Lately, I’ve been working like crazy and haven’t had a chance to spend much one-on-one time with my son.
So I’m driving back from work the other day and lost in thought, thinking about the myriad of things I need to do at the office, clients I need to speak with, deadlines I need to meet when I hear Harry Chapin’s song, “Cats and The Cradle and The Silver Spoon,” start playing on the radio. The song’s chorus references several childhood things: The Cat’s in the Cradle string game, silver spoons that are given to babies as christening gifts, and the nursery rhymes, Little Boy Blue, and Man in the Moon. But the majority of the song tells a sad story of what might have been, could have been, should have been and never came to be between a father and son. It strikes a theme of time quickly passing and time lost. The song reminds us that a hurried and busy life of work causes loss of person-to-person connection, interaction and love.
I’m listening to this music when I notice my ten year old boy’s Minecraft “Creeper” plush toy sitting on the passenger seat floor staring at me. It brings a smile to my face, reminding me of how happy my son was when he received it for his birthday. Here’s a kid who can laugh and play quietly by himself for hours on end and when asked what he wants for the holidays replies, “I think I have more than most, I’m good Dad.” Then I begin to really start “hearing” Chapin’s lyrics,
“..someday I’m going to be like you dad.” I’m reminded of my childhood and the many nights at camp when I’d sing the song with friends at Jameson Ranch Camp. I use to promise myself that I would never be like the Dad in the song. I would never brush off playing sports with my son. I would never not be involved in all of his school and personal activities. I would never pass off daily responsibilities like doctors visits, homework, and classroom visits off to my wife.
Then I start hearing a “hhhhssssss” sound coming from the seat next to me. I look down again at the Creeper and realize the green bastard is literally “hissing at me!” Was he trying to communicate with me? He had a down-turned smile and it was almost as if he was…disappointed in me?
“What’s wrong with you Creep?” I asked.
But then it sunk in…between Harry singing and Creepy hissing – I was being tag teamed! It was a double “bad dad” onslaught — they were telling me time was moving fast and to wake up!!!
I slammed on the car brakes and sat there in self-realization, cars whizzing by me, horns blaring and profanities being hurled…had I become the Dad in the song…?!?
I quickly cancelled all of my “important” meetings, claiming that I had a family emergency and booked the one place closest to my heart, an incredible vacation rental in the middle of Joshua Tree, bordering the Joshua Tree National Park – Joshua Tree Oasis. It was the perfect place to do all the fun activities I loved to do when I was a boy – like bouldering the magnificent rocks in Joshua Tree National Park, hiking the lush nature paths filled with wild flowers. I could take my son biking, horse-back riding, kite-flying, or even horse-shoe throwing. If it was a hot day we could go swimming in JTO’s cowboy spa or even go into Joshua Tree National park and swim in Barker Dam. And at night, we could stargaze and toast S’mores in JTO’s fire pit. I was so excited to recreate so many memories of my past with my son! I felt like James Stewart given another chance at living in “It’s A Wonderful Life!”
But when my son and I arrived at Joshua Tree Oasis it was pouring rain and the power at the house was out. All the fun activities that I had hoped to do were all seemingly gone. Not only that – we couldn’t even watch any of the hundreds of movies JTO provided its guests nor watch any cable TV or even sports. I was doomed!
I had no idea what to do with my son. I was a failure. I was the living and breathing incarnate of the father in Cats and The Cradle…when my son said, “Dad, why don’t we just take a soak in the jacuzzi in the pouring rain?”
And that’s what we did. We threw on our swimsuits, opened up the steaming cauldron in a gale of pounding wind and rain and as my son would say, we “chill-axed.” It was like being in the eye of a storm, as the surrounding bellows of roaring precipitation embraced us gently in its grasp. And because there was no power and none of the jacuzzi’s jets worked we were forced to listen to the sound of the raindrops hitting the water and patio furniture, to listen to the wind blowing through the cactuses, rustling through the surrounding pine trees, and whipping through (my favorite tree) the nearby Cottonwoods. It was better than watching any TV program or movie because we were watching a living desert revel in gracious thirst quenching celebration. And that’s when I heard the most magical sound of all…
“Dad, this is really awesome…thank you.”
Based upon a true epiphany…