I’m Cheating and It Happens Every Day

Okay, so the title isn’t entirely a statement of fact, and it is definitely a play on words, but it helps accomplish two goals for today.

The Fat Mum Slim Photo-a-Day prompt for today is “Happens Everyday”.  As I tried to think of something to photograph that fits this description I realized that, while I could think of dozens of things that happen everyday, brushing teeth, taking a shower, using the toilet, preparing and eating meals, getting out of bed, getting into bed, playing on Facebook, reading, writing, ‘rithmetic– Oh…  not that one, not if I can help it…  I realized, that there wasn’t anything particularly exciting, and more importantly, not maybe just a little inappropriate to share on this forum, to photograph and share with the world.  Then it hit me.  There is something that I do everyday, something that I could share with the world, but more importantly something that leads into a story I’m supposed to tell and have not yet done.  Every day I put lotion on my tattoos, particularly the newest one, to moisturize the skin where they have been implanted and to bring out the color that is otherwise masked by the paleness of dried out skin.  While in the strictest of terms, I’m not sharing any photographs that were taken today, what I am sharing is all original photography, either taken by me, or taken of me, and with my camera.  That will make sense in a minute, but suffice it to say that it would’ve been really difficult for me to have taken all of the pictures that will be shared here.  With that said, here is the not so long-awaited story, as promised, of my fourth tattoo; the one with the sentimentality to surpass all others (on my body at least).

In October of 2012, I went one Sunday afternoon to pick up Lil’B from his house for our regular outing.  Lil’B and I had been matched for a little over three years at that point.  We had grown close.  The days of yesteryear, with the long silences and the uncertainty of our connection were past and I was confident, indeed certain of our closeness.  On this particular Sunday afternoon in early October, Lil’B presented me with a drawing that he had done for me.  Lil’B has always been a good artist and it’s something he enjoys.  In fact, our very first get together, I came over and we hung out in his bedroom as he showed me his toys and games and got to know what hanging out with me would be like in the relative comfort and safety of his own home, with his mother in the next room.  After showing me his toys and games and playing with them for a little while, he pulled out his art supplies and we began to draw pictures.  His pictures were much better than mine.  As I said, he’s always been a good artist.  Me?  Not so much.  I still have the drawings he did for me that day hanging on my refrigerator.  Unfortunately, in the present state of financial lack the state of California has been experiencing, arts classes of all kinds have been the first to go in the curriculum, in the interest of saving money.  It’s a tragedy in my mind that the powers that be, don’t see the value in exercising that part of a child’s mind and in fact the detriment that such deprivation inflicts on a child’s education.  Nonetheless, art classes are a thing of the past in Lil’B’s schools and the fact that he drew this picture for me was particularly special and moving for me, because he was not prompted by anyone to do it.  It was entirely of his own volition and on his own time that he drew this picture that so clearly, at least to me, depicts the meaning our relationship holds for him, but just as importantly illustrates that he is paying attention when we interact and he knows me and what I like (at least as much as is reasonable for a then 10-year-old to know.)

Lil’B drew this picture for me, purely because he was thinking of me, and he wanted to do it.

Drawing from Lil'B, Depicting Some Super Things

Drawing from Lil’B, Depicting Some Super Things

For the sake of his privacy I have covered up our names on the drawing, but you can see in the top right corner, he drew himself and me.  He also drew a picture of Superman and a Superman logo.  Then, though his spelling is wrong, he drew a “Supermisha logo” and a picture of Supermischa, a grey cat in Superman costume.  I thought it was adorable, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Sleeping Beauty.  Mischa Asleep on my lap... Just where he believed he belonged.

Sleeping Beauty. Mischa Asleep on my lap… Just where he believed he belonged.

Purely by chance, Lil’B gave me this drawing approximately two weeks before my little buddy, Mischa fell too seriously ill to go on and I had to make the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.  Mischa wandered into my life when he was just about ten weeks old and with the exception of a few months here and there when I lived in places he couldn’t, he was with me for his entire life, which in the end, was a few months longer than 20 years.  He had a long and good life, being well protected and taken care of and when his time came, he went peacefully, in my arms, and knowing that he was loved to the very end.  It was, without a doubt, the worst day of my life.  I still miss him terribly.

