Just Breathe

Nine months passed and my wife asked many people the exact same question, “How will I know when I go into labor?”  The answer was always the same, “Don’t worry, you’ll know.”

We had just gone to our latest doctor’s appointment and we had planned for the inevitable day – we even set the day to be induced if the inevitable didn’t happen on its own.  It was all just a matter of time now.  Before we left that appointment, my wife asked one more time, “How will I know when to come in?”  Once again, our doctor told her not to worry, she will surely know.

We got home from our appointment and my wife went to lie down on the couch.  I went upstairs to paint the nursery a bit more.  The nursery project became a huge ordeal because we can never do anything simply – my wife and I couldn’t decide on what theme to put in the baby’s room so, naturally, we decided we would choose all of our favorite childhood characters from EVERYTHING and create a 360-degree mural with literally hundreds of characters hand drawn and painted (don’t judge, you know that sounds awesome).  Here’s a small sample:

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Anywho, I came downstairs after a little while and my wife said she was feeling weird.

“Like labor?”

“No.  I don’t know.  I don’t think so.”

We had some dinner.  She kept feeling strange; still unsure whether or not she was in labor.  So we decided to call our doctor.  She said since she just saw us, she doubted my wife was in labor.  PLUS, my wife was unsure and she would definitely know if she was in labor.  But she thought this would be a good opportunity to practice – don’t worry about bringing all of my wife’s stuff with us, she’d meet us at the hospital, check my wife out, and then send us home.

On our way out of the house we passed my father on his way in to help me paint some of the nursery.  I told him to start painting the gray sections and we would be back home soon.  We drove to the hospital joking and laughing, because it’s not like this was the real thing, right?  ***You see where this is going, don’t you?***

We get to the hospital and our doctor meets us and walks with us into Labor & Delivery.  Once again, she tells us that since she just examined my wife, this is probably nothing, but she’ll go through the motions just as if it were the real deal.  So my wife changed into a hospital gown, they hooked her up to the monitors, and the doctor examined her again.  The doctor raised her eyebrows, gave a little laugh, and said, “You’re in labor!”

Holy crap.

I sprinted out of the hospital, back to the car, and drove back home to get everything we left behind.  I pulled into the driveway and burst through the door of my house and almost right into my father who was standing in my kitchen holding my cat like baby Simba from The Lion King.  What was really strange was my father and my dangling cat were both looking at me with the same guilty expression.  My mind cleared from baby-shock enough to focus on the cat hanging from my dad’s hands and I noticed that one of her paws was wet and gray.  I then looked at my carpet and noticed a tiny gray footprint every couple inches.  My father said, “We were going to have it cleaned by the time you got home.”  I don’t know what was funnier, the fact that my father didn’t throw the cat under the bus for being the sole culprit or that he included her in the plan to clean up the mess.  In either case, I informed both of them about what had happened at the hospital, grabbed everything I needed, made a few phone calls, and raced back to the hospital.  I was so afraid that I was going to miss the birth of my son…yeah, I know now that was silly to worry about that, but back then I had no idea that I had another 20+ hour wait ahead of me.

As soon as I went back into my wife’s room my uncanny gift of saying stupid things returned in full force.  Gentlemen, let me help you out a bit:

  • Never “Thank God” that you missed them putting in the IV because needles gross you out.
  • Never drum along with the contraction monitor.
  • Never justify the drumming by telling your wife the baby’s heartbeat is “funky.”
  • Never keep track of the intensity of the contractions to let your wife know when she had one that beats her previous record.
  • If she does not beat her previous record, never tell her that the contraction “wasn’t that bad.”
  • When your wife says she is “so uncomfortable,” never compare it to how hard it is for you to sleep in the hospital chair.
  • Never remind her how long this “birth thing” is taking.
  • When the really heavy labor begins, saying things like “You’ve got this, piece of cake” is not a smart thing to say.

Eventually, the baby’s head was visible…at least a small part of it.  I told my wife the baby’s head was almost out.  The doctor said, “No it isn’t.”  I saw more of the head emerge.  I told my wife the baby’s head was almost out.  The doctor said, “No it isn’t.”  I saw more of the head emerge.  I told my wife the baby’s head was almost out.  The doctor said, “No it isn’t.”

  • Never ask how big the baby’s head is with a surprised expression in your voice.

Finally, my son was born.  It was honestly the most amazing thing I had ever experienced in my life.  They moved so quickly, gave him to my wife, his color instantly changed from that gross lizardy gray, to a perfect pink.  I cut the cord…dear Lord was that gross…I had heard about it and I just figured it was a snip and go kind of deal.  Geez, this was like trying to carve a sausage with safety scissors!

The most magical part was that my son cried until I spoke to him for the first time.  He instantly stopped and looked toward the sound of my voice.  Cool.

He was so small.  So innocent.  And the best thing?  It would be a long, long time before he was old enough to understand that the things Daddy says are usually really, really dumb.

“Actually I don’t remember being born, it must have happened during one of my black outs.” ~ Jim Morrison

 

Whoa baby!

