’s mommy! It’s mommy!” to my dad’s chagrin. I couldn’t help it. My mom was up there on stage in front of a whole auditorium of people dancing to the piano song I loved so much.

My mom had all of her tap stuff set up downstairs. She had a few 45s that she would dance to down there. We had an old console stereo down there that used to be the main stereo upstairs. After dad went hi fi with the Pioneer receiver, turntable, 8-track, and speakers, the old Zenith console was delegated to the basement for pool parties and beer consumption. My mom would use it to play her 45s, one of which was Elvis Presley. The A-side was “Blue Suede Shoes”, while the b-side was ‘Tutti Frutti”. I never saw my mom tap dance to either of those songs, but I grew a great fondness for that 45. I was partial to “Tutti Frutti” myself. The line “Got a gal, named Sue/She know just what to do” always got me. I had no idea what Sue knew what to do, but I imagined it was pretty great.

It was years later, long after my mom had put the dance shoes away that I think I’d figured out why my mom took up the tap lessons. I think she wanted something to do outside of the house, for sure. Find an identity other than “homemaker”, yes. But she could’ve done anything out of the house. Hell, keep the tennis dreams going. Or maybe racquetball? But no, she chose tap. My grandma Ruth LOVED Shirley Temple. She had a bunch of Shirley Temple movies on video cassette when I was younger, and I remember my mom having a collection of Shirley Temple movies, too. Could my mom have taken up tap dance for my grandma? My mom and grandma were very close. Always were. My grandma was at the tap recital, too. I remember her clapping and clapping when my mom finished. Not the humoring kind of clapping, but the honest kind where maybe some tears might’ve been shed. Maybe. Anyways, I wouldn’t put it past my mom to do something like that. Take up a hobby because her mom would’ve gotten a kick out of it. When my grandma died a few years ago I remember one of the few things she wanted of my grandma’s was her Shirley Temple movies.

So why all this reminiscing about tap dancing and my mom? I don’t know, I guess because I think my mom is kind of a badass. Mother’s Day just passed and it felt like a good time to talk about her a bit. And besides, without her I’d probably be in some makeshift mud hut in an undisclosed northeastern Indiana woods, eating squirrel over an open fire in dirty underwear.

Thanks mom.

“a cup of coffee and a slice of time…”

So where do you go when you feel like you’ve gotten to a dead end? Where do you find the answers when the questions you hear yourself asking are falling on deaf ears? Your mind tells you “No one cares and no one ever really did”, and who are you to argue with your mind? “You’re just some loser who can’t get your shit together. No one cares about you, no one loves you, no one even knows you exist at this point.” I don’t have an answer. I’ve never been at that place in my head. Sure, I deal with self doubt at times and I feel like I should lose 20 lbs and I should pick up a hobby like painting. Or maybe I should learn how to fix things around the house. But these are normal things everyone goes through. All in all I have a pretty good overall opinion of myself(not horn-tooting here.) I do the best I can. I feel like I’m a pretty giving and open person to those around me. I don’t wallow in self-pity or self-doubt for more than 10 minutes a time. My family loves me, and have told me on many occasions that they don’t know what they’d do without me(my wife can’t even pick something to watch on Netflix. The struggle is real.) And I feel like the luckiest mug in the world having my high school sweetheart at my side, along with three kids that are equally sweet, polite, and looking at the world with eyes wide open.

My point is, I can’t step into the head of someone so lost and in the dark that suicide seems to be the only answer. You can’t empathize with that sort of deep, dark, sadness unless you’ve been in the thick of it. It’s not that I don’t want to help. I want to reach in and pull that sludge out of that person and shine as much light in as I can, but it doesn’t work that way. Depression isn’t coaxed out with some supplements and a handful of “Hey, keep your chin up!” You can’t will someone to be happy by praying for them or dropping by occasionally and leaving them with a “We should get coffee sometime, or something.” Being there for someone you know is going through it is a start. Opening your head and heart to what they’re going through is a good place to begin. You can offer your services as a coffee pal or a fellow bookstore rummager. You can ask how they’re doing and offer some honest advice. You can’t make someone take it, though. You can only hope it’s a lifeline enough to keep that person interested. Enough to keep the conversation going.

I’ve dealt with this darkness more times than I’d like to count in my life. Friends, family, acquaintances that gave into the black hole of regrets, guilt, despair, and whatever else you can find on any early Cure albums, regardless of how much they loved others or were loved by others. It’s a sickness, plain and simple. It’s not a bad mood you’ll eventually get out of. There’s no bucking up and getting over it. There are chemicals imbalanced, wires crossed, and emotional scars a mile long wrapped around ones heart like a python squeezing.

