A couple of days ago I was in a horrible mood. Overwhelmed and angry, I felt like the world was conspiring against me. It wasn’t of course, but if you had tried pointing out my delusional thinking I would’ve ripped your head off.

Just as I was in the middle of throwing myself a rocking pity party my wife and daughter came home. The moment Natalie ran through the door laughing I found her innocent happiness disconcerting. “Oh kid,” I thought to myself, “You have no idea how screwed up the world is.” Part of me wanted to run out the door and find a bar. I didn’t want to expose my kid to the toxic stuff flowing through my veins. I needed to commiserate with adults and bitch about poor old me. But when you’re a Dad you can’t always do that.

“Uppa!” Natalie shouted. “Uppa!”

Stuffing my feelings down I picked Natalie up and gave her a kiss. “How was your day, dear?” My question was rewarded with a stream of babble.

“She didn’t take a nap all day,” my wife said. “And she’s wired. I thought she was going to bust out of her car seat.”

“I’ll take her outside for a while,” I said. “Let her burn off some steam.”

“You do that and I’ll make dinner.”


“You all right?” Annie said. “You look weird.”

“Bad day.”

I carried Natalie to the backyard and the moment I put her down she ran across the lawn screaming and laughing. Oh brother, I thought. Is someone monitoring this kid’s sugar intake?

Natalie chased the dogs, jumped on her toy house, slid down its tiny slide, blew bubbles, looked at bugs and kicked a ball around. As I watched her I began to feel my blood pressure drop and my troubles fade away. Looking at my house I could see my wife in the kitchen preparing dinner and heaved a deep breath. There are people who would give anything to have what I have. I forget that sometimes.

I felt a raindrop hit my cheek and looked up. The eastern sky was gunmetal grey and a cold wind was beginning to tear the leaves off the trees. Thunder rumbled ominously. Sensing the violence in the sky, Buster limped by and made a beeline for the back door. Knowing I didn’t have much time I picked Natalie up and threw her in the air, played airplane and flipped her upside town. Then I held her hands and spun her around. When I put her back down on the ground she giggled as she walked around dizzily. Once she recovered she ran back towards me and held her hands up. She wanted to ride the ride again.

Spinning Natalie around I looked down at her face. As the world whirled around us her eyes were scrunched shut and she was smiling. A shutter clicked in my mind and I knew that image of my daughter’s sweet, happy face would stay with me forever. Nothing, not dementia, Alzheimer’s or the fires of hell would ever take it from me. We all have moments like that, moments that get fused into our souls.

The rain began to fall and I brought Natalie inside. After we finished dinner I poured myself a drink and turned on Sesame Street. As Natalie sang about the letter of the day, counted with the Count and danced with Elmo the rain outside was falling so hard that branches were crashing into the street. As the wind shook the windows the darkness that had grasped me earlier threatened to return.

The storm reminded me that nature is cruel and violent. Disease stalks us with implacable patience; animals eat their young and black holes rip stars apart. Bodies burn in time’s flame and tsunamis sweep lives away. And don’t get me started about human nature with all its greed, brutishness and stupidity. I lay awake at night worrying about how Natalie will handle the big, bad world.

As I sipped my drink a guitar started playing on the television and children begin to sing. Natalie started hopping up and down and I found myself singing along. It was an old song, a song I sang when I was a child. I’m sure you remember Ernie singing it.

Somebody come and play
Somebody come and play today
Somebody come and smile the smiles
And sing the songs
It won’t take long
Somebody come and play today

Somebody come and play
Somebody come and play my way
Somebody come and rhyme the rhymes
And laugh the laughs
It won’t take time
Somebody come and play today

Somebody come with me and see the pleasure in the wind
Somebody come before it gets too late to begin.

Before it gets too late to begin. Those words struck home. Most of my life I’ve thrashed around without a plan. I married late and had children late. I can’t tell you how many people I know who are struggling to find love, have children or buy a house. Me? I’ve stumbled into every good thing I have. I didn’t earn love or a child. It was all given to me. Someone once said that justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve. If that’s the case, grace is the defining aspect of my life.

Looking out the window I think about nature and grace. They stand separate yet connected; complementing and colliding with each other in ways I’m too small to understand. The struggle of life is to try and understand them both but we never will. Existence, despite our science and logic, will always be mysterious. It’s a hell of a ride but sometimes grace asks you to come out and play. That’s when you see something like a child’s smile as her father whirls her around. You get a glimpse of something wonderful and life becomes sweet. I hope Natalie tastes that sweetness.

Eventually my daughter started rubbing her eyes so my wife and I gave her a bath, read her a story and tucked her into bed with a bottle. Before long Natalie was fast asleep. A couple of hours later I slipped under the covers and joined my wife in bed. Outside the wind was howling and my dogs were shivering under the bed but I was unperturbed. We needed the rain anyway. As I left the world for the night the last thing I heard was the sound of children singing.

Somebody come and play
Somebody come and play today
Somebody come and be my friend
And watch the sun ’til it rains again
Somebody come and play today

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