I was thinking about the way our need for attention volleys back and forth. Back when I was a small boy, I used to complain about my bedtime. I would scream and cry about it too.
As kids, we try so hard to grow up fast. I never wanted to sit still. I never wanted to miss anything. I wanted to be apart of anything and everything because when you’re young—that’s all there is. As far as I was concerned there was nothing worse than feeling like I missed out.
I was thinking about the transition of youth. When I was little, I looked at The Old Man as if he knew everything. He was my hero. All I wanted to do was talk to him. I wanted to know more about him. I wanted to be like him and look like him. I wanted to act the way The Old Man acted. I wanted to know what he knew.
Back then, I had no idea what it meant to work an entire day, come home and want to sit as still as possible and enjoy the quiet. I was young and had energy. The Old Man was tired and worked. He had grown up things on his mind. He lived in a grown up world and did grownup stuff. My world was simple then. I lived in a kid’s world. I did kid’s things. I wondered what kid’s wonder and played the way kid’s played.
As kids, we aim for attention. As kids, we need attention the same as we need food to live and air to breathe. As kids, we have no understanding of the grownup world or grownup things. Our life is narrowed down to our simple surroundings which consist of mother, father, brother or sister.
Parents lose patience quite easily. Children seldom understand why. As kids, we knew our parents lost their temper. As adults, we finally understand why this happened.
By the time our teenage years come around, our parents begin to notice the switch in our attention. We are less dependent upon mom and dad. We are more interested in the crowds and our friends. Our heroes change and so do our ideas.
As a boy, kissing mom goodbye becomes a less than cool thing—especially when your friends are around. And for girls, dads become less cool. The jokes dad tells are old and not funny anymore. Sometimes, a daughter might say something like, “I’m not 6 years-old anymore, Dad.” Then she rolls her eyes. Meanwhile, the one thing she never knew is all her father wanted was to make her laugh.
What happens is actually a normal process. In the beginning, our children’s life is about us. Slowly they grow and slowly our children change as a result of the outside influence. In the beginning, we as parents are guilty of saying something like, “I just wish I had a minute to myself.” Then when we get that minute, we turn around and we wonder where our children are.
I was thinking about the way our attention volleys back and forth. I was thinking how age has a lot to do with this. As we grow, we tend to think we already know everything. We know it all, so when our parents try to tell us something, we wave them off in the vastness of our own limited experience. We do this and say, “What the hell do they know?”
I was reading a few of the letters I wrote to you. They date back to my early twenties. I thought I knew so much. I thought I was worldly and experienced. I was so wonderfully young and painfully inexperienced.
I had to grow up at some point. I had to learn on my own. I had to fall and not only feel the pain, but I had to understand what it means to fall and get back up. This was not an easy lesson to learn. I fell so many times. Oftentimes, I fell because of the same reasons. After a while, man can only bang his head against the wall for so long. Eventually, the scars on my body as well as the scars on my heart and the pain they caused were my cruelest and best teachers.
I am not sure how this happened. I went from being a kid to being a grownup. I went from being underage and drinking beer in a parking lot while daring the world to teach me a lesson and turned into a tax-paying member of society. I have a home. I have a mortgage with bills. I have a daughter that I wished I paid more attention to when she was younger because now the volley has gone the other way. She tells me things like, “I’m not six years-old anymore, Dad!” and then she rolls her eyes.
And you—you more than anyone else; I was thinking about you and the way our attention volleyed back and forth. I was thinking about the last few years and how it was hard for us to talk. I had so much on my plate. You had less on your plate but your health was on the downward swing. All you wanted was attention, but I was busy. I was a grown-up. I had grownup bills and grownup problems. I went through a grownup divorce and grownup fears. I went through a grownup bankruptcy. I lost grownup things and used a long list of grownup words to curse the world around me.
The last few years were hard. Last year was the hardest. There was so much for me to do. I had to be on top of things. I had to know about your medication. I had to know which doctor to call or what hospital you were in.
I was thinking about how our need for attention volleys back and forth because here I am now, writing to you with no address to send my letters. The funny thing is how I used to be afraid I would miss out on something. And here I am, realizing what I missed out on. I wish there was a way I could turn back time. I am quite sure I am not the only one that wishes this way. I wished I paid more attention too. I also wish I paid more attention when Rachel was younger.
By the way, I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Rachel started 7th grade this year. She is so smart and so precious. She is growing up and now the volley for attention has changed.
I am often afraid that some of me will rub off on Rachel. I know there are good things about me. I just want her to be better than me. I want her worst quality to be better than my best. I don’t want her to ever feel those feelings I had back when I was her age.
Rachel doesn’t know how I was at her age. I told her I was good in school. I tell Rachel that I sat up front in class and that I never spoke out. I always raised my hand and I was always respectful to my teachers. I certainly never smoked cigarettes, drank or used curse words. I tell Rachel that school is important. I also tell her that she should always be honest with me. I tell her if she ever has any troubles in school that so long as she is honest with me, I will never be mad. I tell Rachel honesty is key, but when Rachel asks me about my teachers and my experience in school, I lie my ass off!
I’m going through a hard time Mom. The volley for attention has swung and I somehow feel alone. I miss you. I hate that I lost the chance to call you whenever I wanted. I wish the last time we spoke was under better circumstances. Most of all, I wish I was never in such a rush. Maybe if I was less afraid of missing out on something, I could have been more aware of the world around me. Maybe then I would have had the chance to say goodbye to you.
I’ve been saving my letters to you and keeping them together. This way, if the technology comes up with an app, I can just email them to you. For now, I’ll just keep these letters. I’ll hold onto them until I find some way to send them. Some people read them. They say the letters are good and they find them helpful. I’m not sure how. My guess is we all have parents and we all wish we did something different. I guess we all wish we paid more attention to the world around us.
Sorry it’s been so long since my last letter. I had to make a life adjustment. I need to make some changes so I can better myself. Besides, I don’t want to miss another opportunity because the next time someone I love asks for my attention; I want to be sure to give it to them.
I miss you Mom.