Anyway, with Mischa gone, Lil’B’s picture became that much more special to me.  As these things go, I began to formulate an idea.  As with tattoo number 5, the idea morphed and grew and began to take shape.  In June of 2013, after several months of contemplation and communication with my tattoo artist, I finally had a plan and an appointment.

While the idea for the tattoo was, in no small part directly inspired by Lil’B’s drawing, it was still a ten-year-old’s art work.  As special as Lil’B is, and as important as he is to me, I did not want the artwork of a ten-year-old permanently affixed to my body.  I made it clear to Lil’B that he had inspired the design and that it was special to me for that reason.  I don’t think he really got it until he saw the finished product, but he seemed to really like it once he saw it and he understood the significance of the components.

There are three components that make up the significance of this tattoo, the obvious component is the part that memorializes Mischa’s life and his place in my heart.  This component is inspired by Lil’B’s drawing, though it is significantly cleaned up and made into something I would be happy to have as a permanent part of my body.

Supermischa, without the yellow filled in on the belt and logo.

Supermischa, without the yellow filled in on the belt and logo.

The next component Is actually the Superman logo as used in the 1993 television series, Lois and Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman. While I had seen and enjoyed the Christopher Reeve Superman movies when I was a kid, it really wasn’t until Lois and Clark came along that I became a big fan of Superman.  It may or may not have had something to do with my attraction to Asian men and the fact that Dean Cain is half Japanese.  Regardless, I became a fan of the character and what he stands for while enjoying that series.

Superman Logo as it appeared in the 1993-1997 series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

Superman Logo as it appeared in the 1993-1997 series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

The third component of the tattoo is the logo from the 2006 movie Superman Returns.  Lil’B was born in 2001 but the last movie before Superman Returns came out in 1987.  The image here is distorted due to location and the angle of the original, unedited photograph.

Distorted view of Superman logo as seen in 2006 movie, Superman Returns.

Distorted view of Superman logo as seen in 2006 movie, Superman Returns.

Admittedly, this is a tiny bit of a stretch in terms of matching up dates, but the idea is that component number one represents Mischa, component number two represents me, component number three represents Lil’B.  When put together to form the completed tattoo, it both memorializes Mischa and commemorates my relationship with Lil’B, both by representing him with the newer logo and by incorporating the artwork he inspired into the piece.  He thinks it’s pretty cool.

It’s a subtle detail, but the components are arranged in the finished tattoo, in birth order with my logo at the top, Mischa in the middle, and Lil’B’s logo at the bottom.

Here we see a selection of “in progress” photos taken by my good friend and tattoo guru, K (with my camera), to show the progress of the tattoo from beginning to end.

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By the way, you might have noticed the “6/13” at the bottom of Lil’B’s logo.  This was my fourth tattoo.  On countless occasions, I have had people ask, of the first three, “How long have you had that?” and I never knew the answer.  As I was preparing to have this tattoo done, I looked back through various records (*cough* paper journals *cough*) and found out the month and year that I had each of the previous three tattoos done and as part of the process for tattoo number four, I had dates added to each of my tattoos so that when people asked me how long I’ve had them, I could refer to the date on the artwork and answer the question.  If you refer back to the pictures of tattoo number five, you’ll see that there is a date added to that tattoo as well.  This will be something I will keep up with going forward as I continue to get more tattoos…  And I will be getting more tattoos.

So there you have it.  Two birds, one stone.  It happens everyday that I put lotion on my tattoos including tattoo number four, the previously untold tattoo…  heh!

By the way, tomorrow’s photo-a-day prompt is “upside down”.  I’m not the least bit sure how I’m going to manage a picture for that, that is not just using editing tools to turn a right side up picture, upside down.  The recommendation on Fat Mum Slim’s list is, if nothing else, “turn your phone upside down” to take a picture.  Apparently Chantelle doesn’t have an iPhone, or she’d know that turning the phone upside down does no good.  The accelerometer in the phone just turns the picture right side up for you…  I suppose that’s not any less cheating than using editing tools to turn something upside down.  We’ll have to see what I can come up with.

