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.”

 

Core Gender Identity

Core gender identity: (n) a person’s inner sense of being male or female

A couple of weeks ago I woke up convinced I was handsome. It was magnificent.

It lasted until I stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom. Then I was conflicted. Should I believe what I woke up with? Or should I deal with funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
what I see? And is what I see what is really true, or rather, my perception of what I think truth should be?

After all, maybe I am handsome and my inner thinking about being handsome has been tainted by years of being deemed average.

Which notion in my brain should I follow?

Which path seems to have the most promise?

I remember when I was a young boy, just eight years old, I heard a performance by a man playing piano. After the concert hall cleared, I slipped back in, walked up onstage, sat down at the instrument and began to move my fingers the way I had seen the man perform. It didn’t sound a thing like what he produced. At first, I was angry. I wanted to be a piano player. (At least, right at that moment I did.) But it seemed that nature, or God, had favored this man over me.

I remember the first time I asked a girl out on a date. She said no. As did the next three in a row. It crossed my mind, “I wonder if they think I’m gay? Am I gay? If I can’t get a date with a girl, maybe that’s just Earth’s way of telling me that I’m gay.”

This thought quickly disappeared when the fourth girl said yes, and we went and made out like two fish swimming in the bayou.

Turns out I wasn’t gy—but maybe I was gay until I wasn’t.

I saw a man lift weights. He grunted and groaned but was very successful at it. I thought, how hard can this be? I walked over and tried to lift one end of the bar. Could not budge it. Does that mean I’m weak? That I should go out and buy protein powder to build up my muscles, or else I will be overcome by an enemy?

In the process of one day, the human brain of every person alive goes through so many contortions, so many questions, so many different ideas, that it is very difficult to land on true identity.

I don’t think we should ever deny, ignore or reject someone’s core gender identity, faith proclamation or personal belief.

But I also think if we are to be kind to one another, we will allow each other the chance to be dreaming, wondering or even confused—without holding each other to the present whim.


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Chord

Chord: (n) a group of three or more notes sounded together, as a basis of harmony.

Mrs. Bosley never told me.

She was my piano teacher when I was a boy. I took lessons from her for two years–and she never mentioned that music is very mathematical.

For instance, making a chord. You have a root note–like a C. You go up two steps to get your third and another step-and-a-half to get your fifth. There. You’ve got a chord. And it works with any key.

Once I discovered this magic, I realized any song could be played in any key as long as the chords could be attained by using my mathematical little formula.

My theories were put to the test when the music group I put together lost our piano player because her father thought it wasn’t good for her to be hanging out with a bunch of boys. He was also pissed at us because he insisted our hair was too long. So he told us that she was no longer allowed to play piano for us.

He thought that would be the end of our little group.

But instead, I grabbed the kid brother of our tenor singer, sat down with the mathematical formulas aforementioned–and in six weeks, taught this kid how to “chord out” five songs.

You cannot imagine how surprised people were when this boy walked to the piano and started playing.

Honestly, we kind of did this on a lark–but it ended up being a transforming experience for him. He went from being human wallpaper to decorating rooms with his talent. Within five years, he was in demand from every group in Columbus, Ohio.

All because he learned his chords.

We do a disservice when we try to complicate the good things of life, and make them seem inaccessible. Music especially needs to be available for all of us.

If it is, maybe we can all live in one a-chord.

 

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Bongo

Bongo: (n) a pair of drums held between the knees

One of the more annoying aspects of pursuing a Christian philosophy of life is the need to at least attempt to treat every person kindly. Even though it works out Dictionary Bin the end, the journey to get to the destination is often arduous, if not exhausting.

Randy was a tag-along.

When I was in high school, our church youth group decided to start a coffeehouse, and Randy volunteered his services to assure his place in the historical moment.

Here was the problem: Randy had no vices–just faults.

A fault is a difficulty someone possesses which you really can’t harp on too much because it doesn’t do any harm–it’s just mind-numbingly frustrating.

  • Randy talked too much
  • Randy had really bad ideas
  • Randy’s breath smelled like he had been licking the bottom of a birdcage.
  • And as it turns out, Randy played bongos.

This came out when we were discussing musical possibilities for our newfound venture.

We had located our guitarist, a piano player and some singers, and were ready to close our discussion when Randy suggested that what we lacked was a “bongoist.”

Quite certain there was no such word as “bongoist,” I explained that not every song needed rhythm. He agreed–and promised to only play the bongo when it was warranted.

On opening night Randy sat with the bongo between his knees, and determined in the moment’s anointing, to play on every song, including a very confusing interpretation of Kum ba yah.

He was oblivious to his intrusiveness and lack of timing.

Everybody expected me to tell Randy to “de-bongo.” I couldn’t. He was so enthusiastic. Matter of fact, after our first meeting, he explained, with tears in his eyes, that he thought he had found his calling.

I’m happy to report: fortunately he became an accountant.

 

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Belligerent

Belligerent: (adj) hostile and aggressive.

Dictionary B

I began my journey to becoming a better human being the day I realized that nothing can really offend me unless I privately fear that it’s true.

In other words, you can accuse me of all sorts of evil, but if I have no awareness of such iniquity dwelling in my heart, being belligerent is unnecessary.

I become angry and hostile when other folks stumble upon my insecurities and speak them aloud, making me feel that I must attack them to protect my own delusion.

So for years, I was very upset if someone called me fat. It wasn’t because I was skinny, it was because every time I looked in the mirror I saw a fat man–yet felt that it was nobody’s damn business to confirm the obvious.

On the other hand, you can tell me all day long that I’m not the best piano player in the world, and I will not only nod my head in agreement, but also explain inadequacies of which you may not have been aware.

The presence of belligerence is the absence of confidence.

For when we are satisfied that all is well with our soul, it is very difficult for other people to interrupt our well-being.

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Aquamarine

dictionary with letter A

Aquamarine (n): a light bluish-green color.

This may sound very selfish, but one of the fringe benefits of the recent civil rights afforded to the gay community (aside from the fact that we live in a free country and it was basically inevitable once the belly-aching ceased) is that we no longer have to be threatened by other men saying “that’s gay.”

It has become a taboo.

It used to be a perpetual, common horror.

I remember many years ago when leisure suits were both leisurely and in fashion, I found one at a discount store, marked down, which happened to be my size. It was aquamarine.

You see, the problem was that even though it was a much more colorful era, certain hues were still looked upon as being suspect of your sexual orientation. Add to the fact that I was a piano player, and you had the makings of a San Francisco gay parade.

Not only did I get an occasional sneer and sidewise comment, like, “Nice color, big boy,” but I also began to envision that I was being stared at by the entire world, viewed as a “man lover.”

So paranoid was I that I started prancing around like John Wayne and using the deepest timbre my voice could muster. When wearing the aquamarine garment, I was always quick to point out that I was married and had fathered children from my own manly source.

It was crazy.

Finally, even though I loved the outfit, I purposefully “accidentally” forgot it at a motel. (What I mean is, I actually did forget it, but remembered it by the time I got to the elevator and decided not to go back for it.)

So somewhere in Yuma, Arizona, there is a big fat man wearing an aquamarine leisure suit … who obviously has much more confidence than I do.

 

 

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