Sunday, September 2, 2012

Have Dad, Can't Travel

                In the last month or so I have been thinking a lot about moving.  Not me actually moving but those who I’ve come into contact recently who are on the move, so to speak.  I spent a wonderful day with a high school friend, Stacy O’Quin Kidd – she of the eleventy-hundred daily Facebook posts – as she was en route from Phoenix, AZ to her new home in Tacoma, WA.  As someone who has moved multiple times throughout my life (unwillingly as a child, knowingly as an adult), I understand the excitement and trepidation of a new move.

My nomadic Southern Baptist parents moved us for a variety of reasons throughout my formative years.  From birth through high school graduation, we lived in 18 houses in 10 cities in five states.  It’s a lot, I know.  I don’t remember feeling as if we were running from something.  From what I could tell, with my frame of reference for reasons to move, we were chasing a good paying job for my Daddy.  As my parents were of the generation that did not include children in adult conversations, we were not privy to any information prior to the general announcement of, “get in the care, we are moving to Mississippi.”

Since I have been in charge of my own life, from 1988 through today, I have lived in 25 apartments/houses in 17 cities in 12 states (including college and graduate school).  Again, a lot, I know.  I am also not running from anything.  I used to use the excuse that I was chasing “a grade” to use government employee-ese.  It’s not unlike chasing a promotion and I have moved each time for a position with increasing responsibility or more meaningful work.

Tobey Mac, a Christian artist, has a song called “Me without You” and the chorus strikes a little too close to home for me.  The words are something like “(without you) I’d be packing my bags when I need to stay…”  And prior to this current living situation, I really didn’t give much thought to moving.  Of course, I prayed about all the moves and opportunities and it wasn’t that I made the decisions with a cavalier attitude.  There were definite career-enhancing reasons.  Moving from New England back to DC was for the opportunity to do good things in the education realm, which is and remains a passion of mine.

The move to CA from DC last year was the opportunity to get back to the field and make a tangible difference on a local scale, instead of theoretically on a national scale.  Some of my more skeptical friends have asked me if I’m antsy since I’ve surpassed the year mark out here in the land of the heathen, but my answer is, somewhat surprising even to me, a big ‘No’.  And it’s not just because I really love CA.

Before, I was always able to make a moving decision fairly quickly as I had only to gather the opinions of myself and Jesus.  And I was typically already on the same page as me and Jesus responds fairly quickly, sometimes.  However, now that I have an aging teenager sharing my home, I can’t be so quick to entertain ideas about moving.  I can’t even entertain ideas about entertaining in my home as my Daddy is, well not exactly anti-social, but the mere thought of persons invading his space without an express invitation, medically necessary task or delivered foodstuff, puts him in a panic.

When I casually I mentioned that I might want to invite my Singles Bible Study group over for a game night.  The sharp intake of breath and look on his face made me immediately reach for his inhaler.  When he questioned why I was handing him his “li’l breathin’ thang” I said, “I thought you were having an episode.  What’s with the face?”

When I answered in the negative to his panicky query of, “Am I gonna have to talk to all them people?” he visibly relaxed and went back to playing his electronic solitaire game.  Can you come up with a more anti-social game than Solitaire?  Even the name alludes to a figurative traffic cop ‘stop’ motion, keeping others at a distance.  I truly feel in my heart of hearts that if he didn’t have to hang out with me due to it being my house and all, he wouldn’t miss me too much.

Well, that’s not necessarily true.  He constantly complains that he feels as if he lives alone, I’m supposedly gone so much.  Other than dinner with friends on Tuesdays, other than running errands for him, I am at home much more than I care to be due to the noise that emanates from his general direction.  Although, in the last week or so, I have had reasonable peace and quiet at home.

His back has been bothering him and the muscle relaxers he takes (only when offered, never on his own) make him sleepy.  I simply do not understand having to remind someone to take a pill that is expressly prescribed for pain when one is in pain.  I came home yesterday at 3:00.  He was sitting at the dining room table eating my chips and drinking his weekly Coke Zero.  When I announced myself upon entering the house, as I always do, I assumed he realized that I was, in fact, in the house.  As I rounded the corner between the kitchen and dining room and said, “Hey!” he jumped like he had been kicked and said, “Lord, boy, you scared the mess outta me!”  Then he grabbed his back and groaned that it was killing him.  When I asked, “When was the last time you took a muscle relaxer?” he said, “Yes’tidy”. 

How on earth can someone not remember to take a pill that will theoretically alleviate the pain they profess to be more than they can handle?  Is it me?  I situate the bottle of pain pills on his placemat, next to his Solitaire game so when he has a spasm and wonders, “is there something around here to stop this pain?  Perhaps a pill?” they will be directly in his eye line.  Yet, he still does not remember to take them.  And he’s not lying, I’ve counted them.  He only takes the ones I place into his hand, wordlessly encouraging him to take it.  And that works.  Maybe I should do the same with clean underwear?

