Tuesday evening, I asked Tim if he could have dinner with the younger boys so I could take Gerry out.
It had been a hard day for Gerry and I wasn’t sure why. He came home in a mood and with every question he either yelled at me or started to cry.
Lots of “you don’t remember what it’s like to be in school all day” and “I just want to be left alone” and “don’t leave, I need help with my math homework” and “stop helping me!”.
So Tim sat with Howie and Lewis while they didn’t eat their hot dogs and macaroni. I took Gerry to the diner up the street.
We sat together in a booth facing the TVs. The evening news was on. Normally, I don’t let him watch the news because it’s just too graphic and sensationalistic. I didn’t have much choice here, though, since two screens were staring right at him.
Luckily the news was fairly benign that night. Stories about the missed call at the Packers/Seattle football game, a quick blurb about a close mid-air collision at a Chicago airport, and clips from the presidential candidates on the campaign trail.
Gerry’s not much of a talker when we go out. But this time the questions didn’t stop. He asked about the football game which led to a discussion of unions and strikes and their impact, especially for students and teachers in Chicago. We talked about the safety of airline travel, and he shared his knowledge of planes and how they fly (clearly learned from his father and his iPad flight simulator).
And we talked about the election. He asked if he could stay up and watch the speeches and debates this year.
“Because the last time I voted in first grade I wasn’t very informed. I just picked a name. This time when I vote I want to know the issues.”
Every once in a while, he would stop talking to take a bite of his maple syrup soaked pancake. And then he’d stare back up at the TV screen and ask another question.
Looking at him, I let my mind transport back to the dinner table when I was his age. We had a small black and white TV on the counter near the table and we’d watch the evening news while we ate. We’d talk about the stories and discuss their implications and what it meant for us and the world. And as we cleared the table, Jeopardy would come on and we’d yell out our answers in the form of a question to see who would get the higher score.
As I tuned back into the conversation at the diner, that strange feeling of came over me for the one millionth time.
I am happy that I am able to continue this connection with my own child and so thrilled with his thirst for knowledge and desire to learn more about his world.
I am sad that my dad isn’t here to see his grandson love the same things that he did.
I am angry that he left this earth way before his time. I want him here at that booth with Gerry telling him about the world and giving me that gentle hug around the shoulders that said he was proud of me without the need for words.
Just when I think the sadness and pain and emptiness has faded, a moment like this in the diner comes along and I am right back there again.
I am grateful for his legacy carrying on in the grandsons he never met.
But I am missing him terribly today.
“And there’s a heart that’s breaking down this long-distance line tonight
I ain’t missing you at all
Since you’ve been gone away.
I ain’t missing you
No matter what I might say.” – Missing You by John Waite