Like I’ve said, I don’t have any answers. I just want to stay engaged with the world around me. I want to stay plugged in and available to those who need me to be. I may not have any answers, but I can maybe help with figuring out the questions that need to be asked. We’re all in this together, for better or worse. Let’s make it more better than worse. We start doing that by not averting our gaze off to the side, but by laser-pointing it directly ahead. No matter how uncomfortable or awkward it may be. Let those around you having a rough go of it know that you’re there and that you’re buying a cup of coffee and have a spot to sit and talk. That’s how we make it better. Sometimes a friend is all we need to get to the next day.

That’s all we can ask for, isn’t it?

A Year On The Mend

It was a year ago today that my wife drove us an hour east on a rainy, dreary morning to Parkview Hospital for my back surgery. It doesn’t seem possible it’s been that long. It seems like it was just a couple months ago I was waiting for that day to come, both anticipating and fearing it. Taking Norcos and muscle relaxers and sitting in the basement making mixtapes and listening to Flying Lotus, Madlib, and j dilla’s Donuts. I would sit wondering that cold March if I’d ever walk right again. The pressure on my spinal nerve had caused numbness that ran down my leg to the top of my right foot. It also gave me a “drop foot”, which basically means I walked like Igor in Young Frankenstein. Before the severe pain started, I assumed it was just a pinched nerve that would work its way out. I still tried working out(like an idiot.) I attempted to do all those normal things I was doing before the numbness began. I tried stretches, yoga poses, and willing my foot to WAKE UP! But on February 15th of 2016 the numbness turned to sharp, bitter pain that shot me out of bed in the middle of the night. After a day of that I went to a convenience clinic first thing in the morning and thanks to the quick action of the doctor on call, she got me into the hospital for a cat scan. That revealed a herniated disc in my lower back, between my L4 and L5. What that meant was physical therapy or a cortisone shot would be worthless in helping me. A visit to a spinal orthopedic surgeon a week later confirmed the herniated disc and got me a front row seat for the big show. A discectomy was in my future.

Surgery. That word scared the hell out of me. I spent the month of March numbing the pain, working with restrictions, getting my medical leave set up, and spinning records on the weekends. I was relieved I knew what the problem was and that there was a plan of action to fix the problem, but I hadn’t quite heard a bunch of positive stories regarding back surgery. In fact, I didn’t know anyone that had a great experience. Just terrible ones. I couldn’t go on the way I was, so I didn’t really have a choice.

So on March 31st, 2016, my wife drove me on a dreary Thursday morning to Fort Wayne, Indiana for this thing called a discectomy(They basically make an 8″ incision in my lower back, go in, and cut out the portion of my lumbar disc that was protruding from the spine and pinching the nerve. Sew the disc back up and close me up. Nothing was implanted. It was, by surgery standards, pretty cut and dry.) I waited in a room in a hospital gown with my wife and mom and dad while the TV played some terrible show while everyone nervously made small talk. Pretty soon, they came for me and wheeled me off. While en route to the operating room they started an IV and I quickly began to go out. Next thing I knew I was groggily waking up in recovery. The surgery was successful. No complications, though my disc was in worse shape than the doc first thought. I was carted to our car in a wheelchair and we were home bound.

Those first three days home were a bit rough, but I had a wife and three kids that took good care of me. It was spring break, so the kids were all home. We watched a lot of movies, read a lot of books, listened to a lot of records, and generally took it easy. I was also iced up for most of the week. The hospital gave me this contraption that looked like a back brace you wrap around your torso that had tubing inside of it, which was attached to a box you filled with ice and water. The icy water flowed up into the tubes and it was the most wonderful feeling ever. Really, it was fantastic.

Three weeks I was home healing. A month after surgery I was walking two miles a day. Six months after surgery I was running. Eight months after surgery I could stretch properly once again. A year later, it’s as if I never had a back problem. The only evidence is an 8″ scar on my lower back. I’ll occasionally feel the scar and I’m still amazed that I went through it all. Amazed I was taken care of as well as I was by the doctors, nurses, technicians, and pharmacists. I’m grateful for my family and friends that gave me support when I needed it. Hell, even my dog kept me company while I sat on the couch wondering if I’d ever heal up. You learn a lot about humility when you’re put into a vulnerable position like that. When your wife has to wake you up every couple of hours to ice you up or give you a pain pill. I’m usually the caregiver in the house. I’m the one cooking dinners, mowing the lawn, picking up the house, and buying the groceries. When all of a sudden you have to stop all of that it can be a jarring experience(really, it is.) Letting those responsibilities go is a hard thing. Of course, when you get ’em back you’re like “I missed this?”

So one year ago today I had back surgery. Happy to say things turned out pretty damn well. I now know at least one person who’s got a positive back surgery story: me. Now you do, too.

