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.”

 

Cram

Cram: (v) to fill something by force

 It is impossible that all of the memories we have of another person are going to be good. Matter of fact, a good portion of the people we encounter may end up touching our lives in more negative ways than positive.

Yet it is useless for us to hold onto grudges, believing they grow more valuable over time, like a fine wine. funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Case in point:

Much of the time I spent with my mother was not particularly beneficial to my soul. I suppose this article would be more interesting if I went into the details of those unfortunate moments. But since I have sifted through them, I will spare you the unnecessary remembrance.

What I would like to do is recall one Thursday afternoon—many, many years ago—when my mom showed up to the junior high school to drive me across town to the gymnasium, where I was going to attend basketball practice. I was just thirteen—frisky, ornery and always looking to do something beyond the pale.

I had invited all my friends from the team to catch a ride with me in our family sedan. Little did my mother know, when I asked her if it was alright for some other guys to come along, was that I had invited fourteen.

Now, she was not a woman given to enjoying, enduring, and certainly never planning a prank. I don’t know why, on this particular day, she didn’t put her foot down and object. (Maybe it was because her foot was on the gas pedal.)

But one by one, my friends crawled into the trunk and the back seat, laying on top of each other, giggling like first graders, complaining and breathing heavily, until finally I inserted myself into the front seat, which now held six people including my mother, barely able to close the door behind me.

Once we all were in, she chose to take a long, dramatic pause. Now that I, too, am a parent, I’m sure her thinking was:

A. What in the hell am I doing?

B. Won’t it be just as much trouble to get them out of the car as drive them?

C. Where is the town cop this time of day? and

D. Could I actually make a stand on this without totally humiliating my son and becoming known as one of “those” adults?

She simply reached up, put the car in drive, and took us the two-and-a-half miles—very, very slowly—to our destination.

She was surrounded by adolescent laughing, gasping, spitting and snorting.

She never said a word.

She never took her eyes off the mirrors.

We arrived, and miraculously, were able to disengage from one another’s flesh, run into the building and start bouncing the balls.

I didn’t thank her, I didn’t look back, and we never spoke of it again.

But there is one day in my memory when my mother, with all her quirks, allowed me to cram fourteen friends into the Chevrolet—without yelling or fussing.

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Copy

Copy: (v) to make a copy of; transcribe; reproduce:

My mother was totally convinced of it.

You could not change her mind.

She believed if I hung around with bad kids, I would copy their behavior.

It made me mad. I didn’t understand why she didn’t think they could hang around with me and copy my behavior.  Of course, the problem was, I always turned funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
up lame and proved her point.

Why is it so much easier to copy stupidity than intelligence?

Why are we able to Xerox a bad attitude instead of making copies of good ones?

It is because all of us are basically frightened that we’re missing out on something. If we do too many good things, then we’ll never know how much fun the bad ones could have been. So we continue to pursue errant behavior, hoping it will bring a thrill, and then suddenly, without warning, we face the consequences of our actions, and are shocked when we either find ourselves defiled or dead.

Why can’t we have people who pursue joy, goodness, praiseworthy activities and creativity, who are secure enough that they could sway the sinner instead of slipping from sainthood to mediocrity?

I don’t know.

But my mother always felt self-righteous about being accurate concerning me hanging out with questionable characters.

I probably should have told her that self-righteousness is also a sin.


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Commercialize

Commercialize: (v) to manage or exploit in a way designed to make a profit.

The Erickson Bread Company is coming out with a new product.

It doesn’t seem unique–it’s a tasty wheat bread fortified with vitamins that has the softness and flavor of white bread.

Everyone at the company and in the board room is ecstatic. They feel they have a good loaf which could quickly be considered great if it were advertised correctly.

A debate rages.

In order to present their creation to the public, they feel they need to find the best way to commercialize it–and by commercialize they mean the most favorable and common vehicle to convey typical life being joyously invaded by the new Erickson bread.

It is concluded that it would be ridiculous to show a family sitting around the dinner table enjoying one another’s company, commenting on the bread.

Old-fashioned.

Out of step with the times.

They also rejected the notion of a man wearing a hard hat, seemingly oblivious to the lunch he’s about to eat until he bites into the sandwich and smiles at the tasty bread.

Too much emphasis on a male figure–and who really wears hard hats anymore?

So it is decided that the best way to commercialize the bread is to have an energetic young mother standing at the kitchen counter making sandwiches for her young son and little daughter, who are completely preoccupied staring at computer screen and phone individually. The mother asks them to taste the bread. Without looking up, they nibble a corner–and suddenly their eyes look away from the screens and move to their mother, still with dead stares, and say, “Umm. That’s not bad.”

The commercial ends with the announcer saying: “Erickson’s new wheat bread–claimed by children who are obsessed by the Internet as ‘Umm. Not bad.'”

Commercialize: a decision to give in to the situation of our time, representing ideas in a fashion which may only be applicable for a few months.