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Under the Rainbow

It’s funny how things can turn, almost on a dime.  I sat in Deb’s office last night, smiling and happy, and telling her about how much things seem to have changed over the last six weeks, since I started my new job.  I’m confident in my work.  I’ve had an easy time of making friends with the people who work around me.  (A bunch of us are going roller-skating after work in a couple weeks.)  I’m out to pretty much everyone, and comfortably so.  I’ve fairly well tolerated the inefficiencies and poor co-ordination of some things that go on there.  I’ve taken, relatively in stride, the fact that the things I believed to be the reason I was hired, my “expertise” in such things as moving large groups of people and managing all the issues that come with that, had been relatively ignored, due to the timing of my arrival.  (We were hip deep in a 60-person move when I started.)  I’ve met someone with whom I have a lot of chemistry and genuine, mutual attraction.  I’ve been relatively adept at letting the little things slide off my back.

Monday night at dinner with Lil’B, for reasons that are too random and confusing to explain, we began talking about Vincent van Gough and bipolar disorder.  One of the activities in the kids menu he still gets was to draw a picture of a character from the menu after they had just visited the Louvre and he decided he wanted me to draw the picture.  I’m not really sure how Vinnie came into the conversation, but as I was using one of the only two crayons they gave Lil’B to draw the picture, the yellow one (I held the red crayon in my other hand), I was telling him about my drawing, about the Louvre, and about Vincent van Gough.  I drew a living banana, with two twig legs, and a suit coat, with lapels and long sleeves.  He had a yellow face, with a protruding nose and he wore a monocle.  I told Lil’B about the emotional troubles that Vicente had and how unappreciated he had been because people couldn’t understand how he was so up one minute and so down the next.  We discussed the fact that he likely thought himself a terrible artist (something I learned form a little educational documentary I watch called Doctor Who).

The assignment was to draw the character right after they left the museum, so as I was putting the finishing touches on the picture, LIl’B asked me why I had used only the one crayon.  Just as I reached the point of telling Lil’B how in one of his fits of deep despair, van Gough had cut off his own ear, I switched to the red crayon and our debonair, snappily dressed, monocled banana-man suddenly gained a bloody gash on the side of the head where, once his little banana ear had been.  The boy in Lil’B thought that was pretty cool.  The innocent and naive young human being in him, the one who has never been exposed to the kind of emotional turmoil that Vincent van Gough went through said, “so he was crazy.”

As I was trying my best to explain to my young friend how, mental illness does not necessarily mean crazy, that there are plenty of people in the world who experienced these types of mental illness but who would not qualify as being “crazy” and that, in fact, I have struggled with depression, even during the time I have known him, but that I was not crazy, it occurred to me for the first time, that I was not depressed.  Not just that it was at bay.  Not just that it’s lingering in the shadows waiting to destroy me again.  For the first time since I could remember, I did not feel like I was struggling against Depression, working to keep it at bay all the while knowing that it was just over there, just beyond the great barrier waiting for my next moment of weakness, to take over.

I shared this with Deb last night.  But I tempered it by telling her, “I’m not dumb enough to say that ‘I’m cured’.  I think it’s dangerous to make such claims but right now, things are good.

And then today happened.

Only….  Nothing particularly special or significant happened, just a whole lot of little things.  I told a friend t0night, via text message, “I think I’m just having a moment.  Several things kinda crumbled (not caved, just crumbled) in on me this evening and I’m just trying to deal.

“I think I need a hug.  Well, a hug and some company and some comforting…”

A whole lot of little things piled up on me all at once, right around 5:00.  Because I’m now hourly, and didn’t get to work until around 9:00 this morning, I planned to stay until six…  I was there until 6:45.

