146290
146817
On Your Father's Side  

Shouldering the load

His TV is on the fritz. The man reaches under the credenza to unplug the set, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back into the wall.

His shoulder warns him not to stay crouched in that position too long, holding his plug waiting for miracles to happen.

The man is reaching into the back seat now to help the toddler buckle her seat belt.

His shoulder lures him into a false sense of security.

It doesn’t hurt until it’s too late to move anywhere. He is wedged between two front seats, sitting partially on the centre console and grabbing the seatbelt.

There’s nowhere to move. The seatbelt is wrapped around a child’s car seat.

That combination is immovable. It’s the same technology they use to help fighter jets land on aircraft carriers.

He endures the pain, and juts forward. He jiggles the belt loose from its hook. As he’s falling, he clicks the buckle into the belt and collapses.

Ethan Hunt could not have survived this Impossible Mission any better.

The man grabs the passenger’s seat, and hoists himself upright again. He grabs his shoulder and gasps.

“Arrgghh!”

“Daddy, are you OK?” the middle child asks.

“No, no, I am not.”

“Oh, it’s his shoulder,” her older sister realizes.

Not to be left out, the “baby” confirms the diagnosis. “Yeah, him’s sholdah.”

The man is at work now. He picks up a copy of the newspaper and eventually lands on the sports section. He reads about a local Masters Soccer League and realizes his calendar might just have room for a triumphant return to the pitch.

He scans for names of people he recognizes, from the time long ago when he was free to run and jump and play.

He looks at the picture, and sees men like him straining and stretching to score, or save.

They look graceful, nearly poetic, captured mid-stride.

Then he remembers why he doesn’t play any more. He remembers duplicating moves like the ones in the photo, and how much it actually hurt.

By the end of his “Masters Soccer Career” five years ago, his feet had blistered over. His knees ached. His back seized. Sneezing was fraught with danger.

The man decides that if he’s to undergo that challenge again, he’d better play for a team sponsored by a brewery. Not for the beer (well, kind of for the beer), but for the extra ice they send along in the coolers.

Getting old is hard work. It’s painful, and I still have at least, like, seven good years left in me.

What are those going to be like?

I keep finding new body parts to injure. I didn’t play much golf or tennis growing up, so my rotator cuffs went through life relatively unscathed.

Then, kids.

For about a month, Emmy refused to walk anywhere. She’d stubbornly hide in the back of the minivan whenever we dropped or collected her sisters from school.

The only thing that satisfied her was a piggyback ride.

To get her out of the car and across the school playing field, I had to carry her. She has the gripping power of a sack of P.E.I. potatoes, with the weight to match.

She’d alternately grab my throat and slide off my back.

To prevent her from falling, I’d stretch my arms as far back as possible and grab her legs. I couldn’t just hold her behind the knees, because her legs were not long enough.

It went like this for several days. Two months later, I can’t sleep on my right side.

The pain radiates through my upper arm down to the elbow.

Telling people I have a rotator cuff injury sounds cool, like I’m a Major League Baseball player.

In reality, it’s some of the worst pain I’ve experienced. You reach and reach and reach with nothing and then SNAP! It takes me a 90 seconds to recover from the most mild irritation.

You try to avoid reaching behind you, but do you know how much important stuff is behind you?

Reach to turn off the alarm clock? Snap! Reach to put on your jacket, snap! Reach back to snap your kids… oh, right, that’s where we started this whole thing.

Using a keyboard and mouse feels somehow like I’m flying a fighter jet. My grip is weak.

The exercises my physiotherapist gave me will need four to six weeks of continued work to be most effective.

Easy. With three kids, and a few part-time jobs, I’ll have plenty of time to squeeze that into my schedule.

Right between soccer games and seatbelts.

It’s obvious what this means, I need a new TV.



148723


It's chickenpox, run!

Remember when it was impolite to talk politics or religion in mixed company?

Today, it feels like that’s changed to health care and food choices. We need to stop being so polite.

We were faced with that problem very recently when a birthday party attended by my six-year-old Betty included a child with chickenpox.

Shudder!

Remember when your parents invited kids with chickenpox to your house, so you could get them, too? Then our parents were done with it and we were immunized for life.

Today, immunizations offered to parents of newborns, infants and toddlers includes a chicken pox vaccine. You get it at 12 months and then five-years-old.

It’s why, when this child arrived at the birthday party, small red scars visible from the neck up, mild panic set into some parents.

At first, I thought, “Oh good lord, we’re all being exposed to The Plague! Run, run for your lives!”

I have three children, and this is the first sign of chickenpox I’ve seen in seven years. By the time I was seven years old, the vast majority of my friends had contracted — and beaten — the illness.

It was so out of place to see this child with blisters, that it was easy to overreact.

All the kids had fun, they’ve all been home for about a week now, and nobody has shown any adverse effects from the experience.

However…

Now, I never got the chance to ask questions. I would have liked to have asked if this child — let’s use the name Drue — was vaccinated. Maybe Drue had been vaccinated, and the chickenpox was a 1 in a million fluke.

