That Sinking Feeling

The moment the SUV plunges into the thin ice on the mostly frozen lake. As captured on the local news.

“Oh man. Erich’s dad is so much fun.” The boy was breathless. They had a great time at the cabin. They made fires. They cooked on the made fires. They ran in the frozen woods at night with flashlights. Erich’s dad told the best ghost stories. He didn’t tell his mom, but Erich’s dad let him puff a pipe.

Mr. Bronch most definitely did not let him smoke, though. Sure, Erich’s dad was smoking. The boys asked him about it. Mr. Bronch didn’t want it to be a magical mystery, so he let all of them put their mouths on the lip of the pipe and suck or blow or whatever they did. It wasn’t a lesson in smoking, but a lesson that smoking wasn’t unknowable and wasn’t that important. But they were all sworn to secrecy. They very much liked that.

It was just an overnight trip, but it was the best day in the boy’s life. His own dad had many more rules, was always invoking said rules and was a big stick in the mud. You always had to do a safety check on your helmet before you got on your bike. You had to come in the house if it was thundering. You needed to do your homework before you could play your game–even though everyone else could do both. You had to go back and apologize to the second baseman you taunted after you stole that base. You always had to go to the bathroom before you left the house. Is there no privacy?? Just too much of the words “must” and “should.”

Mr. Bronch was good with them doing whatever they wanted. He didn’t intervene if they argued. He even jumped in on the one battle that got physical. That was hysterical. They all laughed so much they forgot what started the fight. But they remembered getting out of Erich’s dad’s headlock. And eating a huge bag of potato chips with a big jar of dip when they watched the movie that Mom did not want them to see. He got a little nervous, though, and looked away when they had that part with the lady without her shirt on. The guns, though, he was down with that. When that guy blew the other guy’s brains out? Erich’s dad told them it was all fake. They knew that mostly already.

“So can I go back to the cabin next week? Please?” His mom looked at him and shook her head.

“Not next week. Erich won’t be with his dad. Have him call me and we can figure out the next time.”

The next time wasn’t for a few weeks. But he was pumped and primed to go back. There would be him and Erich and Tom Jr. and Levi. And, of course, Mr. Bronch. They were going to bring their skates and skate on the lake.

His dad made him repack his backpack. “Where’s your toothbrush? Did you pack an extra pair of socks? It’s going to be cold. Here’s your ColdGear leggings. Just pack them!” Jeez. This was so annoying. He was sure that Erich’s dad didn’t poke in Erich’s bag.

Then his dad made him practice lacing up his skates. Seriously? And he went through a classic safety checklist. When he rolled his eyes, his dad grinned a little and said, “Guy, I just want you to be prepared. I trust you to do the right thing, but a little practice doesn’t hurt.” He went through the drills. He gave his dad a dap as he scrambled out of the car, his backpack swinging in his arm. He didn’t take the time to loop it over his shoulder. He was gone.

“See you tomorrow!” he chirped as he ran up the driveway to Erich’s dad’s big black truck.  The truck was running, but there wasn’t anyone in it. His dad parked the car. The boy rolled his eyes in his brain.

“What? Dad. It’s fine.” Erich’s dad came out the garage door, carrying some bags.

“Hey Tom.”

“Hey! How are you? Haven’t seen you for too long, man.” Erich’s dad grabbed his dad’s hand and pulled him in close for a hug.

“Yeah. Too long. You guys should come by. I finally got the direct gas line to the grill. We can put steaks and burgers on all winter.”

“Sure, but I think that your wife likes me not so much.”

“Don’t be paranoid. She can be friends with both you and your ex. She’d love to have you by. She was asking how you were doing.”

“Tell her I’m just fine. I talked to her last week anyway. She should have asked me then.”

“Sure, whatever. She was just doing logistics. Between my job, her job, the kids and her mom’s been sick.”

“No. Not her mom? That’s tough.”

“We think she’ll be fine. But it’s just a worry now until we go through the checklist of docs. Getting old seems to suck.” His laugh was a little hollow.

