Can’t a Dad Hug His Boy?

When I sat down to work at my computer yesterday morning, I checked my email and saw the stories on the news feed: another madman shoots random people; global warming disaster almost certain; radical politicians calling for rebellion, secession; the rich hoarding everything, the poor getting more desperate. I got off the Internet and clicked open the piece I am working on, and I stared at four pictures pinned to the cabinets in front of my writing desk.

One picture is a charcoal drawing of a human skull, my memento mori every morning as I sit down to work. The other three are curling snapshots from years ago hanging by a single thumb tack each.

The bottom one is of my boys at a cookout when Evan was not yet three and Asher was so young he could still delight himself to laughter just by running, happily unconcerned about his diaper-full of poop. The boys are in front of a picnic shelter in Kanawha Forest, and they are smudged and smeared face to bare feet with the grime of hard outdoor play. They are both squatting at a dog’s metal water bowl, splashing in it with sticks.

The middle photo is of Evan on my sister Alma’s lap. They both face the camera, her arms are wrapped around his chest and their faces are side by side—that they are related is clear by their sharp Sizemore chins.

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Coming Home to Fatherhood

I recently saw a brief clip of a ten year-old girl in her classroom who looks up to see that her soldier father has unexpectedly come home from Iraq. I confess that I am a complete sucker for this. I couldn’t describe the video to someone without getting husky voiced, which is just plain embarrassing. I watched it on Youtube a half dozen times, and then—because the Internet is of the devil—I was presented with the opportunity to watch other videos that the Youtube algorithm deemed similar to the first.

So of course I watched them all.

Some are exploitive—parents and principals and news anchors all conspiring in elaborate, hours-long hoaxes to maximize the surprise of children, and ensure that it’s all captured on high-quality film for consumption by suckers like me. Others, like the video that pulled me in, are simple and brief and lovely. [Read more...]

Why All This Music?

Guest Post

I grew up in the Mohawk River valley of upstate New York. By the time the long, frigid winter was over, we’d often seen more snow than anywhere in the country.

Life was rugged both inside and outdoors.

My dad was angry and drunk and hit my brother and me and crashed our family vehicles and hated his job and, I think, himself. He made pitchforks at the Union Tool Company, working in the forge, a role even the toughest guys in the factory respected. Some of them tried it for a few days for the higher pay but couldn’t hack it. My father did it for twenty-seven years. He came home with burns on his clothes and skin several times a week. [Read more...]

My Kite Boy

I woke at one thirty with a start. My heart pounded in my ears. My wife was warm under the covers beside me, in the heavy rhythm of sleep. Through the hiss of the white noise machine I could hear the wet clicks of our schipperke, Sgt. Pepper, under the bed obsessively licking his paw.

I was afraid.

I did my quick mental inventory. Everything was as it should be. Kids in bed. Doors locked.

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