Monday, June 29, 2009

Long Time

"Really? You're related to John?" I asked our fishing guide.

"Yeah."

"John and I went to high school together. Are you his cousin?"

"He's my uncle. My dad's brother."

"Time flies."

"I guess."

"He still live in Oregon?"

"Yeah."

"I visited him out west. A long time ago."

"Yeah?"

We went Sufi dancing and then to a club, I thought. A long time ago.

"Fish on," he said, nodding at my line.

"Yeah," I said.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mirage

We'd been trying for hours to hitch a ride on a ramp in the Mojave. Hot and dry, as befits a desert. No traffic. Finally a car.

The convertible pulled to a stop in front of us. Five football players, or frat boys, or Marines.

They looked at us, with our long hair, beards, backpacks.

We looked at them.

They looked at us some more and then each other. The driver nodded. A passenger nodded back, bent down in the backseat. He straightened, something in each hand.

Two beers. Sweating from the cold.

"Here," he said. Threw them both, I caught one and so did my friend.

"Thanks," I said.

The driver nodded again and they were gone.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Every Minute

We were at the park waiting for my youngest's baseball game to start.

"I need a Phiten," he said.

"If it's not air, water, food, or shelter, you don't need it," I replied. "And shelter's questionable. So is food. Those sliding shorts make you look fat."

"Shut up," he said. "I need a Phiten, though. It's made with titanium."

Lord, now what? I thought. Is he building weapons?

"Everyone on the team has one," he continued.

Things were getting clearer.

"What kind of piece of crap is it?" I asked.

"It's not crap. It gives you energy."

"Okay, Deepak Chopra. Show me one."

He walked over, talked to a teammate, and came back with a necklace.

"It's made out of cloth," I said. "How much do these things cost?"

"It's not cloth. And they only cost thirty dollars."

"Thirty dollars! Have you been smoking crack?" I must have been loud, because other parents were starting to look.

"I'll use twenty dollars of my birthday money and that way it won't cost you anything."

"You said it costs thirty dollars."

"It does."

"And you're paying twenty."

"I know. So it won't cost you anything."

My head was starting to hurt.

"I'll make you one," I told him.

"How?"

"I'll tie some string together and wrap aluminum foil around it."

"That's dumb."

"Not as dumb as paying thirty dollars for useless junk."

"If it was useless it wouldn't cost thirty dollars!" he replied triumphantly.

"What a marvelous job of parenting I've done," I said to another dad who had been listening with interest.

"You're going to let him get it, aren't you?" he asked.

"It's a waste of money," I said.

"I know," said the other father. "The gray one or the red one?"

"Probably the red one."

"That's the one I got my kid," he said.

"Sucker," I said.

"Join the club," he replied.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

That Was Fun

I've had worse days.

































Thursday, June 18, 2009

Seamless

I cut myself last night. Nothing too unusual about that, except I somehow managed to cut myself with a baseball.

With the middle kid playing on two soccer teams and the oldest with activities of his own, I've skipped coaching this year. The youngest is playing traveling baseball and I didn't see how I could coach him and spend any time with his brothers. I'm not sure his brothers would consider that a loss, but I try to avoid the perception, if not the reality, of playing favorites.

Baseball all star season's starting now, however, and with the youngest playing for my old co-coach P. again, I thought I'd help out at last night's practice. By helping out, I mean standing in the outfield while the kids scrimmaged.

Apparently I looked bored between innings because Coach P. threw me a high fly ball. I misjudged and at the last minute had to make a stab at it. Two handed, just like you're supposed to, except the ball hit bare hand, not glove.

"Damn it," I said, probably louder than I should have, picking up the ball and throwing it in. Then I looked down at my hand. It was bleeding. A lot.

"Ow," I whimpered. "Look at this," I said to one of the other dads.

"Jesus," he said. "That's messed up."

It was. A big chunk of meat gone between the pinkie and the ring finger, gouged out by the seam of the ball. The other dad helped me wrap it up and it stopped bleeding. It still hurt, but not so much I couldn't sit on the bleachers and watch the rest of practice.

Until the Lovely Bride arrived at the park to drop off our oldest for his cross-country practice. "Let me see that," she ordered.

I unwrapped the bandage.

"For God's sake, you need stitches. You need to go to urgent care."

"But I'm the team parent and we're having the first team meeting after practice," I whined.

"Then the clinic will be closed and you can spend the night sitting in the emergency room," she said.

"You're doing errands tonight. How's our kid going to get home? Hitchhike? Maybe he can get a ride from some nice man with a panel van and a Kit Kat in his pocket."

"Why would you say something like that?" she asked.

"Because it's funny?" I suggested.

"It's horrible," she said.

"He doesn't think so," I replied, pointing to our smirking child.

"You'll be doing everyone a favor if you leave now," she told me.

So off to urgent care I went where the nurse practitioner cleaned the wound, stitched me up, and sent me on my way. When I got home the two youngest gagged with delighted horror at my hand.

After that was out of the way, I asked the youngest how the team meeting went.

"Fine," he said.

"Did you meet everyone?" I asked.

"Yeah. Coach P. had all the kids introduce themselves and their parents."

"That's nice."

"You and mom weren't there so I said I was a foster child."

"You told them what?" his mother asked with alarm.

"That I was a foster child."

"What did they say?" I asked.

"They laughed."

"I'm proud of you, buddy," I told him.

"You deserve each other," said the Lovely Bride.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Family Time

"Fight the power!"