“We’re not going to do that, though. Get old that is. We have too much shit to do.” Tom’s laugh was full. They were interrupted by a yell from the tumble of boys in the front yard.

“Get OFF of me!” The boy’s dad looked over to assess the situation. Erich’s dad put his bags in the back of his truck.

“Hey, guys. Take it easy. I think Levi said he had enough.” The boy’s dad was good at deescalation. The pile broke up. The boy held out a hand to Levi. Tom Jr went behind him and lifted him up. Tom Jr was the youngest, but only by a Irish twin–ten months younger than his brother Erich, but bigger than all of them.

Erich’s dad clicked the remote to close the garage. The boy’s dad walked onto the porch and pulled on the front door to make sure it was locked. He stopped to give his son a quick hug before he returned to his car. “See you tomorrow!” The boy waved back. Then they all hopped into the truck. Erich had shotgun. The other three fought over who had to sit in the middle. Erich’s dad had them do rock, paper scissors and then told them to shut the hell up. They liked it when he cursed. They felt grown up.

They grabbed their backpacks and followed Erich’s dad into the dark cabin. It smelled of the fireplace and a little must. It was freezing.

“Okay, you guys go ahead and get your skates. I’ll get the fire started and meet you at the lake.” He flipped the top of a beer and shuffled through the branches next to the fireplace. “Erich, first go grab me a big log.”

Erich and the boy went to the back patio and pulled two big, for them, logs off the woodpile and brought them in. They found their skates. Levi and Tom Jr had already gone to the lake. Not like it was far. Just down a few steps, across the slatted cedar walk and down a few more steps to the dock. The other boys were laced up when Erich and the boy caught up.

The lake was plenty frozen. It was mostly smooth, too. As they skated across, it moaned underneath them. The moon provided the light for their games. They decided to run relays just as Mr. Bronch joined them. He skated out beyond their playground and they forgot about him as they swapped teams out for the next round of races.

Crack! Their was a fissure that was growing deep in the ice. Tom Jr. looked up to see if the rest of them were okay. The boy looked at Erich. This was his territory. Then they saw a dark figure racing towards them. He was coming fast. The boys locked their arms to be an impenetrable wall. They dug their skates sideways into the ice. Mr. Bronch was coming like a bullet fired from a gun. The boys steeled themselves and, just at impact, Erich’s dad snowplowed to a stop, showering the line of defense with ice. As the boys doubled over laughing, Tom Jr. lost his balance and fell.

Mr. Bronch pushed him along. Levi gave the next push. Tom Jr was laughing and couldn’t get up. The boy and Erich gathered Tom Jr by a leg each and swung him around the ice. His dad joined in and grabbed the boy by his arm and leg and swung him around and let go. Tom Jr. sailed across the ice and then disappeared. Out of their sight. The moon was behind the clouds. They were cracking up. Tom Jr flew off like a weird rocket.

“Tommy!” Erich yelled. They didn’t know where he was, not for sure. They couldn’t see Erich’s dad’s frown. “Tom?” He couldn’t have gone far. The ice cracked again underneath them.

“Dad, is he okay? Where is he? Is the ice gonna hold?”

“The ice is a foot thick. We are fine.” But he couldn’t see his boy. “Tom!? Hey, Tommy.” He raised his voice a little.

“TOM-MEEE,” Levi screamed. He was still playing. The boy joined in. “Oh, Tom. Oh Tom JOON-YER.” They skated out a bit. They couldn’t see very far, with the moon behind the clouds. It seemed like the wind was picking up. Or maybe it was the dark. “Tom. You okay? Say something.”

The clouds moved and let some moonlight through. Between that and their eyes adjusting, they could see a figure on the ice. Erich’s dad was surprised he was so far away. The four of them skated to the unmoving mass, the boys pulling up to let Mr. Bronch get there first.

“He’s okay.” They saw that Tom Jr was sitting up. Or maybe he was being propped up by his dad. “I’m going to take him to the cabin to warm up a little. You guys can skate for a while.”

