Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Tag: Family

Baby Crush

A bald head crowned by a few curls peeks out. Two eyes large and watchful wait and see what I might do.

I’m not moving. I stand silent. I’m a daddy statue.

Tiny hands cover her eyes. She tries to catch my gaze.

No way. I’m having no part of it. Not yet.

She opens them. She peeks carefully at me. Then covers herself with the blanket.

“Peep bo!” The blanket speaks.

That’s my moment. My eyes close. Although I keep the good one only an eighth open. Enough to cheat. Enough not to get caught.

Each time she closes her eyes, I open mine. Each time I see her open her eyes, I close mine!

Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. “Peep Bo!”

“Peep bo!” I say again. Before the blanket went on.

I chuckle as the blanket giggles and rolls on the floor. Then smile at her laughter while she wriggles her way out. Usually she beats me to it. Then as she unwravels…

“Peep Bo!” She got me that time.

The blanket again wraps itself up. It giggles and rolls on the floor. Then she crawls out. And stands a little taller than this morning. Now her jumpsuit is too small for her. But that’s no matter now.

Two arms stretch to the sky. She starts to waggle her fingers. Twinkle twinkle? Yes i’m happy to sing that with her. But no peeking. Otherwise she’ll catch me lip syncing.

Then she stops stock still.

No. I was lucky there. Then not so lucky.

“Jump game.”

Oh no! Daddy workout time.

Arms stretch high. “As high as the sky.”

I squat down. I waddle towards her. I put my shoulders under her arms. Then my hands around her waist.

I lift her up. Until her head is level with mine. Her eyes are already laughing. Daddy’s doing the heavy lifting now.

I stand up and throw her high into the air.

Giggles, then laughter.

I stop just before I let her go. I’m not a dad, I’m an astronaut trainer. Besides she’ll never get vertigo from me!

“Again. High as the sky.”

More deep squats. More overhead presses. My knees ache. My shoulders sing. I sneak a glance at my burden.

She’s frozen in time!! One arm up, one arm out, frozen in a ballet pose.

Carefully I shift her to my stronger arm. I lean forward, most weight pushed backward and draw back the coverlet, sheet and blanket. Then i place her in her bed as if one false move would be the last. She slumps flaccid in her bed. I cover her up. I start to lightly leave…

Her hand finds my finger. And crushes it. I hold my breath. I listen to her breath slow and deep measuring eternity one second at a time.

Yes parenthood is a vocation, it’s not a job. But if someone can tell me how to remove a child’s hand from my finger without waking her, I’d be really grateful!

The Fifth Love

Of a morning, I’m woken up by the song Higher Love by Steve Winwood. And not every morning, I ask myself, “What is this song really about?””Where is this higher love he keeps thinking of anyway?” Perhaps this higher love might be one of C. S. Lewis‘s The Four Loves:

  • Storge: Love experienced by and for family members, companions or colleagues. As anyone would know this is a love of boundaries and a subsuming of personality.
  • Philia: Love experienced through friendship which may of course have flexible boundaries and an extension of personality but there are still boundaries.
  • Agape: Altruistic, unselfish love experienced through being kind to strangers or generous to those we do love.
  • Eros: Erotic, romantic, infatuated love which is joyous until the deinfatuation occurs.

Connected or Disconnected (Logan Troxell)

As a father, son, brother, friend, colleague, husband, lover and occasional altruist, I’ve experienced all of these loves. I’ve especially written about agape love in On Unselfish Love and explored it further in Rumi’s Puzzle of Love.

But for me, sadly, these loves have an element of impersonality as they are restricted by boundaries in one way or another. All in all these loves have a sense of disconnectedness about them.

But as Steve Winwood hinted, when he woke me up, there is another love, a fifth love, if you will, a love that simply does not fit the above categories. I’ve been touched by and wrote about that love in Love, Science Fiction and Understanding. I’ve heard it hinted at in the writings of Rumi and Donne and many others. I’ve seen it in action during the beautiful relationship of a favourite uncle and dear aunt.

But as an aspiring poet and storyteller, I still feel I’m grasping at air. Try though I might, I cannot define it, let alone describe it. It seemed as if the answer was out of sight and out of hearing. An answer, it seems, that the heart knows but won’t tell.

And at an unexpected place and an unexpected time, I find the beginnings of that answer.

I’m in Colombo International Airport, Sri Lanka after attending my friends’ wedding. I have four or five hours to wait for my flight as it leaves well after midnight. I sigh and reach into my bag. I retrieve Joseph Campbell‘s the Power of Myth and try (and again fail) to read it. For every single time I read this book, I become lost with new thoughts and feelings. And this night, in an airport slowly being emptied of travellers, it’s again the same.

I randomly choose a chapter, Tales of Love and Marriage. In the first page, Campbell starts talking about the medieval troubadours.  My first tired thought is, “This isn’t for me.” My next thought is,”I have three or four hours, so read.” I read on. And I read something that catches my breath for an eternity. Campbell sets aside the concepts of Eros and Agape as respectively a biological urge (infatuation) and a charitable (spiritual) love. He introduces the term Amor, a person-to-person love, a love based on connection that exceeds any of the four loves. Much much later, I’m reminded of that phrase so many people use to describe a failed love, “We didn’t have a connection.” They’re right.

An answer in Plain Sight? (Dominik Schroder)

That night everything falls into place. For this love is one that looks into the eyes of another and sees not only their heart and soul but the rest of the universe as well. This love is one that will explore the known and unknown, knowing that all will never be revealed. This love is one that is based on vulnerability, compassion and courage. This love, this fifth love, demands a price but pays bountifully.

