It's late August and the dog needs a bath. Actually, he needs three baths. After his third bath, he needs to be rolled in powdered sugar. He'd still stink, but at least he'd be edible.
It's late August, and I'm examining my young son's feet for signs of a summer well spent. There are calluses and cuts, blisters and leather toes baked on too-hot driveways. Good, these feet. They have the gentle curves of a sailboat, or a sly and subtle smile. Feet like this will take him places. School, for one, where summer feet will soon be winter feet.
It's late August, and my daughters seem to be on perpetual vacations. They are dining in Toronto, or water skiing in Wisconsin. Or drinking mango martinis in Brooklyn. From all indications, they have both retired.
Good for them, I say. They earned it. Being millennials, they love to share photos of all their adventures. "Look at the coconut curry me and Justin just ordered. Yum!"
I'd correct her grammar, but that would be such a dad thing to do, right? While she's slurping coconut shrimp with her boyfriend, in a nice curry, she'd get a note from me explaining pronouns in the nominative case.
To send a note like that would be to admit to a life in repose, while they giddily sipped their Chardonnay, tickled each other, ate even more shrimp … drank even more wine. They might even laugh at me.
Or, as they'd put it, "Laugh at I."
I need a vacation too, can you tell?
I need a few days away from blinking cursors, and the toast popping up at the exact same moment every morning. I don't need Brigadoon, just someplace different. Give me motel coffee and a glossy magazine full of nonsense. Give me a drippy glass of lemonade and a chair under a fat and shady tree.
Here's what happened when I tried to plan our vacation: I took roll call for a week in early August, at a lake house in the mountains, which I would subsidize.
Look, it's my money and I'll throw it away any damn way I please. As has become habit, I want to waste it on the kids, because they are always gloriously grateful for everything we do.
So I sort through vacation rentals on Lake Tahoe. They have some amazing deals up there. For only 3 grand, you can rent a place that isn't particularly dumpy. That's mostly what I seek out in vacation rentals. A general lack of dumpiness. No ants in the bread drawer. No lice in the pillows.
I also like to have the kids along, because they are — as I said — gloriously grateful and pitch in whenever possible, unless it's something that needs to be "done right away," as their mother puts it, in which case they prefer to do it when it's convenient to them — like in a week or two.
As a people, I've found my fellow Irish to be stubborn as mules, especially when they're seated and see no real reason for standing up.
"Please let me know if Aug. 1-7 works for Tahoe," I send in a text message.
Warning: Our text strings lately have become biblical, but with more slang and a general mocking nature that you'd never see in, say, Leviticus.
The exchanges usually start like that: a simple request to lock in vacation dates, then devolve into back-and-forth family weirdness.
Daughter 2: "Dad, none of my serious boyfriends can make that week."
Daughter 1: "What about your other boyfriends?"
Their mother: "Yeah, the ones whose names you can never remember?"
Son 1: "Hey, how do you cook rice? Anybody?"
Daughter 2: "Till it's done? Duh."
Their mother: "I like to cook each grain individually."
Daughter 1: "Dad! My boyfriend's in Spain that week!
Son 1: "So?"
Daughter 1: "Depends. What kind of rice?"
This was just one in a series of 100 catty and unproductive conversations and recipe debates that sprang from my request to treat them to a free summer vacation. I'd have had better luck teaching Latin to baby lambs.
Finally, "Daddy, thank you for doing this. We all really, really, really like Tahoe, it's our favorite place. But since none of the boyfriends can make it in August, can we hold off till September?"
Of course, sweetie. If I'm not in Spain that week.