Tom Jr was on his feet. He wasn’t talking but was responding by nodding to his dad’s questions. His dad supported him, really steered him, to the dock. “Man, you really flew!” The boys laughed. Tom Jr seemed to laugh, too. Then it was clear he wasn’t laughing, but throwing up.

“Gross!” “Jesus, what did you eat?” “I’m going to barf now.” “Does it taste the same?”

“Skate away from the puke,” said Erich’s dad. He sat Tom Jr on the dock and took off his skates. “He’ll be okay when I get him some water and get him warmed up.” Tom Jr couldn’t focus enough to get his boots back on by himself. His dad shoved his feet in his boots and tried to get him to stand up. Walking wasn’t working. Tom Jr threw up again. He wasn’t too big to carry.

The boy kept glancing over at Tom Jr and his dad. Nobody seemed to be very worried, so he worked to ignore his concern. The grownup had this. It was fine. It was getting colder and a big cloud was overtaking the moon. Erich pointed to the house, “Let’s get back in.” Erich grabbed Levi’s skate and the boy grabbed his boot so Levi had to sock skate after them for a little bit. It was too cold to play boot-keep-away for long. Erich tossed the skate back on the dock and ran up to the house. The boy waited for Levi to get his other boot on, and they raced back.

Tom Jr was on the couch in front of a big fire. He had a cloth on his head and a quilt over his body. His eyes were closed. He didn’t respond to any of them. The boy shook his shoulder. Erich grabbed his hand. “Dad. Dad. Dad. Tommy’s hand is really cold. Is it supposed to be so cold?” Erich’s dad had three microwaved hot cocoas looped on the fingers of his left hand. He put his right hand on Tom Jr’s as he handed the steaming mugs to the boys.

“Drink up. Then get your jackets. We’re going to take a side trip.”

When the boy’s dad came to the hospital to pick up the boy and Levi, the boy was more than relieved to see him. His dad wrapped him up in his arms and was surprised with the tightness of his son’s grasp around his neck.

The boy stopped being frightened. He was still scared for Tom Jr. but now that his dad was there, his dull, methodical and careful dad, he was exhausted. And he felt safe.


A baby with fat cheeks.

He was definitely still a baby, but was increasingly more independently busy. Increasingly, in this case, used as a multiplier for more. It was happening fast.

Walking was always at top speed so you’d call it running. There was jumping and dancing, too. Words, and sounds that mimicked words, would tumble from his mouth. They would have the cadence of conversation, and likely a meaning that was uninterpretable, for now. He could clearly convey, “No,” usually when admonishing the dog. “No, babau” or whatever he said that meant dog.

It was time for his nap–remember he’s still a baby–but he was using his found power of no on his mother. She needed him to stop being busy for a bit. She had some busy of her own to do. Also, he was tired and she wanted to stay ahead of that.

She lifted him up and gently placed him in the bed. He sat up. She knew if he stopped for a few moments, sleep would win. She stretched out next to him and put her hand on his little back. He turned his head toward hers, lifting his chin so he could see into her eyes. They were just like his.

She saw her reflection in his eyes. She whispered a little hushing sound just above his head. She looked at his big round cheeks, rosy pink in the center dissolving into the smooth, clear porcelain at his rounded chin and his tiny nose. She brushed her hand on his cheek. It was warm, fueled by his little furnace inside. He sighed a baby sigh, and she felt his body relent a bit.

She locked eyes with him. He wasn’t going to let her out of his sight. She thought his eyebrows were perfectly formed, a light brown hinting at auburn framing his green eyes. With those lashes. Those long curly baby lashes coveted by all the women. He blinked. It was starting. He blinked again. She answered with a slow blink of her own.

She loved watching him fall asleep. The long, slow blinks that would get longer and slower until his lids were too heavy and would not flutter open. She couldn’t move too soon, otherwise, it’s back to the coaxing stage. She rubbed his back. He lifted his little hand and placed it on her cheek. Her heart swelled. She knew he was sleeping when she felt the wet, warmth of his perspiration. He would flash just as he fell asleep. And then she, too, was asleep.


