Tony Woodlief | Author

The good in them

I didn’t mean to be gone this long; the hours piled up into days and then weeks, and once again I was a negligent blogger. Sometimes I think there should be a social services hotline for blogs, to have them removed from the homes of people like me. I’m talking about people who let our blogs lie for weeks at a time, who change their identities whenever the mood strikes us, who fail to brand them and update them and make them the very essence of niche, which is what good blog-parents do, according to the standards of professional marketing type people.

Figuring out what this blog is supposed to be is always an exercise, for me, in figuring out who I am supposed to be. It seems lately I’ve mostly been learning who I am not, and so maybe it’s fitting that there have been few words here. I have been writing, but this has become for me mainly a space where I write about being a father, and I haven’t been a very good one lately. Maybe that’s what people want to hear about. Maybe I’ll tell you more about that, sometime.

But for now I want to tell you about these babies of mine. Caleb and Eli have internetty-type devices now, though I’ve disabled the internet so creepers can’t find them. They’ve both asked me why I worry so much about bad guys, and I’ve told them that if anyone ever hurt them I would kill him, with pain, and then I’d probably end up in jail.

They can’t decide if I’m joking. I most decidedly am not.

But they do have their apps and such, and one of these is a Scrabble kind of game, and so we play Scrabble, and we send each other little messages. They are clever little cusses. “Where’d you come up with that word?” I asked Caleb after he played a particularly good one.

“The brains, Dad.”

I realized that persistent, methodical, stoic little Eli doesn’t use the brains so much as brute force; if he can’t spot a word he randomly substitutes combinations of letters in different nooks and crannies until he comes up with something. That’s why I get words like “dux” and “hod” from my nine year-old. This is the boy who taught himself to ride his bike at age four, wobbling down the driveway, falling, getting up with bleeding knees, getting back on to wobble some more. Relentless little boy.

The three oldest have rip sticks now, which are like skateboards except that you’re supposed to wiggle your body to make them go. Isaac usually forgets to wear his helmet, I know this from the scrapes on his face. He’s also about to lose three front teeth, which I know because he’s done the math on what the Tooth Fairy is going to owe him. He looks like a hockey player, only his disposition is far sweeter.

They made me take them to a skateboard park, one of those places with ramps and platforms and bars that seem designed for the sole purpose of depriving me of grandchildren. The older boys rip-sticked and Isaiah careened around on a tricycle. Together they ran off the surly teenagers. I lay in the sun and read Dostoevsky and tried not to think about the impending injuries, none of which were as bad as I imagined they would be, which is something I wish were always true.

Isaiah has a new song. When I strip him down to change his clothes or give him a bath, he sings, “I’m a naked boy, huh! I’m a naked boy, huh!” He has a little dance that goes with it. Friday night we came home late, so he was asleep when I carried him to his bedroom. I lay him on his bed, and changed him into his pajamas. In mid-change, he whispered, eyes still closed, “I’m a naked boy, huh. I’m a naked boy.”

They are sweet and they are good and mostly I pray I don’t mess that up. I used to have grand plans about teaching them how to use chain saws and shotguns, about showing them how to think and speak and be good men who do good and important things. More and more I hope on being able to protect what is already good in them, and hope, further, that some of it rubs off on me.

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