Thursday, April 28, 2016

With Age Comes (Some) Wisdom

I am a clumsy man.

Not two days pass in my life in which I don't find myself in excruciating self-inflicted pain.

I stub my toes. Regularly.

Sometimes while I'm walking, my natural motion will just see me just whack my hand into something like a desk or a counter. I think I'm thinner than I am so I often walk into walls when taking a corner.
That's the Combo#4 at 'Smithfield Chicken & BBQ.' It's got
two pieces of fried chicken, BBQ pork, potato salad, slaw and
fried hush puppies. One of many meals I used to enjoy that
would today leave me eating Tums for a week straight.

I stub my toes. Regularly.

Sometimes when I run upstairs, my foot slips off the top step and I stumble forward into the wall.

I fumble around in the dark with the best of them. And did I mention I stub my toes regularly? Oh yeah, and of course I regularly drop things on my feet, which are tender from all the stubbing.

When natural predispositions don't lead me into pain, I'm often guilty of outright sabotaging myself. I've got two bags of golf clubs that hang from the rafters in my garage. They dangle about six feet off the ground. I'm just a bit under 6 feet 3 inches tall so you do the math on that equation.

Apparently, the threat of this pain is never enough to actually get me to move, get my drill, get on my ladder and make a new spot from which to hang the bags.

I say all of this because I had a birthday last week and I'm now firmly on the wrong side of my mid 30s and staring squarely at 40.

Accordingly, I'm finally coming to terms with some things about life at this age. The fact that I'm clumsy is just one of them. The fact that I'm too lazy to re-hang the golf bags even when they present a clear threat, is another.

Another fact is that I'm now more predisposed to be hurt by food.

Pasta sauce isn't the reliable meal ingredient it once was. However, the persistent heart-burning sensation it leaves in its wake is totally consistent.

Pulled pork (not that I should be eating it anyways) should be permanently stricken from my menu. Likewise for ice cream, dark beer, most brown liquors, potato chips and just about every other food and drink that you enjoy but, of course, should not be eating or drinking.

The body has a none-too-subtle way of steering you away from the bad things and, as you age, that guidance becomes evermore pronounced.

Another beautiful beer not available in five packs. 
"My head is banging. I can't put a coherent thought together and I don't remember the last two hours I was awake last night. That'll teach me to drink five IPAs again." (That's not a typo by the way. One recent evening I had five beers — after we put the kids to sleep — and I couldn't remember anything without being reminded by Mrs. Blackwell who, naturally, has zero interest in helping me paste that time back together again.)

So enjoyment of food and drink are in the process of being redefined.

Unexplained aches and pains are part of life now too, though they're mercifully short lived. As a borderline hypochondriac, unexplained pains are particularly bothersome. A cough can become strep throat in no time and shoulder aches easily evolve into a torn labrum.

Last week, the day before my birthday to be precise, I was having some pain in my lower-left back. In defiance of what any thinking person knows not to do and, because I wanted to be confronted with the worst-case scenario, I went to the internet for medical information.

The early returns were typically grim.

Kidney infection. Shingles. Sciatica. Pregnancy (at least there was one I knew I was clear from.) Prolapsed disc.

Mingled with this list of dour possibilities was one that stood out: "Aging Body." 

Me and the newest Blackwell upgrade. 
And there it was: the cold, hard truth. It wasn't fun to read that and while I'm still relatively young, there's no escaping reality. 

Knowing all this is one thing; experiencing it is quite another. 

This little epiphany of that which I already knew, led to another insight: you can control only so much, even when it comes to YOU. Yep, I'm getting old and who knows what else is going to happen? 

Who knows what other foods will soon be removed from my menu?  What other beers will have to be taken off my list because consuming three of them reduces me to a sophomore after his third keg stand? 

These things are all beyond my control. As is my clumsiness. At this age, I am who I am in many respects. 

As these thoughts plodded through my brain, another one emerged and crystallized. And, once it did, I knew what I had to do. 

