Monday, November 5, 2007

Flesh And Blood

Our high school cross-country team competed in the state tournament this Saturday. Although he wasn't running, my oldest is on the squad and asked me to bring him there to cheer on the team. Because it was conveniently located a short 90-minute drive away I cheerfully agreed. Certain the oldest would desert me in favor of his friends at the earliest opportunity, I convinced his youngest brother to come along to keep me company.

Sure enough, we'd barely parked the car before the oldest peeled off towards a group of female classmates like a pilot on a strafing run, the last we'd see of him for the next two hours. The youngest and I found a place to watch the races.

"Dad," he said, "I know what I want to do when I get older."

"Support me?"

"Don't be dumb. I'm going to play baseball at UNC."

"That sounds good. You better keep your grades up."

"Math is stupid. Mom says she never uses it."

"No, she said she doesn't use calculus at work. That's different."

"What do I need math for?" he asked.

"To count your money when you're a rich baseball player," I answered.

He nodded. "That's true. Hey, do you know what I'm going to do when I'm done playing baseball?"

"Support me?" I asked again, though less hopefully than before.

"You're still being dumb. I'm going to have rabies."

I'm dumb? "You can't have rabies. You'll die."

"I'm going to be a carrier," he said.

"Like what, a skunk?" I asked. "They carry rabies. You smell like one so you have a head start."

This seemed to please him. "That would be cool, if I could spray my enemies. You know what else I'm going to do? I'm always going to have a dog. Probably a black lab like Katie, because they're the best, Katie's a good dog, she's smart, she's not evil like you say, she doesn't like you anyway. . . ."

The first race hadn't gone off yet and my head already hurt.

Two hours of chattering later, the meet ended and my other son returned. "Hurry up, let's go," he said panicked his friends would see us together. Fine by me. At least in the car I can turn up the radio.

By Sunday morning, when my mother arrived for her weekly visit with her grandchildren, I'd forgotten much of my "conversation" with the youngest, not surprising given that I'd not paid much attention in the first place. The oldest took no time in reminding me, however.

"Grandma, my brother wants to be a rabid skunk when he grows up."

My mother isn't fazed by much of what she hears during her visits, but she raised her eyebrows at this. "You don't say," she replied noncommittally. She hates to criticize the boys.

"Someone will probably shoot him," added the oldest.

Grandma jumped at the chance to change subjects. "Did you know that happened to your father when he was a boy?" she asked, referring to the time a friend shot me while playing with a gun. "He's lucky to be alive."

My oldest looked at me. "I'm not sure he thinks so."

I nodded in agreement. "Let's just say I'm alive and leave it at that."

"Besides," said the boy, "Dad always tells us you shot him."

My mother glared at me. "My son thinks he's funny. He's not."

I whispered to my kid, "This is the way she was talking right before she drew down on me. Leave now, run. I'll distract her."

My mother is a 5'1" retired foundation executive who now spends her time with theater, international travel, and service on a local library board. She may be one of the few people in this country who has never seen a gun in real life. "I did not raise you to treat your elders this way," she said, shaking her head in disgust.

"I'm spiritually deficient," I said. "It's probably because you didn't church me enough when I was young."

"You're deficient, but not because of that," said my mother.

"Why do you hate God?" I asked her.

"How can I hate God if I don't believe in Him?" she replied.

"God believes in you and He's none too fond of your attitude," I said.

"Ignore your father," she said to the boy.

"I already do," he said.

"Good," she said, standing up to leave. "Try to teach him some manners."

"See you next week grandma," he said.

"Where are your brothers?" she asked him. "I want to say goodbye to them too."

"Outside. Eating bugs, I think."

She stared at him for a moment with the sudden recognition that he and I, we're not so different.

"Bye ma," I said with a gleeful smirk.

She walked to her car, muttering, stopping only to say goodbye to her other grandsons, who from my vantage point did indeed appear to be eating bugs.

"That was fun," said my oldest.

"Yes," I said. "Yes it was."


Anonymous said...

Snag- I'm starting to feel the need for a cocktail after reading your posts. I'm thinking a Bloody Mary- to remove any lingering skunk odeur.

Kathleen said...

Why does he have to wait until after he is done playing baseball to be a rabies carrier?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Your mom's a nice lady.

I'm gonna buy her a drink at the next Godless Atheist Liberal America-Haters Meeting and Puppy Kicking Soiree.

Then I'm gonna teach her how to shoot so she can defend herself against the ravening SnagHorde.