 

Are You Brothers? No We’re Twins!

“Andrew Whalan speaking”.

“Are you David Whalan?”

“No, I’m Andrew Whalan. David is my brother.”

The caller nearly ended the call as he thought he was talking to David.

But we sorted that out. Yes he knows I have a brother called David. He doesn’t know that David is my twin brother. Not entirely a unique situation but unique enough.

It usually happens when we’re together and somebody asks, “Are you brothers?”

Our reply, (not delivered in unison by the way) is, “No we’re twins.”

Still if I was paid every time I was asked that question I’d be rich.  I’d have to split the winnings with him. But we’d still be rich.

Our story isn’t the two exactly alike. Nor is it the two exactly unalike.  It’s a confluence of sorts.

We were in the same class in primary school. Then in different classes in secondary school.

We chose different subjects for the last two years of high school. Then we chose different degrees and different career paths.

And that’s been the pattern of it. We were brought up as individuals and pursued individual goals. But our paths of course crossed as we found that we had more in common than we expected.

When we played sport, we both loved cricket. He was a batsman who could bowl. I was a bowler who could bat a little. Again we both had different strengths and weaknesses. One of them was that people assumed that as twins we could read each other’s mind. Not quite.

We were encouraged to play tricks on people. The only one I recalled was we swapped places in class. None of our fellow students were helpful at all. They kept saying, “Sir, David looks really different today.” The teacher either ignored them, didn’t notice the swap or didn’t care.

We didn’t even play tricks on our girlfriends. The nearest incident occurred when I was dropped off for a party by David and his date. She said later to me that she didn’t know who she was going out with that night. In truth, I don’t think we tricked her at all as she was too smart, much too smart for that.

We’ve worked together several times. The first time, I was a software developer, then later system administrator and David was hired as an accountant.  As we had quite different specialities we were never seen together at work. It wasn’t until the company Christmas party, that the Managing Director realised he had employed two of a kind.

The second time, David was a fellow director of the charity Volunteer Funders being focussed on the accounting and financial aspects. Again we had different specialities but a common purpose.

My sense of being a twin is that I’m an individual. I am someone who has a brother with whom I have much in common. But I’m not the same. I’m not a clone or replica. I’m not opposite by the way. I’m complementary. And for parents and siblings alike, that makes for an interesting and educational upbringing!

 

When The Fear Came

I’m woken this time by light not sound. It’s about 1 or 2 in the morning. I’ve left the bedside lamp on. I’ve forgotten to turn it off again and the glare has woken me up.  I opt to try to go back to sleep. I reach across to turn it off.

Except I can’t. I’m frozen. I’m like a cat crouched ready to leap. But at what? And why? As I stay still I become aware of something. I’m not sure what it is exactly. I wait and calm myself some more. It’s fear. I can feel fear. There’s fear in the room. I slowly realise that  it’s not me. I wait a little. I tell it to go away. I wait some more. But it doesn’t. It is more insistent and urgent than ever.

I’m now fully alert. I’m now more than a little alarmed.  It’s still there. I can feel my response to it. It is like electricity coursing through me. As I cannot go back  to sleep, I decide to keep it at bay. I end up staying with the fear until I fall asleep. Until that moment, I felt like I’m on-call again waiting for the emergency call-out.

I put it aside. A few days afterward I receive a phone call. It’s bad news. There has been a fire at my ex-wife’s place. But it’s not the worst news. I am then assured that everything is fine. There follows a somewhat fragmented story.

Someone had tried to set fire to the house. Fortunately that lit fire had failed to take hold. Even better the smoke alarms had gone off. That was enough for my sons and ex-wife to wake and escape quickly. Nearby the neighbours had called the fire brigade who had arrived promptly and put out the fire. I feel the energy drain out of me in relief.  then a thought occurs to me.

I ask, “When did this happen?” I’m told the exact date. Then I ask,”What time?”After midnight or so.

Then I stop stock still. It was then the fear came.

 

Mothers Day is for Everyone

It was Mothers Day. That Sunday we (my then second wife Tracey and I) were with my youngest sons for their access visit and sleepover.

English: Mother's Day card

English: Mother’s Day card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That Sunday morning, I quizzed my sons.

Did you give your mother a card for Mothers Day? Yes, they chorused.

Did you want to phone her? Yes!

A quick hello to their Mum on the phone and that’s that.
Mothers Day is over. Better remember to call my Mum that evening
though.

So far so good.
But then something odd happened.

Eliot, my second eldest son walked up to Tracey. And he had something for her. And he handed her what looked like a folded piece of paper.

By now I was intrigued. This was unusual. His brothers often drew pictures and gave them to us. But rarely Eliot, if at all.

Tracey opened up the hand made card. She was speechless and more than a little moved.

My son had given her a Mothers Day card! And his brothers gave her the cards they had made.

She had asked me previously what to do and how to act to my children. I advised her just to be yourself. I had no idea if that was any help at all. I literally said the first thing that came into my head. After all, I didn’t know what to do or act either.
She got her answer that Mothers Day. And never any argument from me about how she treated the children.
Later I took Eliot aside into the study. For a second, he probably thought he was going to get into trouble. Only for a moment. I asked him whose idea was it to give Mothers Day cards to my second wife. He admitted it was him.
I told him that I had never been more proud of him. Ever.
He knew that Mothers Day is for everyone. And that anyone can be a mother.

Of Happier Things

And now to speak of happier things as my Dad says. As you may have already read, my sister was married last week.

How I did behave at her reception? Perfectly. Well almost. I spoke to anyone and everyone.

I said this wedding shows the good you do returns to you.

Let there be more of that! Especially after the terrors of yesterday.

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