At 5:00 the last two people in the immediate vicinity of my desk (two of the four-person Communications department – a group of people who communicate very effectively…  and frequently…  and from great distances…) left and I was alone to concentrate on whatever I needed to do.  It was then, in the deafening silence, filled only with the sound of the air conditioner kicking on and off, and my own addled thoughts rolling around in my skull, that I realized how much I had been struggling.  Not that the work is too hard, or that the people around me aren’t awesome, because it’s not and they really are, which thrills me.  It’s that with my particular set of circumstances (I was formally diagnosed with ADD six months ago) it can sometimes be really difficult for me to focus on what I’m trying to do.  Suddenly the list of things I needed to accomplish before the day was over was daunting.  Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that this is not a new predicament.  Suddenly, I was distraught, and even a bit angry, with what a mess my very small, very cramped, very not-my-own-private-office-like-I-had-for-8-1/2- years-at-my-last-job desk was.  Suddenly, I was upset that I feel like my talents are being wasted, because I spend at least half of most days processing and delivering mail and packages (something that was not discussed as being part of my duties in my interviews or hiring process); all day every day subject to the random whims of our customers who don’t have any means of requesting things other than approaching my boss and me directly and interrupting whatever we happen to be in the middle of; and the other half of most days struggling to concentrate on what I’m doing over the constant bombardment of voices.  It’s not that they’re not talking about work, because they generally are.  And it’s not that they’re not friendly people, because they definitely are.  In fact, it might be easier if they weren’t, because then I wouldn’t want to be part of the conversation and I do.  Which makes it a complete distraction.

I sat at my desk, organizing, as best I could and growing more and more frustrated by the limitations that I have in my ability to do my best work and the list of projects that have been asked of me, that I simply can not get to because I’m overwhelmed with the little stuff that in the short term is high priority to people as they request it.  I spent half an hour, trying to get some semblance of control over the situation.  I got rid of some clutter.  I sort out and filed my e-mails so only current and relevant things were in my in-box.  I made a to do list for Monday, and I cleared my white board and made three columns on it: one for daily responsibilities, one for short-term projects and one for long-term projects.  I put completion percentages next to each project and put a sad face next to the 0% complete for the Emergency Response Team development project that is currently at the very bottom of my list of priorities, even though I would like it to be at the top.  Finally, I packed up and walked out for the night, despairing with the knowledge that I must talk to my manager on Monday about finding a way to mitigate some of these issues.  I need to ask her for somewhere else for me to sit.  A desk that will be quiet enough for me to focus on my work when I’m able to be at my desk doing it and which will take me away from the noisy, but fun Communications group and “the guy”, because I can’t get any work done when they’re around, and knowing fully that there’s a very good chance that there will be no where for me to move.

I drove home thinking about “the guy”.  Which, to be fair, is probably overselling it a bit.  The truth is there’s been little more than the two of us circling around each other, and around the idea of becoming an us, which I suppose makes him more of “A guy” and not so much “The guy”.  I’m frustrated.  I know what I want…. I think.  But I can’t figure out what he wants.  And every time we talk and I just about have him opened up and ready to be forthcoming he dodges and I’m left in the dark again.  He’s an expert at avoidance and if I didn’t understand it so well, I’d probably be pretty pissed, but I do, so I’m not.  I’m just annoyed that we haven’t managed to work through it yet.  I was feeling disappointed about his lack of response to a text message I had sent, and about the fact that, while he acknowledges that there is “unfinished business” between us, he has not made any moves to finish the business, and when I do, he just avoids.

And I realized I was feeling really lonely and low, and that if I could just hang out with somebody and talk about it I might feel better.  I reached out to three different people including The Guy via text, just really needing a bit of interaction, period.  None of them responded to me.  One still hasn’t.  One responded within an hour of my text but didn’t offer much in the way of comforting or consolation.  And The Guy finally acknowledged my first text hours after I sent it, but disappeared pretty quickly after.  All of which is to say that I’m absolutely giving them the benefit of the doubt.  It is after all Friday night.  Most people have social lives on Friday night.  Just because I don’t, doesn’t mean people are obligated to respond.  I realized that I’ve only had one person extend an invitation to me in months, while I’ve extended a number of invitations, most of which have been turned down.  And now I’m wondering what’s so wrong with me that people only want to be my work acquaintances but not my friends and, apparently, not my boyfriend.

