Friday, June 22, 2012
For the first time in quite a few years I am with my Daddy on Father’s Day. I have always called him and sent him a gift but it’s the first time since probably college where he and I are staring at each other on the exact date. Staring at each other in a good way…I suppose. It’s more a testament to our confusion over shared genes than an actual competition although he would win by utilizing the time honored weapon known as “pull my finger”. Knowing full well a refusal to approach much less yank the digit in question will in no way impede the intended result. And sitting on my almost non-existent butt with my oddly short legs swaying in the breeze, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I am he but with cuter clothes, computer skills and an aversion to eating protein in can form.
While I’m on the subject of fathers, I want to point out that my spelling of Daddy and the actual pronunciation are quite different. Some of my non-Southern readers have interpreted Daddy to sound somewhat like an anxious British child wondering why “Mummy and Daddy are missing”. I pronounce it, along with many of Southern brethren and sisthren (is that right?) as Deh-Dee. Well, at least those of us who still say Daddy. I know it makes me seem a bit more Blanche Deveraux than I’d like to admit, but it’s just how I am. My Mother referred to her Daddy as Daddy and so shall I.
This day coupled with the fact that tomorrow would have been my parents’ 47th wedding anniversary (for those that don’t know, my mother died in 2000) has put in mind of the things for which I am grateful in relation to my family and my life. I used to think and say that I wish I had grown up in different circumstances, financial, geographical and otherwise. However, I know now that I am glad that the things happened as they did for a reason. I would not be the person I am if my life had been any different. For a long time I wished I had grown up in an urban area as opposed to varies boonies throughout the South, but as an adult I truly appreciate the rural nature of my upbringing. It has given me a foundation of civility and simplicity that seems down-right quaint in comparison to today’s skank-filled society. Drugs and pornography were not even on our radar; alcohol was easily with reach, seeing as how Walthall County, although a dry county, was within inches of Louisiana, a state always on the cutting edge of sketchy behavior. And although my peers imbibed from time to time it wasn’t as if we planned our social life around it. You’re welcome for this revisionist history ladies and (one) gentleman.
As is typical for small town boys, most of my friends were girls. I’ve always found them to be more interesting, fun and clean. Their activities, while sometimes odd and uninteresting to me, were at least indoors, where I was determined to be. It wasn’t as if I were opposed to the outdoors. Full disclosure: I was opposed to the outdoors. I attended my fair share of pasture parties and soirees at the river, but it was more for a sense of camaraderie than any zeal for nature. And by camaraderie I mean popularity, peripheral or otherwise. While I was usually well-liked I have never been cool by anyone’s definition. I tried to make up for my natural uniqueness by being funny. And for this talent I look to my father. While my mother had many wonderful traits and was humorous, my Daddy was the comedian in that marriage, in the broadest definition of that word. He found himself peerlessly hilarious; we often found no humor in what he was saying, usually because we were horrified or embarrassed for the repetition. At what age can you hear the phrase, “fine as frog hair” in response to someone’s inquiry into his well-being and actually laugh and/or not feel instant shame? Apparently age 12, as this phrase has caused internal groans and external reddening of the face since near ‘bout 19 and 82.
One of my father’s unusual traits I have recently discovered is his need to put a time to every action. For example, a week or so ago he was complaining that he forgot to charge his cell phone and he was about to go to sleep. I inquired as to why he would need his phone during slumber as he doesn’t often use it while awake and he said, “I need it to tell the time during the night.” As it was also my bedtime (I feel old, y’all), I refrained from continuing the conversation lest he not get the 11 hours of beauty sleep he most assuredly needs. The next morning I discovered the reason for his complaint. He proceeded to tell me each and every time he woke up throughout the night and what time he arose to start the morning. Apparently, “I got up 4 times to pee” is not scintillating enough conversation. He feels that I would do well with more detail. “I got up at 1:43, 2:18, 3:36 and 4:27 to pee” is more detail than I need to start my day off adequately. Sadly, dear readers, caffeine is not what wakes me up. Along with the punctuality of his emissions, I am also privy to the exact time (3:44) that his a-double-s started hurting and he had to move himself to his bed. This is followed by the persact (my family’s inventive synonym for “exact”) moment (5:11) that his side began to bother him requiring a return to his trusty recliner. Without his phone, his stories would be down-right boring. Smell that? That’s sarcasm.
Even though we had celebrated with a Father’s Day dinner the night before, as I had a full day with church, brunch and heading to San Jose to greet the attendees for my training conference this week, he somehow finagled a BBQ as well. At 2:34 we fired up the grill (yes I have a grill) and at 2:37 he wanted to know exactly what was taking “them dad-burn pork chops so long? I could cook them faster with a stick and a match.” At 2:38 I said, “Look here old man, shut it and wait; you’re the farthest thing from starving I’ve met in a long time.” Actually, that was in my head. What I said out loud was, “They’ll be done in a minute. Go get your kool-aid and check your blood sugar.” That was at 2:40. See how much more interesting this story is with the times inserted?
