This One’s For You Dad…

I’ve had a tough time this week…I came to the realization that it more than likely is time for a change in jobs…doing the same job for over 16 years makes it difficult  to leave and finding something new at 57 won’t be easy to do…not to mention I work for someone I consider a friend and who may be reading this in the middle of his latest bowel movement…but that’s okay, I respect him and at least he reads whatever self-important thing I happen to be driveling on about…

But this really isn’t about me…this is about someone who I’ve known for over 30 years now…and as of this moment lays in a hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator…in a hospital that is struggling to find even the slightest of reasons why he’s in his current state…don’t get me wrong, I’m not accusing anyone at the hospital of malpractice or anything…but it sure feels like they’re over-matched right now…and it has become harder each day to watch my wife’s family deal with the frustration of not knowing…and seeing my father-in-law survive thanks to the tubes he’s hooked up to…

I met my future father-in-law Joe when I helped his daughter, now my wife, move from her apartment in North Philly to one in South Jersey…the logistics of my relationship being my best freind was dating her roommate and they introduced us one intoxicated Saturday at the Jersey Shore…I don’t know, maybe it was just me who had over-indulged…anyway we got along pretty good and yadda…yadda…two weeks later I was renting a truck to help her move…not because she wanted to be closer to me…she had finished pharmacy college and got a job with a pharmaceutical company in South Jersey…

of course Joe liked me right away, helping another guy move, or in this case his daughter, is a big step in any manly friendship…and in the 30 plus years I’ve known him we’ve never had a cross word…even though I’m not really sure I would have been his first pick to marry off his daughter to…this was clear to me when I asked him in the frozen foods section of a supermarket if I could marry his daughter and his first response was, “What?”… we all know when someone answers a question with what that they’re stalling for time…further evidenced by his call for help to his wife further down the aisle, “Uh, Peg, (future mother in-law) come here please!”…the trepidation in his call for help obvious…but we worked it out, we were able to buy all the frozen seafood we needed that day, Joe agreed to let me ask his daughter, and I left the supermarket with the uneasy feeling that Joe liked me, but he thought his daughter could do better…story of my life…

Joe has always treated me like a son since I married into the family…I on the other hand have never felt comfortable calling him dad…I always felt my actual father was only deserving of that…usually it was just Joe, or Hey, uh, or So, uh, as in “Hey, uh, did you see the Penn State game?”, or “So, uh, how you doing today?”…and you know what?…I was wrong not to call him Dad…after 30 plus years of treating me like a son, of always being straight with me…making sure I knew when he was proud of me…making sure to always Pamper my kids, his grandchildrenhe’s earned it…I only hope I get the chance to tell him…

Another Way to See Walt Disney World…Without Me!

Don’t read into that the wrong way…I don’t mean Witout Me! like I never want to go there again…just the opposite…I would live there if I could…I’ve chosen to Elevate  working at Disney World to Number 1 on my list of retirement jobs…

this past Labor Day weekend my wife wanted to go to Disney World, so she did…by herself…Without Me!…a little context if you’re not familiar with my family…my daughter lives down there and works for Disney, so it’s not like she was down there all by herself running around acting like an adult who’s never grown up…no, instead my wife and daughter ran all over the World to their favorite eateries, enjoyed the spa, and even went trick-or-treating in the Magic Kingdom…like two adults who’ve never grown up…and what did I do?…

…well after making all of the hotel arrangements…setting up the Magic Express to get her back and forth to the airport…I got to enjoy the 3-day party that was my next door neighbor’s wedding…complete with loud music until the wee hours of the morning…somebody smoking pot in front of my house…and no invitation, not even a sliver of wedding cake for my troubles…but that’s okay…as long as my wife had fun, am I right?…

by now you can tell the whole thing has left me somewhat bitter…so what did I do this past weekend?…well, out of spite, I took off Friday and Saturday to go along with my scheduled day off today…and I didn’t do a darn thing…no mulching or pulling weeds from flower beds…no tree trimming…no “honey do” list chores of any kind…and I binge watched Season 5 of House of Cards…I didn’t lift a muscle…that ought to teach her to go to Walt Disney World Without Me!…