I’ll get over it, like I always do.  But still, not exactly the smiling, happy go lucky, better than I’ve been for a while, guy I was last night.

Also, right in the middle of writing this post, and when The Guy finally got around to responding to my texts, my Internet crapped out due to an outage in the area…  When it rains it pours…

A Resurgence

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to arrive at Lil’B’s house around the same time that his younger sister’s Big Sister arrived.  Neither of us had a hard and fast idea of what we wanted to do with our respective Little’s that day.  It was unseasonably warm – I was actually wearing shorts – and so neither of us wanted to be cooped up inside if we didn’t have to be.  We ended up taking Lil’B and his brother (10 months older) and sister (16 months younger) to play miniature golf as a group.

Months ago when I took Lil’B there alone, we encountered a small Mexican family that we spent some time talking to because the course was crowded.  At one point one of the little boys comment that, “Your son is pretty good.”  That was, by no means, the first time I had thought about people thinking Lil’B was my son when we are out together, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite clear we do not share any genes.

The Big Sister is of Mexican decent and seven months pregnant.  There we were three Mexican children under twelve years old, a very pregnant Mexican woman and a pasty white guy all playing miniature golf together.  I couldn’t help thinking, “people think we’re a couple, I’m the step-dad, and these are her kids.”  Obviously, if I were Lil’B’s “father” there would have to be a “step-” in front of it.

I had a first that day.  After we completed the course we were on, we went to the “19th hole” to return our balls and clubs and I got a hole in one.  Go figure.  I received a coupon for one complimentary round of miniature golf, which expires one month from the day we were there.  So when it was time to plan the next outing with Lil’B, I was inclined to go miniature golfing again.  We both enjoy it and it would be silly to waste a free game.

It was raining like mad yesterday.  Without a back up plan, I went out on a limb.  I took Lil’B to see Beauty and the Beast, recently re-released in 3-D.  I’ll be honest.  I wanted to see it and I don’t have anyone else to go with.  I wasn’t sure it would be up his alley, but the only other kid-friendly movie out there was The Adventures of Tintin and I really don’t want to see that if I can help it.  I told him as we were driving there, that I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about this movie, but that it was something I really wanted us to see.  I told him it came out originally when I was young and that it might be a little dated, but I thought he would enjoy it anyway.  He said he was fine with it. When it was over, I asked him what he thought.  He nodded and said, “It was cool.”  Normally, that question is met with “It was awesome!”, but I’m taking him at his word that “cool” is an honest reaction.  I told him I knew it wasn’t really our usual style, but it was still fun.

Watching this movie with Lil’B, was a kind of surreal experience, though, when I realized how long before he was born this movie had come out.

I told him this movie came out “when I was young”, but I didn’t say how young.  It was only as we were actually watching the movie, when memories of the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in theaters came flooding back, that I realized just how young I had been.  I saw the movie for the first time, as the beginning of what would turn out to be a tragic failure of a Valentine’s Day date – the only one I’ve ever had.  I was sixteen years old.  The girl I was dating, Cindy, had all sorts of romantic notions.  During the opening number, “Belle”, when the “Gaston Groupies” sing:

Via Disney Wiki

“Look there he goes, isn’t he dreamy? Monsieur Gaston, oh he’s so cute!
Be still my heart, I’m hardly breathing. He’s such a tall, dark, strong and handsome brute”

she thought it was “adorably provincial.”

Via Disney Wiki

In 1991, Beauty and the Beast was on the cutting edge of animation technology.  Everything looked so crisp and clean, the scene when Belle and The Beast dance in the ballroom already looked nearly 3-D and that was before 3-D movies made any sort of resurgence.  The characters, at least the human ones, seamed pretty realistic with fairly natural movements.  The wisp of hair that is forever falling down into Belle’s eye, struck Cindy as being the coolest thing ever.  She saw so much meaning and subtext in this movie that went over my head; to tell the truth, it still goes over my head.  But Cindy saw it, and I wanted to see Cindy so I saw it too.  (Hey.  I was sixteen.  Give me a break.)

