Daddy-longlegs

Daddy-longlegs: (n) Also called harvestman, a spiderlike arachnid with a rounded body and extremely long, slender legs.

I had nearly decided not to do any research whatsoever.

I so enjoyed the old tale about the Daddy-longlegs spider.

If you’re not familiar with it, let me enlighten you.

The Daddy-longlegs is actually one of the most poisonous spiders in the world.

But because it has such a tiny body to accompany its long-leggedness, its fangs are too small to bite human skin.

Now, isn’t that fascinating?

That doesn’t take away from how scary it looks.

But if Daddio ended up being as poisonous as he is ugly, well let’s just say, our lives would be fraught with terror.

Yes, and it also makes for a great object lesson:

If it ends up that you have a little head filled with poison and you have too many legs to walk around and hurt people, just pray that God has given you a mouth that’s not able to spread your venom.

 

Daddy

Daddy: (n) diminutive of Dad

Approaching my produce man at the grocery store, I asked:

“When is watermelon season?”

Without thinking, he replied, “When the watermelon show up.”

I suppose when you practically live in a grocery store, you judge the seasons by what comes off the back of the truck.

In the midst of being a parent, there is a brief vapor of time when your child recognizes you, proclaims you and refers to you as “Daddy.”

It is such a safe, sweet location that you’re tempted to encourage it to expand its borders to broader vistas.

But you can’t mess with it.

It happens during a child’s perfect age–when “Dada” has been abandoned and right before you become the generic “Dad.”

Just hearing the word lets you know how valuable you are to the child.

It gives you a reassuring hug in your soul that he is not plotting, smoking, drinking and thinking of new ways to download pornography.

For after all, you are “Daddy”—”Dada” who has become so familiar that you have gained shape and presence.

Sometimes the word “Daddy” is followed by the young child climbing up on your lap, and without being prompted, giving you a hug around the neck, which lasts a little bit longer than you thought possible.

The little one calling you Daddy believes you to be a god (or at least, Santa Claus’s right-hand man).

He is astounded at how you leave the house and come back with treasures—toys, pizza rolls and little tiny things you promised you’d get if you had time.

Daddy—a word that brings tears to the eyes of any father who knows that soon his power and authority will be challenged by the revolt of adolescence.

But for now, it’s Daddy.

For now, there’s a desire to be close.

For now, the child believes he has come from you and never wants to leave.

Maybe that’s why the Bible tells us that we should approach God by saying, “Abba, Abba.”

Which, by the way, translated from the Greek, means “Daddy, Daddy.”

 

Dad

Dad: (n) informal for father.

It’s really two stories.

There was the story that should have happened and then, the tale that truly unfolded.

It is impossible for me to be an unbeliever. I don’t think I’m gullible, but I have seen enough surprising things come to fruition that I can no longer muster the doubt of Brother Thomas.

For you see, I should never have been a dad.

Don’t misinterpret the statement. I don’t want you to think that I despised the position or even that I wish it had happened differently.

But I also want you to realize that each time I became a dad, there was no planning, no bank account prepared and often not even a correct determination on the time of the blessed arrival.

I shall not get into all of those stories with this one essay.

Suffice it to say, I was a singer, a songwriter, a piano player, a vagabond—and I was a brat about never wanting to work for anyone else. As you can see right there, I perhaps should be eliminated for consideration for “father of the year.”

So I did it all with my children.

While I was teaching them to be better humans, they were teaching me how to be a good dad.

That’s the way it should be.

As long as you’re willing to look like an ass, identify it quickly and then change your mind, your kids will love you to death.

I drug my kids all over the country.

I had them playing instruments on stage in front of audiences.

I home-schooled some of them.

I lost one child along the way to a hit-and-run car accident.

And somehow or another, all the others arrived at adulthood, found magnificent partners, and are living full-blown, solvent, intelligent and spirited lives.

I will take credit for the fact that I was there, remained, repented and transformed.

But still—someone sprinkled something onto the mess, to turn it into a passable casserole.

What does it mean to be a dad?

  1. Be prepared to be watched twenty-four hours a day.
  2. Be prepared to be wrong—and admit it.
  3. Be prepared to laugh at your children when they act like you’re killing them because of a discipline you must levy.
  4. Have a life of your own, so they can see what you think is important.
  5. Encourage their mother in front of them.
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  7. Take them—your children—very seriously.
  8. When it’s obvious to them that you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t pretend you have a secret plan.
  9. Don’t try to be a best friend to their best friends.
  10. Try as hard as you can to never embarrass them.