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
As I suspected, my father, never one to suffer in silence has been milking his fall like a dairy farmer, y’all. His rants are usually forlorn and punctuated only by heavy sighs and head nods. Well, let me tell you, today he was in rare form. He got irritated at Lord only knows what, probably when I refused to buy his diabetic self a cupcake, and he began to loudly protest the pain and suffering he was experiencing and while I didn’t quite understand everything he was saying I can attest to the fact that I have never heard a-double-s used so many times in a 5 minute period. I liken it to the number of times Al Pacino says the f-word in Scarface. For those who haven’t watched that family-friendly flick, let me just say it was a LOT.
Now I don’t know if my father became so adept at cursing once he began working off-shore or if he entered marriage with my mother pre-packaged with a filthy mouth. Throughout my life he has taken his cursing to a Master level. If there was a certification in potty mouth, I can assure you he could serve on the curriculum team, do you hear me? Of course I have cursed in my day but usually only in the most trying of circumstances like when an inanimate object won’t do what I want it to do, like stupid socks, an uncooperative umbrella or that irritating napkin that REFUSES to remain covering the dish in the microwave while it rotates ever so slowly. I also dislike people who can’t drive, which includes most everyone on the road except me and the relative few of you who can navigate our nation’s highways and bi-ways. What is a bi-way, I wonder?
And, honestly, one cannot live in a curse-filled household (although my Mother remained above the fray) and it not affect your speech. I did pretty well with no cursing until I was in college and, just like eating potato chips, once you start it’s hard to stop. Now, I don’t curse at work and I definitely don’t at church and I don’t typically in public, but boy howdy I sure do when I’m alone and I get irritated. And I try to keep it under control but like my best friend Christopher says, “Screaming ‘strawberry’ doesn’t have the same satisfying effect.”
Am I proud of this? Absolutely not. Am I working on fixing this? Absolutely. Have I been successful? Depends on your frame of reference for success. I have tried substituting different words and phrases for some of the more foul sayings in my verbal arsenal but that often leads to confusion for those around me. Hearing someone say, in a loud annoyed voice, “Brenda Fricker!” is cause for concern. The full statement, depending on the level of irritation at the person, place or thing, “Brenda Fricker won an Oscar for My Left Foot!” makes no sense to anyone other than Oscar trivia buffs and, including me, which consists of about 3 people. And even they would wonder why I am so passionate about an actress that no one remembers, if they ever knew her to begin with. I have learned to wear my ID photo badge on my nightly walks around the hospital grounds lest anyone suspect I have managed to escape from the locked ward. I also ensure that I have rid myself of the pastel chinos prior to these walks as well. No need to add fuel to that fire, am I right?
I was discussing my new thrift store finds today with my management team. We had an off-site retreat and, wanting to set the right tone for an informal gathering that would generate ideas, I chose to wear and multi-colored-striped button down and white chinos with matching navy suede belt and wingtips. I have been told that my three-piece suits with coordinated tie and pocket square were intimidating to some and I wanted to take a much more casual approach for this particular session. During the course of the day, I was speaking to them about the unique situations you encounter when you supervise people.
There are 3 staff members who have recently been promoted to management positions and their co-workers have been treating them differently. I said, “You have to develop a thick skin (in leadership roles) because people will invariably talk about you. I have a very thick skin; I couldn’t dress this way and expect to not have people question everything from my political leanings to the state of my soul.” One reason I love living in Menlo Park is that no one bats an eye when I wear my outfits as the majority of the denizens of this fair burg are wealthy older people and the women love my ensembles; odds are the shirts and pants belonged to their dear departed husbands. I have been hugged on several occasions by exquisitely-coiffed, teeny tiny ladies who tell me how “adorable” I look. If you’ll pardon the poor grammar, I loves me some older ladies, y’all.
I just decided that I may need to start looking to this older group for dating and possible marriage. As someone who is uncomfortable talking about, much less contemplating, “relations” with anyone, I feel pretty good about the odds of finding someone who shares my love of seersucker and doesn’t want to degrade themselves (or me) in the boudoir, if you’re picking up what I’m throwing down. I have it on good authority that many women would love a husband who would voluntarily take them shopping, understands the need for multiple pairs of black shoes and doesn’t want to “mess with” them.
Also, no awkward first dates. Really, no dates at all. Getting them coffee before the church service one Sunday could count as second base. I’ll be like Truman Capote, when he escorted all those society ladies in New York. Eww, wait. Okay, NOT, Truman Capote. I know, I’ll be like Bernie from the movie “Bernie” except I wouldn’t shoot Shirley MacClaine; I’d just give her extra wine and put her to sleep.
This might actually work. Look at the things I have in common with this particular crowd. I go to bed at 10, get up at 6, like to eat dinner around 5:30, hate to wait in line for anything, think most young people are disrespectful, am very conservative in my dress and have always been partial to Lincoln Town Cars. Plus, I make a “mean” pone of cornbread, always have a can of cream of mushroom soup in the pantry, hate most TV shows because they are filthy, watched “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” on purpose and am always cold.