When the movie was over and Lil’B and I were heading back out into the rain, we had a little math lesson.  I told him, “Remember I said I saw this movie when I was young?”  he said he did.  I told him, “I saw it when I was sixteen years old.  How old does that make this movie?”  Somehow I hadn’t put it all together before we were in the theater.  I didn’t realize that this movie was 20 years old.  In fact, strictly speaking, with an original release date of  November 22, 1991, it’s older.

“I saw this movie when I was sixteen,” I told him.  “In fact, I think I saw it on Valentine’s day.”  That statement went right past him, but it stopped me short.  It stopped me short because that’s all I said.  I didn’t say, “I saw it on Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend”, I just said, “I saw it on Valentine’s Day.”  I told myself that I didn’t elaborate because I didn’t want to confuse him, but it continues to nag at me.

Lil’B and I have never discussed my sexual orientation.  If he’s even aware of what it means to be gay, he may already have figured it out or assumed it, but we’ve never discussed it and I’ve never confirmed or denied it.  If he is aware of it and I told him I went with my girlfriend, maybe that would be confusing to him.  Then again, if I said I went with my girlfriend and didn’t explain that I don’t date girls now, that seems dishonest.  It continues to nag at me though, because by withholding additional information, I missed an opportunity to open dialogue between us.

When I signed up with Big Brothers and Big Sisters I told the Match Specialist, Jenny,  that I’m gay.  It was important to me to be honest and not keep a secret from the family I was trying to build trust with.  Jenny asked me if I wanted to be open about that with the family and I said I did.  In fact, me being gay prevented me from being matched with the first little boy they selected for me.  In that instance, Jenny told me about the kid before telling the family I am gay and when it didn’t work out, she felt badly.  When she called me about Lil’B, I asked if the mother knew I was gay.  She said that she had told Lil’B’s mother right up front because she didn’t want to have another situation like with the previous family.  But the mother and I have never talked about it either.  I assume she remembers, but I don’t know and I don’t know if she told Lil’B.

When I was matched with Lil’B, he was only seven and I felt like he was too young to have that conversation.  Now that it’s been nearly two and a half years, it’s difficult to bring up.  Admittedly, I’m concerned how he’ll react.  And strangely, I’m afraid of being rejected by a ten year-old.

And just when I thought I had put this fear behind me…

Garbage Smell Gets A Laugh

As you might have guessed, I saw The Smurfs with Lil’B this weekend.  I love having a “little brother” because it gives me an excuse to go see all the kids movies I want to see anyway, but my friends won’t go to with me, without looking like a pervert or predator.  I told Lil’B not to grow up… And then immediately kicked myself because my mother used to say things like that to me all the time and I HATED IT.  (Actually, what I told him was never to get older than 12 because then his ticket price goes up.)

The last time I saw Lil’B we talked about what we would do this time around and I mentioned the movies.  There are a lot of movies out that look good and that I want to see, but I don’t get to the movies that often.  Lil’B has wanted to see Transformers 3, which I saw several weeks ago with Michelle.  It was good and I don’t think it would be a problem for him to see it, but there are a few whole sections in the movie (as with so many these days) where they play pretty fast and loose with incidental human life.  Many, many innocent bystanders would have been hurt or killed if there was an ounce of reality to the scenes on the screen.

Anyway, he had mentioned that he still wanted to see it and I suggested that we could go on our next outing (this past Sunday) if it was still out.  He seemed happy with that.  So when I picked him up on Sunday I told him, “You have three choices.  We can go see Transformers, The Smurfs or Captain America.”  (I was hoping he’d pick Captain America but I’d be happy to see any of the three movies.)  Before I even finished saying “Captain America” he was saying “The Smurfs!”  He was very excited.

Yay!  You really are still a kid! I thought.  Which, of course he is.  He’s only 9, but I’m aware that we’ll be coming up on a time, very soon, when he will be in that awkward, in between stage, where he’s still a kid, but kind of not.  I am, in equal parts, looking forward to and dreading that time.