Memory Upgrade

So sometimes your memory betrays you. Okay, most of the time your memory betrays you. Like for example, how you may remember an argument with an old friend that caused a riff between the two of you. When you finally have that heart to heart and discuss things you realize you remembered things all wrong. That friend didn’t actually say what you thought they said. Or you watched a movie as a kid and you remembered it a certain way for 25 years. When you go back and watch that same movie as an adult you realized the ending in your head was all wrong. Even how you remember a person. My grandma died over 6 years ago. I think I remember how her voice sounded, and her laugh. But I don’t have anything to go on anymore. No old home movies or answering machine messages saved. I’m going on those pieces still lodged in my brain. A couple phone conversations just a few weeks before she died, and a visit to her house just a month before she was gone.

It’s all I got, so I have to run with it. Try to keep it fresh and glowing, like stoking embers in a fire. Once it’s out it’s out. No more kindling to throw on the fire.

There’s no lesson here I’m trying to teach. There’s no moral to any of this. I’m just thinking a lot about memories and the importance of making them. My oldest was home this past week for spring break. I took the last part of the week off so I could spend time with her. My wife had to work all week and the younger ones were still in school(they aren’t off until the first week of April.) When the oldest comes home on extended weekends she’s often either sleeping, hanging out with her old school friends, or with her mom on some shopping excursion. I’m here at home making sure she’s getting her favorite meals while she’s here. I’m keeping the gears running at the homestead. I’m not ever going on adventures with her. So this time I wanted to be able to do something with her, so she knows I care and that I actually do like to spend time with her.

Wednesday was taking her to the dentist and the eye doctor, then being at home waiting for the heating and cooling guys to put in our new water heater. Thursday wasn’t much, but then Friday my daughter and I spent the day in Fort Wayne shopping for books and music, eating quite well, and just enjoying time together. We hit three spots for books and came out of it with a stack for each of us. I wanted to hit up Neat Neat Neat Records as well as I haven’t been there in over two years. Hasn’t changed much, and I’d hoped for that. For lunch we ate at Bravas Burgers. Probably the best burger and fries I’ve had in a very long time. We will go back for sure. After a coffee refueling we hit the road and made it home by 5pm. Saturday was just hanging out at home mostly, which is what we all needed I think.

Today, my wife and mom are currently driving the oldest back to school while I’m home with the younger ones. Making dinner and keeping the gears turning at the homestead.

I look back at my life, even just the last 6 years, and there are these moments that stick out in my head. They’re good moments: family vacations down south, trips to record shops, Christmas eves with board games and snack-y foods, a Colorado wedding, school carnivals, and band concerts around the holidays. They’re not grand gestures like trips to Disney World or anything like that. They’re just these little moments that define such significant times in my mind. More than a grand gesture can do, the trips to the bookstore, or a cabin in the woods, or the cinema on a Sunday afternoon are what stick in our memories. More memories we make the easier it is to remember them all.

Anyways, that’s what going on in my head. We made some memories this week, and I’m happy about that.

Friday Rentals

All this talk of classic horror films from when I was a boy in short pants has me reminiscing about Friday nights of my youth. The Friday night video rental, to be exact. It was a semi-regular thing for my parents and I to go out after my dad got home from work and go grab a pizza at Pizza Hut, stuff ourselves, and then head to Video World and rent some movies for the weekend. Of course, I’d head straight to the back room(not THAT backroom, you perv) and start perusing the horror and sci fi. Video World had a back room dedicated to nothing but horror, sci fi, music docs, and weird odds and ends. That’s where I spent a good portion of my time. This was my formal education into the world of the undead, vampires, alien creatures, soulless slashers, and general weirdos that I’d carry around in my memories for years to come. At first it was an appreciation for being scared, but then it changed. It was the whole aesthetic that I loved: the effects, the music, the set designs, and yes even the stories that were attempted. Some were better than others(much better at times), but each movie carried with it something endearing, no matter how horrible the film was. If it was really bad it would sometimes transcend into something even greater than scares. The horror film that tried so hard but missed the mark would become something else: parody. Something so bad that it became a completely different genre. Even a lousy movie could make for fun viewing.

This Friday night ritual continued on through high school. One of my best friends and I would crash at either my place or his, grab a Tombstone pepperoni pizza from the store along with a bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles, hit Video World for the newest horror film(by this time we’d rent from either Video World or Video Plus), and spend Friday night distorting our minds(and our intestinal tract with that Tombstone Pizza.) Oh, and if you hadn’t guessed, we weren’t the partying types. Were we dorks? Nerds? I don’t think so. But we definitely weren’t “popular kid” material. Listening to Rush and Joe Satriani and pining over Daphne Zuniga didn’t win us any cool points, but we were cool with that.