Even though I was not a natural, I decided to naturally learn from the experience instead of giving up on it.

Now, my sons are dads.

My grandchildren call them that.

And I sit back in my resolute journey and watch my sons learn how to become “Dad.”

 

Dacron

Dacron: (n) a brand of polyester textile fiber that is wrinkle-resistant and strong.

Many years ago, deeply embedded in the cultural tributaries of the American social superhighway, I traveled the land as a young man with long hair, great passion and questionable decision-making capabilities.

My entire wardrobe was Dacron polyester.

The fabric was magical.

Although a case can be made that it looks rather cheap, it refuses to wrinkle. Matter of fact, one of the tests I had for choosing a stage garment was wadding it up in my hands and throwing it on the floor. Then I picked it up to see if I could find any flaws.

Dacron was divine for traveling.

You could take it off after a show, let it fall to the ground, step on it four or five times during the night, kick it to the corner in disgust—but still, in the morning, it would come back to you, submissively unmarred.

There is one thing you had to be careful with, and that was temperature. Keeping my clothes in the back of a hot van in August, at times an odor wafted to the front, which fell somewhere between platypus poop and mustard gas. (I’m guessing.)

It was just the natural “sweating” of the Dacron fabric (which, of course, really isn’t cloth at all, but a series of chemicals mingled together to somehow or another explode into a fabric shape).

Without Dacron, we would never have had the leisure suit.

Without Dacron, we would never have had poofy bell bottoms.

And without Dacron, we would never have had the disco era, complete with its wild coloration and flashy, over-sized clothing. (A argument could be made that our country might have survived the absence of that particular era. I will remain neutral.)

Yet if there is a lawsuit pending to isolate those souls who wore their fair share of Dacron polyester, I am guilty.

But wrinkle-free.

 

Dachshund

Dachshund: (n) one of a German breed of dogs having short legs, a long body and ears, and a usually tan or black-and-tan coat.

His name was Murphy.

Not his last name—his first name.

Murphy Baines.

I did not like Murphy. It wasn’t his name, although that was particularly annoying.

Murphy was the type of person who told really stupid jokes and laughed at his own material. And when you didn’t join in voraciously, he punched you in the arm and said, “Come on! Don’t you get it?”

I did get it.

I just didn’t think it was funny.

I told him that. I’ll bet you can even guess what he said back to me: “You just don’t have any sense of humor.”

Even though I did have a sense of humor, I didn’t want to argue any more with Murphy Baines. If I did, he would tell me five of his jokes in a row—and have me rate them by how funny I found them to be. (I fell for this once, but never allowed myself to enter that cul-de-sac of pain again.)

But what made it particularly painful was that when Murphy came to my house (as infrequently as I could arrange) he always pointed to my dachshund—the family dog—and exclaimed:

“Hey look! A wiener-dog!”

Even though he must have said it thousands of times over the years, he always found it hilarious, as if he had just come up with the idea for the first time.

I tried all sorts of angles.

Things like “That’s not funny.”

Or, “That’s an old joke.”

Once I even said, “Sh-h-h-h! Don’t say that. My mother gets offended.” (Of course, he pointed out that my mother was not home.)

I sought revenge.

It came about five months later, when Murphy was staying overnight at my house and my dog, the dachshund, just up and died.

It was sudden.

Murphy looked at me, wondering if I was going to react, cry or share some sort of eulogy over the deceased German breed.

But I already had the tickle of an idea in my brain. Even though it was the middle of the night, I walked over, picked up the telephone and pretended to dial a number. Murphy, confused, asked, “Who are you calling?”

“Hormel,” I replied.

He squinted at me, stunned.

I continued.  “You see, there’s a reason, Murphy, that they call them wiener dogs. It’s because when they die, they send them to the Hormel plant and grind them up to make wieners.”

Finishing the statement, I walked over and scooped my dog up into a box, closed the lid, took a magic marker and wrote on the top: “To Hormel.”

Murphy was speechless.

I carried the box out to the garage, telling him I was going to mail it. When I came back into the house, even though it was three o’clock in the morning, Murphy had packed up his gym bag, called his mother and asked to be taken home.

I didn’t see much of Murphy after that.

But I always made sure, if we were at a camp-out and Murphy was nearby, that if I was eating a hot dog, I would glance over at him and give him a big wink.

