News From The Woods - December 26, 2001


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published December 26, 2001

"Letter To Robert"

Dear Robert,

Where does the time go? I know it's true that the older you get the faster time seems to pass, but four years!?? It hardly seems possible. On the one hand, you show signs of maturing in so many ways, but on the other hand realization of your skills creep through our daily lives and we don't seem to notice as much, and then BANG! Suddenly there you are - a mini-adult! Son, you are just now getting to the age where I don't want to miss a single precious moment of your growing up. Mom and I want to be there for you at every event in your life as you grow from "small child" to "young man". Your priorities lately are morphing and slowing following your early awakening into the Realizations of Life.

Last year it was "Blues Clues". This year it's "Spongebob Squarepants". Now that might not seem like much to some people but we know better. We actually enjoy watching "Spongebob" with you. The series reminds me of - long ago - "The Bullwinkle and Rocky Show". It was a show for kids but much of the humor was spiced with adult innuendoes. And the strange thing is, when each new episode begins you tell us the title. I can't figure out if you've learned how to read words on the TV screen or you just know each episode so well you know the show by the way each show begins. Also, you've seen each episode so many times you can recite complete dialog passages from your favorite scenes. The other day you actually followed the dialog through half the entire episode. It was our favorite show, "Band Geeks", in which Squidward forms a band that performs a rock and roll anthem in front of an entire stadium of football fans. And it IS very funny! You're next favorite episode is the Christmas Show, but I expected that because ANYTHING about Christmas or Santa Claus commands your complete attention. I introduced you to the classic cartoons that I have been collecting through the years. Your very favorites are Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, but you will watch any Tex Avery Warner Brother's cartoons and most Disney classics. Also, this year marks the first time you actually will sit through an "adult" movie. No, not THAT kind of "adult" movie. I'm talking about any movie that is NOT a cartoon movie. Although you are partial to the Jurassic Park series, you also enjoy watching other movies I rent and bring home to watch. You like both "Dr. Doolittle" movies because you like animals. As a matter of fact, you like just about ANY movie with animals as a central character, like "Cats and Dogs". You also get engrossed with movies that feature special effects like both the "Mummy" movies that have been recently released. You like scary, but not TOO scary, and that's all right with me. No need for nightmares so early in your life! Of course, we regulate your television experience. No excessive violence and no bad language, and of course no scenes with blatant sex in them.

And speaking of animals, I have begun changing channels over to the Discovery Channel recently. You really like stories about all the animals, especially sharks or dinosaurs. But you'll sit through just about anything about animals, insects, or arachnids. At first I tried to shelter you from viewing the scenes where the theme is "survival of the fittest", but when I tried to change the channel just as the mother leopard brought down the baby mule deer, you protested and urged me to change back whilst mommy and the babies feasted on the flesh of the poor hapless victim. Ugh! You watched with a detached interest with not so much as a flinch, when I turned away at the most graphic scenes.

You are old enough now to sort of understand things like life and death. The highlight of your day is usually while driving to or from locations when we spot deer along the road. You love to watch the way deer move. When anyone talks about deer hunting you do not hesitate to tell him or her that they shouldn't "kill little Bambi's". Other than torment rollie pollie bugs and exhaust worms and lizards, you haven't a harmful bone in your body. This may not help you enter the "inner circle" of many of the children brought up in this area of the country, but I am so proud of you nevertheless. Soon you will be old enough to go for long walks in the woods with me and learn how to be stealthy and even learn some of the tricks of the trade that hunters use in stalking their prey. I only hunt with a camera and I pray you will also learn these ways and still retain your gentle nature. But it is important to me that you do learn how to fend for yourself in the deep woods like I did when I was a small child growing up in this country. I learned self-sufficiency at an early age and also how to be comfortable with only my own thoughts and actions to contemplate. I have learned that if you can be content while alone that you can be happy almost anywhere under almost any conditions. You will never "need" anyone to complete your picture. Self-reliance is an important attribute and will build your self-confidence as you get older.

This past year you have shown an increased interest in daddy's work. You like hanging out in the studio and especially when I allow you to play the instruments. Your favorite instruments reside in my percussion case. You like shakers, the triangle, cabasa, and especially my collection of eggs. Each egg has a slightly different type of material sealed up inside. Some eggs have more "stuff" in them than others, and you take great interest in examining and trying all of them out. I find them all over the house, even though I ask that you leave all the instruments in the studio. Sometimes you spend an hour with the headphone on playing my synthesizer. You know how to change the sound program and enjoy twisting knobs and pushing sliders. You favorite spot in the studio is of course sitting at the mixing console. You know it is the "command center" and heart of the recording process. How? I don't know. You just seem to know. And although you know I prefer you NOT to play with the gear in the processing racks, sometimes you just can't help yourself and you twist knobs and push buttons. I can't tell you how many times I have resumed a project and wondered why it just didn't sound right. Then after looking at the effects racks I notice you have "adjusted" the parameters. Or sidechained two limiters together. Or bypassed an effect. Or "enhanced" a bit too much. Or completely shut off the power to a particular unit. You definitely keep me on my toes!

