Chiller

Chiller: (n) short for spine-chiller.

My parents tried.

As I get older, I vaguely understand that my mother and father attempted to comprehend what was in the mind of a thirteen-year-old boy.

They didn’t do well–that’s why I used the word “tried.” Maybe I should have added “and failed.”

But once a month they would let me have some friends over to spend the night on Friday evening, and after my parents went to bed, we would gather in front of the only television in the house, which happened to be in the living room, and watch “Chiller Theater.”

The movies weren’t really scary–they were 1930′ or 1940’s ilk, chocked-full of silly props and plagued with over-acting.

But with seven or eight young boys in a dark house, poking each other and wrestling, the experience soon turned into a scream fest.

My father would appear from the bedroom, which was adjacent to the living room in our tiny bungalow, and mutter something to the effect of, “You boys need to keep it down.” But my recollection of how it sounded in my ears was: “Youwse keep the clown.”

So since the order was vague, we would quiet ourselves for a small period of time, and soon be right back to the decibels necessary to make us feel like we were really partying.

I think my parents hated “Chiller Theater” night. This was proven by the fact that they always insisted, when the fourth Friday came around, that I had added incorrectly, and it wouldn’t be until next week. Unfortunately for them, I carried a calendar with me and pointed out their mistake.

So when I hear the word “chiller,” I think of six or seven pubescent and pre-pubescent boys gathered in a tiny living room, wrestling, trying desperately not to knock over furniture, while screaming just enough to prove that we were the true “Monsters of Might” instead of those displayed on the screen before us.

 

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Children

Children: (n) plural form of child.

Four sons were brought into this world by my sexual cooperation. In other words, I’m their dad.

Three other young gentlemen arrived on my doorstep because they were no longer safe and sound in their home environment.

As I look back on it, I must be truthful–because I’m a writer, a vagabond, a searcher and a proclaimer, I may not have been the best choice of a man to have
children. Fortunately for me, my offspring generally disagree.

My approach with children was really simple: I have a life. It is my time to have a life. You are welcome to come along if you don’t complain too much.

They quickly became convinced that their dad was cool, because he wasn’t like other dads. Of course, when they came into their teen years, they became critical of me not being like other dads. The charm of my uniqueness had worn off.

Children exist for two reasons:

  1. To remind us how bratty human beings really are.
  2. To give us a chance through instruction, love and tenderness to make a better generation.

I cuddled with my children but I never coddled them.

I loved them but I avoided getting lovey-dovey.

I gave to them, but never gave into their demands.

I respected them as long as they respected themselves.

I laughed with them as long as they realized there was a season to weep.

And when it was time for them to move on, I granted them the autonomy to be themselves without feeling loaded down with ancient family history.

The Good Book says we are the children of God. It’s very true–because after all, we are a bratty group which needs discipline, but still possesses the potential of bringing new hope for a new generation.

 

 

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Boarding School

Boarding school: (n) a school where students reside during the semester.

Dictionary B

I ended up being the father to six sons.

Three boys I had in cooperation with my wife, and three others we took into our family–kind of like godparents.

I am going to write about one of these sons, with full confidence that since I am his old man, that he more than likely will never read this–so he won’t need to feel embarrassed and I can make my point.

Yes, one of my sons was caught smoking marijuana.

He got himself into some trouble, went to court, and it fell our lot to try to separate him from buddies who were quite satisfied to see their collective lives “go up in smoke.”

So we investigated boarding schools.

I will tell you–it is well worth focusing on being a great parent and maybe even locking your children up in the house until they’re eighteen–just so you don’t have to talk to these institutions which have found a way to make money off of the suffering and anguish of people who are suddenly confronted with “wayward seed.”

We even went to visit one of these places.

We toured the campus.

Then we allowed our son to go to their school for a day to acquaint himself with their procedures and prepare to become a unit in their well-proven curriculum.

After he came back from the experience, terrified that he was going to be placed into such a social straitjacket, we had a “coming to Jesus” moment with him and decided not to send him away, but instead, find the patience and prudence to have him repent in his own bedroom,

The comical part of the whole experience was that two weeks later we received a letter from the boarding school telling us that after having met our son and reviewing his situation, they had decided to reject his application.

Weren’t they supposed to exist to help confused kids?

I laughed heartily and aloud.

Like so many organizations in America, they are more than happy to take your money and advertise themselves freely–as long as you don’t expect them to actually deliver what they promise.

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Basket

Basket: (n) a container used to hold or carry thingsDictionary B

I have never been particularly fond of work.

I do prefer work that I make up instead of chores that are made up for me. But like every other God-fearing American, I enjoy money.

So when I was a kid–about twelve–my dad, for a very brief time, grew strawberries on our little farm, with the intent of picking them, selling them and procuring an extra income.

Nobody in our family knew how difficult it was to pick strawberries. The plants do not have the decency to grow tall enough to reach up to you. No, you have to go down to get them on the ground.