I got off my ass, went out to the garage, got my drill and re-hung the golf clubs. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mommy Abandoned Us — Again

Welp, just like the title says, Mrs. Blackwell went off on another of her glamorous vacations. Just upped and left the three men in her life so that she could go carousing in exotic Lincoln Nebraska.

Meh, no matter, we had backup this time in the form of my mom who was nice enough to join us from her cozy, and decidedly warmer enclave, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

So, it wasn't just me dealing with my two, beautiful, perfect little angels. Which is a wonderful reality because, as it turns out, my boys are far from perfect little angels.

Does this look like the face of a boy who'd coldly refuse
dinner his grandma made for him? As it turns out, yes. 
Master Blackwell confirmed this just hours after his mother's departure by refusing to eat dinner. Apparently spaghetti is no longer a welcome option on his evening menu. He took just a couple of bites before leaving the table.

I could detail the many, many reasons that I didn't march him right back to the table and "make" him eat his spaghetti but suffice it to say that I'm now of the belief that if you're planning on fighting every battle with your kid, you're going to lose the war.

And sometimes, warfare metaphors are the only ones that fit.

This kid wasn't eating dinner so, I waited.

My mom had another meal cooking in the oven that would be ready shortly so, perhaps the boy would like that. Or, as it turned out, perhaps not.

So, cross scalloped potatoes and salmon soufflé off the list of potential dinners for the boy too.

While Master Blackwell was doing his best to convince my mom that the kids are in charge, the New Boy, was driving the point home.

For while the Boy was revolting in the kitchen the New Boy was having a fit of his own in the family room. He was angry and letting the world know it. And the only way to stop the his particular brand of nasty was to pick him up.

Seems simple enough, right.

When the kid is crying, even if he's fed, even if his diaper is clean — even if you've done all you can think to do — if the only thing that will stop the crying is picking him up, you pick him up.

Now, here's the problem with that.

Net weight = changing daily. 
My youngest son weighs as much as Fred Flinstone's bowling ball. And while he possesses the weight of granite he's unsteady.

He's just five months old so when you pick him up, he's not hanging on you or otherwise supporting any of his formidable heft.

Nope, if you don't support him totally, he'll sway and teeter. So, it's work. Which again, is fine. But, when you're holding onto him for 20, 30, 40 minutes at a time, it turns into a lot of work, if not a work out.

As a consequence, Mrs. Blackwell's right arm is on the cusp of achieving "weirdly strong" status.

Perhaps you've heard of or seen the movie "Over the Top." It was an 80's flick in which Sylvester Stallone lifted the concept from "Rocky" and dropped it into to the theretofore never explored world of armwrestling.

And just because this wasn't weird — or terrible — enough, the movie was set amongst the backdrop of big-rig, truck driving culture. Stallone would drive hundreds of miles lifting weights with his right arm while driving unsafely with his left. He was training for a trucker armwrestling tournament in which the grand prize was a beautiful, Freightliner.

I mention this bit of epic filmmaking only to draw attention to the fact that perhaps a sequel should be made featuring moms holding onto their big babies for extended periods of time. (It's a much bigger demographic than armwrestling truck drivers after all.)

Another Oscar snub for Sly. 
Instead of the grand prize being a Freightliner, these women would win a minivan and a diaper bag made by Louis Vuitton.

These are the kinds of thoughts that run through my fatigued mind while holding my little/huge son when my wife is away. At least those are the thoughts that run through my mind until I'm able to hand my big baby boy off to my mom and I can catch my breath.

Speaking of Mom, I'm pretty sure her bench press weight went up by about 10 pounds during her time with us.

It bears mentioning here that Mrs. Blackwell was gone for all of three days and two nights. Hardly a world tour but, damn if it wasn't long enough. These boys are getting bigger, louder and faster by the day.

It's a harsh reality to acknowledge that one is actually being physically taxed by one's kids.

All of this is to say that I remain wearily thankful for the fact that I've still got the edge on them mentally. So even if they outnumber me, they can't outwit me. Right?