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A Presbyterian In Catholic Purgatory…

I didn’t know I could do this…as a Presbyterian, the last thing I thought I would ever find myself doing is bringing up the bread and the wine for Communion in a Catholic Church…I mean, is that legal or even covered under canon law somewhere?…I’m pretty sure over in South Jersey my long-departed parents turned over in their graves…don’t get me wrong, my parents didn’t hate Catholics…to be honest, they didn’t always get along with our neighbors who were Methodist…I think they just thought Catholics were a little too showy…too in your face…always the nicest church…a crucifix instead of a cross…the best carnivals…

Anyway, my wife and I (me?) went to the late Mass a couple of Sundays ago…and as usual, we arrived early…as we’re sitting there, my wife praying the rosary…me, using the time not to pray, but to stare blankly and judge the other parishioners now arriving in their best Sunday shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops…,at least I had the decency to rock a nice collared shirt…this guy comes up and asks if we would like to present the gifts for Communion…before I can tell him he’s got the wrong guy, my wife gladly volunteers us…

“I can’t do that”, I quietly protest to her after he leaves,”I’m not even Catholic.”…

…since mostly my wife, and somewhat me, have raised our kids to be good Catholics, which they make you do when there is a religiously mixed marriage…it’s become a standard excuse I Continue to use to get out of attending holy days of obligation…giving up cheesesteaks during lent…and working a booth at the church carnival….

“Won’t my Presbyterianism somehow spoil the Body and the Blood?”, I panicked. And my wife, in the snarkiest tone possible and with a look usually reserved for my 20-something year old son after one of his occasional transgressions says…”Don’t worry, the priest will transform it…pretty sure the congregation will survive you bringing up the wine.” It was about here that I realized we were doing this…so I chose this moment…this issue…to make my stand…”I’m not taking the wine…if I spill it on the rug, there won’t be a baptismal font deep enough for me to hide in.”

And that ended that…my wife had just gotten me to choose how I wanted to do the thing that I was fighting her about doing…

…after all these years…had she finally started me on the road to Catholicism?…and my eventual visit to Purgatory?

 

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My Family…Caring And Supportive…Or Batcrap Crazy?

I’ve done more than my share of self loathing lately. But then, I’m what you would truly call a miserab, and disliking myself and my actions are all a part of the experience. But there are other reasons, external forces that help create and when needed, re-enforce my true miserable-ness.

So what is it that drives me batcrap crazy? It would be easy to tell you it’s the political shitstorm we’re all subjected to everyday, but that’s not it, at least not yet. Lack of friends, snooty neighbors…probably, but they’re for another day…

No, the number one thing on my list is family. Don’t judge me just yet, if you’re reading this I’ll bet you’ve said the same thing before, only to yourself and not in print where anyone in your family will read it. I can honestly say I have no worries there…no one in my family has ever read, or asked to read a single word I’ve published. But I’m not bitter. Let me introduce them…

My wife may be the smartest woman I know or have ever known, and it ain’t because she hitched her wagon to this horse’s ass. Her one major flaw…she doesn’t listen, or maybe it’s respect…a word I tell her. Sure she’ll ask for my opinion, but most of her time is spent performing this painful monologue where she speaks and I only move my mouth when she puts her hand in the back of my head like I’m some sick sort of wood dummy. On the rare occasion that I do spout a semi-coherent thought, she chipmunks it away in her brain, only to see the light of day again if someone she actually has respect for confirms it as a good idea. But then it’s, “(Fill in any name here) said this and it seems like good advice.” You’ll notice there is no mention of me as the original author of that good advice. But that’s okay.

