Godspeed (Song of the Week, Thanksgiving 2010)

In the midst of all my struggles, one thing always brings me joy, even in my darkest times: the existence of my son.

In this week of giving thanks, I present this lovely lullaby, for Nathaniel.

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Good Memories of 2009, Day 5: Backpacking With My Son

Backpacking With My Son

There was a time when I was in the wilderness two or three weekends a month, either on private backpacking jaunts or guiding groups for Georgia State University. Unfortunately, once my ex and I had our son, the trips mostly stopped. We did take him on a few car camping trips when he was very young, and every year he asked us to take him again, but things would happen to keep us from doing so.

Last year, I was determined to make it up to him. For his birthday in April, I gave him a great Mountainsmith pack, then when summer came, I spent way more money than intended adding and upgrading gear for our trip.

And we actually went, spending several days in the rugged Cohutta Wilderness. It was a fantastic trip, which we both fully enjoyed, and we even had an interesting encounter with a large timber rattlesnake that really wanted to hide under our tent to get away from us.

So now it’s going to be a tradition. Every year, I’ll take him on a backpacking trip at least once, just the two of us.

Good Memories of 2009, Day 4: 1977

1977

My ex and I started a new tradition last year. Every Christmas, we’re both giving our son some of the music we were listening to the year we were his current age. He’s thirteen now, so she gave him music from 1965 and I gave him music from 1977, the respective years we were thirteen.

I gave him Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and ELO’s A New World Record. I also put together a two CD package of assorted hits I liked that year, which allowed me to revisit the year I really started getting into music in the first place and rediscover just how many great songs came out then.

It’s A Hard Knock Life (for Kev and Alice)

Now here’s something you really need to see.

A blog by Robin Burkinshaw relates the poignant ongoing tale of a homeless father and daughter trying to survive in a harsh world. But the harsh world in which they live is inside a computer, and the pair exist only in that virtual realm:

This is an experiment in playing a homeless family in The Sims 3. I created two Sims, moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any job promotions or easy cash routes…

I have attempted to tell my experiences with the minimum of embellishment. Everything I describe in here is something that happened in the game. What’s more, a surprising amount of the interesting things in this story were generated by just letting go and watching the Sims’ free will and personality traits take over.

Apparently The Sims has evolved to a point in which the artificial intelligence and social dynamics systems are damned near organic. The Sims have dreams, goals, and emotions and their behavior is driven by those qualities, resulting in complex relationships and interpersonal drama.

This is Kev and his daughter Alice. They’re living on a couple of park benches, surviving on free meals from work and school, and the occasional bucket of ice cream from a neighbour’s fridge.

When you create a person in The Sims 3, you can give them personality traits that determine their behaviour. Kev is mean-spirited, quick to anger, and inappropriate. He also dislikes children, and he’s insane. He’s basically the worst Dad in the world…

His daughter Alice has a kind heart, but suffers from clumsiness and low self-esteem. With those traits, that Dad, and no money, she’s going to have a hard life.

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Fractured Holidays

It’s been a weird holiday season.

As some of you know, in May I moved out of our family house and my soon to be ex and I have been splitting custody of my son 50/50. The divorce is in progress, a constant source of joy in my life, as you can imagine. Nonetheless, things are largely amiable between my soon to be ex (soon2bX? Maybe I can get that bit of 733t speak going), and my son has adjusted wonderfully.

So this is the first holiday season of our fractured family life. We spent the first several months of the year in mediation working out in tedious detail an agreement that the soon2bX has largely torn, shredded, and shat upon, but in that agreement we’d planned for my son to be here, at my new place, for Christmas this year.

As we got closer to the season, we realized that, if we stayed with our usual schedule, she’d have him for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, though I’d have him for the other five days of the week. I suggested we just do the holiday as a family this year (we did that for Thanksgiving, and it went well), and I’d just come to the house on Christmas Day.

So that’s what we did. I told my son to call me when he got up, and I’d head right over, because I didn’t want to miss anything. He called at 1:50 am. I headed right over, because I’m game and, as I said, I didn’t want to miss anything.

As you can imagine, it made for a very long day. Naps were taken by the older two of our trio. But we had a great time, because we always functioned very well as a family, even though my romantic relationship with my wife was as vibrant as that between two corpses. Who never knew each other. Buried in different cemeteries. In different nations. On different planets. Ah, good times.

Now, the fracturing of the holidays gets even more granular, as it’s New Year’s Eve, and within the hour I’m due at the house for dinner…then we’re all coming back here to my apartment to hang out, play Little Big Planet, watch something maybe, listen to tunes, and welcome the blessed year when we get rid of the worst damn president this country has ever had. It’ll be a good time.

But still, there’s some psycho-spiritual whiplash, all the jumping back and forth, and the times my son isn’t around are shadowy. I feel even more mortal than usual, and I feel pretty damn mortal as a general rule.

But hey, I’ll be seeing him in about forty minutes, and my year will begin in his presence. And that should chase some shadows away.

Happy New Year.