Well, this wasn’t the outcome I was expecting. I mean, I don’t mind being an old soul; I just assumed I would be an old man.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
At 4:45 the other morning I awoke to such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Then noise seemed to involve wood, ceramic and metal. I was soon to discover it also included denim and whatever material constitutes a tractor supply hat. My Daddy had fallen; like a Redwood in the forest, except with more cursing and shame. This couldn’t have come at a worse time as when I awoke I realized I had been sleeping on my right arm; it was numb and I couldn’t move it. I am a typically conservative sleeper. Until my significant weight loss, I used a CPAP machine to help me breathe and had to learn to sleep (1) on my back and (2) without moving. Making my bed in the morning is not an exhaustive task. My sister has said it's slightly creepy how I don't move; like a dead person. However, for the past month or so I have been tossing and turning like Bobby Lewis. Some of you will get that joke; others will need to ask their parents.
Anyway, I rush into my Daddy’s bedroom and see him on the floor, having somehow taken the entire contents of his bookshelf full of crochet yarn and the top of his dresser except for the TV, thank goodness. When I attempted to help him up he insisted that he could get himself up and lurched away from my one good arm and proceeded to get up on one knee and summarily collapse onto the floor, emitting more curse words than a truck stop waitress who has “been done wrong” by some no-good trucker with a double name.
Trying to help him with the good arm, while flapping my other arm around to get the circulation flowing and him wiggling all over the floor threw Lulu into a state of confusion and happiness as she bounded from her doggie bed wanting to play. Have you ever tried to help lift an overweight man who is trying to fight you using your one good arm and fending off the dog? No, Dustin, just you. And while it may be funny now, it was most assuredly not funny then. Well, except maybe to Lulu. If she could talk, I can only imagine what she would say. Probably, “I’m hungry!” “Please pet me!” “Squirrel!” “You’re Awesome!” and/or “The old fat one sleeps a lot, what breed is he?” although not necessarily in that order.
I felt bad about him falling and I know that older people can break things when they do fall. He complains about aches and pains nonstop so I knew I could look forward to an uptick in the woe-is-me-ing later that night and especially the next day and the day after that. As someone who knows (somewhat) the pain of working out, I can tell you the next day is not as bad as the day after that. And although his falling and my working out are not the same, they both involve sweating and someone on the floor cursing. And they are both usually followed by someone regaling all and sundry with the specifics of the incident and detailing the aches and pains long after interest has waned and the even the memory of the pain has subsided. Full disclosure: I did kick boxing for about 5 months (from October 2009-February 2010). I still talk about it. Yes, Virginia, I see the irony.
Of course, he is still talking about the fall and the aches and pains and it’s been like a week and a half. His toe hurts, his ankle hurts, both knees hurt, his ribs/thigh/shoulder/lungs/kidney/uterus hurt. Ok, that last one I may have misunderstood, but you get my drift. This is in addition to his typical refrain of “my back, a double s and neck hurt”. When I ask if he has taken a pain pill, for which he has a prescription, he always says, “Nah. It’s not THAT bad yet.” Really? To hear him you would think his pain was mind-numbing. He has likened it to child birth. He has actually said, “On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 25”, but in his estimation it is not enough to take a pill. Get over yourself old man.
What do you think is going to happen? Just because more than your fair share of relatives (on the Thompson side) have become pill addicts doesn’t mean you will. I am hardcore anti-drug but even I’ve started acting like the sketchy best friend in a coming of age movie saying things like, “Come on man, it’s no big deal. It’s just the one pill.” I have even resorted to just getting one out and putting it in his hand and giving him a bottle of water. No questions, no judgments. Just like one of those meetings you see on TV where you tell your name and your addiction. They don’t have one for thrift store shopping; I checked. They should have one for gossiping (or fellowshipping depending on your denomination), but those kind of meetings usually take place in church and although we’d talk about how we feel guilty talking about people, we’d end up talking about people while describing why we felt we had to and it would be sort of a breaking even situation and nobody wants that. Not even for really good chess pie. Ok, maybe for really, really good chess pie.
And although he is prone to exaggeration, I really do think he is “stove up” a little as he has turned down the last two invitations to breakfast at Jason’s, his favorite place, as well as the latest trip to Wal-Mart leaving me to navigate the waters of Little Guatemala, mano-a-nada. Como se dice, ‘Alone’? I felt like the hero in an action film who has been abandoned at the gates of the castle/den of thieves/cave, on a mission from some hard to please despot who requires things I wouldn’t normally buy like yarn, XXL underwear, Stetson cologne and denture adhesive. I can only imagine what people were thinking when they looked into my cart. I used to say buggy but that can be shamed out of you by New Englanders who call them carriages.
What? You mean you don’t look in other people’s carts, scoping out their items and using what you see to parse out their back story? No, Dustin, just you. I guess it is true what my mother always said, “Just because you’re talking about people doesn’t mean they are talking about you.”
Well said, nomadic Southern Baptist. Well said indeed.