Category Archives: Family

I live in a fantasy world, and it’s all my wife’s fault.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

In my world, there are no power outages leaving us in sweltering heat, no grouting in the shower that needs to be replaced, no weeds to pull, no raccoons pooping on our deck, no anxiety from the daily mess of life, the stress from which would make a Navy Seal feel like “Flat Stanley.”

In my world, I’m married to a beautiful blonde who still looks exactly like the college picture of her I carry in my wallet. In my world, whenever she walks into the room, no matter what’s happening that day, all I see is the two of us sharing a palm tree at the edge of a turquoise ocean.

I live in a fantasy work and it’s all her fault – and only one of countless reasons that I always have and always will love her.

“Hey, good morning. ..Where are you?” I hear her coming down the stairs.

Jeez, she’s up early. I’ve got to hurry up and post this.

“Happy anniversary, honey!” she tells me, cruising into the kitchen where I’m typing frantically at the table.

“Hey. You too!” And then I realize, pressing the WordPress “Publish” button in the nick of time, looking up to see her smiling at me… It’s all true. I really am married to a beautiful blonde.



My Daughter’s Expecting

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A baby. That’s what she’s expecting. My first grandchild. I’ve seen the ultrasounds and can say, objectively and unequivocally, that I have the best looking Grandfetus, ever.

My daughter, who is very bright, an accomplished poet and writer of stuff, is, with her husband’s assistance, in the process of her most ambitious, most creative arts and crafts project to date. She’s making a human. Way to go. When I was kid, I used to make model airplanes that actually flew, but this is way more impressive.

Meanwhile, my head’s being attacked by grandfatherly instincts which… I don’t know where they’re coming from, but they’re beginning to scare me. I fly occasionally on business and, lately, I’ve had trouble resisting the temptation to buy little baby t-shirts at the airports with the names of the cities where I’ve landed. I was thinking they would make for chit chat during play dates with other babies. I’m not sure about the other kids, but my grandchild will be able to talk at birth, like the E*TRADE baby, only more literate. (My son-in-law’s getting his Ph.D. in History. That should help.) Thank goodness I first got the idea landing in Charlotte where I decided not to buy one over concerns that a shirt with a person’s first name on it might confuse someone just learning his/her own.

When my kids were babies, I used to carry them around the house, walk around the mall, pointing at stuff, talking to them like they could understand everything I said. They would look at me and then at where I was pointing or what I was holding, occasionally making noises with their mouths that I was certain were words and sentences in the making. Every expression on their faces, and body language, became a meaningful, always highly intelligent and often humorous comment or suggestion. And then one day, in what seemed like no time at all, they started doing all the talking and teaching me things. As a new father, I thought it was the time of my life, until I realized how wonderfully interesting my kids were at every stage of their lives, even now. Maybe especially now.

Anyway, in a few months, if my daughter and son-in-law let me, I get to start all over, having really long conversations with my Granddaughter or –son. Doesn’t make any difference. We’re going to look at stuff, talk about business and politics, about building things, about the sky and about the birds and the squirrels on our deck. And she/he’ll sit next to me on the kitchen table while I write, giving me her/his critical advice. At first, the conversations will be pretty much one-sided until one day, soon enough, he/she’ll look at me, smile and say, “Hey. So what are we going to talk about today, Grandpa?” or, more likely, “I really don’t think you need the comma before that “too,” a pudgy little finger tapping my screen.

Now how cool is that?


Road Trip

Short Fiction for Guests of the WordFeeder
Sunday, May 16, 2010

“You know, this is really nice. We should go places together more often.”

“Yes dear, it’s wonderful. Are you sure you don’t mind driving?”

“No, of course not. In fact, I need to get out more. I love writing, but it’s a solitary job. Just me and my computer, hardly ever getting up.”

“What about the trips you make to the refrigerator?”

“I know I’ve put on a few pounds but, some days, they’re virtually the only exercise I get.”

“How ironic is that?”

Do women really live longer than men?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I don’t think so.

Round numbers, American women have an average life expectancy of 80 years, while my gender – I’m a guy. – is expected to average only 75 years. That’s a 5 year spread in my wife’s favor. The question I have is, are women that much stronger, that much more durable than men, or do they just get more sleep than we do? Let me explain.

Keep in mind that I’m basing my analysis on a scientifically selected sample of two, my wife and me, which means my conclusions will be accurate to within a margin of error of plus or minus 100%. Put another way, in language my wife might use, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Now try to keep up.

My wife – the love of my life and woman of my dreams – sleeps an average of 8 hours a day. I, on the other hand, sleep an average of only 6 hours. This 2 hour difference can be explained by any number of factors, none of which I care to talk about in mixed company.

This is where my wife and I sleep. That’s her on the left.
(Notice that I’m missing.)

We were married when we were 22, the summer we graduated from college. When I’m 76, we will have been married 54 years. Let’s do the math:

54 years x 365 days/year = 19,710 days that we will have been married. (I’ll confirm this by counting the lines – 4 vertical, 1 diagonal – that I’ve scratched into the brick of our fireplace.)

19,710 days x 2 hours/day that I’m awake, but my wife isn’t = 39,420 hours extra awake time I will have had during the life of our marriage.

My wife’s awake 16 hours a day. Okay, 39,420 hours / 16 hours/day = 2,464 “wife days” that I will have been awake more than she has. (I had no idea this was going to be so easy to prove.)

2,464 “wife days” / 365 days/year = 6.75 more “wife years” that I have been awake than she has. In terms of “wife years,” when I die at 76, I’ll really be 82.75 “wife years” old. My wife, on the other hand, will only live to be 80.

So there! I rest my case. (Speaking of rest, I think I need a nap.)


