"Stop whining," said the Lovely Bride.
"But I don't want to go," I said.
"What you want doesn't matter," she said.
"It never seems to," I muttered.
"Your mother is taking us out for your birthday," she said. "Be nice to her."
"My birthday was five months ago."
"And this is the first date that worked for everyone."
"Why don't you take the boys and I'll stay home?" I suggested. "That would be a real present."
A few minutes later we were in the minivan. It took less than half a block before an argument erupted in the back seat about a choice of radio stations. I resolved it by picking a classic rock station and turning up Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" until I couldn't hear my family. The Lovely Bride closed her eyes and pretended to sleep.
I had stupidly picked a restaurant twenty miles from home and by the time we arrived, we fled the vehicle as if it was on fire. My mother, sister, brother-in-law, and niece were already seated and it took a few minutes of jockeying to make sure my own kids were widely dispersed.
"You'd think you were all four years old," I snapped at my middle son as I pushed him toward the end of the table.
"I'm a big boy," he said, loud enough to attract the attention of the waitress.
"I'm going to kill him," said my oldest.
"You're all going to kill me," I said.
The waitress smiled nervously and asked me if I'd like anything to drink.
"A martini," I begged.
My mother and the Lovely Bride both frowned at me. Stupid cardiologist.
"Never mind," I said. "A strawberry lemonade. Put some cyanide in it."
Dinner itself was a relatively painless affair, except for a brief discussion with my youngest about one of the entrees on the menu.
"What kind of cheese do they use?" he demanded.
"I don't know," I said. "Probably cow cheese. I suppose it could be from sheep or goat milk, though."
"Cobra milk?" he exclaimed with alarm.
"What the hell are you talking about?" I asked.
"You said it might be cobra milk."
"I said goat milk."
"You can milk cobras," the middle kid added helpfully.
"Is it cobra milk or goat milk?" the youngest asked.
"These family outings were bad enough when I could drink," I told the waitress who was refilling my lemonade class. "I can't drink much anymore. Heart problems. Hard to imagine why, isn't it?" She bleated uncomfortably and skittered off to another table.
Dinner finally ended, which meant it was time for my mother to demand a family photo.
"Do you really want to remember this?" I asked her as she handed her camera to the hostess with unnecessarily complicated instructions on how to aim and click.
"Be quiet," she replied. "And get your niece to smile."
I patted my niece's head. "Hey kiddo, smile for the camera. We have to hurry up so we can get grandma back to the home before her day pass expires."
In the car on the way home, the radio was broadcasting a story about New York's gay marriage legislation.
"Good for New York," said the Lovely Bride.
"Why are Republicans opposed to gay marriage?" asked the middle kid.
"Because they're stupid, hateful people," I said.
"Yeah, but they'd say that about you," he said.
"They'd be wrong," I replied.
The Lovely Bride rolled her eyes. "It's more complicated than that. Your father and I believe that two consenting adults who love each other should be able to choose to get married. People on the other side of the question want to prohibit that, even though there's no fact-based evidence to suggest that gay marriage harms individuals or society."
"What your mother is trying to say is that Republicans are assholes," I explained.
"Hey, I've got a question!" the youngest piped up.
"What is it, sweetie?" asked the Lovely Bride.
"It's sort of two questions. Or maybe one. No, I think it's two. Kind of one and a half."
"Jesus, just ask the question," I said.
"What's the deal with Ancestry dot com?" he asked.
The van went quiet for a moment.
"Huh?" asked his middle brother.
"You know, how do they figure out who your great-great-great-great grandfather was?"
"My head hurts," I said.
"We should take a family vacation," said my oldest in his most sarcastic tone of voice.
"Happy birthday to me," I said.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
"Stop whining," said the Lovely Bride.
Posted by Snag at 4:10 PM
Friday, June 24, 2011
"Oh, God," I groaned to one of the other parents at my youngest's baseball game.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"My whole family's here." Ignoring the Lovely Bride's glare, I gestured at the concession stand, where my oldest was working. My middle son had just arrived at the park and was trying, without success, to bum a soda from his brother.
Unfortunately, the middle kid saw the gesture and thought I was waving to him. He trotted over.
"Hooray," I muttered. "Life gets better."
"Hi daddy," he said, giving me a hug. "I love you." Several of the other parents looked a little puzzled by a high school boy hugging his father in public.
"He's at that age where kids start experimenting with drugs," I explained, earning another glare from the Lovely Bride. I ignored her and hugged him back. "I love you too, buddy. What do you want?"
"Nothing," he said, drifting away.
I checked to make sure I still had my wallet. "Okay," I called after him. "Hugs not drugs."
"Hope not dope," he called back.
Yet again, a glare from the Lovely Bride. I returned to the first order of business, heckling my youngest.
"They're letting him pitch?" I asked one of the other dads. My boy normally catches or plays shortstop and I felt a bit queasy watching him walk to the mound.
"Better you than me," he said. "My kid was awful in the last game."
"Did you make him sleep outside again?" I asked.
"It was raining pretty hard," he replied. "I let him share the kennel with the dog."
We cackled. His wife turned around and glared at us. Same story, different woman.
Distracted, I hadn't noticed the return of my middle son. He hugged me again.
"What's the matter?" I asked. "Can't you find your meth dealer?"
"He was sold out," he said. "Can I have money for food?"
I handed him some cash. "Get something I can eat," I said.
