It's my 6 AM habit to peek in on my child. A check, for the sake of checking. I've always enjoyed watching her breath. When she came back from the midwife's care years ago, I checked her sleep. I was afraid she would stop breathing, or that she was breathing too fast, or maybe not breathing deep enough. My mind finds worries. Morgan is away with her mom for summer. I still check her room. At sunrise, the sun forced shadows across the lawn, through her room, and onto the hallway wall. It was a melancholy moment. I miss my baby.
Remarks by George Furman
My daughter will come to see me as a flawed man someday. She sees shortcomings in me now and tolerates them with a smile. I daydream, burn the popcorn, forget about the school meeting. I sign school letters without reading them, or when I burn my attempt at home pizza. At times, I'm dismissive, when I've arrived in the mood where I'm not folding another dish towel ever. I'm going to watch people get eaten by space aliens – no matter what – screw dishtowels. I've got bad taste in movies and music my kid thinks - except when I don't. I'm folding laundry now, not well. My kid doesn't notice that flaw in me. She uses the hamster nest style of organizing her clothes. I let her, peer pressure will make her fold and press her shirts... or it won't. In the laundry process, the dishtowels are coming up and a list of 30-minute purple-eyed people eater sort of shows to watch is forming. The last shirt is a Phantom Bill Sticker T - top of the pile. When I stare at that dog – what a mug – I remember the cold goo sliding up my arm as years ago I inserted my courage into the paste bucket for the first time. Five AM and risking deportation is my memory. I miss the simplicity of a see your breath morning before sunrise. Those are still moments. We don't remember days, we remember moments. I take photos to remember the good moments and to have the power to delete the bad ones - bonus! Photos are good - at least mine are, for me.
It's snowing the kind of snow I love. The flakes are falling slow, sticking to trees... and the important part, the storm is shutting down the town. The world is forced to sit still and that's good for everyone. The chop, chop, busy, busy is too much - too often too much. Snow, however, does not slow down teenagers. I'm in my space reading Albert Camus – chilling to the winter chill and my kid smashes the serenity with SCIENCE! The science fair is 6 weeks out and she has chosen - with sudden urgency - to do a behavioral science experiment about optical illusions. I'm qualified to help her, I have a degree in behavioral science. I don't remember how I got the degree – I”m no scientist – I just remember why I got the degree. I didn't want to major in business and didn't have the guts to major in art. Anyway, how do you get a BA (bachelor of arts) in BHS (Behavioral Science) isn't that just BS (bullshit)? To my point, my kid is wearing my lucky #31 Drew Ranger shirt. She dug it out of deep storage in my closet. No space is private or sacred where a child resides. It was my special shirt – a high-quality Champion shirt back (1989) when that company made the best athletic clothes on the planet. I'd saved the shirt all these years in the hope that I'd give it to my wife. To me, the t-shirt was more sincere than a diamond wedding ring could be. The marriage didn't happen – I blew it – and the shirt has sat so long in the closet it has now shrunk from a large to a small. As the snow falls today, I've given up on the soul mate wedding thing dream. I am letting my daughter have the t-shirt. It looks good on her, my sweet science nerd.
I decided to make a list of the things I need to do. Lists are handy-dandy and do the job. To make my list, I needed to sharpen a pencil. The art box was full of dull pencils. One sharp pencil felt like not enough. the feeling compelled me to sharpen pencils until the motor of the electric pencil sharpener over-heated and shut down – about 2 dozen pencils. I turned to the old Exact-o sharpener – the one used to by kids since the dawn of time as an excuse to get out of their seat in school. I sharpened until a blister formed. I had reasons, a list forming long and wise of reasons to have a bucket of sharp pencils on hand. I'm teaching my daughter to draw – or the art books I piled upon her are teaching her to draw. She'll have sharp pencils. I'd make her more, but my blister hurts.
We swam at night. The evenings I discovered I could swim underwater without fresh air for 50 meters, then 60, then 63, 64, 65... meters, was a life landmark for me. I was not a strong swimmer. I made myself a strong swimmer by committing to a swim team. I earned my college sweatshirt elbows ups, tip drills and once a week a flip turns bloody smashed feet on the wall. The sweatshirt was the first I ever cared about. I stored it in a box to give to my kid. She got it tonight. She owns it. I told her to respect the discipline that earned it.
I'm playing the long game – or trying to. It's faster to fix things myself without stopping to teach my kid what to do, but that's not the long game. I force myself to slow down and take 10 minutes out to expose Morgan to new things. This week it's soldering lessons. The first lesson is for exposure, the second lesson for understanding and the third to master the skill. ( I use “master the skill” loosely.) My expectation is, by teaching her to solder now – or any skill – she won't need me in the future. I'm investing 10 minutes here and there in the belief that is will save me hours and days 10 years from now. The phone won't ring with a call for “Dad come fix my kitchen sink” . She'll know how to do the job. I also hope her boyfriend 10 years from now won't know how to do the job – that's worth points. My daughter is learning to be an independent woman. Independence, what a great idea.
At South by South-West, I had a chance to have a two hour lunch with an American rock star – Jeremy Averitt He took us to one of the best Mexican Restaurant in Austin – the name of which escapes memory, because I was driving and forced to focus entirely on understanding the British accent of the guy giving us directions through the packed streets. Jeremy played a show and had a few hours to killbefore catching a flight to Denver to do another show. I volunteered to give him a ride to the airport in the Open Range Zoo car after lunch - he took the bait. As the three of us talked, Morgan was curious about the way a rock star like Jeremy eats a taco and was constantly sneaking a peek at his lunch plate. Morgan talked a lot, not realizing or caring she was talking to a rock star. Jeremy gave Morgan generous advice on keyboards and music technology, complete with praise for the use of the Alabama travel case for instruments, in general. With Morgan as a distraction, I was able to take a few casual photos of Jeremy. It was a good education for the kid in the rock and roll life – tacos and all.
She still wants to be a scientist, a concert pianist, and she's thinking about ocean exploration. I say do it all, be Buckaroo Bonzi.