Sunday, June 12, 2016

Lessons from my Children: Mark, Being a father

Mark and me, Porcupine  Dam

Mark’s getting here was not as remarkable as Natalia’s. However in Sheri’s pregnancy with him we learned patience. There was a period in his pregnancy when the doctors felt Mark was not growing as fast as he should. They decided to conduct an amniocentesis to decide if it would be OK to induce labor, as they felt there might be something wrong with the pregnancy.

I was excited to get Mark here as quickly as possible. However the result of the tests did not support forcing him to arrive early. The opinion was that Mark was just fine, but somehow we had gotten the due date wrong, and that was the reason he wasn’t as large as they thought he should have been at the time. We had to wait a while longer.
(Sheri, who probably is right, remembers this story differently. She indicates the reason for the amniocentesis was a result of the doctors having gotten the autopsy from Billy Boy. This worried them so they wanted to determine if they could have him born early and if anything might be wrong with him. The amniocentesis indicated nothing was wrong, however his lungs were not yet developed to the point that an early delivery would be advisable.)

Sheri’s labor was not induced with Mark. Sheri had a bad cold when he was born. I always felt, that after the first two pregnancies, Mark’s lacked excitement. We went to the hospital, and then he was there with no big deal.

I loved him just as much. I put up the big sign this time, “It’s a Boy.” He was born 15 months after Natalia, and would be just one grade younger than Natalia in school.
The first lesson I learned from Mark, was the same as Natalia. Stuff happens. Mark taught me this by getting his stinky diaper in my face every morning. Mark, like many youngsters when he was a toddler, would find his way into our bed. Somehow he would get upside down in the bed. I don’t know how many mornings I woke up smelling his peed diaper.  One morning he was sleeping on top of me when I woke, with his diaper covering my face.

Natalia and Mark also taught me to roll with the punches. When they were both small, but after Jeremy had been born, Sheri and I were asked to talk in church. We were going to sing a family song between our talks. We worked with Natalia and Mark to learn the song, “As I Have Loved You.” We also learned the sign language that is in the Primary Song book. Natalia and Mark looked so cute when they rehearsed. At this time Natalia was probably close to kindergarten age and Mark three or four. They had worked hard and learned the song. Unfortunately when it was time to sing the song they were both fast asleep on the floor around our feet. Sheri and I sang the song, and did the sign language alone.

The life lesson I have learned from Mark, is the importance of being a father. This lesson came to me gradually. I always liked being a father, although I was not a perfect father.

When Mark was young, the movie Hook came out in theaters. In this movie, Robin Williams, portraying Peter Pan has to find his happy thought. His happy thought in the end was being a father. I think this too is my happy thought.

Mark has had three loves in his life growing up. One was soccer, and the others drama and music. When Mark was young I would coach him in soccer. However by the time he was 12, Mark new as much about soccer, and could play much better, than I ever could. I let others coach him then. However it was through drama, that Mark made me think more about being a father.

When Mark was a Freshman, the High School put on "The Music Man," and Mark was cast in the role of Winthrop, the piano teacher’s younger brother. This may have been because of Mark’s size. He always took after Sheri and was somewhat short. However Mark also is a very good actor. Three actors from the performance were presented best acting awards, and had their pictures displayed at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Mark and the two leads were selected.

In the show the lead character, Harold Hill, befriends Winthrop. He thrills him with the idea of his playing the trumpet. However Hill is actually a conman who doesn’t know how to teach music. He is just interested in selling instruments and band uniforms. Towards the end of the play Winthrop confronts Mr. Hill. “Are you a big thief? Are you a low down good for nothing crook?” As Mark delivered these lines he did it with such conviction. His lower lip quivered. He had tears in his eyes. His voice broke with grief and pain. In that quivering lower lip, in those tears, I could see all my failures--every cross word, every swat, every mistake and every let down. I could see it all in that face and in those tears.

I know he wasn’t talking to me, but to act that well, the pain must have come from somewhere. I wasn’t a terrible or abusive father. But even so I could have done better, and in that moment made a commitment, as I myself was in tears, to do better and to be more faithful.

President McKay’s words come to mind, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” I needed to keep my priorities in line and this was a good reminder.
A couple years later, Mark was again in the high school musical, “Working.” Mark, with two other young men sang a tribute to their fathers, “Fathers and Sons,” written by Stephen Schwartz:

I heard a lotta songs say “Where you goin’ my son?”
Now I know they’re true.
Boy, you never stop to think how fast the years run; now they’re taking you.
I remember you was three and a half,
your mom and me we’d sit there after things got quieted.
We’d laugh at some new word you said, how tough you were to get to bed
and we’d plan the night away.
Planning for our kid.
I was your hero then, I couldn’t do no wrong as far as you were concerned.
You thought I was the best of men, the tables hadn’t turned, you hadn’t learned
How little time it takes.
And daddies make mistakes.

It seems to me that lately I’ve been thinkin’ a lot;
I think about my dad.
Lots of funny things come back I thought I’d forgot, Now they make me sad.
High school and it used to be, I didn’t want him touching me
and I shuddered if he did.
Further back to summer nights:
Baseball games beneath the lights and sleeping in the car.
daddy and his kid.
He was my hero then, He couldn’t do no wrong as far as I were concerned,
I thought he was the wisest and the strongest and the best of men,
the tables hadn’t turned, I hadn’t learned, how little time it takes.
And ev’rybody breaks.
And daddies make mistakes.

I heard a lotta songs say “Where you goin’ my son?”
Now I know they’re for real.
Boy you never stop to think how fast the years run; or the things they steal.
Now it seems I always knew why I do the things I do, and the thing I never did.
Why I work my whole damn life so’s I could give a better life
than the one my dad could give me.
I give it to my kid.

You can imagine how touched I was with this song. It sort of explained how I felt, and maybe somewhat how Mark felt. The relation between fathers and sons was put into an untitled poem Mark wrote:

When I was young and you were not so old
You whispered Spanish in my ear when we
Stopped by a road's edge. My hand found its hold
In your most calming hand that seemed to me
Secure as any fortress in the world.
Our ears perked, eyes turned right then left to see
that all was safe beyond where pavement curled
Around a thick, shadowing maple tree.
When all was safe, no danger to be found,
We anxiously stepped and soon would be
Beyond the road to fields and playing ground,
The promised place where I had longed to run free.

You are the man in whom I see my God.
Few boys were better taught or so well shod.

I guess that says it all. 

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