People I Owe: Katelina (and a day of Really Living)

A day of “Really Living”

Time is not chronological. Time, is NOT chronological. Part of my theory of the non-linear nature of experiential time is that pockets of time can be compressed and expanded much like the physics of gases and liquids.

On June 15th of 2014 I had one of the best days of my life, a day compressed full of activity and adventure from dawn to dusk and beyond. In full disclosure it was father’s day and the entire day was spent with my 13 ½ year old daughter – an age, with girls, that seems to strike fear into the hearts of parents the world over. In conversation I’ll often hear, heads shaking, “get ready… (for the insanity)” and then ruefully “don’t worry they snap out of it somewhere around 18.”

I’m no genius about being the father a girl this age and occasionally find some of her behavior byzantine in its complexity, her moods sometimes swinging arbitrary within a wide range but I just roll with it. I can’t out-think it or out-logic it so I’ve taken a simple approach with Katelina – I don't try real hard to talk, I just try to “do things”.

Katelina has a quiet intensity about her, a hidden spark that sometimes comes out as mischief, sometimes as “pouncing” where she expresses her affection through various forms of mild loving violence for which she has invented her own lexicon. “Grangling” is a form of love that is revealed through aggressive squeezing, “Nuggling” is her rotating her bony fists to dig into soft spots of muscle like just below the shoulder. “Siscilling” is the worst of them all and is hard to describe other than that it is terrifying. On this particular day she had a twinkle in her eye and I didn't have to pull her into anything – she entered the kitchen that morning with a look of determination. “Papa, whatever you want to do today, let’s do, but first let’s make the best breakfast ever…” I said, “yes, ok, what do you have in mind?” She said, “let’s try poaching eggs – maybe over the ham Chablisienne we made last night?”

And at 9am it began, a 17 hour marathon of “doing” that raced by in the present but left a deep imprint on my psyche. As I’ve written about before, a day of “really living” is day of unique and powerful experiences in which time accelerates in the present but becomes expansive in memory.

We reheated the Chablisienne sauce and the ham, added vinegar to the boiling pot of water and slid in eggs for 2.5 minutes ea. and removed them with a slotted spoon to place them over the ham and sauce. The runny yokes melded with the salty creamy shallot based sauce and it was exquisite. The tone was set for the day.

We cleaned up and then went for a bike ride together, exploring trails near the house on bikes, dodging trees and riding through streams and across bridges. Kat offering up that I should ride another hour so she could shower and I did, returning in time to make lunch.

For lunch we kneaded dough, chopped mushrooms, sliced mozzarella and cooked Italian sausage and pepperoni in order to make upside down pizzas or “pizza pot pies.” These beautiful delicacies bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees are then flipped into their own pie shells, the mozzarella, chewy and slightly browned, the grease from the pepperoni and sausage melding with the bolognese sauce and chewy crust… one of the world’s great foods.

After lunch we jumped into the convertible and headed up to Crystal Lake to go paddle boarding in an old quarry in the clear blue green water – Kat picked it up immediately – and in a far corner of the lake we jumped off our boards and went for a swim before paddling back.

Returning home we changed and climbed aboard the Yamaha VStar went on a motorcycle ride to Ribfest in Elgin and watched a bit of a concert in the park, Kat holding on to me and balancing easily on the back of the motorcycle as we zoomed around corners and sped by the river. The sun warmed our faces and we would turn and just smile without saying a word.

The sun was beginning its decline when we returned home. A quick change again and we grabbed the backpack with slacklines coiled neatly inside and walked to a nearby park with two of our favorite nicely spaced trees and ratcheted up the lines. We became obsessed with counting steps and trying to get all the way across without any help, practicing for hours well past sunset, listening to our favorite music (Paramour, Foster the People, Alexander Desplat, Sia) on my portable Jambox, the chiaroscuro of the setting sun creating useful contrasts to walk the line.

It was after 9pm when we returned from slacklining, but we were both high energy and hungry enough to make an amazing dinner of cilantro jalapeño crème sauce to go over sherry flambéed shrimp and pasta. We were both physically exhausted having been paddling /cooking / cycling / motorcycling / slack lining for 13 hours, but at 11pm on a Sunday night Kat said simply, “what do you want to do now.”

I replied, that it was finally time for you to watch my favorite movie: Braveheart. And so we sat down and watched it end to end for 2.5 hours and at the end she teared up pretty good and asked me, “why did you make me watch it???” and I asked, “was it a bad movie?” and she said, “no, the best…. But its so sad, I’m so sad!!!”

At 2am in the morning I tucked her into bed, kissed her forehead and repeated the silly secret meaningless yet meaningful refrains I’ve said to her since she was age two, a silly poem meant only for her. When I finished, her not-so-little arms reached up around my neck and she hugged me fiercely before rolling on to her side, her face in the dark resuming its child-like features as she closed her eyes. As I started to stand up from the bed, her little hand latched onto mine and squeezed, saying in a still-little-girl voice, “I love you papa – I hope you had a great day.”

Thank you Katelina for the best papa's day ever. I love you.



A few days later I continued to ruminate on what an amazing day it was so I decided to hand make a thank you card for Kat with pictures from the day. It was a fun little project and was a great way to commemorate the best father’s day ever: