Note from the editor: Welcome friends! It’s Friday again and time to do some dad stalking! This week, I’m happy to introduce you to a friend and amazing writer, Alan Kercinik. Ignore his first paragraph about being a disappointment to me. This post nearly brings me to tears by the end. Enjoy and share your thoughts at the end! xo-Kelly
This will probably be the kind of downer first post that causes Ms. @Childhood to kindly ask me to quit writing guest posts. (“Oh, Alan, I thought I had Friday slots open. I’m such a goof. I don’t. And please stop reading my blog. kthanxbye.”)
But I’ve been thinking about fear this week.
You’ve been warned.
From a kid’s perspective, having a dad with an overactive imagination is mostly excellent, I would guess. Jack, my two year-old son, seems to enjoy it so far, because it means that I’ll build him robots out of LEGOs and fly him around the house and make up songs to sing to and about him. Granted, the robots don’t actually work, he doesn’t really fly and the songs aren’t hitting your iPod anytime soon. But still, he gets a kick.
The downside is the way my imagination can tug and drag my thoughts into dark corners. Usually, my fears are kind of abstract, like that scene in Parenthood where Steve Martin flashes forward to his son, up in a clock tower, shooting up a campus.
In the day-to-day chasing and laughing and reading and playing and feeding, the future seems misty and far away. Every now and again, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. If he’ll turn out to be a good human. If he’ll blame me if he doesn’t.
The other day, though. The other day I had one of those moments. If you’re a parent, you’ll know what kind I mean.
We’d been out for a couple of hours, because my wife was sick in bed and I was trying to keep him simultaneously busy and uninfected with whatever was tormenting her stomach. I’d been on the road for almost a week, so it was a good chance for us to reconnect.
We were in the garage. I’d let him out of his car seat while I grabbed bags of supplies for the missus that we’d busied ourselves buying. He walked toward the front of the car, because he’s into tires and wanted to check one out. The passenger side door was open, hiding him from me.
I was halfway into the backseat, reaching for something. I could hear this low growl of an engine speeding up the alley. My insides turned to water.
I couldn’t see him, because of the passenger door, and in that second, I could see him, hit by a car because he’d run out of the garage. Hit by a car because I’d been careless. Hit by a car because I took my eyes off him. Hadn’t closed the garage door. Hadn’t done my job. Hadn’t protected him. Hadn’t been thinking.
I closed the passenger door. There he was, one hand patting the tire, staring at me. With a look that said, “Um … yes? I was busy.”
A quick tap of the button sent the garage door rumbling closed. I knelt down to him. “I didn’t mean to yell. And I wasn’t yelling at you. I was yelling at me.”
He put his hand on my cheek. “OK, Dada.”
I think he’d rather my imagination had been building him a robot.
When I was in college, I took this course. Abnormal Psychology 201. My teacher was Bob Bontempo. (“In Italian, it means good time and that’s what we’re going to have in this class.”) He was serious about that.
One class, he told us about this study that could improve our love lives. The upshot was this. If you were just starting to date someone and really wanted her to like you, the best thing you could do was take her to a scary movie. Because when she grabbed onto your arm out of fright and terror, her poor, deluded mind would transfer that emotion onto you.
She grabbed onto your arm, she’d think later, because she liked you, not because she was afraid of Jason or Freddy or Steven Seagal’s acting. (This was the 80s.)
Now, years later, I wonder if they’ve ever countered that study. To find out if the more you love something, the more scared you are of losing it. If the amount of fear that hijacks your system is any indication of how much you care about something or someone.
Because if there’s a thin line between love and hate, I think there’s only an old, beaten and worn out screen door between love and fear.
Read more of Alan’s writing on his blog Always Jacked.