My Dad had a relatively usual routine every morning. He was an extremely light sleeper and almost always woke up early than the house. He would sit, pray and read in an old chair my parents bought from a yard sale before he started putting on his work clothes. By the time he was getting ready, I would start to roam and rummage through the house. I would occasionally wander into his room while he was sitting in that old chair putting on his shoes. My parents always claimed they would reupholster that chair, but to this day, it’s still dressed in that same 70s green it displayed the day they bought it. Sitting in that green chair, he would put on his dress socks and then his black shined wingtips using a shoe horn. I remember watching him stand up, put on his belt, neatly place a handkerchief in his back pocket and pull out a dress shirt and tie for the day. He delayed putting on his dress shirt for most of the morning for fear of getting it dirty. First, he would walk around in a white tank top doing his morning chores and inevitably eat a bowl of cereal. But I remember him following this routine most mornings of my entire childhood.
This past Monday morning I woke up. Not any earlier than the rest of the house, but also not any later. I woke up when we all woke up. I wandered out of my room and could hear Vanessa grinding the coffee beans, followed immediately by the wafting smell of Costco coffee brewing. I walked out of the room and could see the kids still sitting out the couch in their PJs like little zombies waking up. I rented a bounce house for $140 for Easter the day before for the kids and all their friends and it appeared they were recovering from a candy and dehydration hangover. Nothing says, Jesus has risen like a bounce house. Minus the 15 minutes of lethargic kids, that Monday morning it didn’t even look like we had 30 people over the night before. Vanessa and I embraced with a small kiss and a “good morning.” I told her, “I’m going to get ready.” She said, “sounds good.” After the kids woke up a little, she took them outside to play in the bounce house. Normally I would bounce before getting the day started, but I didn’t bounce on that Monday morning. I just watched the kids for a few minutes, because I needed to get my mind focused.
I started to get ready. I laid out my most excellent new dark blue jeans, my blue shirt to wear silver cufflinks from my undergraduate, a Patrick James vest a family friend bought me when she found out I got a job as a tenure-track professor, a reversible black and tan belt, new underwear with sharks my Mom bought me, my striped dress socks and my tan wingtip boots. I put on each piece of clothing and then sat down to put on my tan wingtip boots. I love those boots. Easily the most delightful pair of dress shoes I have ever owned. I sat down, and as I began to tie the dark brown lace on my tan boots, I realized that I was getting ready on the same green chair that I used to watch my Dad get ready on. I smiled and then almost immediately my son, G.W. walked in. I said, “Hi Gordie, you all bounced out?” He said, “Hi.” He watched me as I laced up my other boot. I finished putting on the vest and ultimately decided not to wear my cufflinks and rolled up my sleeves. I told Gordie, “Come on, let’s brush our teeth and comb our hair.” I took out my brush and started combing Gordie’s hair for a bit. I told him, “Sometimes an Indian man has to brush his hair.” Something that I heard a San Carlos Apache kid tell me in my mid-20s. I finished combing our hair and brushing our teeth. I sprayed a little cologne on both of us and said, “ready.” Gordie replied, “ready.” I walked out of the room and Gordie bolted back outside to play in the bounce house. Before I walked outside to tell everyone bye… I could see Vanessa and Luna through the opened glass sliding door enjoying books, coffee, and breakfast on the grass in the cool breezed morning. I walked toward Vanessa and let her know I was leaving; she braided some prayers into my hair and whispered, “good luck.” She gave me another gentle kiss. I told the kids I was leaving, and gave them each a kiss goodbye and told them, “I love you.”
As I walked out of the house to my truck for my 30 minute I-10 drive to ASU, I reflected back on watching my Dad get ready for work and realized that my kids would one day remember me getting ready. And it makes me wonder, “will they remember this day,” the morning of the day I successfully defended my dissertation. I hope they remember me well despite my faults as a Father… as I remember my Dad.