08 October 2017

Father | Son

In much of the competition-based television foisted upon us today, there's a fairly common trope. It's a father or mother doing something like artfully cooking a sea slug or trying to get up Mt. Upchuck-a-rama (I may or may not have that name wrong) in record time for the sole purpose of making their child proud of them. Nine times out of ten, as the footage rolls and the overwrought emotional music is cued, it turns out said child is an infant who would not know if his father was climbing Mt. Whatever or if he was the closet door. So it's pretty safe to say being proud of daddy isn't much of an issue yet.

As the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML will tell you, I don't appreciate these scenes. They're trite, maudlin, and spectacularly lazy. It also usually launches me into an unhinged rant on the nature of parent-child relationships and as her nom de guerre suggests, SML has an unending well of patience with me, but she's done with these rants, so we aren't watching a lot of this type of television together and that's probably for the best.

The Great Mullet Debacle of 2014
Not our finest hour. Let's not
talk about it ever again.
These maudlin scenes have been playing in my mind of late as we are preparing for The RM's wedding just 13 days from today. My involvement in this event has been reserved to paying for stuff sans complaint and taste testing tacos and a next-level dessert for the groom's dinner.  I did nominate myself to create a playlist to add to the ambience of that dinner. For those of you unfamiliar with my iTunes library, it is essentially an extended cry for help consisting of more than 1200 songs that have no discernible rhyme or reason, so this playlist is going to be aces! That said, I've found myself in a mawkish well of my own creation thanks to the lyrics of one song that I added to the list, forgetting that it's about a father's love, as opposed to an unsettling love song between an F-Dude and his F150 as the title would suggest. The chorus of the George Strait song "Love Without End, Amen" goes like this:

Let me tell you a secret about a father's love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
He said daddies don't just love their children every now and then
It's a love without end, amen
It's a love without end, amen

As I've listened to that song multiple times, more than one tear has fallen from my eyes as I think about this good young man, my son, and the pride I have in him, as well as the unending love I feel. Even during the Great Mullet Debacle of 2014 wherein we experienced a taste of the Seventh Ring of Hell that no parent should have to endure, I've loved this son of mine to the Moon and back, just as I have his sisters.

Holding him after 18 months of not seeing each other
My son, The RM, is now somehow on the precipice of marrying a smart, capable, lovely young woman and starting a completely new phase of life. I can't help but marvel at how this has all played out. Wasn't it just yesterday that I held him in my arms for the first time, still smarting from the fact that I didn't get to finish a burrito because he decided to turn up fast? Wasn't it just yesterday that I held both him and his mother as a doctor set his broken arm (first of three, but who's counting)? Wasn't it just yesterday that we threw our arms around each other in a victory hug in the bleachers at Wrigley at our first Cubs game? Wasn't it just over a year ago when we threw our arms around him as he emerged from behind the Curtain of Incompetence (AKA the TSA) at the Hartford Airport as he returned from his missionary service as a mature young man? I held him for a good long time that day, remembering all the times I held him before and then, as you see from the picture above, I stood back and marveled at my son. I marveled at the man he'd become. I marveled at what the future held for him. I marveled that somehow I had something to do with raising him and his sisters into the good people that they are. (On that point, I need to give credit where credit is due right now: the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is why my children are who they are. Also, she is a saint.)

In the coming days, he and I will have a few more 'advice' sessions and I'm sure he won't remember a lot of it. I hope he'll remember the good things I've tried to demonstrate as his father and as a husband to his mom. In thirteen days, I'll hold him again as I wrap my arms around him and through my tears, of which there will be many, I'll say 'Congratulations, son,' as he embarks on a new life as a husband. I'll give my new daughter-in-law a hug and say 'He's yours now. Buena suerte!'

Like that cowboy philosopher George Strait said of a father's love for his children, "It's a love without end, amen." I could not agree more.

04 October 2017

How Many More? A Painful Redux

I don't make a habit of republishing old posts here in the Den. I do so with one exception and that is in honor of September 11th. So it's got to be something pretty momentous to get me to republish a post. I think that 58 people slaughtered by a lone terrorist (because that is EXACTLY what he was), carrying a multitude of automatic weapons worthy of an elite army assault team, seems pretty momentous to me.

I published the post below on 3rd October 2015 in response to yet another school shooting that left ten people dead. What gutted me earlier today when I reread the post is that I couldn't even remember where that shooting occurred. That's how common these shootings are and how desensitized we've become to them. Here we are, nearly two years later to the day, living the horror of the worst mass shooting in the United States, for now. There will be another one, a worse one because we will continue to tolerate this madness.

We can bang on all we want about when is the "right time" to talk about gun control. Once this country decided it was super cool with the slaughter of twenty children, some of whom were only a couple of years older than my grandson is today, then the gun control debate was over.

Our leaders will wring their hands, offer up their prayers, tweets and platitudes, and then do absolutely nothing. And soon enough, I'll republish this post, with more editorial comment in italics, with the occurrence of an event with an even higher body count. And nothing will change.

I'm sad. I'm angry. I'll let my legislators know where I stand on this. I will make my voice heard even though I fear that we are going to continue to choose to let these things happen.

3rd October 2015
Another day, another mass shooting here in the United States. Ten dead, including the perpetrator, in another senseless mass shooting at yet another school.

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate? Apparently our tolerance knows no bounds.

