walking and talking


My younger son, Jackson, doesn’t have a fall sport. While previous autumns have featured flag football on Sunday mornings, we’ve left those days in the rearview mirror.

In an effort to keep him from becoming sessile, I prevailed upon him to take regular walks with me after his school day ends. This also has a secondary benefit of permitting me to add mileage as the San Diego  Triathlon Challenge approaches with alarming speed. So now, every day between 3 and 4, we march out of our house and into town to complete an approximately two-mile circuit.

I have learned many things over the last week about my son that I feel worth sharing with all of you. To wit …

if his feet moved as fast as his mouth he’d be a world-class racewalker

Jackson starts talking as we leave the driveway. He stops only when we get back to the house. There are no breaks.

I’ve experimented.

I’ve said nothing to him the entire time. He fills the silences, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he’s engaging in a monologue.

I’ve tried to divert him, wondering if I can interrupt the verbal maelstrom as it envelops me. But as quickly as I change the topic of discussion he adapts, pouring forth fountains of information that, if of questionable accuracy, nevertheless are propounded with Messianic vigor.

I’ve tried to exhaust him into silence by walking so fast that he can’t catch his breath. This only leads to him falling behind 10 steps and shouting the information to me, then jogging to catch up to me again, and then repeating the cycle. Even when gulping madly for air he continues to talk, the ocean of words just becoming slightly choppier. If anything, his commitment to the spoken word while under physical duress is even more impressive than the fully oxygenated version, as it demonstrates a complete commitment to communicating what’s in his head.

Overall, it’s an awe-inspiring performance. Undaunted by my silence, my efforts to derail him, or physical discomfort, Jackson forges bravely on, a verbal ironman.

his mind is a peculiar place

In one of his endless riffs on topics of interest to him, Jackson asked me if Clint Eastwood was an actor. I responded affirmatively. He asked me what movie he would have seen that Clint Eastwood appeared in.

I’ve never been a big Clint Eastwood aficionado. I saw Firefox when I was 12 (Clint stole a plane that would change the balance of power in the Cold War from those stinking Russians). In my thirties I saw the movie where he played the bodyguard who thwarts John Malkovich’s attempts to murder the President with wooden bullets. And last year, I watched Grand Torino, which I found amusing primarily for its hero’s Archie Bunkeresque view of humanity.

But at the time Jackson asked me, I didn’t remember having seen Firefox, and I couldn’t remember the titles of either of the other movies. So I defaulted to “Go ahead – make my day”-Eastwood: “Dirty Harry,” I responded. Without skipping a beat, Jackson fired back, “That sounds like a porn movie. Dad, Clint Eastwood is a porn star!”

And from there, he launched into a series of monikers he would adopt if he ever entered the adult movie industry. And from there, he told me about the “sandwich porn” site he had found on the internet, which consists entirely of pictures of mouth-watering lunch spreads. “And Dad,” he said excitedly, “there’s a money shot photo: it’s mayo being squirted onto one of the sandwiches. So funny.”

I don’t know where he finds this stuff. I’m pretty sure that I’m beginning to understand why he finds homework boring. But most of all, I’m learning that trying to keep up with what’s going on inside my son’s head is a disquieting exercise. I have trouble maintaining a single line of thought. Jackson has none maintaining 5 unrelated threads simultaneously.

Incidentally, when Jackson learned that the parents of a friend were seeing Clint’s latest oeuvre – Trouble With the Curve – this only solidified his initial conclusion. Forever and always, Clint Eastwood will be a porn star in Jackson’s mind.

nothing surprises him

During our walk yesterday, a boy about Jackson’s age burst out of his house. It’s a quiet street that doesn’t have a lot of people or cars on it. Apparently this young lad was banking on the absence of passersby, because it appeared that he was wearing nothing other than a long polo shirt and socks – pants did not appear to be part of his wardrobe at that specific moment in time. Further confirming this suspicion, his eyes widened suddenly as he saw us, threw on the brakes, and raced back into his house at the speed of sound.

Jackson observed all of this in silence. When we walked by the house, he leaned conspiratorially towards me and said, “I know that kid. He goes to my school. And Dad, [whispering now], I think he was nekked.”

“Is he in your grade?” I asked. Jackson nodded. “You planning on mentioning this to him when you see him in school tomorrow?” I queried, egging him on. He shook his head. “Probably not a good idea,” he responded.

Then , upon seeing the man who drove his school bus for the last five years from his old school district, he shouted, “Steve!”, and crossed the street to renew acquaintances with a man 30 years his elder as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

the last thing I’ve learned …

Walking with Jackson is the best 40 minutes of my day. I don’t enjoy listening to him try to recount entire episodes of King of the Hill that typically end with, “It was hilarious.” I’m completely disinterested in his detailed recitations of YouTube videos that he proclaims the height of comedic genius. But hearing him talk about what interests him, listening to the verbal equivalent of a typhoon is an experience like no other.

He may come in handy around mile 8 of my run at the SDTC next month …

3 thoughts on “walking and talking

  1. So glad you have this time with your son… It is something either one of you will ever forget… Always love your honesty…

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