Tony Woodlief | Author


Fridays seem to be good days for writing about the munchkins. Something Jeff Brokaw wrote in a very kind, thoughtful letter to me has stayed in my mind. He said that I should write more of the good things I remember about Caroline. I haven’t had the good grace to write back to Jeff yet. Does this count as a response? I’m told that writing to a mass audience is a way of keeping up emotional barriers. At first I interpreted that as good advice, but on further reflection I think it was intended as a warning.

In any event, I think Jeff is right. I’ve been haunted for so long by the torturous days and hours, the horrors of those final moments, that I’ve let them crowd out the beautiful. This, it seems, would be the worst, final indignity, for Caroline was more than a pitiful victim of a broken world. She was light and love and innocence, and the perfect fit for a hole in my heart.

So, good things about all three of the babies today. First, Caleb. I hope you’ll forgive the fact that much of my writing about him seems to involve bodily functions, but let’s be realistic: a) he’s four; and, b) he’s a boy. The comedian Bill Engvall (and if you don’t know who he is, you really need to run straight out and buy this) has a routine in which he announces that somebody must have told his son there’s a wiener thief on the prowl, because the boy won’t let go of it. Apparently, says Engvall, he’s worried that if he does, someone is going to snatch it away. “It’s like his own little worry-stone.”

Those of us with boys and those of us who were boys have all been there. A trip to any sporting event will reveal that some men never get out of the habit.

Is it still there? Yep. Better check again, though. Yep, still there.

So the other day, I see Caleb doing a good bit of fiddling, if you will. “Caleb,” I ask, “why are you messing with yourself?”

“Well, I’m fixing my pee-pee.”

“Is it broken?”

“No, it just fell out of my underwear.”

For a moment I had a burst of fatherly pride, until I remembered the treacherous tighty-whitey flap. It’s like a little trap (I wanted to say booby trap, but that seems especially out of place in this context, no?) sewn right into the underwear. Best the boy learns early, I guess, that it can end up where it doesn’t belong unless he’s vigilant.

Lay off — it’s never too early to begin worrying about these things, especially with that cute little social bug. He has enough of his mother’s features to make me think he’s going to remain good-looking, and he likes people. You do the math.

Eli, meanwhile, has a stubborn streak that he gets from his mother, because you know how easygoing I am. He was picking at a cucumber in his bowl during dinner, and finally he held it up for closer examination. “Potato, Mommy?”

“No, that’s a cucumber.”

“No, potato.” Dissatisfied with the wife’s response, he held it up to me. “Potato, Daddy?”

“Cucumber, sweetie.”

“No, no,” he said, shaking his head in disgust. “Potato.”

And finally, a memory about my first stubborn little one, Caroline. I remember we had just flown into North Carolina from Kansas, and were riding with the wife’s grandmother and aunt. I drove, and Caroline sat in a car seat in the back, between her mother and her great-aunt, whose name is Karen.

“Do you love me, Aunt Karen?” asked Caroline sweetly.

“Of course I do, honey.”

Caroline pointed a shoeless foot up at Karen, and a mischievous grin crept over her face. “Then kiss my foot.”

And now I’m smiling. I should think about these things more often. As for you, dear readers, have a delightful weekend.

On Key

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