30 Seconds to Ditko

Summer weekends I get to spend with my son are usually a mix of finding unique things to do that he’ll enjoy and appreciate combined with extended lazy periods of just hanging out and having fun. As a result, whenever the boy bunks at my place he tends to stay up late.

Sometimes it's a hassle, but you can't really blame him -- because even though my place was always intended to be a bachelor pad, it's still largely a playground in his eyes. The front room especially with it's PS2, cartoons on the TV, pull-out couch beds to jump on, and plenty of cool places to play hide and go seek in.

By contrast, the back bedroom was always supposed to be more of a sanctuary beautiful women could retreat to if they ever you know ..spilled something on their shirt that might stain if they don't take it off and soak it in some water as soon as possible. There were different kinds of games that were supposed to be playable back there -- and for a while they were. But life has a way of changing on you even when you don't want it to -- and it's hard not to worry sometimes that those days are gone.

Not that I don't go out and try to have my fun -- but short of the footfalls of cats in the dark, the only one who spills anything in my apartment anymore is me.
Which is probably part of why I look so forward to having him around.
The weird thing is that the side effects of partying all night with a seven year-old seem to be a lot like the consequences that follow whenever I try stay out all night on my own. Because regardless if it’s that last round of shots at Endo for me or the extra handful of cheetos it takes to complete the bonus level of Star Wars Lego II for him -- come the next day, ain’t nothing happening until at least noon.
Unless I have a cold or something – which happened to be case on Saturday morning.
I was able to get through Friday night with the help of some 12-hour Sudafed -- but by the next morning the drugs had completely worn off, leaving me with no defenses against a monster sinus headache that decided to wake me up somewhere around 5 am. I fell in and out of sleep for the next few hours after that, but eventually all I could do was look out the window at the approaching rain clouds and hope that the boy would stay in bed a little longer -– at least until the medication kicked in.

But, as anyone with kids can easily tell you -- that’s rarely the way things work.

Instead of sleeping in, Curren was up like a shot at nine. I was able to sleepwalk through breakfast well enough -- but if I was going to do anything else with the day what I was really going to need was a wake up call. I kicked in some cartoons, made him a second bowl of cereal, and then dunked my head under the hottest stream of water I could handle for as long as I could stand -- hoping to melt away at least some of the block of lead that felt like was sitting on my shoulders since I woke up that morning.

I finished the shower, twisting the faucet knobs until the water flow came to a stop. The hot water had cleared my head a little bit, but I was still feeling the pounding in my temples -- which made it hard not to wince when my son suddenly ran down the hallway yelling "Dad, dad, dad, dad, dad, dad, dad!!" at the top of his lungs.

Once I calmed him down enough to find out what was going on, it became clear that somewhere after I got into the shower a commercial had come announcing that this morning and this morning only Adventure Landing would be hosting a visit from everyone’s favorite wall-crawling superhero -- Spiderman.

What you need to understand here is that in my son's world there is R2-D2, and there is Ben 10 -- but at the end of the day there can be only one. Spidey's the king of rock; there is none higher -- And the only possible reason that he would be at Adventure Landing is that he needed help fighting bad guys, which my son would be more than happy to provide.
Just for the record, I have no idea where he gets this from.
Anyways, Spiderman (or possibly some dude in a suit) is gonna be at Adventure Landing. Ok, cool -- that’s just the sort of activity I was hoping to find for us to do today. So I jump online to check the website to make sure there isn’t any kind of extra cost or whatever involved in getting my boy some face time with the wall-crawler. I find the website, check the listings, and discover that Spiderman will be available for photos with kids of all ages from 8 am until noon.
Which might have been fine, had clock on the wall not read 11:15.
Which brings us to the real dilemma -- because as much as my little boy might celebrate people who can jump tall buildings in single bound, shoot webs out of their wrists, or move things with their minds, the real superhero in his life is me.

I need to be the one that makes the impossible things happen. I need to be the one who can consistently make pancakes shaped like Buzz Lightyear. I need to be the one who shows him the right way to throw a football. I need to be the one who laughs at the same knock-knock joke over and over. I need to be the one who helps him through the tough video game levels, the words he can almost read but doesn't know the meaning of, and the last few bites of dinner before he can have any desert.
And when he has that look in his eye that says without words that his dad's gonna take him to meet Spiderman today, I'm going to do whatever I can to make it happen.
The Adventure Landing complex is completely across town from where I live. Even on a perfect day it usually takes 25 to 30 minutes to get there, and that's not factoring in any kind of traffic problems at all. Unfortunately, with all the rain coming down outside conditions were anything but perfect, which didn't even begin to address the fact that even though he had been up and awake for a while -- Curren wasn't anywhere near being dressed or ready to leave.

A seven year old might be able to grasp the overall importance of the idea that Spiderman is in town for only one day -- but in general they're still to young to understand the fineries of getting dressed and ready at light speed so we can get out the door and try to race the clock. There are shoes to be put on the right feet, laces to be tied ("I can do it myself!!") -- nothing happens in an instant. And there was no point in going all Ferrell on him either, because it would only serve to fluster him further.

We got out the door and into the car. Engine pushed to life. Seatbelts clicked into place. Windshield wipers turning.
The clock on the dashboard reads 11:28.
I've been late to work before. I've had to get to airports to catch planes. I'm thinking side roads, maybe hitting JTB to make up some time. Curren starts singing a little made-up-on-the spot melody about going to meet Spiderman. The numbers are running in my head, but no matter how I twist the variables the results keep coming out the same. We might be able to get there close to 12:05, but there's just no way this is gonna work the way it needs to.

It's not a matter of speed. I can make this Kessel in less than 12 parsecs, but that doesn't change the numbers on the clock. How do I look him in the eyes and tell him this? It's not like he's gonna understand the numbers -- he isn't old enough to get the concept. It's not like I can just turn to him and say,
Getting from 5 points to the beach ain’t like dusting crops, boy. Without precise calculations you could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova -- and that would end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?
And even if I could -- the simple fact is that I don't want to tell him. I don't want to let him down. I don't want him to think there are things I can't do. I've already affected so many changes to his life that he didn't ask for. I've already taken so many things from him. I've already lost time with him -- all because of things that weren't his fault. He's just a kid. He doesn't need to feel the sting of disappointment yet.
That's what adulthood is for.
At the same time, the longer we sat in traffic on the interstate the harder it became to ignore the realities of the matter. I might be able to catch some open road and jam on the gas -- but even so, there really was no way around the fact that we'd be lucky to get there just a little bit late.

I started hedging my bets a bit, telling Curren that Spiderman was a very busy superhero -- and you never knew when he might be needed somewhere else. My son nodded understanding as I continued to weave through traffic, but I could tell that he still really didn't get it. As far as he knew everything was going to be fine. Spiderman would be there, and they would be friends. As far as he knew his dad wasn’t the kind of guy who didn't deliver on his promises. As far as he knew -- I was still his superhero.
The clock on the dashboard reads 11:58
So with all of this in the air in front of me, with every blink of the dots between the numbers being another nail in the coffin for the chances of this hail mary pass being caught, with the kind of admission of surrender that was sitting on the edge of my tongue, and the cloud of darkness that you just knew would fall over my sons eyes once he started to realize the truth of it all, I only have one question to ask:
Who's the man?

[Listening to:   Flaw"Recognize" ]


Christina said…
No. I lied. THIS is your best post.