Good Forms

Agent (of S.H.I.E.L.D.) Melinda May uses her mad fighting skills to kick a bad guy. She's not hurt. She's boss.

The smell of french fries crossed the street on its own. It was actually the smell that conjures fries. More like the smell of the fryer. And salt. Not potatoes. The potatoes have no smell.

The lurkers on the sidewalk turned their heads in the direction of the scent. Some looked more plaintively than others.

There were two types of yearners. Some were hungry, either because they didn’t eat dinner yet or because every time they smell fried food they wanted it. There was a subset of this group that were both. They were the most dangerous.

Others looked longingly when the door to the tavern opened. They could almost see the outline of the polished wooden bar. The welcoming stools waiting for a perch. The pours lined up and reflecting off the back mirror. They might be interested in the fries, too. Salt to wash down the spirits.

Yet they remained posted up in front of the dual storefront. There were scores of square feet of glass. There were three short rows of metal chairs closest to the doors of each store. Mostly moms sat in. Mostly dads stood outside.

The moms on the inside might spend time on their phones, but as the weeks of class wore on, they knew each other. They spoke about the trials of homework, mismanagement of time and the concomitant fines, inequities at work/home/country and their pride in their offspring. The dads on the inside were primarily silent but observant. They were tracking the progress of their progeny purposely. They knew the color sequence of the belts.

The few women outside were either sitting in strategically parked SUVs or smoking a cigarette. The outside dads milled around. A group discussed the Redskins practice and hopes for the preseason. The sole–and loud–Cowboys fan was there to be razzed. And he was. The outside moms didn’t track the inside. The outside dads would frequently glance over their shoulders and mark their kids.

The inside parents ensured that all belongings were accounted for, stuffed in backpacks or purses or bags. Most outside moms followed up. The outside dads who limousined the kids every week were on top of it. The dads who were intermittent chauffeurs asked the kids if they had everything. The kids always said yes. Sometimes they were mistaken. Sometimes there was a trip back to the storefront. Sometimes there were later recriminations. Less in the summer. More during the school year.

Just the one dad would take his kid across the street after class. The dad would order a beer he liked. The kid would have orange and cranberry juice with a spritz of club soda, a cherry and a single drop of bitters. They called it his cocktail. The dad and his kid would split a fry. And the kid talked up the bartender and learned to tip, too.

No Safe Harbor

A selection of crayons that show a spectrum of color, all called flesh.

When I was a much younger Doc, AM and BC (after marriage and before kids), I worked with Lynn.

Lynn was older than me–in the way that when you are young everyone seems older, but looking back she hardly was. She was the backbone of the organization. She suffered fools not at all, and everyone respected her. Frankly, most of us wanted to be her friend. She was the friend that would tell you TRUTH and the friend that would have your back. Okay, we wanted her to be our friend. I don’t know that most people knew how to be her friend.

She was the commensurate professional as the new guard took on a leadership role. Others were unsure and insecure. Lynn? She rolled with it. She knew she was good. She ran the member database like a boss, negotiated hotel and AV contracts like a shark and charmed the board like a bartender who makes everyone believe they are friends–but they really aren’t. They have a business relationship.

Over time, Lynn decided that I was okay. That I could be trusted. That she could talk to me. That we could share lunch. And it was one day over lunch she told me that she was relieved that her son could get his non-driver’s ID. He was thirteen.

I was like, “What’s that about? He’s not learning to drive, is he?” I knew her delightfully goofy, barely teen son. What was the point of an officially laminated card for a middle-schooler?

“Oh, Doc,” she said, “My son is only thirteen, but he is already 6’2″, so to the cops he is a black man. I want, that when they roll up to him because someone a few blocks away was robbed or the gas station was burgled or a drug bust went down, he can prove-by showing an official government document–that he is NOT a man. That he is a thirteen year old boy. So they can run his name to see he doesn’t have a record. And for them to know it wasn’t him.”

I am sure I looked at her like a confused puppy. With my head cocked to one side and the opposite brow raised in a question.