Perhaps Drue has an allergy to vaccines, or another underlying health condition that makes vaccination impossible.

That would make Drue the poster child for herd immunity. If we all get our children vaccinated, there’s less chance poor, little Drue is exposed to pathogens more harmful than chickenpox.

I would have also liked to have known if Drue was still contagious. I’m sure Drue was past that stage, because Drue was absent for a couple of days, and then returned to school midweek (just in time for the party).

Plus, Drue showed no signs of the incessant scratching or lethargy that I remember from having chickenpox.

That tells me, hopefully, that Drue’s parents kept Drue from school long enough to recover.

Besides, the school’s reaction would have likely been much stronger if Drue was contagious. As it was, the principal took a rather strong position.

Drue’s chickenpox was so alarming, the school sent out an email blast to all parents alerting them to the situation.

Can you imagine your school doing that in the 1980s?

It might sound as if I’m against the chickenpox vaccine, but that’s not true at all. All my kids have been immunized, and I’m a believer in the flu shot, too.

But I was surprised when — roughly six years ago, now — the nurse explained that our oldest daughter would get a chickenpox vaccine.

“Really?” I remember asking. “You vaccinate for that, too?” It felt like a laundry list of diseases were now included in childhood immunizations, and I didn’t think chickenpox necessitated another jab in our baby’s arm.

The nurse explained it this way: if we can eliminate it, why wouldn’t we?

“But the dangers of chickenpox must be small?”

Well, yes and no. It’s not a pandemic, but it can cause pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and bacterial infections of the skin, Healthlink BC’s website says.

“Encephalitis can lead to seizures, deafness or brain damage. About 1 in 3,000 adults will die from the infection,” the website says.

That’s why it would’ve been polite for Drue’s parents to give the birthday party hosts the heads-up that Drue would still like to come, and wouldn’t infect anyone else.

My biggest concern was, what if Drue came into contact with someone — say, a grandparent or a sick relative — who could’ve been placed at risk?

Yes, I know, a sick, elderly relative is at risk from the common cold, but it still feels like an important consideration.

It should’ve been up to the hosts to say, “OK, we trust you. Drue is still welcome.” Or to politely ask that Drue stay home.

Heck, if we are headed to someone else’s house, we regularly tell our friends if the kids are sick, and give them the option of rescheduling the playdate or dinner party.

That’s where that “too polite to talk about” idea comes back to me.

I was too polite to ask if Drue was well enough to be at school or the party. I was too polite to ask if Drue had some underlying condition that prevented immunization.

If the other parents had known the answers to those questions, it would have made the site of chickenpox a lot less jarring.

Instead, we’re left to think that if Drue isn’t immunized for something like chickenpox, perhaps Drue is also at risk of measles, mumps and rubella — and we can't ignore that in British Columbia today.



Everyone needs a Kelly

There are fewer, more pathetic feelings than being so sick you can’t move when your four-year-old daughter calls from her bedroom, “Can somebody please help me?”

It was 5 a.m., and my wife was working in Ontario for a week. I’d been hit with some mysterious illness. I tried to step down from bed only to have a wave of nausea overcome me.

I hit the floor, and crawled to the bathroom.

On the flip side of that, there is nothing more inspiring than having others — including your two older children— rally to help you.

I called out, “Emmy, come here and tell me what’s wrong.” But she could barely hear me, mostly because I could barely croak out anything from a sandpaper throat.

She kept calling for help. She had peed her bed. She never pees her bed any more, not for a year.

As fate would have it, she picked the day I felt like I’d been hit by a medium-sized rhinoceros carrying a baby hippo on its back and my wife was in Toronto.

She called out a half-dozen times, so much that it finally woke her two older sisters.

“Girls, Daddy is so sick, I can’t move,” I called to them.

La-La and Betty emerged from their slumber, crossed the hall and asked Emmy what was wrong.

They removed her sheets, took her to the bathroom to change and arranged a makeshift bed for her, all while Daddy crawled on his belly to the toilet. I didn’t barf, but I was immediately soothed by the cold, bathroom tile.

It felt as if my head was a giant magnet, and the floor was made of iron.

I could barely turn around and crawl back to bed. I had a feeling if I could just break the magnetic field controlling my forehead, I could climb back into bed — which suddenly appeared to be on stilts — and sleep it off.

We still had a couple of hours until our alarm and the morning, school-day routine.

Two hours later, though, there was no way I was getting three little girls dressed, fed and into a car for school.

I could hear them whispering in their bedrooms once they were awake, and that took my guilt to entirely new levels.

“How will we get to school?” I could hear Betty say. “We can’t walk.”

“We can call someone,” La-La said.

“But we don’t know how to use Daddy’s phone.”

I’ve never felt more useless in my life. I’ve also never been more proud of other human beings. They weren’t going to just quit. They wanted to do the right thing.

La-La is 7 ½ and Betty turns six today.

I was just about to call them into my bedroom, when La-La offered another option: “I can use Daddy’s phone. I can call Kelly.”

