My dad, known to the kids as Bapa, is coming for his semi-annual visit today, and I'm pretty excited about this. There have been a couple of changes in my life since his last trip out - mainly that I am now a tiny bit closer to be being divorced than I was before; and that I have moved out of my dream house into a crappy little apartment where my kids have to share a bedroom and I get to hear the sounds of my hoodlum teenage neighbor and his mom volleying "fuck you's" and "shut the fuck up's" back and forth at oddly early hours of the morning. They've kind of become my alarm clock.
None of this will phase my dad. Nor will the fact that not only do I no longer have a spare bedroom anymore, I also don't have a spare bed. I'll offer him the couch to sleep on, but most likely I'll find him bundled up on the hard and uncomfortable balcony for the very few hours of sleep on which he functions. And man, does he function!
Bapa is up with the kids every morning - taking a knee to the chest from Evie with a delighted laugh, building Lego's with Jonah, packing lunches for anyone who needs them. He picks his grandkids up from school and indulges them in a new toy every visit, which they obsess over and look forward to with near-manic anticipation as his trip gets closer. In general, they wait for about 45 seconds after Bapa's travel-wearied arrival to ask "when do I get my TOY?!" They're so polite - especially considering that I coach them, every single time, to not ask for any new toys.
When I get home from work, my kids ignore me as they spin around the apartment like whirling dervishes, screaming like banshees, jumping from furniture to floor to table to Bapa's back, all with a scary nutted-out look in their eyes. It's all a little bit manic and overwhelming. But, dinner is ready and I am able to take off my shoes, set down my bags, and eat.
During this visit, due to the fact that I don't have my kids 24/7 as before, my dad and I will get a little time to hang out by ourselves. I realized recently that this hasn't happened in a long, long time. Usually our time together goes something like this:
Wake Up. Hand Kids Over to Bapa. Go to Work. Get Home. Eat. Put Kids to Bed. Sit With Dad and Watch The Simpsons or Arrested Development for Approximately 15 Minutes. Fall Asleep on Couch. Repeat For Entire Visit.
So, I'm kind of looking forward to having a day with my dad. I can tell him all about what I've been up to, he can tell me about his winnings and losings at his weekly poker game, we can grab some beers at Russian River. For the most part, I like drinking socially with my dad, in small increments. I snagged my sense of humor directly from him and its fun being around someone who gets my jokes. He's not much a "deep conversation" guy, either, so there's never any pressure to talk about my feelings or anything like that. Thank god.
Because of my dad's incredibly mellow and somewhat lackadaisical grandparenting style, occasionally my kids' lives are put into danger (but no more than when they are with any other grandparent figures. These people are, in general, just a bit out of practice. Its a great opportunity for us new parents to feel smug and superior). There was the time he and Jonah were playing with a stick at the edge of the ocean out at Salmon Creek, and a wave washed over Jonah. Oops! Or the time I came home from work to find Evie out wandering happily on the sidewalk* while my unaware father made pizzas and jammed out to Phish in my kitchen. Ha!
I'm okay with all of this, because one of my favorite memories is of climbing to the very top of a disastrously tall tree when I was about four. I remember being at the top, the trunk narrow enough at that point for me to wrap my small arms and legs around it, swaying in the breeze. Down below was my dad, watching, encouraging, but definitely not freaking out. His young daughter was practicing her tree-climbing skills, her bravery, her independence - and also happened to be a good 85 feet in the air. Whatever.
The nice thing about my dad is that he will tell me, in the form of a casual "oh, heh heh, by the way..." story, about any dangerous experiences my kids had while I was away. I figure if he's telling me and they're still going totally wonkers all over the place, everything must have turned out okay. I appreciate his honesty. I'm someone who thinks its important to tell the parent if, say, a kid falls off of a horse.** Even if the kid is fine and all is well, I'd still like to know about it. Just sayin'.
On that note, I have to go prepare for my dad's arrival. For the next few hours I'll be tucking spare keys around my apartment complex for when he locks himself out, hiding all of the good wine, and trying to arrange a poker game - which should be an oddly intimate experience given the lack of space for things like raucous card games. But, as with everything, we Janik-folk can handle it. And we will.
*Turns out Evie was actually having a playdate with the neighbor and was completely supervised...I just didn't know it at the time. Silly over-reacting mom!
**No kids fell off of a horse on Bapa's watch.