Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

Empty Nesting, An Early Preview

For only a brief period of time, while waiting to adopt a second time, my sole attention only needed to be focused or concentrated on one child. Even as I waited for that adoption process to conclude, it never took away the time and memories I had with my daughter.

After the arrival of my second daughter, it has always been the three of us. Sure, there may have been a function at school, or a performance somewhere. But the three of us were never apart. I did not look at it either, that I was “splitting” up my attention between my daughters either. I had plenty to give to both, and equally.

As my now teenagers will tell anyone, I took tons of photos. Photo developers would remark after a weekend of having to develop 300 or more pictures (this was before I finally got tech savvy using a cell phone, which did not mean less photos taken, just less printed).

In April of 2008, I faced the most challenging time of my life emotionally. I was facing life or death emergency open heart surgery, needed as a result of late developing side effects from treatment from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma nearly twenty years earlier. From the dates of their adoptions, we had never been apart. After the first night in the hospital, the absence of the physical presence of my daughters was as critical as the surgery that I was facing. Unable to give them one last hug before the surgery, one last look into each of their eyes to assure them that I would be fine, or for me to give myself one final remember of why I needed to get through this surgery, the realization, when, if, I made it through the surgery, there would still be a number of days before I would get to see them.

I had an idea of what to expect, which was nowhere near the reality of what anyone would be looking at when they came to visit me. I had at least three draining tubes coming from me, a mask over my mouth and nose with a tube going down my throat hooked up to a machine to help me breath, and countless lines for medicines and wires for monitoring coming out of my body. There was no way that I wanted my young daughters to see me in this condition.

To quote “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” was an understatement. Once the majority of hardware and gadgetry had been removed, about four days later, I was finally able to see my daughters while I was in the hospital. I never wanted to be separated from them again.

Though more health issues would begin to develop, I did what I could to get through them, allowing me to share so many more great memories with my daughters. And still, it was the three of us, never apart again.

I filed for divorce back in 2013, and of course one of the unfortunate consequences of divorce with children, is that they would end up spending time with both parents, while separate from the other parent. And while the situation was not ideal, nor did it always function they way that it was supposed to, my experience as an adult child of a divorce, I knew what I did not want to happen and would do all that I could to prevent that.

If I could not be with them every day, I would at least see or talk to them every day (or at least attempt to). Technology today, so much better than in the 1970’s, I had Facetime, Skype, and other video options, that I could actually see my daughters when they could not be with me.

But when times came that we were able to get together, it was like we had never been apart.

And so, several more years would pass, tons more photos taken, and a lot more memories have been created. But we still were able to do it, a Dad and his daughters.

I have wished as hard as I could, and even begged each daughter, not to grow up, stay a child forever. If there is one greatest joy in my life, it has been, that of being a Dad. And while that title will last as long as they are able to utter that word, “Dad,” I knew that at some point, a transition would come, away from all the fun of childhood, the reliance on one of their role models. Worst, I would fear that them getting old, would somehow mean distance would step in, taking time away. This is the heartache of parenting often referred to as “empty nest syndrome.”

My parents went through it. Most of my friends have gone through it (I just started parenting later). It is inevitable. It is something that I must face. But I have a slight advantage that others may not have had, an “empty nest lite” if you will. Yes, custody periods have already prepared me for when this time would come, but I actually have another year to finally prepare for the time, when my older daughter takes that next step in her life.

She is approaching her senior year in high school, adult age.

That means that she has reached an age, no longer covered by a custody agreement, able to make her own decisions. And that means, she has also begun to lead her own life, make her own plans. This past Father’s Day, I knew this day would come, and it would have to be something that I would accept.

I know that my daughter is not going to disappear from my life. It does not work that way. But just as a child will go off to college, or perhaps the military, or even simply travel abroad or move away from home, that Father-Daughter relationship will always stand, and actually take on a new meaning.

I have taken a lot of photos over the years of my daughters. It is impossible to list a count of how many. And while there are photos individually with me, the majority of them, are the three of us together. Again, the only time it was just my older daughter and I for the most part, was as we waited to adopt her sister.

As I prepare for the annual summer custody, this will be the first time, not only will it be just my younger daughter spending time with me, but this will also be the first time that the sisters will actually be apart from each other, other than the occasional sleepover. And just as that first year with my older daughter, now it will just be me with my younger daughter, comparable to a “bookend” type finish to their childhood. I know how much that communication will be between the two of them, because I have been there, so I will do all I can to keep them in constant communication, just as I did as father to daughters.

But my older daughter has plans now, as an adult. It appears to be a full schedule as she prepares for her next step. And just like the song “Cats In The Cradle” from Harry Chapin, I am hoping for a little different of a result that she finds some time to make a visit to her sister and I. The next year, it is likely she will make the leap to continue her education, and that will be her official leap from “the nest.”

I am proud and happy for her at this moment in her life. Still, I want to refuse to accept the time has come that my little girl has grown up.

Irma Versus Elsa

Today is Monday. On a normal day, at 8am, our roads are packed with cars, heading to work, or since I live in a tourist area, congested even more with sightseers. But as I pulled out from the side street, there were only a hand full of cars coming in my direction. “Odd,” I thought to myself. Then I remembered, today is a “recognized” day off since the actual 4th of July holiday fell on a Sunday. A lot of places are closed today. But still, there should have been more traffic. Even on a Saturday, the flow of traffic is pretty heavy. While I am sure it is just the fact that so many places are not open today, the empty eerily reminded me of another time, September 10, 2017.

