On Father’s Day, I Honor My Son

Son

It is Father’s Day, yet I do not honor my father.

My father was an abusive drunk who put me through years of hell and regularly did everything he could to crush my spirit. He did a hell of a lot of damage in that regard; I’ve struggled for years with chronic, enervating, soul-crushing depression that several shrinks have identified as deep post-traumatic shock pounded into my marrow and mind during my childhood.

So today, I honor my son.

Nathaniel is seventeen, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, socially adept and funny, loves his parents, loves being around his parents, and has never been a behavioral problem in any way. When people ask us how we discipline him, we always say we don’t. If there’s an issue, we talk it out, and it’s no longer an issue.

I attribute this mostly to his innate character, but also to the fact that from the day he was born, both his parents have treated him with respect and have never seen dealing with him as an innate conflict or power struggle. He is the way he is because we allowed him to be the way he is, not because we beat it into him or forced him to act certain ways or made him follow stringent rules. We always honored his right to be acknowledged, to be present, to be heard. We pointed out when he was in the wrong, but also stood up for him when he was in the right.

We gave him love and respect at every step along the way, and as a result, he has given us love and respect in return. He doesn’t have to rebel because we’re not holding him back from being who he is and living life on his terms, and because we trust him, which lets him know that he is worthy of our trust.

Because of who he is, and how he was raised, my son didn’t have to bother with being a surly teen. He went straight to being a man.

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Talking About Death With My Kid

Reading back through old journals, I found this from January 3, 2003:

Nathaniel really moved me this afternoon. He was “predicting” and predicted I’d die when I was 110. I said that sounded just fine to me, that’d be a good long life. He asked how old he’d be when I was 110. I said 78.

He said that’s when he would die, because he didn’t want to live longer than me. I insisted he had to live longer, at least past 100, and that it was natural for a parent to die before his child because the parent is older. He asked when I thought I would die, and I said I had no idea, but I hoped it’d be a long, long time.

He gave me a very close hug.

The Passion of the Tim

"It's just the beast in me..." --Elvis Presley, JAILHOUSE ROCK

Hiatus over.

The past couple of days were rough ones. Kate and I were getting along wonderfully again, then POW, we stumbled over some truly picayune stuff and suddenly were back in the stress zone.

Neither of us acted as well as we might have, both of us being human, but I have to lay claim to the lion’s share of the blame. I overreacted to some things, then my mind wouldn’t let me release it even as I kept trying to. Kate was visiting her family, and wanting to go be with them, and we were arguing via text. I kept saying stuff like “It’s okay, go, I want you to enjoy the time with your family,” and I was sincere…but there was a rhetorical snapping turtle in my head that would only let me sit calmly a minute or two before throwing some new antagonistic comment out and insisting I send it her way. And I would try to maintain self control and not send it, but would lose the fight. Then after some more shared friction, I’d be back to saying I didn’t want to keep her from her family.

And, I wound up damn near destroying our relationship, which we’d managed to rebuild from our earlier problems. By the time I went on “hiatus,” I felt I’d lost all hope, and was so devastated I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything positive or productive for a long time…if ever again. Continue reading

Good Memories of 2010, Day 5: 1978

In 2009, my ex and I established a Christmas tradition of sharing music from our youths with my son by giving him a representative sampling from the year we were his current age.

This year, he’s fourteen, and since I was fourteen in 1978, I went on a sonic archaeological dig of that year to decide what to share.

I had this on my wall in 1978

My approach is to buy him two albums from the time, and to burn a collection of various hits as well. The two CDs I chose were Van Halen’s Van Halen (their hellaciously strong debut with a bunch of classics like “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “You Really Got Me”) and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell (“Would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses…?”). Continue reading

Taken By The Wind (A Personal History, Part 2): Bad Vibrations

A day later than planned, but here we go…

I was telling you about my father, and all the great times we had when I was a kid. And I said the next post would be one particularly entertaining anecdote. In today’s very special episode of Taken By The Wind, I’ll tell you about the day I effectively became an orphan.

Here’s the scene:

Afternoon. Me, at sixteen, reading on the sofa in the living room.

My father and his wife, my second stepmother, are in their bedroom.

Their door opens and my father steps into the living room, glaring.

“You stole something from our room,” he says. “Give it back.”

I’m at a loss, since I have not, indeed, stolen anything from their room. I say something to that effect.

“Yes you did,” he tells me. “Get it.”

“What did I steal?” I ask.

“You know,” he says. And he’s very angry.

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” I say.

He fumes. “You know what I’m talking about,” he says. “I’m going back in the bedroom. I’ll come back out in ten minutes, and you better have it.”

And he disappears into the bedroom.

I go back to my reading. Can’t do much else.

Ten minutes later, he returns. His thick leather belt is in his hand. “Where is it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He glares at me, looking like he’s trying to solve an algebra problem that keeps kicking him in the nuts.

“I gave Pam a gag gift,” he finally says. “You went in our room and stole it.”

And then I realize what he’s talking about.

Continue reading

A Man of Action, Guided By Reason, Motivated By Love

No one, not even me, ever knew my father’s first name.

Everyone always just referred to him by his last name, in classic tough guy style, and my dad was definitely a tough guy. Yet he was no thug, no bully, but a protector of those that needed protecting. A warrior, as defined by ninja Shihan Jack Hoban is “a man of action, guided by reason, and motivated by love,” and that was my father through and through.

My last name is Byrd. But that wasn’t my father’s last name. His was Spenser. And if you needed help, he was for hire.

Spenser wasn’t my real father, alas. He wasn’t even actually real. He was a character in thirty-nine novels by Boston novelist Robert B. Parker, who died of a heart attack while writing the morning of January 18th, 2010. He was 77.

So why do I claim Spenser as my dad? Continue reading

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.