“Doc, let me tell you what I told him. If a police car pulls next to you, STOP. Do not move. Always show your hands. Never run. NEVER never run. Do not mouth off. Do not challenge. Keep your eyes down. If they tell you to get on the ground, do it. I’ve got on the floor to show him how. Because they are looking for someone, and it’s easy if it’s my son if he’s in front of them. And they would not hesitate before they shot him.”

I heard her. I didn’t know. My eyes were likely like saucers. I know that my mouth was dry. I had heard love in her voice when she spoke of her son. I had heard pride in her voice when she shared his successes. I had heard joy in her voice when she told of their exploits.

But this day? I felt fear in her voice. And she was never afraid. Of anything. She shared something with me that white people miss. That we are ignorant of. That is foreign to our existence. And I was afraid for her son. She spoke a truth that I didn’t know, but she taught me.

So, White People who don’t know, let me explain white privilege to you.

You who don’t worry about your children having an encounter with the police. You who had the cops call you when your kid got pulled over for drinking because boys will be boys. You whose kids have cursed out cops. You whose kids come home safe after cursing out said cops. You who tell your kids that if they’re in trouble to call the police.

You who haven’t had “that talk.” No, not that one.

The talk where you tell your kid to be polite, to defer, to acquiesce, to say “Sir” and “Ma’am,” to take the insults, to keep their hands out of their pockets, to not run, to swallow their anger at being falsely accused and harassed. Because when they have an encounter with the police they just might end up in the hospital or…or…or….

I can’t bring myself to type the next word. I can’t imagine telling my sons that they have to walk an arbitrary and capricious line, a line that may shift, a line that holds their life in the balance. Because of anything and, in this case, because of their skin color.

That, friends, is white privilege.

I have extra sons. Sons that are brothers with my sons but from different mothers. Sons who have brown skin. I tell these young men–young men who were scouts together, who ate my waffles, who walk my dog when I’m lazy, who call me mom–to put my number in his phone. And always, no matter what, call if he needs me. I hope he never needs me.

never would i ever

Mary Poppins, who is practically perfect in every way, delivers a perfectly sarcastic slow clap.
Mary Poppins, who is practically perfect in every way, delivers a perfectly sarcastic slow clap.

Never would I ever let my kid accidently fall into a gorilla habitat at the zoo.

  • Because I am always vigilant.
  • Because I don’t get distracted by my other children or someone else’s other children.
  • Because I had just told him to step away from the fence because he might fall in.
  • Because I had just told him that, again.
  • Because I have never seen that impish face where he wants to push the envelope too far, and I didn’t realize just how far that little pea brain would go.
  • Because I’ve never egged him on, saying, “Go ahead and let’s see what happens,” as he was testing me.
  • Because I’ve never assumed that a well-established public place would have the barriers to stop a headlong plunge into a moat, or onto a track or whatever the unspeakable.
  • Because I’ve never looked around and experienced that moment of pure terror when you have no idea where your child is.

Oh wait. I have had my heart drop to my stomach and my blood turn to ice as it coarsed through my wicked veins. I have spent seconds, minutes or days in terror, wondering how I could have been so stupid, how I could have been so neglectful, how I could be so horrible. I have donned the sackcloth of recrimination. I have dropped to my knees asking God, Mary and the universe to help undo my error.

Maybe you don’t know that. Maybe you weren’t in a position to see my failure. Or in a position to judge me as an unacceptable, good-for-nothing parent. And maybe you haven’t, yet, put yourself in a most awfully human crisis.

I’m thankful that a child was kept safe. I’m saddened that an amazing animal was killed to keep that child safe. I’m sorry that the family is being castigated for the death of the innocent, captive gorilla.

I’m not judging, though. There but for the grace of god, go I.

Feelings Behind

plane flying in a pretty sky

Dear Mom and Dad,
I remember leaving. I was 18, and so glad to be on my own. You two were already grown. I didn’t really give you any thought. As if my next steps would have any impact on you–my parents. I was about me.