He watched the movie in his usual position (with his head buried in his Icee cup), but no longer with the seat trying to swallow him alive – when did that stop?- and while he was busy slurping away on his Icee, I was thoroughly engrossed in the movie, laughing at all the lame and corny jokes…  Well, almost all of them.  When Tim Gunn, playing Henri, a character whose purpose I still don’t understand said to Neil Patrick Harris’s character, “Make it work”, I groaned.  And when Smurfette, voiced by Katie Perry, suggested a marketing slogan to NPH, “I kissed a smurf and I liked it?”, my palm may, possibly, have met my forehead.  What was kind of fun, for me, was that the mom two seats down from me, seeing the movie with three kids lil’er than Lil’B, and I kept laughing at all the same places.  This movie is full of grown up jokes, which is a sign of a well thought out movie.  Unfortunately, it also tends to prompt lil voices to ask, “What happened mommy?  Mommy, what happened?  Mommy?  Mommy?”

Off. Track.

As I was saying, while Lil’B was buried ears deep in his Icee, I was laughing at all the jokes and puns and visual comedy and so it was all the more gratifying to me, when in the scene when Gargamel, or as Sofia Vergara’s character calls him, “Garbage Smell”, get’s his due, Lil’B actually laughed out loud!

There’s hope for this kid after all!

Son

Two years ago, when I was contemplating becoming a Big Brother, I was looking for an opportunity to do something of value in the community.  I wanted to do something that would make a difference.  I wanted to do something that was ongoing, not just a one time deal to make myself feel better and then move on.

I suspect I wanted to fill a void in my life that can not be easily filled through more “natural” means, yet not fill it so much as to take on a 100%, full-time commitment that maybe I can’t afford to take on.  I liked the idea of having the opportunity to influence a young person and, hopefully, make a positive difference in his life.  The thought may have crossed my mind, once or twice, that I might be able to “save” a troubled kid; help him to find a better way to live.  Maybe I wanted someone to idolize me, perhaps to aspire to be like me, though I really hoped to give him more to aspire to than I have done.

There have been times, more than a few in fact, where I felt like none of that was happening.  Lil’B is a good kid with no problems to speak of.  (I hope he stays that way, but he’s only nine.)  With the exception of one outing when he was seven, the first day after Halloween, when he’d had much too much candy for breakfast, he’s never misbehaved and he accepts the limitations I place on him (that his mother has requested) without any trouble.  When we go to the movies and we go to the concession stand, when the cashier asks us if we want anything else, I see him point at the candy in the display case.  I laugh, tell him no and tell the cashier that our order is complete.  Lil’B laughs and we go on about our day.  (Mom doesn’t want him to have very much candy because he misbehaves if he gets too much sugar in his system.)  An occasional piece of candy, every once in a while is allowed, but not all the time.  He knows this and doesn’t get upset when I tell him no.

I’ve tried to enquire about deeper issues.  Is he hurting about anything?  Is there anything that’s bothering him that he wants to talk about?  But of course you have to be subtle about such things, you can’t come right out and ask.  He always tells me he’s fine.  He doesn’t talk a lot.  As often as not, I ask him a pointed question (i.e. What did you learn about in school this week?  What did you have for lunch today?) and he answers with “I don’t know.”  I feel bad when we’re driving down the road in silence, but I’ve run through my list of questions to ask him and he’s answered “I don’t know” to all of them, so, in silence we drive.

There have been times when I felt like maybe this relationship wasn’t serving any purpose after all.  I wanted to make a difference in his life, but maybe I’m not.  I wanted to feel warm and fuzzy, knowing that I was important to him, but I don’t.  I thoroughly enjoy the time we spend together, but some weeks I feel like I’m going because I’m supposed to, not because I want to.  I feel badly about that, and I hope he doesn’t see it.

Sunday afternoon was my regularly scheduled time with Lil’B.  Neither of us really knew what we wanted to do.  Our last few outings have been movies, which are always fun, but I – and I hope he – likes to do other things besides sitting around in a cold, dark room not talking to each other, sometimes.

I showed up at his house right around 2:00, our usual time and while he was finishing getting ready his mother called out to him in Spanish; something about “la escuela.”  He still has one week left of school, but he already has his report card and she wanted to show it to me.

