Monday, October 4, 2010

See the Love, Spit at the Rain

Of all the nights, we had to be moving my parents when Tropical Storm Nicole decided to blow us a little kiss. After a full day of work, after having been up since six in the morning, I stood in our old house in the light of a single, shadeless lamp on the floor, looking at boxes and piles of things to move. We stared out at sheets of rain, feeling like we were behind a waterfall, and my sister said, "So, what do we do?" The road in front of the house was a dirty river. My brother-in-law and I just exchanged a look that said: "We move." Out into the storm, we went.

At times, I stepped in water up to my shins. We lifted and carried, and the only thing I could hear over the rainfall was my own heartbeat. We were pushing pretty hard.

What was going to be a challenging weeknight move of a whole house into an apartment became a nightmare that would eventually last until two o'clock in the morning -- just the two of us lugging boxes and furniture; my sister cleaning and organizing an entire house. (She didn't escape the drenching either, by the way.)

In short, my self-pity needle was in the red as was my sense of desperation -- we would be at this all night. I had imagined maybe ten or eleven, at the latest. No way, now -- we would be lucky to wrap up before sunrise. And I had to work the next day. Anger at the situation started to creep in -- even a little at my parents for having put me in that position. But then, in the middle of a shining ebony parking lot, crouching for a breather, rain coming down like God was punishing the world with a heavenly fire hose, I saw something --a memory played on the movie screen in my head:

I was eight. I had just gotten a new toy -- a Star Trek phaser. It was an exact replica of the ones they had on the show. But it needed to be assembled by, like, a NASA engineer. There were more parts to the thing than there were pee puddles at a Beatles concert. But, in the light of a single lamp in the living room, there was the figure of my mother sticking with it, cursing softly from time to time under her breath, thinking I couldn't hear. For hours she worked: reading instructions, gluing, comparing pieces, pulling them apart to fix them, doing it all again. I'd wander in there between my TV shows, but she'd given up TV that night. She gave up relaxation on a weeknight. (I'm a dad now. I know how it feels to need that more than food.) She didn't give up her night to move me into a new house; nor to save my life; nor to teach me about the workings of the world. She did it to make me smile. To give me a toy to play with -- one I would probably break within a week. But I did sleep with it near my pillow that night.

Moms and dads will do that -- they will give up an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime to see their kids' faces light up for a second.

That's how they love you.

That's how I love my kids.

The memory finished playing at about midnight. That's when I stood up, spat at the rain, told big bad Nicole to piss off, put my head down and worked harder than maybe I ever have.

That's how they love you.

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