Slowing down for a day of rest–and having the world catch up to you anyway.
This past Sunday was chilly but sunny; Friday and Saturday had been raw and damp, rainy days that befitted late January, even if the month had borne absurdly warm weather just weeks before. But there it was: sunshine and perfect blue skies.
Kel and I decided to spend the day at leisure. Friday, I’d driven to Raleigh for my interview with the doctoral program at N.C. State, which took place on Saturday. Afterward, I’d driven straight home, arriving just in time to fire up the grill and char steaks in honor of Kelly’s birthday. Julia and Thomas had spent the night at Carl and Dianne’s the night before. Annie, who had been suffering a bit of a head cold, stayed home with Kel. I’m not sure any member of our family felt well rested when they awoke Saturday morning.
So we decided to keep it simple Sunday morning, sleeping in, indulging in a full breakfast, sipping coffee afterward. Kel took up the duties of conveying a biblical lesson with the children–they really do have an advanced sense of guilt when it comes to missing church–and afterward we spent time reading while the kids played, and noon arrived without delay.
After a simple lunch, though, we couldn’t resist the sun any longer. Thomas wanted to fly his drone, but Julia and Annie wanted to play at the soccer park, so Kel and I divvied up our duties. I warmed up the Grand Wagoneer and took Thomas to fly, and Kel piled Annie and Julia (and Annie’s bike) into the van.
It didn’t take too much time for Thomas to expend both of his drone’s batteries. He’s getting better at flying–I was able to give him a couple of maneuvering challenges, which he began to figure out–and I am grateful for the two of us to have such an enjoyable activity together. Before long, the entire family was back together at the soccer park.
The park was full. At one point, Kel and I simply stood near the wooden bridge that crosses one of the creeks, watching as the kids played. A couple dozen teens or tweens played touch football on one of the soccer fields. The swings were all occupied, more or less. Even in the chill of a winter day, it felt good to have a face full of sunshine.
But sun cannot cure away all of the world’s dismays. Dad texted with the sudden news that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. It was the sort of news that’s jarring–celebrities, and young celebrities at that, so often don’t simply vanish from the earth like this–and also the sort that quickly becomes a binding denominator. Twitter filled with mournful tributes. The famous contributed their public anguish. The nation’s collective cries crescendoed once more when it was revealed Bryant’s 13 year-old daughter also perished in the accident.
By nightfall, the faithful on social media had assembled montages of Kobe and his daughter, who followed in her father’s remarkable shadow as a basketball player. (The pair were on their way to a youth tournament when the chopper went down.) There was a home video, seemingly taken with an iPhone, showing a patient father practicing with his daughter, the basketball’s bounces echoing across what we viewers quickly realized is an impressive, indoor, home basketball court.
There were other videos, and photos of them together emerged as well. Something about his daughter’s face as a young toddler reminded me of Annie. The news today tells the story that the pilot was flying in very poor visibility, that witnesses nearby could only hear the startling thumps of the helicopter’s blades, that it all happened so fast. Imagining father and daughter together in those last moments, it’s too nightmarish to consider anything other than it happening mercifully quick.
No one needed to say anything about cherishing the here and now Sunday afternoon at the soccer park. How many hours have our children spent here? How many ripples in space and time have I awoken across these fields? The little vibration where I look up and see them taller, leaner, faster–the same cerebral recognition every father must have.
Soon the sun began to flag in the sky. Dad had spent Saturday night smoking nearly ten pounds of pork for our supper, and it was time to move on. The kids all opted to ride home with Kel, so I fired the Wagoneer up, and slipped it into gear, taking the long way home, which is no way home, down the ribbons of Highway 64 and out into the rolling pastures, swinging a U-turn at Cool Spring School. Even in the midst of all this, a quiet, brief drive alone in the country, dividing the winter air with this hulking steel drum of a Jeep, was a salve.
The day was restorative without doubt, a needed touchstone in a week full and busy. Monday always comes, ready or not.
Unless it doesn’t, of course, mindful as I am in light of every newspaper’s blaring headline inked in honor of Kobe and his little girl. Which makes savoring those touchstones all the more important.