Now, my wife, is also a mom, just ask my son. They have this relationship, and I swear they do it to annoy me, where one minute she’s the loving Italian mother talking to the son who would do anything for her, and the next minute I’m looking to hide all the cutlery in the house. It can turn that quickly. There is a saying that goes, “Pick which hill you want to die on”, and there isn’t a hill in our house, in our lives, that isn’t out of their war zone. They’ll debate his grades, his job, religion, politics, food, beer…anything, it’s all up for grabs, and I find it’s best to duck when the verbal bullets start flying. Things get heated and that’s when my wife drags me into the fray. I’m the human shield, I’m that thing that signals to my son that he can’t win this one, run and live to fight another day…and then like that, the relationship is back to loving mom and adoring son (kinda)… I’m left in a state of not ready to let it go yet…next thing I know, their off to a movie, to the mall, to grab a sandwich…and everything is right in their world…it’s me who’s left holding the bag labeled “Hostility”.

My son, God love him, is the most over-confident student currently on academic probation that I know. He’s also a bit of a beer Buff and there isn’t one he won’t try, which might shed some light on his academic probation status. But he has a dream, a vision of opening a brewery and cooking his own brand of beer, a part of society so underserved that as of last year there were only a mere 5,000 brewers in the United States. But I give him credit, it’s his dream and I won’t squash it, there’s already over 5,000 people in line for that job.

I also have a daughter. She was smart enough to move to Florida after graduating college, thereby avoiding all of this familial strife. It also allows us to take our show on the road a couple of times a year, possibly educating other families, especially younger ones, in new and sometimes brutal ways of dumping on each other. Now, my daughter, she’s truly crafty…she has made it known to each of us separately that she enjoys us coming to visit her…one at a time. It gives her more one-on-one time with each of us… and thereby avoids the hysteria that accompanies a full family visit. It’s her brand of divide and conquer strategy…and to be honest, it works like a charm.

I have a beagle. His name is Bailey and he’ll be 14 years old this year. That would make him 75 to you and me, and just like me, he’s got bad feet, he’s a little overweight for his size, and I think his hearing and sight are starting to go, and occasionally he’ll have a senior dog moment when he walks into a room with no clue as to why he wants to be there. He’s a great dog though, except he has his days and nights confused. I also think he has some separation anxiety as well, and nothing cuts into my sleep faster than a beagle howling for attention at 3:00. That’s A.M., after midnight, when we should all be asleep. So for the next half hour, we go outside, we might wrestle over a toy, maybe have a biscuit or two (him, not me), whatever it takes to settle him down.

There you have it, an attempted humorous look at my family, the folks who irritate me, promote self loathing within myself, and drive me absolutely batcrap crazy on occasion,  and with whom I couldn’t do whatever it is I do if they weren’t in my life…

 

Featured Image via from Dorkly via flimsyspoons

It’s Been So Long Since I’ve Seen My Friends…

I grew up in South Jersey where I lived until 1995. Hung around with a pretty small circle of friends in the 70’s through the mid-80’s; got married in the late 80’s; bought a home; and in the early 90’s, through very little effort on my part, fathered a couple of great kids. My wife of course did all of the heavy lifting and required pushing to bring them out into the world. Since then parenting has been one long tag team event; we usually win, but once in awhile we let the kids have one just for their confidence. It’s also called picking your battles or the more graphic but appropriate…choosing which hill you want to die on.

In 1995 we moved to Southeastern PA; the move necessary due to the constant consolidation in the drug industry. I should probably clarify that by saying we didn’t lose our corner to a rival drug gang, it was the consolidation in The Big Pharmaceutical Industry. The guys who sell the drugs with the incredible side effects which seem to be worse than the actual ailment your treating with their product. You know, the really big drug gangs.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen or talked to any of my friends from South Jersey, We need something like this back home between us and the Mittlebeelers!apparently crossing the Delaware River is every bit as daunting a task as climbing up and over the Great Wall of China. But then that goes both ways, doesn’t it? It also put us in the geographical center between our two families. Closer to her family; but farther from my family with the…been nice knowin’ you attitude.

