Is This What Dads Do?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I got the strangest call from my daughter recently.  It wasn't really strange, but it wasn't totally normal either.  I can only paraphrase, because in my advanced age I don't always remember all of the exact words.

"Dad. Can you bring my black shoe to school?  I accidentally put on one blue shoe and one black shoe.  Can you come over now?"

As I'm not always in the mood to leave the house in my pajamas, I asked what I thought was a logical question, "Can't you just wear them that way for one day?"

"What??" I'm not really sure if she didn't hear me, or was just in disbelief of what I had suggested. Apparently, she is on the cutting edge of fashion statements - except when it comes to footwear.  This blue/black combination absolutely would not pass the smell test of her classmates.  My daughter, usually brimming with a contemporary sense of humor, was having none of my foolishness this morning.  Taking a last sip of my morning coffee, I resigned to the fact that I would have to get out of my pajamas and get dressed for school. 

I'm not a stay at home Dad.  Yes, I stay at home, and yes I am a Dad.  But I do work from home and have some responsibilities to the company for which I work.

The office attendant at school must have stories to tell.  I can only imagine what kind of strange and awkward requests they have to deal with during an average day.  As stupid as I felt walking into the office with a left shoe in my hand, it must have been equally amusing to the person sitting behind the desk.  I put on my game face and made every attempt to act nonchalant.  "Hi.  I'd like to leave this shoe for my daughter." It sounds so ridiculous even now, that I wish that I could have thought of something else to say.  The attendant gave me a piece of paper to write down my daughter's name.  I couldn't wait to walk out of the office.

And here I thought that my days of getting embarrassed at high school were behind me. 


Encore Performance

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

There were no volunteers to help clean the dinner dishes this evening.  I didn’t expect any.  I was just happy to see that everyone had finished their meal.  It’s always a challenge to decide on a dinner plan when my wife is out of town.  I don’t want to go too fancy, because I know that my efforts won’t be appreciated.  I also don’t want to offer hot dogs or breakfast cereal every night, because I’m not that kind of Dad.  So, I’m reduced to low-key experimentation where I decide on a staple ingredient and slowly expand its horizons. 

Chicken was the clear winner tonight.  My youngest wasn’t interested, and voiced her preference for ice cream.   A slight shift to my authoritative voice, and a subtle sidestep to block the refrigerator, squelched that plan.  Now more than ever, we were definitely going to be eating chicken.  It never sounds too interesting when you say “chicken.”  Add to that “boneless and skinless” and you slowly back yourself further into a corner.  As a reminder that life is not always easy, the chicken thighs were frozen solid, so half the challenge would be to defrost them in time to cook them. 

Moms and Dads have to get creative when cooking for their children.  The fine-tuned palettes of adults, many times, don’t mesh with kids.  You try to make it fun and interesting.  Sometimes you succeed, and other times the dogs get a bonus meal at the end of the day.  Yes, there is luck involved.  But often the thrill of the attempt makes it all worthwhile.  I improvised a little due to a few missing ingredients, and I might have changed a thing or two in retrospect.  Overall, it was a good night. 

Oh, my daughters did get their ice cream for dessert.  They didn’t wash or offer to clean any dishes, but that kind of encore performance is one that I’m used to.  After all, I don’t love my daughters because they do the dishes.  I’d like to, but I’ll settle for them eating my tentative dinner creations.


Checks and Balances

Monday, September 24, 2012

There’s probably an explanation as to why I’m sorting through old bank statements and cancelled checks from 30 years ago, but the reason somehow eludes me at the present moment.  I’m making a real effort to sift through my stagnant ‘life collectibles’ and today is the lucky day for bank records. 

Back in 1982, I probably wouldn’t have given a second thought to throwing away old bank statements (yes, many of them have my social security number printed on them).  But as they say, “That was then, and this is now.”  It’s kind of like peering through a window in history as I look over all the old checks that must now be shredded.  Did I say shred?  I’ve got so many years’ worth of checks and statements, that I decided that it would be quicker to burn them in my barbeque.  I'd be lying though, if I said that I wasn't wondering a few times if my next-door neighbor would call the fire department.

I ran across checks made out to companies that have changed names, that no longer exist and that no longer have a significant place in my life:  B. Dalton Books, The Wherehouse, Price Club, Best Products and May Company.  I used to do a lot of work on my car, so there are numerous checks made out to auto repair and parts shops too.