Today I was at the airport. I watched Baby Bear walk away from me to get on that big metal bird to the mountains. Where he lives.

So, Mom and Dad, I have some questions. Did your heart break when I drove away? Every time? Did you wonder if I was going to be okay? Were you conflicted by your amazement of your spawn functioning without you and your worry that you couldn’t protect me?

Did this ever stop? These feelings of an ever-alert, yet redundant, guard dog? Was I always your kid? Your baby, in your heart? Did you whiplash when conversing with a grownup while stuffing protective impulses back inside you before I noticed? I know you know that I would have insisted, again, that I was an adult and didn’t need anything.

Did you wonder if you were doing enough? Too much? Did you worry about respecting my autonomy? Did you worry if I was paying my bills? Drinking too much? Breaking a heart? Getting my heart broken?

When I was starting out and job hopping, did you think I was making mistakes? Wonder if I was carrying health insurance? Saving for retirement? Paying my mortgage? Getting up on time for work?

Did you think that I was able to balance being a parent and breadwinner? Did you look at me looking at you in your hospital bed and think about how you being in that bed was affecting me?

I never thought about how you felt about me. Not from the point of view of a parent. Not until today. I’m sorry for not seeing this. It’s crazy love.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Your (grown) Child

Addicted to Palin

Okay. I said it. It’s the first step. I admit that I have a problem.

I have been thinking about Sarah Palin, reading about Sarah Palin, watching video about Sarah Palin, following convention coverage about Sarah Palin, wrestling with my feelings about Sarah Palin, and trying to figure out what I think about this polarizing newly minted political rockstar.

I can’t get her out of my mind, because I am having a hard time making a decision about her and what to think about her.

There is no doubt in my mind that Sarah Palin is qualified to be Vice President.

The qualifications for the vice presidency are the same as those for the presidency. The vice president must be a native-born American of at least 35 years of age who has resided in the United States for at least 14 years. — Encarta

This means that I, too, am qualified to be Vice President–or President for that matter.

In my obsessive reading, some folks are saying that they have alot in common with Gov. Palin, and since they do NOT think that they are qualified for the job, therefore SHE isn’t qualified. Others are happy to have somebody who is “just like me,” who will understand and respond to their needs. Next I find myself thinking about why I believe that Brack Obama is qualified to be President.

This gets me thinking about serendipity and timing. Before Obama became a 2008 Presidential candidate, I was wishing that he would wait until the next round. But sometimes circumstances thrust you into a position and you have to grab for the ring. It might not be presented again. And I think that I need to apply that same standard to Palin.

But what about her family?, I was thinking. How could Palin be a mother to babies, young children and teens while being Vice President?

What wrong thinking.

I always thought that I tried hard not to judge other parents and their decisions–whether mom should work or stay home, what role does dad play, is quality time better than quantity time, prudes versus permissives, milk versus ice tea? In our family the mom went back to work when the babies were 9 and 8 weeks old–and still nursed both until they were two. The dad worked part time for the first few years and did main duty. The mom took a new job that entailed alot of domestic travel 4 months before the youngest was born–and she dragged the baby from coast to coast. His first hotel was in Boston at 10 weeks. Good mom? Bad mom? Sometimes. Okay, I think Palin is a fine parent. Her kids look happy (and gorgeous!) and I bet they will survive her parenting and become productive adults. As I pray my kids will survive my own parenting.

But what does parenting have to do with being a “heartbeat away from the Presidency” anyway? Nothing. But the heartbeat away from the Presidency thing is pretty important.

So, I think that Palin is qualified enough. And I think that, as Obama has forcefully and genuinely said, her family needs to be off limits. So that leads me to where I should have been from the beginning–what do I think about her as a potential president, because that’s the job she is going for?

I definitely think that she is a shrewd and formidable politician. She has worked hard and appears to spit nails and bring down the hammer on foes. Her rise to the governor’s mansion in Juneau is something to be respected and admired. Politics is a tough game, and a young upstart from a small town making it to the top of the heap in Alaska is nothing to shake a stick at. Go Sarah Barracuda!

