Archive for June, 2010

Ten More Years

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

By the way I figure it, I have ten more years left. Brooke tells me I’ll be lucky to have six. Still, I know better – I’m the Dad.

Last night we celebrated the wedding of my cousin. It was a wedding eight years in the making to a cousin I was sure would have eloped years earlier. But in a surprise to us all, her wedding was both elegant and traditional – and by traditional, I mean a non-air conditioned church in the middle of one of the hottest weeks of the year, a formal gown and tuxedos and the perfect reception just a half a mile from home. For us, it was a pleasant evening, if not only for the relief of my entire family who had been rooting for the groom all along. But probably the biggest surprise wasn’t the ceremony at all, instead, it was Gracie’s request that I dance with her that amazed me the most.

Lately I’ve seen the signs: the headbands on the vanity, the matching sandals on the floor, the fashion games that remained on our computer after she left. It all meant one thing – she was a girl. Not that I was surprised – we knew that after the third ultrasound. Sometimes I just wondered if she knew it – or wanted to admit to it. For years she shunned the color pink, hair bows and anything with flowers, but lately she’s compromised her position, even considering the “hot pink” shirt, headbands and flowers as long as they are “sporty”. But still, a dance? And with Dad. I wasn’t about to say no.

So we danced. I twirled her. She stepped on my toes. I tried to instruct. She told me to be quiet. And Brooke sat on the sidelines laughing. Somehow, I guess it wasn’t the picture of elegance. But as the only pair on the dance floor, we didn’t have much competition. At least for a while.

I twirled her again, this time catching a glimpse of him. Four foot tall with a tie and vest he stood waiting patiently. I looked around. Certainly he didn’t want to dance with my daughter. After all, she was MY daughter. I looked away and twirled her again. He didn’t move. I looked to Brooke. She motioned to me to let him cut in. I shook my head. No, not tonight. After all, this was the first dance I’d ever shared with her and I wasn’t about to get bumped by some 8-year-old.

I’d like to tell you I relented. That I stood back and let Gracie dance with the 8-year-old in the corner. But then again I’d be lying. After all, he wasn’t tall enough, wasn’t old enough, wasn’t young enough and generally wasn’t good enough for my daughter. Going home, Brooke lectured me on if any boy would be good enough for Gracie. Probably not – even I know that. Besides that, I had a little less than two minutes before I had competition. And that’s just not enough time.

Gracie never noticed. She was too busy twirling, giggling and yelling at me to see the boy waiting patiently for nearly an hour. And I wasn’t about ready to stop, not matter how poorly I executed Miley Cyrus dance moves or line dancing. I wasn’t even going to give him a chance. Brooke says one day she’ll notice. I tell her I’ll keep her busy. She laughs again. She knows better. She always does. Still, I have ten more years at least and they’ll all just have to wait.

She’s my daughter.

Superstore Karate

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Chongul pandae chirugi. Kima yop chirugi. Hugul sudo hadan makki. To me they all mean the same – “just another way to beat up Dad”. Of course it also means something else – and that’s “a way to beat up future boyfriends”. But that’s why I like it.

Three years ago we started on a mission. At the time it was more about preoccupation (for us all) after losing Elena. I told everyone it was about getting Gracie ready to beat up all the boys, but in truth it was just as much about finding an excuse to get out of the house. At the time I was unsure if Gracie would stay with it. And after sitting for hours on metal folding chairs watching endless lines of forms and posturing, I almost hoped that she would give us both an excuse to give up. One month in I almost had my wish. The tears flowed with every critique from her teacher, but the allure of the yellow belt was just too much. With it came new responsibilities, new challenges and most important to Gracie was status. She was no longer a white belt and it mattered. And she had a new place in line.

I remember the day I learned the value of her training – and that lesson was painful. It started in the line of the local Sam’s Club. It was our first stop after karate – a 40 lb bag of chicken and a 200 can pack of soda. At the register I pulled out the check while Gracie clamored for my attention. “Look Daddy, look what I learned today”, she said while pulling at my sleeve. I kept on writing, waiting for the screen to either show me how much I owed or the payment plans necessary on the 40 lbs of chicken. “Daddy, daddy – KEITH!” she tried, this time with emphasis. Still I looked on, calculating the pennies.

Two seconds later I was on the ground. Gracie had lost her patience. Standing over me, she now had my attention. “Look Dad”, she exclaimed proudly while standing in a fighting stance, “I learned how to sweep today!” Checkbook in hand, I dusted off my shorts, cautiously bracing myself for a second-wave attack that I was sure was to follow. None came, but I learned my lesson. Even cashier noticed, covering her mouth to conceal her giggle.

To this day Gracie has my undivided attention when it comes to anything she learned in karate, lest I fear the hidden punch, a chokehold or a crane-karate-kid-move designed to paralyze me below the waist. Now six belts higher, the punches are harder, the kicks are higher and her confidence is unwavering. Now the boyfriends really have something to be fearful of. So does Dad.