He did very well in school.  They had three terms and for each term they were assigned a numeric score; not an average, a number.  I didn’t memorize the meanings of the numbers but essentially a 3 was average, or meeting the standard.  A 4 was proficient in the particular skill.  I’m not sure how those numbers relate to the letter grades and percentages out of 100 that I remember getting, but whatever.

For the first two terms he got 3s for both reading and writing, but then in the third term he got 4s.  This is a bi-lingual school.  So he was rated proficient reading and writing both English and Spanish.  For the other subjects, Science and Math (and it seems like there was one more) he had gotten 4s throughout the entire year.

Lil’B’s mother told me she was very happy that he had gotten such good scores; both Lil’B’s older brother and younger sister got good scores as well.  Then she told me that the day he brought the report card home he was very excited and he told her, “Be sure to show this to my Big Brother!” (Warm)

I told him I was very proud, and I am.  He’s worked hard this year.  In the second grade we had to bring his homework with us sometimes and spend some time on that and he didn’t much like having to do that.  In the third grade there was an after school program that he was in and he had time to do his homework there.  He got his homework packets done every week in the after school program and, we are told, he even helped the other students with their homework (particularly the math, yech!)

We decided to go Miniature Golfing for our outing which was a lot of fun, except that I don’t know where my sunscreen is and I was wearing short sleeve’s, shorts and flip-flops.  I now have some very oddly laid out sunburn.

It’s the end of the school year for a lot of students.  It was also the first really nice day we’ve had so far this summer.  Mother Nature seems to have forgotten that this here is California, land of sun and fun; also that it is mid-JUNE and we like to not have to wear coats this time of year.  Naturally, the mini-golf place was very busy and there was a back log of parties on the course.

Lil’B and I got stuck behind a party of six, spanning in ages from “Grandma” all the way down to “Little Lexie” who was “not quite three and doing surprisingly well” (if you count carrying your ball over to within two inches of the hole and then using the narrow end of the club head and a double ham-fisted grip to hit it toward the hole – and still missing half the time).  Clearly a completely unbiased opinion from Grandma.  I opted not to get mad, because as much as it’s no fun to sit around and wait, I don’t like to feel rushed either and the party of six was every bit as entitled to enjoy their time in the sun as Lil’B and I, and all the people behind us.

So Lil’B and I would play our hole and we’d move ahead to wait for the next one after “Little Lexie” finished making her play.  Since we were only two, and they were six, there was a lot of time waiting between rounds.  We’d finish playing, move to the next hole and sit on one of the many benches around (Well, I sat.  Lil’B usually didn’t.)  When we were finished, the family behind us, two little boys – probably close to Lil’B’s age – and their two young parents, would play.  It seemed that only the boys were playing.  Mom was there to keep score, and I would guess, dad was the money.  (Actually, mom and dad may have been on a date.  At one point I heard one of the boys say, now I want to try this hole with my mom.  I would only be guessing to say what that meant.)

It was around the tenth hole, when I was sitting on the bench waiting for Little Lexie to finish her play and the family behind us finished their round on hole number nine.  I scooted down to the end of the bench and the two little boys sat down next to me.  Just then Little Lexie moved on and Lil’B stepped up to take his shot.  I guess the family behind us had been watching us closely because when Lil’B took his shot and his ball stopped fairly close to the hole, one of the little boys looked at me and said, “Your son is pretty good.”  (aaaand fuzzy)

I didn’t correct him.  It seemed like it would be unkind to point out an error he couldn’t have known he’d made.  Besides, “I’m not his dad, I’m his Big Brother” is no explanation at all, since you can’t see the capital Bs when you talk.  I think we all know by now, Lil’B is mexican…  I?  I glow in the dark.  Clearly we do not share any blood, so we can’t be brothers… unless one of us is adopted I suppose.

I simply answered, “He gets a lot more practice than I do.”  And from then on we were all chatting together and having fun together.  It may have become apparent later that maybe I wasn’t his father when I talked to Lil’B about our outings, but nobody questioned it.

And I realized something.  I would be proud to be his father.  Maybe someday I’ll get the chance to be a father, but if I don’t, at least I’ll have had this time with my Little Brother, and that’s pretty special, too!