Now I have a new appreciation for electronic copies of checks, instead of the antiquated returned checks with statements (something that I clung to for dear life when it was still offered).  Was that me that actually paid the bank an additional monthly service charge to get my checks back with my monthly statements?  Only my hairdresser knows for sure; and even as I think that thought, I wonder if I should have been spending more of my hard earned money on therapy instead of haircuts all those years.  For some unexplained reason, I felt a freakish sense of security knowing that I got my checks back every month.  Did it make it any easier to balance my checkbook with actual checks instead of copies of the checks – or was that one of the anal retentive things that most people eventually outgrow?  I won’t answer that question, because I get real tired of hearing myself refer to myself as anal retentive.

Who even writes this many checks anymore?  Now I hardly ever carry a checkbook, and many times I don’t even have any cash to my name.  I use my ATM card for almost everything.  If I make a purchase under $5.00, I usually look for something else to buy to avoid the embarrassment of ATM-ing a $2.17 purchase (for example).  Is that weird?  I guess I’ll have to ask about that the next time a get a haircut. 


Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

(Note to readers:  I had to write this on behalf of a family member who did not have access to a pen at the time of dictation.  I am relaying the story the best I can,  but I had to paraphrase occasionally.)

I had just woken up from a wonderful dream.  It was full of puppies and carefree running through fresh cut grass.  I have this dream often, and it really makes me feel good.    This day started out as most days.  I woke up after hearing the newspaper land on the driveway.  I felt hungry and thirsty, but there was no food to be found.  I had a dry throat and my stomach began to growl a bit.  I’ve gone for stretches without food and water before, so I just took it all in stride and conserved energy the best I could. 

We got in the car and headed out to either a park or a doctor’s office; I didn't know where or why.  I couldn’t even tell you the day of the week.  The news played on the radio, so I just heard a lot of talking.  Who really pays attention to all that anyway?  I shifted my interest more toward the scenery and the other cars on the road.  The wind blew in my face and I felt exhilarated.  I must admit, I have a great life.

Well, I guess it’s the doctor’s office.  It’s not my favorite place to be, but hopefully it will be a quick visit.  I’ve got so many more enjoyable things that I could be doing with my life today.  Maybe I’m a little nit-picky, but I get the feeling that I may not be the doctor’s favorite patient.  I don’t get the same TLC as I do at home.  Well, at least the doctor is civil to me; I’m probably reading too much into things.

Heartbeat, check… lungs, ears, nose and mouth – it’s the usual drill.  Stool sample? Wait, is that really necessary?  Why don’t you take a picture, it will last longer.  Well, I suppose it’s all in the name of health.  Now we’re going to the stupid scale; I never stand still on that thing, so I’m sure that my weight is not accurate. 

No, no, not the needle.  I hate those things.  Can you please take that away from me?  Oh, it’s too late.  I’m no match for the doctor and the nurse holding me down.  You know, I’m starting to feel kind of relaxed. Oh no…

I’m beginning to wake up now.  Where am I again?  Oh, that’s right – the doctor’s office.  It’s a little noisy in here, what with all the crying.  I’m beginning to feel a dull soreness, and I have no idea why I should be sore.  I didn’t do anything.  We just drove here a little while ago.  Everything was just fine.  Wait a minute … say it isn’t so; you’ve got to be kidding me.  I think I’ve been snipped.  Yeah, I’ve heard about this.  That must be what happened.  Let me tell you, I’m not happy about this at all.  I mean, I don’t know for sure because  I’ve got some kind of white plastic shell around my neck and it’s blocking my view of almost everything.  They must have put me to sleep and taken care of business when I wasn’t looking.  What could have possibly possessed anyone to do this to me?  Well, it’s not like I was ready for a family anyway.  Maybe it’s not such a big deal.

Life has a way of sorting itself out.  It’s been a while since that trip to the doctor’s office.  I’m back to my old self now and things are just great at home.  My family loves me and has been giving me lots of attention.  There’s plenty of food and water; and on some days, for no reason at all, someone will give me something fun to chew on.  I may be short a body part (or two), but there’s still so much to live for.  There are new pathways to discover and new friends to be made.  And at the end of the day, I still have a warm place to sleep.  Oh, I've got to go; someone's at the door.  Woof!


The Dreaded Text Message

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This is an actual text message from my daughter.  It arrived on my phone at exactly 7:40PM.  At exactly 7:40 PM, I was in a gym working out.  As readers of my blog know, I despise people that bring their cell phones in the workout area of the gym, so it goes without saying that my cell phone was securely stowed in my locker.  I finished my workout at 8:10PM and walked out to my car.  Before I started my car, I checked my phone for any messages.  This is what I read:

“Hey Dad, I want to make cupcakes for my friend’s birthday tomorrow.  Do we have stuff here?  Or if not, can you buy it?  Thank you.”