I don’t think much has changed for me(except I make my own pizza nowadays.) The video store has turned into renting movies off of Amazon, and Fridays are also shared equally by watching movies and spinning records. If I’m going to waste time, I might as well waste on things I love to do, right? I do miss the video store, though. The strange cast of characters that haunted the aisles: whether it was parents and their kids looking for something to watch together, teens looking for something they shouldn’t watch, or the creepers disappearing into the “other” back room. And of course the folks working behind the counter, renting to the folks hungry for entertainment on a Friday evening. Spending their weekend making ours a little more interesting. I had much admiration for them. I was one of them, as I started working at Video World when I was 18 and worked their for nearly a year. A great year it was, too.

So here’s to Friday rentals and making the most of those little moments.

Memo To My Son

What have you done to the mirror?
What have you done to the floor?
Can’t I go nowhere without you?
Can’t I leave you alone any more?
Can’t I leave you alone any more?

One year ago yesterday on March 1st I drove my wife along snow-covered county roads to what would be her final OB appointment before we’d hit her due date for what would be the birth of our third(and final) little Hubner. The doc informed us that she was 3 cm dilated and that if we wanted to just head over to the hospital and get settled in we could. Since there was no great rush, we decided to go grab breakfast before the big wait. We dined on crepes and omelets and then drove in what I would describe as a blizzard down US 30 West two miles to Kosciusko Community Hospital and indeed settled in. After a day of crappy TV, hospital food, and uncomfortable naps our son, Owen Christopher, was born at nearly 2 am on March 2nd, 2005.

I know you don’t think much of me
But someday you’ll understand
Wait’ll you learn how to talk, baby
I’ll show you how smart I am
I want to show you how smart I am

As far as births go, it was a pretty easy one. Given that our oldest was a long and painful birth, and our middle child was a whopping 10lbs, 3 ounces(the nurse was literally pushing down on my wife’s stomach to force her out), Owen came relatively quietly and with little drama. My wife’s stepmom stayed with our girls so I could be up at the hospital for the duration. My wife made the hospital stay a two-for-one deal and the next day had a tubal ligation. It wasn’t that our son was a “whoopsie baby”, more than he was an “oh shit” baby. We had two beautiful daughters and had hit the child quota we’d created in our heads. Christ, we’d just bought a brand new Honda Civic…perfect for a family of FOUR. There was no chance of another baby coming into Hubner the family quotient.

Well, the family quotient flew out the Honda Civic’s window(we ended up trading that in late summer of 2004 for a Honda Odyssey.)

fullsizerender-4Now my “oh shit” baby is now a 12-year old young man. It’s such a cliche thing to say but I’m gonna say it anyways: where did the time go? I can’t imagine our lives without “the boy”. I think he’s a balancing force in the house. He’s the mediator between two sisters constantly butting heads, he’s the board game partner to a mom that loves board games, and he’s dad’s partner-in-crime when it comes to watching horror movies, spinning soundtracks, and hitting up the local comic book shop.

Before I had a son I always thought the whole “father and son” bonding thing was a myth. Sure, I bonded with my dad and all when I was a kid, but I remember spending lots of time by myself in my room getting lost in Star Wars battles and Van Halen cassettes. My dad and I never had things in common that we loved together(well, maybe great Philly cheese steaks and MAD magazine.) I just looked up to him because he was this hulking figure that put a roof over our head and fixed things in the house when they were broke(or spent all of Christmas morning affixing decals to Kenner and Hasbro toys.) Plus, having two daughters and having the connection with them that I had I just couldn’t imagine how I could love more than that.

A quitter never wins
A winner never quits
When the going gets tough
The tough get going

But raising this little guy into a bigger guy I can see there is something to this father/son dynamic. I love my kids equally. That’s a no-brainer. But seeing my son grow from a cooing baby to a polite young man, and all that came in-between, I can say the heart grows to accommodate the love that you uncontrollably develop. Ones capacity to love never stops growing. It’s an ongoing construction site, the heart. My son has opened my head and heart and made me a better person, better dad, and a better listener. He’s been my buddy from the beginning, and I hope it stays that way.

So on today, March 2nd, the boy turns 12. One year away from teendom and a whole new stretch of awkward road for him to travel. I know teen angst is coming, so I’m going to enjoy hopefully one more year of the kid that loves hitting the comic book shop with his old man. And going to used record shows on Sunday mornings. And the boy that loves playing board games and card games with his mom. And one more birthday gift wish list that’s dominated by Marvel collectors action figures and a request for a taco fiesta for the birthday dinner.

Maybe you don’t know how to walk, baby
Maybe you can’t talk none either
Maybe you never will, baby
But I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you

Time flies, baby. So keep up.