"Shut up or I'll kill you too," I told my middle son. He was encouraging his younger brother, who'd just kicked me under the table before running out of the room.

"Stick it to the man," the middle kid reiterated. The youngest giggled.

"They're so dumb," said my oldest.

"I know," I said.

"You're not any better," he told me.

The Lovely Bride closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This is what passes for dinner conversation in our house.

"What does that mean?" I asked the oldest.

"You encourage them," he replied.

"How?"

"With your stupid songs."

"You mean the Lucy Song?"

"Don't start," he snarled.

"She's an evil puppy, an evil hound, she'd be better off dead or at the pound," I sang to the tune of "It's a Small World." Lucy responded by grabbing my arm with her mouth. She doesn't bite, she just sucks on it.

"The worst dog ever," I mused. "She makes Marley look like Lassie."

"You deserved to get kicked," said the oldest.

The youngest whooped his approval from the kitchen. Lucy released my arm and charged after him. One of them barked a few times.

"I wish we could have more family dinners," I said.

The Lovely Bride shuddered and poured herself another glass of wine.

"When I leave for college, I'm never coming back," said the oldest.

"That's what I said when I was your age," I told him.

"No, Grandma said she didn't want you back," he said.

"He's right," the Lovely Bride reminded me.

Lucy charged back into the room and lunged at the food on my plate. When I blocked her, she began circling the table, looking for another angle.

"When you go to college you have to bring this horrible dog with you," I told my oldest.

"I will," he said.

"And your brothers," I added.

"You're being stupid again," he said.

"Will you take your father?" the Lovely Bride asked him.

"No. Sorry, mom," he said.

"We're the best family ever!" I said proudly.

"Except for you," said the middle kid.

"I love you son," I told him.

"I love you too, daddy," he said in his best imitation of a four year old.

"Will you take me with you to college?" the Lovely Bride asked my oldest.

"Sure," he said.

"The best family ever," I repeated.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy Anniversary, O Lovely Bride

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

- Christopher Marlowe

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When Bad Things Happen

It's been a hectic summer so far, even though instead of coaching baseball I'm playing the role of Least Attractive Team Parent. Lots of sports, lots of work, lots of everything. It's all good.

Except for my friend E.'s wife getting cancer. I should say my friend V. getting cancer, because she's my friend just as much. We go to their cabin on July 4th and their house on Christmas, they come to our house on Thanksgiving, we're not really friends at this point, more like family.

Things look good. The surgery's done and the prognosis is positive. "Take care of yourself and you'll live a long time," V.'s doctor told her.

"Take care of yourself," her husband told her.

"Take care of yourself," my Lovely Bride told her.

"Take care of yourself," I told her.

"Take care of yourself," everyone who loves her told her.

That's a lot of people. She's well loved. Opinionated, more than occasionally profane, she puts school lunch money in the accounts of kids who need it.

"What the fuck else would I do?" she asked one night.

She doesn't know.

Which, of course, is why we love her.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Movin' On

"Knock it off," whispered E.'s wife.

"What?" E. whispered back.

"You and Snag are giving the finger to a fifth grader. What the hell's wrong with you?"

"It's A.'s kid. He thinks it's funny."

"Everybody's watching."

"There wouldn't be much point otherwise," I said, quietly.

"Leave her alone," my Lovely Bride hissed. "She just had surgery."

"I wish I had pain medication," I mused.

"You're going to need it when we get home," the Lovely Bride added before turning her attention back to the stage where our kids were parading back and forth accepting awards.

I was back from my fishing trip, a dozen walleye and twice as many beers happier than before I left. Home just in time for the fifth grade awards ceremony. The last hurrah before the kids leave for middle school.

Somehow my youngest fell in with a good group of kids a few years ago. They probably felt sorry for him. Anyway, now he and his friends were collecting the rewards of years of grueling effort, a real sweat shop to hear them tell it.

Certificates for Academic Achievement. Physical fitness. School Safety Patrol. Perfect Attendance. An award named after a deceased teacher remembered for his kindness. Another named after a deceased teacher remembered for her love of sports and music.

E. and I made faces at them as they crossed the stage, his wife yelled at us, and the kids giggled. Finally the whole class sang "What A Wonderful World," the parents wiped away a few tears, and we congregated by the cookies.

"Nice," I told T.'s son. He'd won a bunch of awards. He played baseball and basketball with my kid. His dad and I coached their soccer team for a few years.

"Way to go," E. told M.'s daughter. She'd won a bunch of awards. She played baseball with my kid. E. and her dad coached together for a few years.

"Well done," H. told E.'s kid. He'd won a bunch of awards. He played baseball with my kid. E.'s dad coached him in baseball for a couple years.

"Great job," everyone told A.'s kid. He played baseball and basketball and soccer with my kid. We've all coached him in something at some point.

"Way to go," O. told my kid. Inexplicably, he'd won a bunch of awards too. He'd played baseball and basketball and soccer with O.'s kid and half the kids in the class. I'd coached almost as many in one thing or another.

Other kids came by, children of our friends or friends of our children, or both. We congratulated them and took their pictures and shook their hands. They milled around for a little while, in the school they'd never look at again in the same way. The school we'd never look at again in the same way. The parents wiped away a few more tears and we hugged each other, even though we'd be seeing each other again that evening or this weekend.

That night E. sent me a text message. "A good day."

"Yes it was," I replied.