I lived in some above-average apartments when I was a bachelor. The last one was a newer place that had central air-conditioning, an attached garage, a spacious living room off of which was a cozy little deck, and a second bedroom that served as a workout area/office/place to put the full-sized arcade game I’d bought from the owner of a laundromat located in the previous city in which I’d been employed.
Some of my co-workers at the last newspaper I worked for found entertainment a few nights a week after deadline at one of the many watering holes located a few blocks from the office. I joined them on occasion, but everything that brought me joy was back at the ol’ homestead. There were aliens to obliterate. There were strange, yet exciting, new worlds on the web just waiting to be explored. There were 100 cable stations with every type of programming at which you could shake a TV Guide – even home shopping channels. That’s how, one very early morning, I purchased “How to Play Blues Harmonica,” which consisted of a VHS tape and a harp that broke when I dropped it. I had no illusions about becoming the next John Popper, but couldn’t I have least learned one song before seeing my 20 bucks lying in two pieces on the floor?
I thought I was happy when left to my own device with my devices. I was so very wrong.
Marriage and fatherhood have given me what I really need: contentment and an indescribable feeling of what is like to both love and be loved unconditionally. Cindy has brought me incredible happiness from the night of our first date almost 19 years ago. The nervousness I felt when Nolan entered this world nearly 15 years ago vanished when he stopped crying for a brief moment and gazed into my eyes with a sense of wonder. Thankfully he still gives me those looks; now they come when he puts his hand on the back of my neck and gently pulls me close until we’re eyelashes-to-eyelashes. Nolan has Autism and is nonverbal, but he still has a knack for letting me know that he thinks pops is OK.
Cindy and Nolan are the reason why I decided to participate in this blog when we launched it one year ago, and they’re the reason why I sit down at my laptop once a week and share what’s happening with our family from my perspective – good, bad, and “somebody please turn a hose on that dumpster fire.” Some thoughts rush from my brain to my fingers and – voila! – it seems like my post is done in less time it took for Paul McCartney to write “Yesterday” (a masterpiece supposedly created in less than one minute). Some nights find me staring at a nearly blank screen for hours because I want my post – especially one that marks a milestone I wasn’t sure we would reach – to be perfect.
But I think by now you’ve seen that nothing about our lives is flawless. Sometimes it’s very difficult to let hundreds of strangers read about how something simple such as Nolan and I walking home from school can go south in an instant. It’s difficult for me to openly wonder how strong I am – or if I’m even strong at all – when anxiety about a certain event or life in general make functioning very difficult.
Then I glance at the many photographs of Nolan in my office, and the picture of Cindy and I flashing big grins outside the church where we became Mr. and Mrs. Bey in August 2003, and they remind me of how good I really have it. I’m proud to say they’ve both made me a much better person.
I’m extremely happy I get to keep Nolan close to me for at least one more week because he’ll be learning online due to someone at his high school testing positive for COVID-19 a week and a half ago. I say that knowing he will whine, headbutt me, ask for snacks and multiple bathroom breaks, and wander away from his Chromebook a dozen times while his paraprofessional patiently waits for him to return to the kitchen table – all of which could occur within a 10-minute span. Sonny woke up at 2 this morning to use the toilet and eat a snack, and he bounded out of bed at 6:30 after I'd gotten back from my run, so I'm not sure when, or if, he went back to sleep, even though Cindy and I did. I'm expecting a big crash, and a new bruise or two, by late morning.
Lack of sleep aside, putting Nolan back on the bus next Monday, or whenever the school district gives the OK to resume in-person learning, will be kind of tough. I know the staff at the high school cares about him very much, and I know he’s done well over the first 2½ months of the school year. I just miss the kid when he’s not home. I look forward to the five-minute drive to school to pick him up. I get a lump in my throat when his afternoon paraprofessional walks him out of the building and tells me about all the good things he’s been doing. I haven’t cried – not yet, anyway. Hopefully I’ll wait until I’m in the car if I can’t hold back the waterworks.
I’m just as happy to see Cindy’s Prius pull into the driveway every night after work. There are days I wonder what I did to deserve such an amazing woman who let me step away from the newspaper industry 10 years ago and focus on being a stay-at-home father even though we both knew it would hamper us financially. She carries a heavy burden, yet she still has an amazing attitude.
This year has been difficult for everyone, and I genuinely fear what lies ahead in 2021. Some days I wonder how I would be handling everything that’s happened this year if I’d never gotten married and become a dad. No amount of stuff could have kept making me happy. I realize how empty my life was before Cindy and Nolan became a part of it. It still would be empty now without them.
Thankfully I don’t have to think about that. I have an incredible wife and an amazing son, and that’s all I could ever ask for.