My dad wanted to sell a pint of strawberries for a quarter. He offered me a nickel for every pint of strawberries I picked.

So I picked and I picked and I picked–and every time I brought him a pint to examine, he said it was not quite full.

At the end of the first day, I had only picked two pints, earning a dime. So overnight, practically in my dreams, I came up with a plan.

Unknown to my father, I carried a roll of toilet paper with me into the strawberry patch, and filled the bottom of my basket halfway with toilet paper, making sure that when I picked the strawberries, they covered the toilet paper so that it would take half as much to achieve a pint.

That night I not only received great praise for picking more baskets–eight in all–but proudly walked away with 40 cents.

I pulled this off for two days until people who were purchasing the strawberries began to complain to my parent about being cheated out of product by being given bathroom issue.

My father was furious.

I don’t know whether he was more unhappy because of the complaints of the people or because I was such a cheat.

But I learned that day that a basket is a basket and never will cease to be a basket.

If you find the basket is too small, then you need to get a larger basket.

And, as in the case of my strawberry picking, if you find the basket is too big, rather than cheating, you must acquire a smaller basket.

 

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Adopt

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Adopt: (v) to legally take another’s child and bring it up as one’s own

I think the definition for success is something that catches our fancy that we’re still willing to do when it ends up being more difficult than we thought.

About seventeen years ago, I decided to take three young boys into my home. Their mother had just gone through a very hostile divorce and the fellows were a little shell-shocked by the whole experience. Fortunately for me, I had a son of my own who was about the same age as the middle child in the trio. It made for a nice situation and seemed quite logical.

I will tell you that logic is what fools refer to as tribulation when they discover there’s hard work ahead. Yes–NOTHING is easy. It’s not meant to be. Matter of fact, adopting anything immediately demands that you use another similar word: adapt.

I learned a long time ago that just because I want to do something is reason enough for everybody in the world to come against it. After I had my motives questioned, my sanity perused and got accused by some of the family members of the mother of being a “cult leader,” I realized that merely trying to pursue generosity makes cautious people get pissed off.

I had to adapt. I had to learn that I was getting to know these young men slowly and needed to gain their respect by being honest and forthcoming.

And the truth of the matter is, if you adopt something and you’re willing to adapt, after a time you will become more adept.

Yes, I got better at being a father.

I am grateful that I ended up with seven opportunities to do so–because in many ways, I think I needed them all.

In the late eighteenth century, when our country adopted a Constitution, we had no idea what trouble we would cause for ourselves. We are still adapting, with the prospect of becoming adept looming in the distance.

Don’t get discouraged. It gets better as long as you don’t give up on the purity–and the joy–of the original decision.

Accident

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Accident: (n) an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.

All four of my naturally born sons and three young men who I adopted and took into my home … were accidents.

At least, that’s the word I normally use, although when I look at the definition I find that I have been misstating the facts. These seven children were certainly not unfortunate. They also gave me no damage or injury, ide from a few nights of raised blood pressure over unkempt rooms and notorious behavior.

But they WERE accidents. I didn’t plan them. Some people take great pride in the fact that they plotted families, insisting that wanting to have a child is much more noble than acquiring one in the heat of passion, without awareness.

But I think the word “accident” is very important–because how we respond to accidents, or events beyond our expectation and control–really determines the depth of our character and in many cases, the extent of our success.

I learned a long time ago that life is not impressed with my plans nor intimidated by my energetic motivations. Life has its own agenda and pushes that forward to find out if anybody can survive the mold on their daily bread. Some people just do better with mold. Flemming, for instance, found a way to turn it into penicillin. I, myself, will not throw away a slice of bread because it has mold on it. I just cut away the green. (Yuk, right?)

But using that mind set, I have learned to take the good with the bad and salvage from it something worthy of proceeding.

I would not remind my children that they were accidents–but I’ve never lied to them, either. My first son was conceived on the grass next to a horse pasture after my senior prom. That has a certain amount of charm, doesn’t it? The exact locations of the other accidental impregnations are not clear to me–I’m sure none are quite as dramatic as the “horsing around” in the grass.

But none of them were planned. And the three young men who came into my house in later years, absorbed and adopted as sons, were just as bewildered by their presence in my home as I was in taking on my second batch of human cookie dough. Accidents are a good thing … IF we change the definition from “occasions of injury” to “our new reality.” The longer we resist change, the more devastating it seems. The sooner we realize that what has happened to us is not an accident, but a by-product of a whole collage of circumstances, the better off we become.

  • No one was ever cured of cancer by denying it.
  • No one ever became a great artist by refusing to paint.
  • And no one ever moves forward until they stop looking at what has happened to them as a turn for the worse.

I had seven accidents in my life which are all now fine, grown young men. That’s pretty good.

Maybe that’s what the insurance companies mean by “accident forgiveness.”