We are currently under a “tropical storm watch,” best explained with this meme:

A watch, means the ingredients are all there for impact from the tropical storm named Elsa. A warning means it is going down, imminent.

For Floridians who have been through multiple tropical storms, Elsa probably will not pack as much of an impact as many of our Summer storms that we get hit with. But to those not from here, after they get past the shock that this happens to be an area that sees a lot of these storms, or that the storms happen from June to November, they become Chicken Little.

Under normal circumstances, this fear, or drama, leads to a dramatic shift in behavior, bad and irresponsible behavior, not unlike the great toilet paper short of 2020 or the pipeline gas shortage of 2021. Panic sets in. There is a rush to wipe out store shelves as if they will be cut off from society for weeks. But not this time.

So the lightly travelled roads, and the lack of a last minute rush to the store, do not seem to be a reflection of Elsa approaching Florida. She is a serious storm as she has left some destruction, and cost peoples lives. As she goes passed the coast where I live tomorrow, it really is going to be just another storm with some rain and wind, and a really pretty and vindictive name, Elsa.

But the day before Irma hit in 2017, one of the monster hurricane’s in the record books, I do recall quite vividly, the emptiness of the roads, boarded up businesses and shuttered homes, as we all prepared for a potential and eventual head-on impact. Fortunately for us, there is no comparison between the two storms. And that means, that after Elsa passes us, the devastation and recovery will be nothing compared to Irma.

“It’s Not The Heat. It’s The Stupidity.”

Not a surprise to those of us who live in Florida, we just began hurricane season a month ago. And we now have our first hurricane approaching, Elsa. Such a friendly name, a Disney princess in fact. Nothing like Katrina who would likely be a rushing spy, or Irma, a cranky old librarian (Harry Potter reference to Irma Pince).

A surprise to those who do not live in Florida, we just began hurricane season a month ago. And now there is a hurricane approaching.

For those of use who live here, having been through strong named storms, most recently Irma, we know how to prepare. More importantly, we know not to panic. But for those that vacation or migrate here for periods of time, it is a different story. But how we handle it as residents, and how they handle it as tourists, our priorities could not be more different.

A post this morning torqued me the wrong way, not easy to do, but if there is one thing that I fault in people, is not keeping perspective in life, the things that are important. The post read, “HELP! I am arriving on Wednesday! What is going to happen with the storm?” Social media did not disappoint with their responses. I chose to bite my tongue because I would not have been as kind as the smartass answers that were posting. “You’re going to get wet.” “Party!” Eventually the post was removed because I am certain the responses were getting quite extreme either in sarcasm or worse.

This is a photo from the aftermath of Irma several years ago. I was living 50 yards from where this photo was taken. Yet, within two weeks of the hurricane landing here, people were travelling here to continue with their plans to vacation. And then, they were shocked and pissed because their environment had not been cleaned up yet after just two weeks. The truth is, many in this particular area were still without power.

This was not the first time I saw this behavior. The year prior, the Everglades had a monstrous brush fire. That was more than twenty miles away from me, yet, I had quarter coin sized ashes falling in my parking lot. Vacationers would come in to the building off the beach, complaining about being showered with ash, and it was ruining their vacations. Living here, I was more than aware of the totality of loss that residents were experiencing, and I snapped. “What the hell is wrong with you! You are worried about your vacation? You do realized people have lost, or are losing their homes to this fire?!”

A close friend of mine used to quip during the summers, especially during heat waves, “just remember, it is not the heat, it is the stupidity.” I have now come to realize just how true this actually is. It is no longer “not the heat but the humidity,” but rather the stupidity and the drama that people seek.

Amusement parks have finally opened and are doing what they can, especially when it comes to mitigation efforts and staffing. Many are struggling to get back to full operating capacity with staffing. And of course, the griping and the sniping of the inconveniences to those who want their park to be open now and in full are sounding off. These people do not care about the problems that the park is dealing with, and they are dealing with them, it is an inconvenience to the individual consumer… DAMMIT! I can only sit here shaking my head.

Even on local levels, local residents struggle balancing their selfishness with understanding, and what they know to be the situation. Snack shacks at community pools and the shortage of staffing, have led to rudeness by adults waiting in line, not kids, but adults. I guess they would be happier with the snack shacks closed until they could be open. But wait, we have just been “closed” for over a year, and DAMMIT you want everything opened 100% just like it was prior to the pandemic.

Even our skies are no longer friendly. Statistically speaking, there have been more incidents on airplanes in six months, than there were all of the prior year. And of course, 65% of those incidents were sparked by morons refusing to follow orders of the attendants to wear the masks and properly. While they do not go into individual detail, that means there is still 800 cases this year, non-mask related, that people got out of hand with flight attendants. What the hell is wrong with people.

The US is in the middle of this ridiculous heatwave like we have never seen before. But clearly these behaviors were happening before the heatwave. Maybe my friend was right, it is not the heat, but the stupidity that is causing people to lose perspective of what is important.

Then again, not everyone has had to deal with life threatening situations to remember what is actually important in life.

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