Before I disclose my immediate reaction to this message, I should probably translate it as it was meant to be understood.  I’ll paraphrase, “Hey Dad. Can you make me some cupcakes tonight for my friend’s birthday tomorrow?  I realize that I didn’t say anything to you earlier this afternoon, so that we might have been able to prepare for it, but I really want to be able to give her some cupcakes because she is my best friend.  I don’t think you have anything important to do anyway, so try to think about what we might need (ingredient wise) and stop at the store before you come home.  I might be able to help you make them, but then again, I might not.  Thanks Dad.”  My daughter will tell you with a straight face that she didn’t mean for the message to sound as I’ve described it; but trust me to tell you that the spirit of my translation is extremely accurate. 

Because I bake so much, I always have a running inventory of items in my mind.  I buy the industrial size of most things, so it’s usually just the perishables or expensive cocoa powders that are in short supply.  But I digress…

When I finish a workout at 8:10PM, the last thing on my mind, usually, is that I want to bake anything before I take a shower and go to bed.  You can call me lazy if you like, but after a workout where I can literally wring out my t-shirt into a glass, I like to unwind for a while and savor the few endorphins that have managed to escape from my brain.  If this makes me a bad Dad, then we will just have to agree to disagree and move on. 

So, back to my text message… I’m not quite sure what the exact words in my mind were.  As I said I was just coming off of a fairly intense session of muscle burn.  I think it was something to the effect of, “Are you kidding me?” I should add that I still had to pick up my other daughter at 8:30PM from an evening class, so I wouldn’t even be getting home until 8:50PM.  From there, the (as yet) hypothetical cupcake baking would begin. 

I called her from my car, while exiting the parking structure.  “Are you serious,” I asked?  “Because you told me that you had to go to school early tomorrow and are being picked up at 6:30AM.  I’ll make the frosting when I wake up, but you’re going to have to frost them.”  She acknowledged that and said, “OK.”  “OK, then,” I said, “I’ll make them.”  Yes, to all of you disbelievers out there, I am a good Dad - at least when it comes to baking.

For my troubles, I stole a mini cupcake.  For this friend’s birthday, I’ll consider that payment in full. 


Climbing the Ladder of Superstition

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I can’t tell you what I was thinking that day when I climbed the ladder.  I can’t even tell you if I was thinking.  What I can tell you is that I was thinking about many things after I successfully fell off the ladder.  A lot of ideas have a way of entering your mind when you are lying on the ground, following a knock-the-wind-out-of-you back flop.  The first of which is usually, “Am I ever going to be able to breathe again?”

How much of our daily energy is wasted thinking about what might go wrong, while doing something that we heard about from the tale of some old wife?  I’m not superstitious, mostly.  I don’t, for example, have a problem walking in front of a black cat.  I do have a fear of walking in front of black skunks, but I don’t think that has anything to do with superstition. 

At kids birthday parties, I always root for the birthday boy or girl to blow out all of the candles on the first attempt.  The superstition is clear on blowing them out and keeping the wish a secret.  My family doesn’t put on as many birthday candles on my cake as they should, so I don’t worry too much about putting out the flames on my first energetic blow.  I’m usually more worried about what to wish for than blowing out the candles.  I wish I were a little faster with the wishes.  There has been more than one occasion when I’ve just blown without a wish – because, for the life of me, there was no wish that came to mind. 

When talking to a friend about some good prospects in my life, I have to hold back from saying, “Knock on wood.”  I’m not a true believer that the knocking on wood, or whatever solid object happens to be nearby, is really good for anything.  I think about it, but don’t hold out any hope that rapping my knuckles on a desk is going to encourage a greater power into bringing me any kind of encouraging news. 

And the whole salt thing, what’s that about?  Salt was never part of any superstition training in my family.  Are you supposed to spill it?  Are you supposed to throw it over one of your shoulders if you spill it?  I think there are a whole lot more reasons to limit salt intake in your diet than to waste time worrying about spilling salt on the floor.  I do hear that cooking with kosher salt makes dishes taste better, but I’d want to see some more scientific studies on that before I commit to an opinion either way.

I can’t remember if I walked under the ladder before climbing it.  I walk under ladders a lot, if only to reinforce my belief that it isn’t going to bring bad luck.  I must admit that I’m less likely to walk under a step ladder than an extension ladder, but that’s just me.  I’m a little less confident when it comes to broken mirrors.  I’ve broken a few mirrors in my time, but I don’t like to believe that the broken reflections carry with them seven years of bad luck. I’m pretty sure that it’s a shorter period of time than that. 