Kelly is our “backup Mom.” Before you take that idea into directions that insult us all, know that Kelly is mom to La-La’s best friend. We see them at school, dance and soccer. We live minutes from each other.

Everyone needs a Kelly.

I’d told the girls we would just stay home from school, but eventually sent a text to Kelly.

She got our message and sprang into action, coming to collect the girls for school and check on me (and chastising me for not calling her sooner). She offered to get me food and medicine. She soothed La-La’s nerves (she hates to see her parents sick or sad as much as she hates being late for school).

I’ll say it again, everyone needs a Kelly. In the absence of family (my in-laws were in Palm Springs), having someone you can rely on when the going gets tough is nothing short of lifesaving.

There’s something else there, too. Having someone you can help — genuinely help — is just as uplifting.

That’s why, when someone in Kelly’s family is sick and we can provide a lift to dance class or a dozen muffins, we jump at the chance to repay them.

Given that between us we have six children between ages two and seven, there are likely going to be dozens of opportunities to help each other over the years.

Having someone there to help also quiets those “growly” thoughts. What happens if your car breaks down, you forget your keys or — God forbid — our basement floods (or worse), knowing there’s someone out there who has no reservations about coming to your aid is better than Xanax.

If you’re the type of person who takes in abandoned baby birds, shovels your neighbour’s driveway, or picks up their kids from school--just because it’s the right thing to do--this is dedicated to you.

Thank you to all the Kellys in this world.





Birthdays in 'Iceland'

My kids were unusually happy about celebrating my 46th birthday.

The delicious, frosted side of me said, “Well, they just want to eat at a restaurant and gorge themselves on birthday cake.”

But the nutritious, whole-wheat side of me quickly realized just how damn amazing kids can be (when they’re not melting down).

At Christmastime they decided wrapping presents was nearly as much fun as opening them, and that continued last week when my big day came and went.

La-La was bouncing three days before it all happened. She asked me four times what my favourite colour is so she could find the perfect gift bag.

Middle-baby Betty busily crafted me little pictures and cards, colouring and drawing until it was just right. Littlest Emmy followed me around more doe-eyed than normal.

It really was an incredible feeling.

They practically forced me to sleep in, even though it was a school day and I needed to help make them school lunches.

But when I finally crawled from bed, my wife Erin had French toast on the table and the kids’ lunches neatly packed.

There was a small stack of gifts on the table, too. Momentos from Ottawa, a city where I lived for a decade and where my parents and two brothers still call home, were packed inside those carefully selected gift bags.

My wife had spent the previous week working in my former home and returned with Ottawa Senators gear, which is really cheap these days.

It was all too much for a guy who’d rather not celebrate his birthday, but it was also perfect.

If you can’t enjoy birthday love from your family, what can you enjoy?

It’s probably okay to celebrate turning 46, too. Really, this is midlife for me. I'm halfway there!

While I fantasize about living to 119, that’s probably not in my cards with prostate cancer on one side and two pre-60 heart attacks on the other. On your father’s side, indeed.

Let’s hope to goodness I have more of my grandmother’s genes. The woman barely set foot inside a hospital before she died at 94.

That gives me 48 more years on the high side.

It’s not fun to think about mortality, at least not for me, but it’s happening a lot more these days.

What do I want to accomplish now that I’ve crested the hill and I’m looking down the other side? Red or black convertible?

Hell, accomplishments seem pie-in-the-sky some days. I’d love to find a career that won’t eventually be replaced by Artificial Intelligence.

I’d love to live in a world where Russian hackers aren’t doing their best to divide us. I’d like to wake up one day and learn we’ve decided to battle climate change head-on. Maybe Donald Trump will be charged, impeached and removed from office, because we know he’s not going quietly.

I’d like to throw something in the trash and not immediately worry it’s going to end up shoved in some turtle’s nose.

Cucumbers that aren’t wrapped in plastic and taste like real food would be nice, too.

You have to wonder what are we leaving our children to clean up.

I also need more sleep, to stop eating potato chips and ice cream, and to ease off the dark beer with double the alcohol.

Someone please blow up smartphones and don’t invent anything to replace them.

It’s seriously depressing when, at play group, you catch moms and dads staring at their screens rather than watching their kids make play dough, paint or dress Mr. Potato Head.

Put your phones away, people.

Sigh.

Maybe I should just stop worrying, pull my last-place Ottawa Senators hoodie over my eyes, cuddle up with the kids and explain to them that I’m thinking about moving us all to Iceland where we can watch the world melt away … from the screens of our smartphones.



More On Your Father's Side articles

144807
About the Author

David Trifunov is a proud father, humble author and recovering journalist.

Trifunov and his wife, Erin, are raising three little girls in Kelowna and enjoying every second of the trials, triumphs and tribulations.

As a humble author, he has written three middle-grade books for publisher Formac-Lorimer.

To pay the bills so he can raise those kids and write those books, Trifunov is a journalist with 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor.

His parenting column will appear regularly. davidtrifunov.ca



148609
The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories



148840