Unfortunately, not everything we do in life can be commercialized.

Amen.

 

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Chain Smoke

Chain smoke: (v) to smoke continually, especially by lighting a new cigarette from the butt of the last one smoked

I never saw my dad smoke a chain. Yet this is what my nine-year-old mind tried to envision when my mother yelled at him and told him he
was nothing but a “damn chain smoker.”

I was aware that my father smoked cigarettes. Actually, he rolled his own. I think he saw it in a movie Western and thought it was cool, manly, and decided to take it up as a practice.

So he bought the tobacco, the papers and pretended he was the Marlboro Man.

He smoked continually. After the passing of time, he mainly smoked so he could keep from coughing. Yes–the absence of the smoke filling his lungs was such a shock to his system that he desperately needed to inhale the tobacco to make him feel normal again. For every morning in our home began with a coughing fit, lasting about twenty minutes.

I knew it was over when the smell of cigarette came floating through the house and I arose from my bed, and walked to stare at myself in the bathroom mirror, around the little speckles of my papa’s spittle.

I was the son of a smoker who decided never to smoke.

I was the son of a mother who spent a lot of time bitching, only driving her husband to more rolling and lighting.

 

Smoking is a vice.

Chain smoking is committing suicide–one drag at a time.

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Cabin

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Cabin: (n) a small shelter or house, made of wood and situated in a remote area.

The human brain is not spacious.

Matter of fact, it’s pretty cramped.

When you add the clutter of prejudice, misconception, disappointment and selfishness, it can be extraordinarily confined.

That’s the way it was with my dad.

My dad never got a chance to find out if he was a good man or a bad man because he was surrounded by men just like him. Therefore he compared himself to them.

They were all frightened of change.

They were all nervous about not having enough money.

They were all intimidated by despondent and dissatisfied women.

And they were all looking for a retreat.

My dad went to Canada–sometimes twice a year–to hunt and fish, but mostly to try to find something in his brain that was his own.

My mother didn’t mean to be intrusive. She always felt she was being helpful. The problem is, helpful is rarely achieved if no one is asking for help.

My dad was not unhappy, he just wanted to be left alone. So he built himself a cabin out on a small piece of land that we owned outside town. It was rustic, it was small, and had very little in it–except my dad, when he wanted to be away from everybody.

My girlfriend and I occasionally slipped out to the location to “play doctor” which eventually led to “hospital.”

But every time I came into that room I could feel his loneliness. I know it sounds poetic, or even misplaced, but there was a quiet in the room which was disconcerting instead of reassuring.

The day he died, people gathered at our home to consume all the casseroles which had been brought in by well-meaning relatives. I slipped away and drove to that cabin, walked in and sat down on the cot that was in the middle of the room.

I don’t know what I expected. Perhaps I thought I would feel the spirit of my dearly departed father.

All I felt was the loneliness which was now even more lonely, because its only visitor had finally escaped.

 

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Bedwetting

Bedwetting: (n) involuntary urination during sleep.Dictionary B

Let me see.

We have Traffic Court. It is used very effectively for handling traffic cases.

Then there’s Divorce Court–for those who want to split the sheets in a legal way.

Family Court, which is more or less an oxymoron, since usually those who attend are having great difficulty being a family.

We have the Court of Appeals, which is obviously desperate for attention.

Yet over the years, we have gradually eroded the power and importance of the “Kid Court.”

This is the jurisdiction and judgments levied by children upon each other, creating the natural peer pressure which promotes general civility.

Let’s make something clear: refusing to pee in your bed is not a natural conclusion.

We are born urinating everywhere. We don’t care–take the diaper off too quickly and the baby will do it right in your face.

So somewhere along the line, we develop an aversion to the idea of peeing ourselves.

This has to come through some sort of instruction or protocol which forces us to fall in line and urinate in porcelain instead of linen.

I contend that every time we try to find a reason for bedwetting–other than the fact that the kid has not yet figured out to get up from a sleepy condition and void–we become overwrought, over-analytical and refuse to let “Kid Court” take care of the matter.

I occasionally peed the bed until the time I went to kindergarten. I thought everybody did.

So one day at recess, when someone complimented my pants, I explained that they were my second choice, since I had pissed on the others.

There was a silence that fell over the crowd that day near the merry-go-round. All my fellow students stared at me in disbelief. They had already made the journey away from bedwetting.

They did not bully me.

They did not ridicule me.

But it was made clear that until I learned how to use my “pee-pee’er” at the right time, I could not be “one of the gang.”

It put a crease in my brain so deep that it remains to this day.

I will tell you that nothing my mother or father could have said would have been more effective than the reaction of my chums, who found my conduct to be Neanderthal.

Taking away all peer pressure, which allows for kids to work out many foibles and weird inclinations, is a huge mistake. The best thing we can do is stand back and monitor it–and pull them apart just short of bloody noses.

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