That's a question I'll soon have an answer to as this was just the first in a string of extravagant business trips for Mrs. Blackwell this year. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome

It's one of the benefits of aging that one slowly begins to accept their own particular set of eccentricities.

We all have little quirks. Maybe it's a smell that others enjoy but one that you find repellent. Some folks have sounds that drive them batty. Maybe it's a food, that merely requires mentioning to turn your stomach (turnip is what apples taste like in hell, by the way).

Maybe it's a sensation we find intolerable, like the feel of a turtle neck. Some people can't stand saying the word moist (I have a friend who hates the word "Waterloo"). Perhaps it's a color that
makes you uncomfortable.

Maybe you've got a foot fetish. Who knows?

Point being, there are as many weird idiosyncrasies as there are people on this planet of ours. As I've grown older some of my quirks have receded and disappeared into the past while others have emerged.

One of these however, I've had since I can remember and has only worsened since having children. In recent years, it's shot to new heights, or depths depending on your perspective.

It goes like this: I can be doing anything — from the banalities of daily life to enjoying a slice of pizza — and a thought will seep into my brain. It's always a bad thought (we'll get to details later) and it won't go away. Instead it sets up shop at the fore of my consciousness.

Over the course of the next few hours no matter what I do this thought is part of my life. I can't shake it.

It is the absolute opposite of peace.

It's an invasive, terrible thing and the only alleviant is time. Then, after a few days, the thought will pop up again and the pattern repeats itself. I'll go through phases where I'll battle this for a week or two and then it'll disappear before re-emerging months later.

Through the years, the unwanted thoughts change.

Pretty sure he's not suffering with any unwanted thoughts. 
Initially it started off as something bad happening to me. An early incarnation was getting my fingers slammed in door jam and maybe losing a couple of them. (Not a fun thought I know. Hence the use of the word "unwanted."

Then there was another one in which I suffered a compound fracture by getting an arm caught in a revolving door. Yet another one involved an escalator. I'll do us all a favor and omit the details of that one.

At this juncture you likely get the point. I've been fortunate in recent years in that occurrences of these thoughts have diminished considerably.

But, because the world has nothing if not a sense of irony, just when it seemed as though the unwanted thoughts were gone, they returned but with a terrible, terrible twist.

About a year ago, I was walking down the stairs carrying Master Blackwell. His arms were wrapped around my neck, his long skinny legs clutched onto me as I took us down to the family room.

About three steps into the 14-step staircase the thought hit me: "Good God, what if I fell right now?"

I'm holding my son. What would happen? In the split second wherein I was certain I'd fall, what could I possibly do to mitigate the damage or injury to him?

I didn't know then and I don't know now. So, I slowed and my steps became more purposeful, my movements more defined and deliberate.

Now, this one on the other hand...
I made it to the bottom of the staircase but the thought remained, "What if?" And then the thought wouldn't leave.

Now it's one matter when it's you that harm is befalling and the imagery constantly replays itself in your mind's eye. If parenthood has shown me anything it's that I'm surprisingly cool with terrible fates befalling me if it means sparing my kid. In this I know I'm not different than most parents.

The mere consideration of your kid getting hurt is terrible for only a fleeting moment. Having it morph into a thought that dominates one's brain for minutes upon minutes upon minutes is emotionally draining.

Through the last four months the thoughts about Master Blackwell have been paired with thoughts about our new little guy.

Mrs. Blackwell was handing him to me recently and the thought hit me, "Don't drop him!" And so, a new imaginary scenario was born. Both kids now have a place in my "Unwanted Thought Hall of Fame."

And, as they grow older, I know with certainty that this won't change.

There is a clinical definition of this phenomena and it's called Unwelcome Thoughts Syndrome. It falls on the spectrum of obsessive compulsive disorder. So, at least I know I'm not unique in this.

In fact, I know I've got loads of company. I know that whatever unwanted thoughts I had before the boys were born were idiosyncrasies made different simply by virtue of the fact that I couldn't shake them when I wanted.

Now? When I have unwanted thoughts about my two little guys, it's just called worrying which I'm told by every other parent I know I'd better get used to.