And that reminds me…. You are becoming a little prankster! Sometimes you tell us something (like "I'm sick and gonna' throw up") and just when we hit the panic button you laugh and say slyly: "I was just teasing". While it's funny most of the time - and harmless enough - I am concerned that you learn the difference between harmless pranks and all out deception. But in all honesty you are very well behaved around company and in someone else's home. However, here at our house you sometimes pull out all the stops and push every button Mommy and I have. Somehow, somewhere (at "big" school?) you have learned what sticking out your tongue means and how to say hurtful phrases like "I don't love you anymore" or "I'm not your friend" to Mommy and I when we are trying to teach you something. But the worst is when you are at your maddest and you spit. We can't STAND that and each time you go there, we reach for the "spanking stick". Now, the "spanking stick" in our family's case is a small six-inch long piece of wood originally intended for burning incense. It was hardly used and somehow one day got grabbed up in a fit of fury when one of us needed more than just a rolled up newspaper. Lately the newspaper wasn't doing the trick as you'd continue your rant or spitting fit after a whack….. so we needed to escalate matters to something you could relate to. One day, the stick was just handy and the increased intensity of the "booty burn" was enough to make a lasting impression. After a short while just the threat of the "spanking stick" was enough to get you to calm down and listen to reason. While both of us abhor the use of corporal punishment, we have realized the need of such actions to bring home the intent of our discussions. And sure enough, after a while you have learned not to spit, and you have even curtailed your use of hurting words. The sticking out of the tongue has lingered, but mostly is used along with a smile when you just want some "hands on" attention, like a fit of tickling. You LOVE to be tickled, and I accommodate you every chance I get. There's nothing I enjoy more than roughhousing with you and hearing you giggle and laugh.

For Christmas toys this year you got a small, battery operated train set (actually you got TWO of them), a huge assortment of marbles, still more plastic dinosaurs, a Lincoln Log set, and a robot you can disable by shooting him with a ray gun. But your most prized possession is your "new" computer. Actually, it was an old Pentium that your Aunt Becky had discarded into a back closet when it could no longer speedily serve it's purpose for them. After setting it up in your playroom and loading some preschool learning software on it, you and the computer have become as one. You know how to turn it on - and WAIT - for the software to load before you touch the mouse. I believe if you keep this up you will be waaaaay ahead of other children in your class when you start to go to "real" school. You've got "point and click" D O W N !

This year Mommy and I have somehow found the time to spend even more quality time with you after you get home from Montessori School. It is easier for me these days to stop working after 5 p.m. when you get home as you are so much fun to play with. While the weather was still good, our daily ritual after school was to go out to the front yard and play in your big swing set we got you for your birthday. That Wal-Mart Wonder was the best thing we ever bought for you, as you love it so…… Even though I almost had a stroke putting it all together. It took me the largest part of our birthday just putting all the parts together. I don't remember how many parts there were, but I DO remember it had a 15 page instruction manual and I had to resort to drinking beer in the early afternoon just to cope with the assembly. Mommy was smart and decided to go to town and do grocery shopping after helping me for the first three hours. But when she returned home after retrieving you from school….. And when you saw that swing set assembled in your front yard…. You were delighted!! We played with that set until after dark when Mommy had to make us come inside for dinner. By the way, your favorite part of the set is the Rocket Rider. And if I do say so myself, the entire set (slide, two swings, Rocket Rider, double chair swing, Twirly Whirl, and trapeze bar) is as solid as the day I assembled it and every piece fits snugly in place. I am truly a proud Father and swell up with pride whenever anyone drives by and enviously looks at that work of art!

And finally, I want to share something personal with you. A little more than a year ago I started having problems with my knees. During the summer and fall of 2000 the pain got so bad that I could not even run. The thought of you growing up and Daddy not being able to be there at your side, running and playing and exploring, was almost too much to bear. Finally, I had to consult the family doctor. I was imagining all sorts of maladies and medical complications, but as it turned out it was just severe arthritis. It's not severe enough for knee replacements (not that we could afford that anyway) but bad enough to give me daily pain and interfere with my sleeping habits. The doctor prescribed some new miracle medicine for the symptoms and after several months my situation has greatly improved. I still can't run very fast or very far, but at least we can now take long walks together in the woods without the nagging pain in my knees and legs. Thank God for modern medicine!

It is such a joy watching you grow up day by day. You are becoming so smart, so well mannered, and so delightful that everyone who is around you for more than five minutes has to make some kind of comment about it. You even take your scheduled shots without so much as a peep. Maybe just a slight tear but no crying or wailing. This year we have become "Mom" and "Dad", but when you get hurt or need attention it reverts back to "Mommy" and "Daddy", just as it should. And as for Bear…. Well, we've just about lost him to you. He starts out the night sleeping in your room and makes sure you are sound asleep before he slips into our room to spend the rest of the night. He knows fifteen minutes before you get home from school and drives me crazy to be let out so he can be the first to greet you home. Whenever new guests come to visit, Bear positions himself between you and the guests so he can protect you if need be. I know how much he must love you, even though I think some of it has to do with the fact that you are an easy mark for food. We have begun looking for a suitable female so we can get the pick of the litter and then you will truly have your own dog and he will be Bear's son or daughter.

May God Bless and watch over you this year my son as you grow stronger and smarter and slowly awaken to this wonderful world around you. We love you.

Mommy & Daddy

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