Four years ago the doctors were wondering how I was even able to walk into their office. They had never seen someone with numbers as high as mine. They wondered how I was even able to function. I asked myself the same question. I was also asking myself, how I wasn’t being a healthy dad.
A diet of gas station and fast food just wasn’t cutting it. It was all I had access too. Not because my family wasn’t eating healthy at home, but because it was the lifestyle that I was living at the time. It was my career.
I was a news photojournalist. I was running from story to story grabbing a bite to eat when I could. Taquitos and flaming hot Cheetos from gas station and I had a very intimate relationship. One that I am sure Mrs. Rookie Dad was jealous about at the time but didn’t tell me.
It was at that moment four years ago that things began to change. I started realizing the effect that the constant diet of chips and soft drinks were having on my life. It showed too. I was the heaviest I had ever been. I could feel my belly spilling over my seat belt every time I got in the news van to drive off to the next news story. There was no way that I would win a back alley news fight with the Channel 9 news team. There would be no throwing tridents or setting people on fire. I would be out of breath within 2 minutes and you would see me curled up gasping for breath being set on fire and stabbed with a trident.
That wasn’t who I wanted to be. That wasn’t the same person who played 3 sports cross-country, basketball, and baseball in high school. I didn’t want to be that person. I was making my career and excuse for healthy habits. I tried to work out on my crazy news schedule but it just, for the lack of a better term, wasn’t working out.
I am sitting here on the couch. Relaxing after a hard day’s work. It has been a long week. I have changed bosses and moved offices and the adjustment has been difficult on me. I am sinking into my chair.
I am relaxing. As I sit in my easy chair waiting for the Kansas City Royals game to come on. I’m seeing a timeline and in and out points from editing video all day. I’m looking forward to watching this game even though I am not your typical Royals fan. I root for them only because I am from Kansas City.
I turn the TV. The game comes on. You can see the excitement that the fans from Kansas City had at the game, I am taking in the excitement. It is something residents of Kansas City haven’t seen in 29 years!
Out of the corner of my eye I see Mrs. Rookie Dad working on her homework and I see the Rookie pull out his Batman doll. I smile and sense a peaceful evening as I watch the game.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the Kid raises his voice, and starts to make flying sounds. His voice gets even louder as he talks in his batman voice.
No Kids were harmed in the writing of this post.
Let’s forget that what I did was illegal. I could have been pulled over and given a ticket, however, I have figured out how to get out of a ticket. But, it was too damn cute to not get video of.
The Kid was in the backseat dancing. Dancing to the new radio station that the company I work for acquired. Something that all my colleagues would love to see. I had to turn around and get video as I drove.
The next day, I walk into work head upstairs and say hello to everyone hanging around the coffee maker. They ask me how my evening was and I whip out my phone and show them the video.
After the initial laughter of just how cute the Kid is, someone mentions that this is a video we will want to save and bring up at his graduation or to one of his prom dates to show off how he will be dancing later that night.
The phone rang. I was in a glass edit bay looking out a newsroom buzzing with activity. I had been out in a live truck all morning covering an overnight shooting in the Kansas City metro area.
It was Mrs. Rookie Dad. This is the 3rd time she has called me that day. I had been anticipating a phone call from her to tell me that it was time to go to the hospital for a few days now. The newsroom had been put on baby watch, knowing that at any moment I would have to leave.
But that morning, the calls from Mrs. Rookie Dad had been what I like to call the “nothing” phone call. A call that can wait until I come home to discuss. We were at the point in the pregnancy that I couldn’t just let the phone go to voice mail.
I picked up the phone and in my head I remember thinking, “Now what!” but on the other end of the phone before I could get out a hello, I heard:
“My water broke!”
Instantly, a feeling of guilt rushed over me as I stopped momentarily to think and regret what my thoughts were that morning. I realized that would be a memory I would never forget, the thought that went through my head when the Kid was born. That immediate regret turned into a smile and happiness though when the Kid was born at 2 A.M the next morning.
The moment that the Kid was born, my paid paternity leave started. It was only two weeks of paternity leave, more than what most new fathers get. Most get none. I was one of the lucky ones.
When I was a kid, there was no MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, or smartphones. We were forced to go outside and run in the streets. 20 years ago it was a different time. Myself and our neighbor kids ruled the street. We had a tree house in an empty lot down the street, to which you needed the secret password to get into, until the city came to tear it down. Scouting was big in my hometown and I cannot count the weekends that I spent camping out with our Boy Scout troop.
My favorite memory of those many camp outs was a starry cold night at Scott Lake in Western Kansas. We always stayed in the same cabin on the east side of the lake. It wasn’t very big. In fact it only had one room with nothing but a fire-place in it to keep the place warm a bunk bed and a few extra mattresses for us all to sleep on.
The cabin was right below the bluffs to the lake. At the time, there were three cabins along the side of the bluffs each about a quarter-mile apart. To our troop’s camp fire story-teller, he called them the Troll houses. I realize now that this “Troll” family traveled from campsite to campsite, sometimes they were in different states then the story we were told a month before hand.
Just down the dirt road from the cabin and across a highway, there was a small boat dock that we would send ourselves off in our canoes to explore the lake. By that boat dock, there was a section of thick cat-tails that was no larger than a football field. This cool crisp night, the cat-tails were laying flat. They were thicker than the humidity on mid-summer day. So thick in fact that, you were able to walk on top of them without even touching the water.