And he has been stating for the past couple of days that he feels too “poorly” to eat.  However, upon just a round of very rudimentary snooping and questioning, he admits to having eaten the same amount of food as a normal day, just not at the scheduled meal times of 5 am, 11 am and 5 pm. 

All that said, I brought him into the conversation because I now have to take into consideration what I will do with The Dad-ster were I to move in the future.  Now, I am truly happy with my current job and my current location and I have no plans to leave, but as I am a mere lad of 41 and 7/8ths (birthday in one month, buy my book as a present to yourself.  If you’ve already purchased my book, then buy yourself something fabulous from a thrift store in my honor) I figure I will move again at some point in the next 20 years, which is right about the time I anticipate retiring and starting my second career as the President of Southwest Mississippi Community College.  I figure, by the time I am 61 and 7/8ths, I will be cold-natured enough to deal with that lovely Land Mass heat (you know I couldn’t just leave that particular stone unturned).

In the days leading up both the landfall of Hurricane Isaac and the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Weather Channel allegedly designated my home state as the “Land Mass between New Orleans and Mobile”.  Whether they did or not I don’t know.  What I do know is that Mississippians didn’t curl up in a ball and cry.  Oh no, that is not the way we do things.  We took to the web because we actually have internet in the South, and computer literacy, too, contrary to what some people seem to believe.  There are, at this very minute, a good many of my fellow Southerners, wringing every last dollar they can selling the t-shirts they printed with all manner of logos and plays on the phrase “Land Mass” and using any remaining pent-up energy to drink, overeat and/or relentlessly post updates on Facebook after watching their SEC teams dominate the various sporting events this weekend.

 And for that I am truly indebted.  Now I don’t have to suffer through ESPN with my Daddy.  I can just wait to see their posts about what ref made a terrible call or what coach is poorly attired and my water cooler chat is primed and ready for the next work day, although with the holiday, I will have to wait until Tuesday.  The programs I watched so far this weekend, the season premiere of Dr. Who and the Miss Venezuela pageant, aren’t typical subjects for water cooler topics as I do not work at a Silicon Valley tech start-up or a beauty shop in Venezuela.  And while Dr. Who talk is seemingly popular with my Facebook crowd, my Daddy thinks it’s because I have nerdier friends.  From him, consider it a compliment, dear readers.  I do.

And I understand the need for the media to find “real” people for interviews on TV.  And, yes, there are those Southerners who are at present sitting between two double-named men at a bar that used to be a single-wide trailer.  And there is probably a woman named after an alcoholic beverage or soap opera character on her way there once she puts the final coat of shellac on her teased hair and smokes one more Marlboro Light 100.  However, to designate them as the spokespersons for all Southerners is mean-spirited and un-Christian.  You can rest assured that we are as horrified at the prospect of these people talking for us, even if they are related much more closely than we will admit without somebody pulling out that big old Bible with the family tree in the front that sits on top of the piano in Aunt Maudie’s front room. 

And that begs the question, why on earth would anyone want to ask the opinion of someone who hasn’t been sober or employed since Carter was in the White House other than to poke fun?  Those involved in TV production love, love, love to take the person with the least amount of teeth and the most questionable DNA and parade them around for the rest of the country as a typical Southerner.  And that just chaps my hide, do you hear me?  Especially if you’ve ever seen an episode of the recently, and thankfully, cancelled ‘Jersey Shore’, all you have to do is change the designation of double-named men to those whose names end in ‘io’ or ‘ie’ and who have more hair gel-based products on their person than felonious Johnson & Johnson lab tech and you have the same level of ignorance on parade.

And you can think what you want about us.  We know who we are; we of the literate South.  Of gentility and respect and rules about the wearing of white.  Of charming accents and biting wit.  Of "yes, ma'ams" and "no, sirs" and other manners that seem to escape our fellow Americans.  If CNN and TWC and other media outlets had to navigate a section of the country where toothless hillbillies were truly as ubiquitous as they’d have everyone believe, then they wouldn’t have had access to satellite feeds, comfortable bed and breakfasts and good food.  

However, most Southerners (apparently not me) don’t let that sort of thing bother us.  They simply smile and shake their heads and maybe even roll their eyes just when someone named Catfish, Cornbread or other foodstuff makes a statement that is too inane for comment.  And it’s because we know they don’t know any better because they weren’t raised right.  And you can’t blame Tater Red or Biscuit for wanting to be the center of attention.  He’s been trying to figure out how to get on TV since half of his family was on ‘America's Funniest Home Videos’ for the tape of that incident with a backhoe, four dozen Roman candles and a Shetland Pony.   The other half was on ‘Cops’ for the same incident.

As someone who has lived all over America, I can assure you that there are stupid people everywhere and my New Jersey example was but one geographical simile.  Unfortunately, these other states don’t get as much press as our characters do because, I guess, we’re just so darn colorful.  One day when they option my book for a TV movie and I get a big fat check and I cash that check and it clears the bank and I spend that money, I assure you I will go all Julia Sugarbaker on them.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

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