Archive for Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just a touch of Father’s Day cheer

June 14, 2007

As Father's Day approaches once again, I've been torn in two by the good and bad of life at my age. Yes, I'm approaching eligibility for senior citizen's discounts. And, no, I'm not exactly thrilled with the notion.

But, I'm reminded that you're only as old as you feel. And, that doesn't necessarily give equal parts on mentally and physically. Mentally, I feel young. Physically, I am getting old. Dragging firewood to my new fire pit has convinced me that this old Boy Scout isn't the all-pro firewood hound I was in my youth. I don't want to talk about the cuts, bruises and assorted dings I've endured ... or the ticks and chiggers that have latched on me.

Of course, that's not about fatherhood, really, but age does play in there. First, the bad of life at my age with Father's Day. In the past week, I've had two friends tell me of the deaths of their dads. No, this won't be a good Father's Day this year at all.

It also hits home to me how lucky I feel that my dad is still with us and, in fact, celebrated his 75th birthday last week. Two years ago, he had back-to-back abdominal surgeries and it wasn't good. But, he pulled through and is at the top of health. Well, as much as a 75-year-old can be. Over the years, I've come to refer to him as pop and his grandkids have called him Papa.

But, the good of Father's Day is even more than that. I've been living vicariously through my brother Steve as far as grandkids go. Since he's soooooo much older than me, he had the first child, Rebecca, and the first grandkid, Brody. Technically, he also had the second child, Kate, but my son Brett was only a month or so behind her.

As for grandkids, I'm in no hurry for them. Really. I can enjoy Steve's for now. For one thing, both Brett and Anth are still in college. For another, I'm in no hurry to be a grandpa, even if I'm teetering on senior citizenville. It can wait.

So, it was with much pleasure that I did the vicarious thing through Brody this past week after he'd gone to see Thomas the Tank Engine. He's the first of our clan to take part. By the time the Thomas phenomenon hit Baldwin City, my sons were way too old for that, although one of my favorite pictures of Anth is him standing in front of Thomas like everyone does for a photo.

Brody, little sister Delany, his mom and dad, Eric Wagner, along with grandpa Steve and grandma Lori (Rebecca tells me they're called pop and granny -- classic stuff), rode Thomas Saturday morning. Of course, for the last six years I've edited all the stories done on Thomas and have made more than my share of trips out there. But, I'd never had a connection like this.

When I found out Brody was going to do the Thomas thing a couple of weeks ago from my sister-in-law (yes, granny), I hatched an idea. I would try to interview Brody after his experience and write my first story on the Thomas experience. Like I told granny, if it works, great. If it doesn't, well, we're not out anything.

As it worked out, we're somewhere in between. I'd decided to wait until after the big ride to let Brody decompress from all the excitement. Whether that worked or not, we'll never know.

My niece brought Brody and Delany by the office this week for the interview from their rural home around Vinland. I thought maybe having all the pictures we have from two weeks of Thomas on the computer might spark Brody's memories and get him to talk about it.

It worked, sort of, but mostly thanks to his mom the interpreter.

"Brody, I understand you rode on Thomas the Train Saturday. Was it fun?"

"Uh, huh," my grand nephew said.

(Side bar: That reminds me. Having a grand nephew is a hoot. I guess I've been a so-so uncle all these years, but now I'm a Great Uncle. Cool.)

"Brody, what was your favorite part of Thomas?"

"Mmmmm," said Brody who was helped by his interpreter.

"He liked the fire engine ladder as much as anything and putting the fire hat and boots on," said mom.

"Is that right, Brody?"

"Uh, huh," he said.

"You also liked eating the train cookie, didn't you Brody?" said mom.

"Ummm, huh," he said.

"What does Thomas say, Brody?" asked mom.

"Choo, choo, choo," he said.

We're getting somewhere now I thought of my first interview with a 2-year-old. I'll just be quiet.

"What color is Thomas, Brody?" said mom.

"Blue," he said.

He had already shown me his Thomas toy, which for whatever reason is red instead of blue. Odd. He also had a Thomas book that we looked at. But, no, he didn't show me his Thomas underwear. That's OK.

By now his mind was wandering. He was more interested in looking at stuff in the office, including issues of the Signal with Thomas on them. I looked at Rebecca and said, "I think we're done. This will work just fine." We went on to doing other things.

But, she did have a quote for me that was priceless, as she said.

"My dad said, and you can quote him: 'I can play golf on any Saturday, but Thomas only comes once a year,'" said Rebecca.

Yes, that's it in a nutshell. He's a good grandpa. Not many surgeons would prefer Thomas to golf. It made my day.

Happy Father's Day, pop. Both of you.

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