So now I am returning to her convention speech–what tells me most about who she is and what kind of president she might be, because that’s all we got. And this is the source that makes me most uncomfortable about Sarah Palin, and a McCain-Palin presidency.

The speech–well delivered by a confident, accessible, smiling candidate–helped to draw a clear distinction between the choice we have in November. And it isn’t about Palin, specifically, but about what her ticket stands for.

Change for them means making a U-turn and going back to the 50’s. The speech was very backwards looking, to the “good ole days” of some idyllic and perhaps mythical small town America. Where people are homogeneous (but not homos), where nostalgia and the familiar trump intellectual curiosity, and where we need to run back to the cocoon rather than boldly face the challenges of health care, the environment, education and globalization.

Backwards to when diplomacy means that the U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A. (chant it with me like its 1980) plays nuclear games of chicken with our enemies, and globalization means that everyone oversees wants an American car and the imports from Japan are cheesy.

Where small towns are filled with honest, sincere dignified people who are somehow immune to a failing economy, the mortgage crisis, and the false prospect that cutting taxes for the wealthiest will make us all better off, even if that leaves state coffers empty without money for infrastructure projects and public safety (can you say levies?) and with gimmicks to improve education.

When the natural resources of this great planet were seen as infinite, and frontier settlers were the masters, taking whatever they wanted and moving on when the land was depleted or destroyed because it was their right. In contrast to the people already in this country that the settlers displaced. People who were stewards for the land, the water, the air, the animals and plants.

I watched Gov. Palin’s speech–and within the context of the Republican Convention–felt like she saw the best times were behind us. Simpler times. Times that needed to be protected from the future.

And her reiteration of wedge issues in the guise of small town values–guns, abortion, creationism–sets up the old “us against them” no-compromise zone. I appreciated Sen. McCain talking about reaching out across differences to make changes during his acceptance speech, but he really didn’t advocate anything new. And, if his running mate and others making speeches have their way (as they did with his choice for VP), his calls for pragmatic compromise to resolve tough issues will likely disappear.

I used to work in an academic environment with decisions made by “consensus.” What that meant in practice was that anyone could stop an idea by crapping on it. It was a huge challenge to get anything done, make change, see things in a new way, innovate or invent. It was status quo all the time, because there was always someone who knew they could stop change and keep their fiefdoms intact.

So it’s really not about Sarah Palin, who is truly a remarkable person on many levels. I don’t need to think about her, although she helped me to reconcile some ideas that were vexing me.

It’s about the fact that on most issues I absolutely and fundamentally disagree with Sarah Palin and her running mate. And all the distractions that have been fed up by the 24/7 news personalities and Democratic and Republican spinmeisters are just that. Distractions.

So yes, I have been thinking alot about Sarah Palin. And I think that now, I am on the road to recovery.

Thinking Seems to Have Stopped

I think that I have been thinking. But I think that my thoughts have been either non-conclusive or circular.

Like the past week’s political ad that had the McCain campaign trotting out blonde bimbos and somehow linking them–or at least their celebrity–to Obama. And Paris Hilton’s mom didn’t appreciate it.

Then there was the coverage about Ludacris’s song and somehow that Obama has responsibility for the rapper’s lyrics. Hunh? (Nas has a much better joint, anyway.)

Then there was the senior pictures. How did it happen that my first-born posed for his senior pictures. And he looks like a frickin’ man.

He has been spending the summer at the pool, lifeguarding. The pool is about as far away from us as some of my friends in the ‘burbs can imagine. He is guarding at a pool in Anacostia. Right by here.

One friend said that he would never allow his kid to go to that pool. But he has never been there. And he has not driven past the neat single family homes on those quiet streets. The kids playing with their sweet, funny, goofy pit-bulls in the park next to the pool. He probably hasn’t had the chance to see the most beautiful sky in Washington, D.C. as you drive up South Capital Street along the Anacostia River. Crazy clouds lit from behind to your left and the lights from the stadium straight ahead. As you cross over the river, the stadium is on your right, and you look up ahead and there’s the Capitol.