Another shooter who fits an all too familiar refrain. Loner, entrenched in the Internet and all that lurks within its infinite, murky well, fascinated by other similar murderous acts. And yet those that know these shooters all say, "I'm shocked." "Never saw it coming."

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate? See above.

Our elected representatives all follow the same script in the wake of this madness. They take to social media and declare their sympathy for the victims and their willingness to pray for those who have been lost. This is their 'action.' Kudos on your hollow actions. Thanks for taking the time to send a tweet. Call me crazy, but I don't see how a Tweet is an act of absolution for your collective cowardice and unwillingness to address this insanity.

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate? See above.

I guess it's easier to fixate on what a former child star turned epic skank is not going to wear when she hosts "Saturday Night Live" tonight than how we can address this madness. See the pregnancies of the Kardashian trollops.

I guess it's easier to play a parlor game of "What Will The Megalomaniac Donald Say Today" than to address the mental health crisis in our country that is a key driver of these killings. I. Can't. Even.

I guess it's easier to ignore the fact that our children are being taught how to survive a mass shooting from their earliest days in elementary school than it is to question why anyone should be allowed to have a full-on weapons depot in their basement.

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate? This is now a rhetorical question.

Given our track record, there seems to be no limit. When will we tire of it? Apparently never. When will we do something to make it stop? We'll see if the next one finally does it.

"This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America." President Obama

20 September 2017

On entering Area 51

Area 51.

What comes to mind when you hear "Area 51?"

Conspiracy? Secrecy? Aliens? Really bad sci-fi films? That's where both Jimmy Hoffa and Elvis are currently hanging out, right? Is that where the FemBot we know as Melania Trump was created?

The questions about Area 51 and, much like the soul of the current occupant of the White House, the answers are non-existent. Today, though, I have answers because I have entered Area 51.

I should be clear that the Area 51 I speak of is not that den of conspiracy somewhere north of Las Vegas but rather it is the fact that I turned 51years old today. I've already discovered some parallels to this august age and the alien landing area that dare not speak its name. There's a few things about this age that are making me feel more and more alien-esque. For instance:

  • Spots on spots on spots - each day it seems like some new age spot or dry patch o'skin makes an appearance on my dad bod. At this point, you could play a nearly endless game of "Connect the Dots."
  • Memory Erasing - remember the fun little tool the "Men in Black" boys used to wipe people's memories? Yeah, so I seem to have one of those that's gone active somewhere in the recesses of my mind that makes me forget odd little things. (Sorry about not remembering to get the 13 bagels sliced the other morning, every body!)
Those are just two things along the alien path that is turning 51. I suspect I've got another reminder from AARP that I have yet to join that army awaiting me in my mailbox today. I'm steadfastly holding out on that one, no matter what my increasingly gray head of hair suggests. The fact of the matter is that even though today I turned 51, I'm not feeling older. Like James Brown belts, "I feel good."

I've got plenty of reason to feel good. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML has now been by my side (by her choice, people) for nigh on thirty years. We just seen the weekend with our children, grandchildren, and almost new daughter-in-law and that was simply a joyous experience for us as parents. Basically the best early birthday present I could have hoped for. I am a lucky man.

So, I'm a tad curious to see where the mystery of Area 51 and this year takes me. The one thing that I know for sure is I'll be grayer by the time I roll into 52 next year. Everything else is up for grabs. Bring it on, 51st year!

11 September 2017

On 9/11/01

@911 Memorial
Rather than posting the remarks I made in church on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks as I have done for the last several years, today I'm resharing the first post I wrote about that terrible day. I didn't write it until nine years after the event and today, 16 years on, I worry time is softening the horror of that day. I don't want that to happen, not to remember the horror but to remember how it brought our nation and our world together, if only for a few brief moments. Without further commentary, here's that first post:

September 11, 2010
While it's a day after the 9th anniversary of the attacks on U.S. soil that claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people, I've found myself quite contemplative this weekend. My mind has not been far from the events of that horrific day. Much has been said that it was one of those watershed events - one that you'll never forget where were you were when you first heard the news. I know I was in my car on I15 driving into the office and was on the phone with my company's help desk, trying to address an issue with my computer. I'll not forget the gasp of the young woman on the other line as she told me what she was seeing. That was right after the first plane hit. I sensed that whatever was going on in New York City was going to change everything. And it did.

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I had been in NYC the week before the events of 9/11. We'd gone for a few days to relax and enjoy the city. It was an awesome trip and I'll never forget as we were being driven back to JFK the view we had of the Towers. The Towers were not beautiful. However, on that afternoon nine years ago, they were framed by a gorgeous, cloudless blue sky and seemed, at that moment, to embody New York City. I recall saying something to SML about as we drove. Little did I know that one week later, those towers would be a pile of smoking rubble and the tomb of 3,000 people.

I've thought many times over the years about who died in the Towers, the Pentagon, and aboard United 93.   I believe we are indebted to each of them who died to NOT forget what happened that day.  We must live in such a way that we prevent something like this from ever happening again.  We've got to eradicate hate and fear.  Ultimately, we are all children of the same God and are inherently good.  This hate-mongering that has our world divided has got to stop.

I suspect I'm going to close the evening tonight watching the most extraordinary film I've seen about 9/11. I'll watch, and weep as I do, United 93. It simply is stunning. It's a powerful reminder of what a handful of people can do, and what they did, on that day.

May we never forget their sacrifice and may we live in such a way that there is no longer a need for people to feel that we have to kill one another like this.