I tried thinking about some of the changes in my life since I’ve seen any of my friends (still can’t bring myself to call them former) which I estimate to be September of 2001 or just once since 1995; changes in my personality, family changes…what my kids do now…called parental bragging if you will; changes to technology, things like that.

I have a much different personality than I did in 2001. A change in jobs from a comfortable middle management existence to a failed entrepreneurship with FedEx has made me much more cynical when it comes to the motives of corporate America; I now understand that I wasn’t a partner with Fred Smith and FedEx, I was a business model that saved them millions upon millions of dollars in employer taxes, insurances, and employee benefits. And stupidly, instead of putting FedEx in my rear view mirror, I’ve chosen to stay on and now drive for the company that owns my former route. The owner is a good guy and probably one of my three or four friends, but like my friends from Jersey…would I ever here from him again if I were to leave? Cynical…angry…distrusting…grumpy…sober…old man. Much different than the often intoxicated, lovable loser my friends knew. Sometimes I really miss beer.

And that may be one of the biggest changes since I last saw my friends. Beer! Growing up cash strapped and in need of a couple of beers, often me and the friends would settle for anything cheap. Genesee Cream Ale, the disgusting, but affordable King of Beers, Budweiser, and whenever possible a cold Carling Black Label, free from mom and dad’s fridge. Not only do I no longer drink, I wouldn’t know what the hell to drink anyway. With all of the craft beers and small micro-breweries around, simply choosing a beer would be enough of a chore to turn me sober. The last time I had a beer with my friends, not one guy said it was too hoppy or too wheaty or whatever. You just twisted off the cap and talked or argued about sports or girls or cars. 

The last time I saw my friends, my daughter was in elementary school and my son was just beginning kindergarten. Actually, he was in kindergarten twice a day, once in the morning in daycare and then in school in the afternoon. He really hated that. Since then, my daughter has graduated with honors from an expensive liberal arts college that my wife and I probably couldn’t afford, and my son will be graduating very soon. My son has earned his Eagle Scout rank from the Boy Scouts and my daughter has moved to Florida where she works for the House of the Mouse. All of this…since I last saw my friends.

The last time I saw any of my friends, I didn’t own a cell phone. The only two people I know imagewho had cell phones were Gordon Gekko and Maxwell Smart. I had never sent a text message, never skyped, opened a Facebook account, tweeted anything, or created and saved anything to the cloud. I didn’t know I would one day own something called an iPad; never created my personal playlist of music that I could save on a SmartPhone and play over a Bluetooth wireless speaker…none of these things were mine the last time I saw my friends.

The last time I saw my friends was September 9, 2001, when we watched the first game of the Eagles season. And just two days before the terrible events of 9/11, a day no one should ever forget. Since I last saw my friends hundreds of thousands of lives have been changed forever because of the War on Terror. Why do the wars on our societal issues never seem to have a solution…a compromise; how long have we been fighting the War on Drugs…On Cancer…On Poverty…On Gangs…and even on Christmas? 

Since I last saw my friends, the country was once swept up in the great secrecy around Ginger, an invention many thought would change the world, an invention that would change the way cities are laid out, an invention that ended up being The Segway. An imageinvention that nobody thought to ask one simple question, “Where the hell can we use this thing?” How cursed was this invention? The owner of The Segway Corporation drove his off a 30 ft. cliff and into a river below. Irinically…he has seen his friends for the last time.

The last time I saw my friends, Peter Jackson had yet to send Frodo, Aragorn, and the rest of The Fellowship to return The One Ring to Mt. imageDoom…They had yet to prove or dis-prove anything on The Big Bang Theory…Jack Bauer still hadn’t killed anybody on 24…Colonel Jessup had yet to order the Code Red for Private Santiago in A Few Good Men…Sean Bean still had numerous death scenes to play on TV and in the movies…The Philadelphia Eagles still haven’t won a Super Bowl, and the Flyers haven’t heard the ovation that comes from parading Lord Stanley’s Cup down Broad Street in over 40 years.