Sometimes you have to look close to see what is really there. You might need to look with your own eyes. And sometimes when you look closely, when you dig past the surface, you can really see.

Friend Request

Image of part of a Facebook profile page.Every couple of weeks I send a Facebook friend request to the 16-year old. I just now sent another one.

Me: Hey, did you get my friend request?
Him: I don’t know.


Me: I sent you another friend request.
Him: I know.

Facebook is an online networking group originally for college students, and then high-school students, to keep in touch. You create a personal page and can send out electronic “friend” requests. “Friends” can send messages, post photos and videos, and add new friends. All from the comfort of your own computer. In 2006, they opened up the floodgates and let even old geezers like me in. That’s the problem.

The Post today has front page (don’t ask me why) story on “When Mom or Dad Asks to Be a Facebook Friend.” And kids, here is the right answer.


Of course, I am stalking the 16-year old to be my “friend.” I’m the parent, that’s what I do. But frankly, he should be able to exchange pleasantries–and not so pleasantries–with his peers. And, I AM NOT HIS PEER.

I don’t want to be a peer. My role in this show is to be the parent. Part of him growing up means that I don’t get to know everything. I don’t need to know that there is a group “Get Guy Laid.” Really, I don’t need to know. And he needs a modicum of privacy.

Okay, I know why we want to know. We want to protect our kids. And wrap them in bubble wrap and keep them germ free. But I also know that that is no way to grow up. The path to adulthood is fraught with danger. That path has got to be traveled, and decisions on which turn to take have to be made by the traveler. Otherwise they can’t become adults.

That’s really the point of parenthood. We take our precious babes and help them to grow up and leave us behind. From a 7 pound eating-pooping machine to a 6-footer able to make good decisions when he comes home to a broken pipe in the basement. And hopefully when confronted with even harder choices, too.

We succeed when they are successfully independent. Not if they have no bruises. Not if they don’t make mistakes. Not if they don’t take risks.

By the time they are rejecting our Facebook friend requests, they are working from whatever we gave them. Not like we don’t matter anymore, but they are applying the lessons we gave to the ever widening world they live in in high school and in college. We don’t need to spy. There are other ways to know your kid.

So yes, I will continue to bug the 16-year old about being my friend. He has 289 to my paltry 19. But I don’t need him to be my friend. He is already my son.

And good for me that he doesn’t read this. Otherwise, he would never take me seriously.


Loathe as I am to defend the Miserable Ms. Spears recently as a performer, folks need to lay off her and her mothering.

This isn’t to say that Britney is a “good” mom. But who is? Reading and hearing (non-stop) the accusations, I kept waiting for the awful surprise. Turns out that the kids may “have poor dental hygiene and bad eating and sleeping habits.” That Britney used Whitestrips on the babies–DUMB–and sometimes is naked in front of them. And the awful part–the reason we should take her kids away is…is…is???

Now, don’t think that I approve of all the bad stuff that Brit is doing–but I don’t approve of lots of things that other parents do. Like putting ice tea in the baby’s bottle. Like taking their 3 and 4 year-olds to R-rated movies (and sitting in front of me!). Like spanking their kids. Like teaching them that evolution is a theory or that Reagan was a great president.

I am thankful that nobody ever saw me the day after my sister-in-laws wedding when I was hung over and my kids saw. Or when I turned my back for a minute and there was a baby in the middle of the dining room table, lapping up the butter in the dish. Or when we let the family dog return after biting the then six-year-old. Or when we were in the pool and the lifeguard jumped right in front of us in the pool to save our 4-year-old who got in over his head. Or the time(s) that they heard me curse.

From what I have heard, Britney’s actions to date–like ice tea in the bottle and Cheetos for breakfast–are not the things that you lose custody for. Part of being a parent is learning on the job, and the judge has sentenced her to that.

Sometimes I think that outside of her million$$, there but by the grace of God go I.

The millions of dollars thing, though, does make me relate to her a bit less.