Saturday, August 29, 2015


I got out of bed a couple days after Angela and Vito had returned from Italy, and Vito told me that he woke up early. "I watched the sunrise for a little bit, and then played with Legos," he said, as if it were the most usual order of events in the world. Sunrise was around 5AM, and we had been up quite late the night before, so I was surprised that he woke up at such an early hour. "Everything was orange," he added, "even the living room."

I was even more astonished that he was wowed enough by a new day dawning to make it the first thing he commented about to me that morning. A defense of his behavior, perhaps, which he may have thought broke some unwritten rule. If it became a regular habit, it might pose some problems, but this was a singular incident. How did our son, new romantic observer of the morning light spectrum, arrive to this? There's certainly nothing wrong with it, but what made him do it? I tried to recall other instances.

Did it start when Vito was four and we all went camping in Death Valley National Park? On our last morning, we woke up and dressed in our little three-person tent in the frigid desert darkness and then drove to Zabriskie Point so we could watch the sunrise over the valley, a recommended sight, and well worth the effort. There were only a handful of people around, and the sunrise seemed to last even longer as its rays painted the snow-tipped mountains on the other side of the valley. Had we enjoyed any other family sunrise gazings before then? Had it left such a lasting impression?

These days, we travel by air dozens of times each year. On planes, a habitual window-shade opener and closer, he must have also seen, going or coming, the extended sunrise outside a plane window at one time or another. He has probably logged more air miles than most people accrue in their entire lives. In any case, such a memory, perhaps, remains undocumented. Surely, the seed had been planted somewhere. It is possible that it is simply a new interest and nothing more. The budding romantic. As a poet and self-styled cloud monger, to steal a moniker from Baudelaire, I couldn't be more proud. Still, I wondered.

Moving forward a few years, in December, when were were traveling in Cambodia, we woke up early to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat with the scads of tourists that flocked there for the same purpose. He didn't complain about being roused from sleep at a frightening hour, but accepted the whim as part and parcel. Then, a few days later, while we were on Koh Rong Island and up all night nursing illnesses, we lucked into watching another sunset break across the sea from the veranda of our bungalow. It was quiet and spectacular and slow and then it was just morning. We paid in sleep deprivation. What was the reward?

Finally, most recently, while we were in Italy vacationing with two neices a nephew and my mother-in-law, we woke up one morning to watch the sunrise. Vito's cousin, Alessandro, joined us on the villa's tiled patio. What magic was working on them as they stared out across the water? Will we do it again? Surely, there is a promise in all of this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fragmented Days

I took Vito to California at the beginning of the summer while Angela stayed in Qatar to work. Our schedules weren't wholly aligned, and she decided against making a trip to the West Coast this year. We weren't going to have so much time together this summer, and she didn't want to waste any of those days traveling so far. Aside from the cost, it takes, perhaps, more than two full days round trip, which is a hearty commitment. Anyway, after a few weeks of California family, friends and fun, Vito and I returned to Doha, rested for a little more than 24 hours, repacked, and then the three of us boarded a flight to Turkey to spend five days in Istanbul before continuing on to our final destination, Italy. Jet lag was oppressive, but we did our best to ignore it. We were together, we were on vacation and we had sights to see!

We stayed together as a family for about three weeks before I had to return to reality. To Doha. Vito stayed with his mother and grandmother in Italy where, as of today, he has just about one more week before he has to return and start his new routine. 3rd grade. Music lessons twice a week, and whatever else will crop up once life returns to normal. What's normal for us, at any rate.

So now, I'm by myself. Back at work. Waking up early and preparing for another year in the Academic Bridge Program, putting my holidays behind me and watching via Skype and WhatsApp what Angela shares with me of the rest of their Italian summer--it's ferragosto, holiday time in Italy, and everyone there is eating together, taking day trips, meeting in the evenings, shopping and such. It's too hot to go outside here, but it's nice to have time to play the piano or watch a movie. I don't have to make anyone's lunch or get up early on the weekend. It's a little lonely and frustrating that I can only be a bystander while they stroll around the streets with gelato, but I suppose I had my time at the front end. I guess I'm just being greedy. And I miss them.

Vito answered the phone a couple days ago when I called, and he sounded different. Older. I'm missing some of that every-day connective tissue that usually blinds us to those little changes in our daily acquaintance. Wrinkles. Grey hair. My son is growing up, however momentary, without me, and it's tangible. I could hear it in his voice. It came across in a long-distance call. The changes rear up in short videos on my cellphone and mock me. When will I notice the next one? I imagine these kinds of episodes will only increase as our lives trundle on and we move away from each other for longer and longer periods of time, and he continues to grow up into that person that he is becoming. "Well," he says, pausing on the other end as if he is about to break it to me, "I guess I better go, daddy."