A great many things have come and gone since I last saw my friends from South Jersey; I often think about them and their families, wonder why they haven’t called, or why I don’t pick up the phone and call them. I guess the real reason is because I don’t want to think of those friendships also as come…and gone.

Ovation

Donald, Hillary & Just One Positive Thing

At the end of the day, did they make us believe their answers to a truly pointless question?

Anyone who chose not to or was unable to watch the 2nd Presidential Debate last night missed one of the more heartwarming moments of the campaign. It was without question however none of these…

No…Bill didn’t share an I’ve Missed You Hug with the targets of his former dalliances, conveniently seated nearby thanks to some last minute seating arrangements.

No…Grandmom Hillary didn’t invite the grandkids up on stage after the debate to watch their mother, Chelsea, reprise her role of the Favorite Aunt in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

No…Hillary didn’t give a special shout-out to FBI Director James Comey thanking him for all of his years of service…and for looking the other way on all those emails.

No…Hillary didn’t invite all of Donald’s  Deplorables on stage to apologize and then send them lovingly away with a slice of Grandmom Hillary’s Apple Pie.

No…Donald didn’t promise if elected he would pardon away Hillary deleting those emails. In fact, he pledged to hire a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary and throw her in jail if warranted (much to the delight of his supporters I’m sure).

No…Donald didn’t invite all of Mexico over to his place for a Cinco de Mayo festival next year. Not even the good ones as he likes to call them.

No…The former students of Trump U did not come on stage to thank The Donald for the world class education they received at his university. 

And No…New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not step on stage to tell Donald it was all a big misunderstanding, that the notice to stop fundraising he sent to the Donald J. Trump Foundation was just for laughs.

What you would have seen and heard in this sometimes out-of-control town hall meeting was a question straight out of a marriage encounter retreat…or from my 4th grade school teacher after she broke up a fight between me and my no longer best friend Danny Kelly on the playground.

The final question of the night’s political pillow fight (you know what I mean, everyone swings real hard but nobody really gets hurt) came from Undecided Voter Karl Becker, who asked the two candidates;

“My question to both of you is, regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

Here is where Donald absolutely outshines Hillary. His answer, no matter how insincere it was, actually was mostly complimentary and somewhat thought out. Hillary on the other hand, refused to compliment Trump himself, choosing the more indirect route of saying he had great kids.

From Hillary:

“Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald. I don’t agree with nearly anything else he says or does, but I do respect that. I think that is something that as a mother and a grandmother is very important to me.” Say what you want about her, but she didn’t fall into the trap of praising her opponent directly.

And then Mr. Trump dove right into the pool without his water wings:

“She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter,” Trump said. “I disagree with much of what she’s fighting for. I do disagree with her judgment in many cases. But she does fight hard, and she doesn’t quit, and she doesn’t give up. And I consider that to be a very good trait.”

Trump then politely thanked Clinton for her disingenuous flattery of his children (it was that obvious), and Hillary then silently thanked Trump for supplying the next sound bite in her TV and radio ads.

 Flattery

Mr. Unremarkable vs. The Power of No!

Another historical fiction from South Jersey’s favorite 1970’s SuperHero In Training.

Anyone who has ever participated in Superhero (S.H.I.T.) training or simply struggled to find an answer to a personal question knows the power of this one simple word. The word No can be a bulldozer in training, it oozes with negativity and can often be the final opinion in the daily decision making process. It’s probably one of the reasons there are so few superheroes around. Just like me, you may have experienced this verbal phenomenon early in your own life...

