In May of 2000 I moved from Maryland to California. One little fight and my mom got scared she said, “You’re moving with your Auntie and Uncle in Bel-Air”.
I wasn’t sure if it was a forever move, and many people said, “You’ll come back”, but it was, and I didn’t. It was hard leaving my loved ones behind but after developing a career in television, along with a love for
drought, traffic, disingenuous people, huge financial drain, earthquakes sunshine, I accepted that I’d be staying long term and that engaging my family in person was going to be infrequent. Although I love them dearly, regular trips to the East Coast are costly, time consuming, and the humidity wreaks havoc on my hair. Then, my son was born and suddenly I realized that perfect hair isn’t everything (<—Who AM I?).
It took 5 months after his birth for the stars, and work, to align perfectly so that Lisa and I could introduce Frankie Four to my family in person. Prior to that, Lisa had volunteered to brave the trip on her own because my work schedule wasn’t adjusting in our favor. However, in a fortuitous turn of events, not only did my job afford me the opportunity to join her on part of the journey, it placed me in the very city where my bride and progeny would land. What it didn’t allow was for us to travel at the same time, so Lisa carted Four cross-country by herself. Mad props to my wife for being a Bad Ass in every sense of the term, but particularly so for her willingness to drag our heavy handful of a kid all over America by her lonesome. Not an easy task.
I was already in Florida when Lisa and Four arrived, so I scooped them up at the airport and headed to my grandparents house where my mom and niece would be joining us from Maryland. It’s an understatement to say that I was as excited as a kid at Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Or Kwanzaa. Or some other occasion where kids get really excited. I was more excited than a kid excited at any of those things.
My grandmother, better known as Nena (pronounced Nee-naw), was the first person to see Four and her face lit up in a way I haven’t seen in years. The minute she spoke Four almost jumped out of my arms smiling and laughing hysterically. Witnessing that interaction, between two of the people that I love most in the world, ranks among the happiest moments of my life.
That happiness might only have been equaled when my mom held her grandson.
The visit got better and better, like my looks, as time went on. Watching my mom, my grandparents, my niece Cassi, my wife, and my son together melted my heart.
Leaving wasn’t as emotional as I’d expected, but only because Lisa and Four stayed behind for two more days. The thought of them further bonding with my family made it a bit easier to return home.
The only disappointment was that I couldn’t join the dynamic duo on the next leg of the trip, to North Carolina to see my dad and stepmother. I would have loved to see Franklin Nathaniel Prather 4 meet Franklin Nathaniel Prather 2, but luckily Lisa captured the moment for me.
Four even got a surprise visit and corresponding outfit from his Uncle Casey. The back should say, “And I just took one.”
I’m not sure anyone was more excited leading up to Four’s impending visit than my stepmom, Brenda. No doubt Four can’t wait til he’s old enough to work her for whatever he wants during visits.
Lisa and Four stayed back East for almost six days after I left. I returned to Los Angeles to get back to work and tried to embrace what I thought was some much needed alone time. What I discovered while “relaxing” wasn’t that I needed alone time, but that I needed my family. I missed my wife and son so much that I didn’t know what to do without them. I tried reading, I tried writing, I tried watching TV, working out, and riding my motorcycle. None of it was enough to distract me from the palpable feeling of emptiness without them there. What I did use the time for was to reflect on how much I also needed the rest of my family, and how much I want Four to grow up knowing them, and not just via Skype or Facetime. He deserves to experience firsthand, on a regular basis, the unfathomable amount of love that exists in every member of my family, as I was fortunate enough to experience my entire life. I promised myself that he would see them multiple times every year regardless of work or other obligations.
Just prior to my arrival in Florida I was in Louisiana for work, meeting a family that’s being considered for their own TV show. The father of that family posted quite a few photos to social media and tagged them with words that have played on a loop in my head ever since I sat in a room watching the people that I love the most together —- #familyovereverything.
Family over everything, indeed.