The Lovely Bride had been watching us suspiciously and heard my request. "Didn't you already have dinner?" she asked.
"I don't know," I said.
"Well, I do," she said. "Our oldest said he sold you a bratwurst."
"It was a low-sodium, diet brat," I said.
"Either way, it's the only one you get this week," she needlessly reminded me.
"You're mean as a snake," I told her.
"It's not my rule, it's your cardiologist's," she said.
"He's not a real doctor," I told her. "I'm pretty sure he's creating a human centipede in his spare time. I hope I can be the head, at least."
The middle boy returned with a bag of popcorn, interrupting our conversation. A good thing for me even if it was a disappointment for the rest of the parents, who were enjoying the latest episode of The Snags Go Out In Public.
I grabbed a handful of popcorn.
"Why are you taking my popcorn?" the middle kid demanded.
"It would be your popcorn if you'd bought it," I said. "That would require you to have money, which in turn would require you to have a job. You have neither. Therefore, because I paid for it, it's my popcorn and I am simply sharing it with you."
"I'm not old enough to get a job," he said.
"Of course you are," I told him. "You had a job last year. You were a soccer ref. It paid good money, too."
"I didn't like that job," he said.
"How is that relevant?" I asked.
"Why would I work at a job I don't like?"
"Because they pay you?" I suggested. Jesus, now my heart was starting to hurt.
"You like your job," he said.
"My job's fine," I said. "I went to school for twenty years and worked at a bunch of jobs I didn't like before I got this one."
"I don't want to do that," he said. "I just want a job I like."
"He is on drugs, isn't he?" said one of the other dads.
"So it would appear," I said.
Posted by Snag at 12:42 PM
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
The high school tennis coach smiled at the eighty-four guests assembled for the end of the season team banquet. "Before we start eating, we should thank everyone who helped plan tonight's activities. If you were one of the organizers, please stand up."
My oldest rose. He was the only one. Everyone stared at him.
"Stand up," he hissed at his co-captain.
"I didn't do anything," the other boy whispered.
"Stand up anyway," said my oldest. The boy stood. Everyone stared at them.
"Some of the parents must have helped?" suggested the coach, a little tentatively.
My oldest rolled his eyes at me. I stood up and muttered, "Well, I signed the booster club check." The crowd finally began to clap.
Later, when plates were cleared, speeches over, awards distributed, gifts handed out, and the slide show packed away, I had a chance to speak with the banquet hall manager.
"I've been doing this for a long time," she said, nodding in the direction of my son. "I've never had one of the students coordinate the whole thing before."
"Yeah, he's not a typical kid," I said.
"He's going to school in Florida next year?"
"I bet you're going to miss him around the house."
"You don't know the half of it," I said.
Sadly and happily, that day is fast approaching. The graduation ceremony is tomorrow and then we've got a couple months of summer and then he and his youngest brother and his youngest brother's friend and I pile in the van for the drive down south. I'll drop him off at the dorm and wave goodbye and be thankful I have a couple of thirteen-year-olds along for the ride to keep me from thinking about it too much.
In the meantime, it's been a good few weeks. He was named all-conference in tennis, got a nice little mention in our local paper for his academic achievements, and the Lovely Bride and I have had the pleasure of hearing all kinds of nice things about him from a whole bunch of people, including some we barely know.
I suppose that's bragging. So be it. We're proud of him.
Posted by Snag at 11:05 AM
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
"Do you really think that's normal?" asked my mother as I held the newspaper a full arm's length away from my face.
"Do you really think you're in a position to be talking about normal?" I replied.
My mother turned to the Lovely Bride and said, "He needs his eyes checked."
"He needs a lot of things checked," said the Lovely Bride.
"Hey, you told me not to worry, that it happens to everyone once in a while," I said.
The Lovely Bride blushed. My mother shook her head in disgust and went downstairs to talk to her grandchildren. I returned my attention to the newspaper. Victory was mine.
In the battle, though, not the war. Hence, tomorrow I'll be getting an eye exam. Because, you know, I haven't spent enough money on medical bills in the last few months. Anyway, I've been getting ready.
"They told me to bring a list of my medications," I said to the Lovely Bride. "Should I put down 'bourbon?'"
"You're not supposed to be drinking bourbon."
"But if I put it down and he doesn't say anything, then I'll have doctor approval."
"He's an optometrist, not a cardiologist."
"Well, my cardiologist said I could have a drink once in a while."
"I know," said the Lovely Bride. "I was there."
Which is why that conversation hadn't turned out as well as I'd hoped.
"So it's alright to have an occasional drink?" I'd asked at the end of my last cardiology visit.
"Sure," he'd said. "Almost anything's alright, as long as it's in moderation."
The Lovely Bride had rolled her eyes. "Doctor, could you define 'moderation?' My husband has a much different understanding of the word than most people."
Leaving me here, several months down the road, trying to find a loophole.
"I've heard liquor's good for your eyes," I told the Lovely Bride.
"Where did you hear that?"
"From my friend R."
"You're only saying that because you didn't think of it first. The status quo fears genius."
"I'm the status quo, now, am I?" she snapped.
Whoops. "Yes, but you're a beautiful status quo," I told her. I smooched her neck.
"Stop it," she said, swatting at me. I smooched her neck again.
"You don't need bourbon. You're already drunk." she said.
"Drunk on my love for you," I said.
"I don't need my eyes checked. I can see you're a vision of loveliness."
Victory was mine.
Posted by Snag at 3:45 PM