Hey Dad, since I haven’t mastered Fire Manipulation yet, can I soak these cattails in gasoline (not to be confused with cat tails or cat’s tail), imageand don’t you think they would make great torches for running around the neighborhood?” Of course my Dad replied with the one and only correct answer in his mind, “Noooo!” This was followed by a fast trip into the garage to see what fresh hell I had dreamed up. I swear he had developed Teleportation skills. Now as somewhat of an adult I can see why he was concerned,  but as a S.H.I.T. I was disappointed his No put an end to my daring idea.

Like most regular kids in the neighborhood, I spent many weekend summer days winning the imageWorld Series. Unfortunately, unlike so many other kids who had one of those pitch back nets, my bottom of the 9th inning was played out using a tennis ball thrown against a broken mirror propped against the side of the house. It worked pretty good for me once I broke the glass in the mirror, on just the second pitch I’m proud to say. Mom and Dad…not as proud however. And after a wild pitch broke 2 shingles on the house, the power of No won out once again. As in No more balls against the side of the house. The garage then? “No!” It was here that it became painfully obvious, if I was going to pitch in the World Series it would only be by my superpower to change reality, known in the world of S.H.I.T.’s as Reality Warping.

As a youth playing baseball in rural South Jersey in the ’70’s the yes vs. no debate was also a mental altercation I had with my coach during my first year in Little League. While I knew that Yes, I could and wanted to pitch, he felt that No, I wasn’t a pitcher, his son was, and my best talents that first year were to keep the official score book. And I have to give him credit, no matter how much I used my power of Mind Control, he fought it all season.

Unfortunately for my coach, league rules said I had to play at least one inning in each game, meaning someone else had to keep the book. So around the 7th inning of each game I would get up off of my glove (I liked to sit on it so I didn’t lose it) and take my place in right field or wherever he chose to play me. And God love him, he over-managed us all the way to the league championship game. And in that game, all of the double switches and pitching changes he made finally caught up to him. I would have to hit. With a runner on first and one out, down by a run. The air was filled with drama, or the remnants of Billy Zawatawicz’s last flatulent masterpiece, I’m not sure drama ever smelled like that. Happy to be off the bench, away from Billy, I made the most of my at-bat and lined a 6-hopper through the infield into center field allowing the runner on first to go all the way to third.

As a bench player, you would think that would have been my biggest accomplishment and I would be satisfied. It was, but I was not. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has ever coached at the Little League level knows what should have happened next. A double steal. Make the other team throw the ball. Worse case, I might be out at second, but the runner on third would score on the throw to second base and tie the game. It was that obvious. Except to the coach who treated every game like it was Game 7 of the World Series, but was now incapable of that type of second-level thinking. And after no sign from him on the first two pitches, it would be up to me and my Superhuman Speed. When the next pitch crossed home plate, I was off and running to glory. About half way there I looked back to see the catcher had made up his mind to attempt and throw me out at second. It was working, by God my plan was working!

Now, following up on part 2 of my plan, I took a look over to third base, and what I saw shocked me. Not only was my coach there, waving his hands over his head in a, “Who told you to do that?” kind of way, but the runner on third was still there, standing on the base, laughing at another round of commotion Billy had caused on our bench.  As I started my slide, several questions popped into my head, the most critical of which was “Why was I the only one running?”  But as my foot touched the bag, barely ahead of the tag, I felt only vindication for my decision to run. It was up to the home plate umpire, the game’s only umpire, had he actually seen the play, would he make the right call? The answer was No to both questions. And as I laid there in the dirt, I had an epiphany. “When trying to think like an adult, sometimes you remove logic and common sense.” I’m still not sure what that means, but as we stood in line to get our Second Place trophy, my coach questioned my decision to try and steal second base. Would he ever have the logic to see the strategy in what I tried to do? Would he ever question his own lack of vision that stranded a runner at third base? Would he suggest to Billy’s parents a common sense low flatulent diet for Billy? Maybe, but if I had to make a guess, it would be No, all three times.