Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spectator

 My mother came flew in to help with the kids next week while I'm in the hospital. I didn't feel up for the two hour round trip in the car, so my wife took the kids to go pick up Grandma from the airport. Even though I didn't feel up for traveling in the car, I otherwise felt pretty good and decided to surprise everyone by putting up our paltry display of outdoor Christmas lights. In all it only took an hour or so, but I was pretty tired by the time I had finished, so much so that I nodded off after grabbing a quick lunch. 

I woke up to the family arriving home with Grandma and all of the chaos surrounding it. I was quickly chastised for doing all of the "work" putting up the Christmas lights as I'm still on "light duty" from my surgery a week ago and I had to explain how little "work" was actually involved. Last weekend, the day after my surgery, the surgical nurse had called to check up on how I was fairing. She was not happy to hear that I was not at home, much less resting. (I was out at the dump with friends who had graciously come over to help haul away some junk from our garage.) My wife had to explain to her that I'm not really the sit and relax type, that for me relaxing means getting up and doing something around the house. The best she could offer was that I was adhering to the 15lb lifting limit and offered her assurance that I would not overextend myself.

Sunday morning the snow started around 9:00 and kept up until about 3:00 at which time it turned to sleet. By that point we had 7" (of the promised 1"-3") accumulation. My oldest, the Snow Bunny, decided that she wanted to go outside and play in it almost as soon as it started falling. She's such an outdoor girl, after my own heart, and would play out in it all day if allowed. 

Her sister, on the other hand, is more the bookworm type and can take it or leave it when it comes to going out in the snow. I always feel sorry for the oldest going out there alone in the snow. She would prefer to have someone come and play with her but is determined enough to go outside even if it means that she must go it alone. I didn't really feel like going out in it myself, but my want for her to not be alone was stronger than my desire to stay in so I suited up and went out into the elements with her. 

There wasn't much that I could actually do to entertain her. She wanted to throw snowballs, but this was an uncooperative snow, the powdery fluffy type that won't pack together. That didn't seem to phase her however and we made futile efforts to fling snow at each other that accomplished very little of the intended goal. She ran around the yard to get away and I hobbled after her.

Eventually we came in after a brief stop and playtime with the neighbor kid. Later, as the snow piled up to around the 5" mark we went back out. With the snow adequately deep, I brought out a surprise. I had bought her a cheap little sled for Chrisrmas, but figured that there's no guarantee of any other snow this year so better to take advantage of that which we have today.

To our chagrin, the snow that was uncooperative to snowballs was equally useless for sledding. being too thick and fluffy and causing the sled to just dig in and stall. Fortunately our neighbor was out clearing the driveway with his snowblower and the inch of packed snow left in his wake was perfect for sledding. She had so much fun going up and down the driveway that the bookworm finally found it enticing enough to come out and give it a try too.

A short time later, I decided that I needed to go in. Aside from the fact that the insulating effect of my gloves was wearing off, I was starting to feel not quite right. I could tell that I'd overdone it for the day and was feeling worn out. Needless to say they were none to happy  to hear that they had to come in and could not continue sledding down the driveway unsupervised just as things had become thrilling. "This is the best day ever" quickly became "Your the worst dad".

And that's what really got to me. Not the thoughtless utterance of a 6 year old's temper tantrum, but the heavy reminder that I just can't keep up with them as I ought to. It's bad enough that I sometimes get down over the idea that I may not be around to watch my kids grow up, but to be unable to give them the time and attention that I should during the time that I have now is almost worse, like I'm being forced to be a spectator in my childrens' lives rather than a participant.

The feeling of uselessness is a hard one to overcome. The fact that spending less than an hour setting up Christmas lights which required minimal effort is now a big accomplishment for me, one that left me tired, is a severe blow to a guy who purchased an acre in the woods so that he could spend his weekends outside, all day doing yard work and DIY projects. 

To make matters even worse, I'm not allowed to lift anything over 15lbs or do any "housework" for a month as a result of my port surgery last week. After watching my neighbor clean off our driveway with his snowblower, I could only sit in the house and watch as my wife went out and shoveled the rest, cleaned off the cars, and then brought in a load of firewood for the night. She did all of this in adrdition to all the work that she normally does in the house and with the kids, perhaps even more than usual while I'm unable to help. That's supposed to be my job, and it hurts me to to have to watch her assume my job in addition to her own. 

The guy who doesn't do "sit and relax" has no other option and is hating every minute of it.

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