Dachau

Dachau: (n) a city in SE Germany, near Munich, the site of Nazi concentration camp.

We forget how dangerous populists can be—because they always say such popular things.

It would be difficult to be critical of a man proclaiming the delicious virtues of chocolate until you realized he was advocating only the consumption of chocolate—to the exclusion of everything else—thus leaving his followers to many dangerous acquired conditions.

Adolph Hitler was a populist.

Long before he was a dictator—perhaps even before he became maniacal—he was a public speaker touting the exceptional nature of the German people.

He explained to them how they had been mistreated among the Europeans after World War I and that it was necessary, for the good of their heritage, to rise up and be counted.

That’s how he started.

It was difficult to disagree with him. Germany had been devastated by the First World War. There was a need for some sort of pep rally, to inspire a renovation.

But as I said, long before populists become dictators, they seem to be prophets of possibility and messengers for magnification.

When does it change?

When do populists–who seem harmless–need to be recognized for their vicious natures and set to the side or pushed out of our lives, so we don’t elevate them to positions of authority, where all of their overwrought ideas can be manifested?

That’s easy.

When the populist starts making a group—a nationality, a gender, a lifestyle or a race—the source of all difficulty and preaches that the situation could be greatly alleviated by targeting these offending individuals.

For Hitler, it was the Jews.

Candidly, he would never have gotten away with killing Jews if the German people didn’t secretly harbor a deep-rooted prejudice against them. Going back to the music of Wagner and the lesser works of Martin Luther, there was an abiding notion in the Germanic tribe that the Jews were responsible for most evil things.

For you see, no populist could have brought about such a dastardly genocide of an innocent people without feeding off the nervous apprehension of those who came to hear.

The end result is Dachau—a prison camp organized for one purpose: to find unique and efficient ways to torture and annihilate the Jewish race.

Perhaps we should do ourselves a favor in this election season.

We should acknowledge that there are populists who desire to rule our country. Their messages may seem innocuous at this point. Matter of fact, it may appear that they are merely extolling the value of American purity or standing up for the poor and disenfranchised.

But listen carefully.

Are they whispering words of disdain, or even hatred, in the direction of a particular group of people?

What is it they are saying about humans with brown skin?

What is it they’re intimating about citizens with a lot of money?

What is their stand on gender equality?

What do they think about those brothers and sisters around them who are different?

I never listen to a populist—no matter how humorous or inspiring the message might seem.

For a populist who honors fat people will eventually do so by portraying that skinny people are evil.

And a populist who regales the beauty of being thin and healthy will eventually encourage you to hate the obese.

We can prevent Dachau.

We can remove the fuel from the ovens that killed millions of souls.

Stop feeling the need to constantly be encouraged, or eventually you will steal someone else’s dignity to supplement your own.

 

DACA

DACA: (n) Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: a program intended to allow undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors to legally remain

Horror stories.

Whenever you find yourself in a conversation with other folks, and one side tries to justify their position by telling you a horror story to reinforce their point, and then the other group equally intends to rationalize their thoughts by relating a horror story from their perspective, you need to realize that both parties have not thought this situation through to a conclusion.

There are so many issues in our country that fall into this category that it would take many essays to isolate each one.

All of these groups are obsessed with extremes. It is a competition to portray that their members are more logical and super-patriotic.

Meanwhile, there are children in this country who are here because their parents brought them from other countries.

The children didn’t plan the trip.

These youngsters were not in on the deception to be illegal aliens.

No matter how hard you may try to prosecute them, they will always be innocent and unable to be proven guilty.

Yet the validity remains that they are not naturalized citizens.

If you wish to insist that they should be welcomed into our country no matter what the circumstances, then I’m sure you can present a case in which frightened young humans are being terrorized by the state with the threat of deportation—a removal, by the way, to a land they have never known.

On the flip side, if you think that it’s completely irrational to have these children receive blanket immunity when their parents were breaking the law by bringing them here, then you will certainly have a cautionary tale about how some of these unwelcome “nesters” have grown up to commit crimes or continue to flaunt their improper status right under the nose of the law.

My feelings on DACA are simple.

No one should be allowed to stay in this country simply because they look pathetic.

But also, no one should be thrown out of this country simply because they look pathetic.

Here’s an idea.

Offer a crash course—a two-month study of our nation, complete with community service to the neighborhood, a test to become Americans, and if these “offspring without a country” complete this journey without bad attitudes or cutting corners, their amends should allow them to become part of “we, the people.”