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Saul’s Laws:* #11. Expectations

Sunday, September 13, 2009

*See the Preface to the “Saul’s Laws” page at the WordFeeder.

As you know from Saul’s Law #10, “Life is short,” my father paid a lot of attention to time. What else is there, after all, but time. The universe may be infinite in its scope and history, but we’re not. We’re not.

Thinking about time and how little we have of it, he began to realize that we – particularly the more motivated among us – tend to chronically overestimate how much we can accomplish on a given day and in our lifetimes. It was, we concluded, quite possibly what made us special, as individuals and as a nation: a natural tendency to underestimate the difficulty of doing things, but with the determination to accomplish them anyway.

Unfortunately, while biting off more than we can chew may be an admiral trait historically, on a day to day basis, it can be very stressful – but that wasn’t my father’s primary concern. The real problem was that having too much to do would diminish the quality of the work we did. Bright man, wasn’t he, particularly given that he came to this conclusion decades before the term “multi-tasking” was originated, before personal computers, the Internet, cell phones and 24 hour 300+ channel cable TV. It’s not an illusion. Today’s world is more time consuming, more distracting than it was when I grew up, and in my father’s time before me.

To not do something well, not so much perfectly although that would be nice, but to not do it as well as you could was wasteful – part and parcel of failing to live up to one’s potential. Why was that so important, living up to one’s potential? Because that initiative was how we, personally and as a society, and as a species, moved forward. (Yes, my father and I had some weighty conversations on our way to Baltimore on Sundays when the Colts were playing at home, and when we were building stuff in the basement or trolling for rockfish off Thomas Point.)

And so, to minimize the stress in our lives and protect the quality of our work – personal relationships included – my father created Saul’s Law #11 on expectations: “On a daily basis,” he advised me, “focus on accomplishing only a relatively few, perhaps only two or three significant tasks. You’ll be lucky to get those done, but if you do, you’ll feel good about it. …and make sure,” he added, hearing her doing stuff in the kitchen upstairs, “that one of them has something do with your mother.”

Take this post, for example. What are we talking about? Six paragraphs, 500 or so words. Between the season premiers of “Bones” and “Fringe,” the e-mail I just had to answer, the deli thin sliced honey roasted turkey and Swiss sandwich and the mayonnaise I had to wipe off my keys – two hours later, and I’m done. Perfct. Not so much as a typo. Pretty good, ay Dad? (Maybe I’ll read it over during the Today Show and post it in the morning.)

My father also taught me that Hersey’s Kisses taste better when they’ve been in the refrigerator.


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Saul’s Laws:* #10. Time

Sunday, September 13, 2009

*See the Preface to the “Saul’s Laws” page at the WordFeeder.

Saul’s Law on “Time” was appropriately brief: “Life is short.”

My father believed that most ordinary events were over-talked, that we spent way too much time planning this and discussing that – time we should have been spending actually doing the things we were talking about and other stuff.

It was a law he evoked more often than most. Maybe he knew something. Having survived a Great Depression, World War, three heart attacks, one upon the next, and a life full of the usual stress and disappointments, my guess is he had a well developed sense of how quickly it all goes by and was doing his best to save me the trouble of figuring it out for myself.

Mostly, he was concerned that I would underestimate the time I had to fulfill my potential, whatever that would be, and to realize my dreams and ambitions. It’s one of those things parents understand and their children sometimes don’t fully get until it’s too late – until opportunities have been missed, and choices made that limit our options.

As it turned out, my father’s life was short, ended too early by a disease today’s medicine might have cured. Although it certainly wasn’t his intention, his dying certainly made the point, and energized his son in ways I am still, years later, continuing to appreciate.

Thanks, Dad. Back to work.


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Saul’s Laws:* #9. Selfish Behavior

Saturday, September 5, 2009

*See the Preface to the “Saul’s Laws” page at the WordFeeder.

Saul was one of the good guys. Most people… No. Everyone, except me, who knew him assumed it was because he genuinely liked people, which was true. In fact, my father taught me to like and trust everyone I met – regardless of any superficial attributes, gender, race, style, whatever – until they gave me good reason not to. (It’s Saul’s Law #22: Relationships, which includes a corollary that, I discovered when I was in college, is really helpful for men wanting to meet women and visa versa.) Saul liked people alright, but what was interesting was his confessed reason behind everything he did which, he theorized, was the same for all of us.

“Everyone,” he told me, “does everything for selfish reasons.”

Whatever we do, it’s not because we want to improve the condition of the other person, it’s because helping the other person makes us feel better. Now, you say, “Of course.” “Being kind to others is its own reward,” so the adage goes. That’s all my father was trying to tell me. Well, you could say that, but you’d be wrong. If that was what he was talking about – that kindness is its own reward – that’s what he would have said. That would be Saul’s Law #9 on “Kindness,” but it isn’t.

My father’s point wasn’t about goodness as a goal in and of itself. He was talking about pure, raw self-indulgence, devoid of any virtue. Academically, I get it, but was he making a technical observation or was he trying to tell me that “the greater good” was a construct, a somewhat superficial belief, recently layered onto the history of our species, that glossed over the primitive motivation at the root of everything we do?

What difference does it make? The difference may have been that he didn’t trust “good.” Selfishness, greed, these were things he believed in, palpable emotions he considered fundamental to being human and, more broadly, to being a living thing of any kind – essential to our survival, and the reason for our tendency to socialize.

Far from being cruel, it was an innocent realization completely consistent with the intellectual honesty which was the subtext of every conversation we ever had.

Some of Saul’s laws were less straightforward, less obvious for their implications that others. Growing up – and, even as an adult, I’m still very much a work in progress – it’s been something I’ve had to deal with. (If my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Campbell, is reading this, “How are you? And yes, I know a dangling preposition when I see one. Sometimes, I just prefer the way they sound.)


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