Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 28, 2013

Garret Leiva: Two kinds of quiet keep dad on toes

Local columnist

---- — As a parent, there is quiet and too quiet.

The aforementioned quiet usually involves either kids sleeping or chewing a peanut butter sandwich. However, those too-quiet moments can spell trouble — with cries or bloodshed forthcoming.

Last week I experienced an unfathomable quiet: no kid. My ears are still ringing from the silence.

For seven days my wife and I experienced pre-empty nest syndrome. Our 11-year-old daughter left us for a better offer: a week at Camp Nana.

We were willing to play along with a well-orchestrated grandparent takeover. After all, a grandparent’s job is to overindulge and undercut; as in cookies and parental rules.

When it comes to unconditional love, grandmothers are moms with lots of frosting.

Camp Nana left me in an unfamiliar position after work: home alone. Our dog greeted me with a puzzled grin rather than a tongue-wagging smile. Her tail was happy to see me, but her eyes said “Where’s the kid?”

I was home alone for the first time in months. I thought about sliding across the wood floor in my dress shirt and boxer shorts. However, that seemed a bit too Tom Cruise.

Instead I watched movies without talking dogs or annoying Disney Channel teens. My wife worked late, so I ate dinner in the bachelor position — over the kitchen sink.

Despite the volume of movie explosions around me, the house was eerily quiet.

The most pronounced silence was in the morning. There was no one to push, prod or roll out of bed — unless it was me hitting the alarm clock snooze button. No one to chide about clean teeth or underwear; again, after 43 years, I’ve got those two down.

What bothered me most was the quiet car rides. Naturally there was road noise, radio stations and the occasional cell phone ring. I missed the sweet voice from the backseat.

I missed my afternoon talk — and not the blowhard static on the radio. I’m talking about overflow stream of consciousness only an 11-year-old girl can provide.

Aside from discussing the obtuse nature of boys, our summer commutes cover the “how do’s” and “why do’s.” As in “How do I drive a car?” and “Why do parents make the rules?”

No surprise, but “because” is an unsatisfactory answer at any age. She also wrinkled up her nose at the whole “hands at 10 and 2” explanation.

Despite my inadequate answers, the questions persist during our drive home from summer camp. It’s like a cross between the game show “Jeopardy” and a non-sequitur Congressional hearing.

n What is lighting made of? (Did your Google break again?]

n Did Michael Jackson really have a chimp named Bubbles? (Yep. He once even had a real nose.)

n Did you like girls in middle school? (I liked hot lunch pizza.)

n Who do you like better: Imagine Dragons or Cobra Starship? )Those are bands, right?)

Sometimes I get in an answer. Other times I look in the review mirror and smile.

I know the day will come when our sullen teen in the backseat will have no need for answers or conversation. I’ll be alone with my thoughts and the quiet of too quiet.