A Very Loud, Quiet House

I took last Friday off from work. Felt I needed a day away from that place and its mild mania. Felt I needed a day to myself at home listening to music, working on something creative, shampooing the carpets…anything but being at work. These last 9, almost 10 weeks of nonstop motion and movement at work due to flying solo has caught up to me. And to be honest, I still don’t feel completely over Covid from three weeks ago. I’m tired, run-down, and just over it. Even with the three-day weekend I’m still feeling exhausted and beat up. Kept it pretty casual the last couple days, yet still feel like I was running a marathon. Is this leftovers from Covid? Or is this just mental exhaustion? Or both?

I don’t know.

I think I’m just over everything. This is spring break week here as well, and back in the day I’d take the week off so I could spend it with the kids. The kids are all older now and I’m not a part of their plans. We only have one left in school and he’s leaving early Thursday morning and heading to Texas with his girlfriend and her family for five days or so. The oldest works like we do, while the 19-year old lives on her own and works and goes to night school. Spring break isn’t what it used to be.

It used to be day trips and getting pizza and renting movies. We never went to Florida or anything like that. Even when I was a kid spring break just meant sleeping in, going to my grandma’s on the lake, or having a friend or one of my cousins come over and spend the week. So with my own kids we spent the week hanging around the house. My wife usually had to work during spring break week, so it was me planning out what we’d do. I didn’t mind. I liked being home with them, making something fun out of something simple.

I think one of the most fun spring break weeks we spent was going to the Hall of Heroes Museum in Elkhart, IN back in 2014. The night before the kids and I went to go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier, then the next day we spent a couple hours looking at vintage Marvel and DC comic books, toys, and other oddities. For example, William Katt’s sports cup from The Greatest American Hero and Adam West’s Batman mask. We even got to play a vintage X-Men arcade game from the 90s. Super cool. It would have been a perfect day had it not been for my son getting one of his famous headaches and me having to pull into a CVS so he could throw up in their bathroom. After though, he was eager to munch on a bag of Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream potato chips.

Spring break 2016 I was home on medical leave due to back surgery. The kids were already home, so it worked out pretty great. It was a lot of graphic novels, spinning albums, and watching horror movies. For once I was being taken care of on Spring Break. My then almost 13-year old made my son and I “Bubble Pizza”, which was Pillsbury biscuit dough with sauce, mozzerella cheese, and pepperoni cooked until the crust bubbled up. My wife went out with our oldest and a bunch of her friends to eat that night. It was a nice evening despite the low grade pain and pain med haze.

Those were simpler times, when the kids were happy doing nothing much except driving an hour from the house to peruse weird museums in barns and throw up in CVS bathrooms. It’s not like they’ve grown up for fancier tastes in entertainment, it’s just that they’ve grown up and I can’t help but feel a little left behind in the process.

I never did stuff like that with my dad. He never took spring break off to spend it with me, doing things like hitting up museums or searching for cool comics in the .50 bin at the local comic book shop. He worked over spring break. It wasn’t like my dad and I didn’t get along, it’s just that his relationship with my brother and I was different. More distant and contractural. I was a much more hands-on dad. A lot of that was because my wife and I worked different shifts, with her working 2 to 7 and I was a day shift dad. The nights were always just the kids and I. The other thing was that my son got into comic books and the whole Marvel/DC film cycle. We bonded over that. Every movie release was a family event. We’d all go see a few of the movies, but it was mostly just the boy and I. And after nearly every movie we’d leave the cinema and go to the store so I could buy him an action figure.

Those days are gone now. When you’re 17, 18-years old you don’t see that passage of time like that. It’s all new and those changes are subtle in a teen mind. When you’re in your late 40s all those changes are big and cataclysmic. They’re reminders that your kids are adults, and you’re really old. It’s one thing with all the physical aspects of getting old; the sore muscles, the mystery pains, the foods that hurt you that didn’t just a few years ago. Those are all things I can deal with, begrudgingly. But when you have that realization that your children have outgrown you in certain ways, those pains are far worse than throwing your back out because you sneezed too hard.

I’ve gone through this a few times in the last couple of years; at two high school graduations, a college graduation, and when our youngest entered high school. But even when the boy became a Freshman at WCHS we still had our Friday night tacos and late night horror films. Covid hit and we had that much more time for hanging out and going for after work walks so we could chat about upcoming movies and comic book storylines that we liked. But as soon as he got his license he was off to the races. He’ll be graduating high school in little less than two months. We barely see him. I think it’s great that he’s got a life outside of the homestead, it’s just a hard transistion from having those weekend hangs to not having them at all.

I’m not all that great with change. I’m a creature of habit. I like the stability of despite how lousy a week has been, coming home and having our rituals make up for the hardships that life tends to throw at us. For a long time it was my weekend hangs with the boy, and even before that it was snacks for dinner and Spongebob on the downstairs TV. I even miss the fact that our house was the gathering place for our oldest and her friends back in middle and high school. The buzz of laughter and the chowing down on an Aldi pizza around the kitchen table, voices getting louder and animated. It’s just so damn quiet around here, with the exception of our old miniature schnauzer snoring on the couch.

I never realized just how much I didn’t like a quiet house, until I found myself in one.

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