So, do I consider myself superstitious?  I suppose I would fall into the “mildly” category.  I don’t think there’s a way around not having thoughts come into your mind that occasionally ruffle up some fear.  I’ve told my kids multiple times not to open up umbrellas in the house (although, parenthetically, our big umbrella might have slowed down my fall from the ladder).  I don’t have any convincing reasons why they shouldn’t open them indoors.  What’s the worst that could happen?  Would it start raining?  And do those little cocktail umbrellas count, because if they do, then we’re in for about a pitcher of piƱa coladas worth of bad luck.


Strike a Pose

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bowling:  America’s pastime.  A hard rubber or plastic composite sphere hits the oily wood lane and races down to a bunch of plastic coated, wood pins.  The object of the game is to hit as many pins as possible in the span of ten frames.  It seems kind of pointless when described as forensically as that, but like most activities, there is more to it than that. 

My first memory of bowling goes back to my 9th birthday party in White Plains, NY.  Bowling parties must have been different back then.  For one, I don’t think that lane bumpers had been invented yet.  If you were a gutter-ball bowler, your technique would be painfully displayed for all to see.  As a “pin challenged” beginner, it wouldn’t be uncommon for your score to hover around 25.  I’ve seen kids today use the bumpers like the bumpers on a pool table.  If you have a grade point average of ‘C’ or better in Geometry, you can clear 100 points easy in one game. As a parting gift, the bowling alley employees gave me a real bowling pin.  It might have been slated to go into the trash. It was chewed up and cracked from the pin setting machines behind the lanes.  Today they give kids new pins as souvenirs. 

My Mom and my grandparents were bowlers.  We used to play around with my grandfather’s bowling ball after finding it and pulling it out of his closet.  It was black and it weighed a ton; at least that’s what we thought at the time.  It only had two holes: one for the thumb and an oval shaped hole for the index and middle fingers.  If there were a movie about extraterrestrials bowlers, this could easily have been one of their balls. 

Early in my league days, I had a green marbleized plastic ball.  I bought it at Kmart.  They may have even drilled the holes in the store.  It didn’t weigh very much, but it sure looked cool.  That Kmart is now a Home Depot, but that’s neither here nor there.  While bowling, I would snack on M&Ms that I’d bought from the bowling alley's vending machine.  It was my little secret that when I ate the green ones, I would bowl a strike. 

I bought my current bowling ball many years ago, used, at the recommendation of popular pro shop.  I remember that the color didn’t appeal to me very much, but it was a ball that had quite the reputation for its hook and strength.  It was heavy, 16 pounds, and had a bunch of plugged finger holes from a previous owner.  In explaining the physical properties of the ball’s core, all I can remember is that it has some kind of shaped weight inside that gives it specific dynamic control. I believe that it is the shape of one of the Lucky Charms, but I don’t remember which one.  Is there a chance that it is a placebo ball – and there is no diamond or four leaf clover inside?  We’ll never know, because I don’t plan on ever cutting the ball in half.

I used to bowl in a lot of leagues. There were weekend leagues, weekday leagues, summer leagues and Vegas leagues.   I remember that most of the team names that we used were pretty ridiculous in retrospect:  Strike Force, Who Dat? and The Pinbusters – you get the idea.

My ball never let me down.  It did what it was supposed to do, when I did what I was supposed to do.  We bowled together through my back and knee problems.  You’d think that I was a national pro the way I would bowl through the pain.    I hardly ever bowl anymore, but when I do I still like to use my ball.  As old and beat up as it is, it gives me an edge that shows off my bowling technique.  House balls have never quite worked for me. And, maybe it's a sad commentary on my personality, but I still don't like to lose - even it it's at a kid's birthday party.  Pride over mercy, I should probably work on that someday.

Today, a lot of the alleys that I used to bowl at have been converted into auto dealerships or Best Buys.  I notice that there are a lot of ‘designer’ alleys popping up at outdoor shopping centers.  I’m not sure that these alleys are for serious bowling as they are for social gatherings and parties.  There is a lot of loud music and low-key lighting that isn’t conducive to focus and real concentration.  You can’t really see the dots on the lanes (which some people actually use for their aim). 

I also have that old birthday pin tucked away.  Yes, it’s chewed up and most people would consider it garbage, but it’s a piece of me just like my old Lucky Charm enhanced bowling ball. I say, “Game on.” And don’t forget the green M&Ms.


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