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California quake rocked my world

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My son Liam, and his girlfriend, are OK following the San Francisco quake.

NOAH BERGER / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

My son Liam, and his girlfriend, are OK following the San Francisco quake.

This is a hard thing for me to admit -- I may no longer be worthy to drink from my favourite coffee mug.

I'm talking about the mug with the chip on the lip, the one that has the words World's Greatest Dad cheerfully emblazoned on the side, although it gets harder to read every time it comes out of the dishwasher.

I start my day sipping high-test caffeine from that mug, because it is a constant reminder -- for me and the rest of the world -- that when it comes to paternal parenting skills, I am without equal.

But I am starting to question the accuracy of the mug's boastful proclamation.

My confidence was rattled Sunday morning as I stood in our kitchen, sporting red-rimmed eyes and my ratty blue bathrobe, putting myself into a hypnotic state by slowly swirling scrambled eggs around in a frying pan on the stove.

As I made breakfast and slugged down the day's first cup of coffee, my wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, burst into the kitchen. She is normally not an early-morning burster, so I assumed she had something important to say.

It turns out I was correct. With a look of grave concern, she loudly chirped: "There was a really big earthquake near San Francisco this morning, dear!"

I am not what you would call a perky morning person, so it is possible my response to this news update was not as polite as it might have been later in the day when my required caffeine levels are at their peak.

I do not remember exactly what I said, but, with scrambled eggs dripping off the spatula, I grunted something like: "Really blah blah I already knew that blah blah because blah I'm a big-shot journalist blah blah and was already on the computer blah blah tell me something I don't blah already blah blah know blah blah seriously blah blah!"

As regular readers are already aware -- and novice readers will be able to quickly deduce -- my wife is an extremely patient human being.

In response, she raised her eyebrows and politely asked: "Do you happen to remember that your son, Liam, and his girlfriend, Ava, are in San Francisco right now?"

In that moment, I looked at my wife with a deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression that said it all -- I had completely and utterly forgotten The Boy, his beloved, and his bagpipes are currently vacationing in the Bay area in advance of a big piping competition later this week.

"Oh," I grunted in my wife's direction, staring down at the scuffed linoleum floor in the kitchen. "Um, yeah, OK, hmmm, sure, we should probably make sure they are all right, I guess, maybe..."

Instantly -- at least the very instant I finished making more coffee and squirting hot sauce on my scrambled eggs -- I joined my wife in our den to watch news coverage from the quake zone.

As most of you already know, this was the worst quake to hit the area -- roughly 60 kilometres north of San Francisco -- in 25 years, since the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which killed a few dozen people and caused heavy damage to buildings.

Parked on the couch, we stared at grim footage from the picturesque town of Napa, one of the hardest-hit areas, where brick facades gave way on historic buildings, windows were shattered, and gas and water lines ruptured.

Crunching a piece of toast, I gave my wife a look meant to convey the fact I am a sensitive, caring parent. "We'd better find out how the kids are doing," I bravely informed her, because that is the kind of quick decision-making we modern dads typically display in crisis situations.

"I already did," my wife quietly explained, rolling her eyes toward the ceiling.

Which is when she handed me her cellphone so I could read the text my son had sent that morning from his hotel in San Francisco: "Shaky, shaky. Just a little shaky and weird in the middle of the night. So I decided I don't want to live in San Francisco. It was pretty big. I mean, I don't know what other ones felt like. Seems like it's fine here, though. We are fine. It seems like everything is pretty much fine here. Napa is messed up a bit."

After reading the text, I just sat there on the couch for a while, thinking and watching the breaking news unfold on our big-screen TV. Our hearts went out to the folks in the Bay area, but everything seemed right in our world because our son, his beloved girlfriend and his prized bagpipes were shaken but "pretty much fine."

And the World's Greatest Dad felt a few twinges of guilt as he stuck his favourite coffee mug in the dishwasher.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2014 A2

History

Updated on Monday, August 25, 2014 at 7:09 AM CDT: Adds photo

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