My wife and I were not married long before we found out we were going to have a baby.  Some people use the term “unplanned” or “surprise.”  For some reason, my wife doesn’t approve of me calling him an “oops.”  In any case, our time of ice cream for breakfasts and our profanity-enriched, all-day South Park marathons had come to an end too soon.  I had always heard pregnancy was difficult for a woman, but I had no idea how difficult it would be for me!  For example, I never knew that one of the first symptoms of pregnancy is that the father of the child has an insatiable need to say really stupid things.  Or maybe I just sucked at being the husband of a pregnant chick…

My…let’s call it a speech impediment…started right away.  My wife was feeling a little weird and she had her suspicions that there may be a fetus on board, so we bought a pregnancy test.  The instructions said it should take up to 5 minutes to get results.  What it didn’t say was that could take as little as NO TIME for results to show.  There was no 5 minute reprieve for us…she was seeing the results instantly.  She didn’t even have time to tell me we had to wait.  She literally said, “Now we have to wait 5 minutes…whoa!”

I ran to the bathroom and saw that little line starting to appear on the tiny little stick.  It is the longest and hardest I’ve ever stared at something someone else had peed on.

I’ll admit – I thought maybe if we waited the full 5 minutes, the line just might fade away again.  It didn’t.

When it became apparent that this was really happening, my wife and I retired wordlessly to the living room and sat in silence on the couch for a very long time.  So many thoughts were rushing through our minds.  Disbelief, happiness, fear, joy, excitement, panic…and then that little voice in the back of my head told me, “Say something funny; she’ll appreciate it.”  You know when something seems way funnier in your head than when you say it out loud?  Yeah, this was one of those times.

I looked my wife in the eyes, smiled a little and broke the long silence between us with, “Mine?”

So much funnier in my head.

I knew right then my wife would be a good mother because she patted me on the knee and said, “There are some times in our lives when we will always remember what was said.  This is one of those times.”  She might as well have said, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.”

She did exact her revenge on me at our first ultrasound appointment.  After greeting my wife, the technician acknowledged me and said, “…and this must be Dad.”  To which my wife responded without missing a beat, “No, this is my husband.”  Touché, dear, touché.

For nine months I continued saying things that should have remained unsaid.  I wasn’t even making conscious choices to say these things!  The dumb just leaked out of my face constantly!  Things like “You slept for three hours?  That’s not so bad!” and “Yeah, my back is killing me, too” were normal phrases that I scattered around like a braindead forest nymph strewing his moronic flower petals in a fertile field of stupidity.  Oh, and on a side note, the words “larger” and “lady” should never be placed next to each other under any circumstances.

Strangely enough, the worst thing I ever said to my pregnant wife was, “What’s a Mr. Misty?”  It was the one and only time she had a craving – she wanted a Mr. Misty from Dairy Queen.  I had never heard of it before and I wanted to know if it was something like a Blizzard.  Now, she had been so calm and patient with me through all of my frequent momentary lapses of intelligence, but this one was unforgivable.  She flipped out – a head spinning, pea soup spewing, profanity-laden conniption!  “HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW WHAT A MR. MISTY IS?!!  IT’S CRUSHED ICE AND FLAVORS AND IT’S THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD TASTE GOOD RIGHT NOW!!!” 

“You mean like a Slush Puppy?”

“NO!!!!  THEY’RE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT!!!!”

“Okay, I’ll go get a Mr. Misty.  No problem.  What flavor?  Cherry?  Lime?  Human souls?”  Okay I didn’t say that last one (surprisingly) but I sure was thinking it!

I ran out of the house, jumped in the car and peeled out.  Luckily I had a full tank of gas, because if our Dairy Queen didn’t have this slushy I was just going to keep driving.  No way in hell I was going back home!  I never prayed for flavored ice before, but that day I called for backup from God, Buddha, Shiva, and anyone who wanted to help for a cup of crushed ice and some fruity syrup.  Fortunately, my prayers were answered and I was allowed back in the house.

We started going to the birthing classes which turned out to be a support group for women who were stuck with morons who got them pregnant.  I’m not sure if it had the desired effect though, because all it did was let all of the men in the room realized our stupidity was natural and we now had a captive audience of chuckleheads that would laugh at our lame attempts at humor.  At one point we even watched a video of a woman giving birth while her husband sang “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” to her through her labor pains.  Even the father-to-be in the instructional video was a dipweed!  And, of course, my compatriots saw this and started laughing like a bunch of middle school boys after hearing a fart in class!  Surprisingly enough, we passed the birthing class and got a certificate that said it was okay to be responsible for the life of another human being.

It wasn’t long after that when we decided to move to our new house and then it was time for the main event…the birth.  I’d like to say that I rose to the occasion and got that foot removed from my mouth while we were at the hospital…but, alas, I didn’t.  Let’s save that tale for tomorrow…

“It’s a great thing about being pregnant – you don’t need excuses to pee or eat.” ~ Angelina Jolie

Old, New, Borrowed, and Ham

I had the perfect ring (even though I was scolded by a jeweler for buying tanzanite during a time of war) and I was ready to propose.  I was home and I was planning on asking her in the morning.  It was late on a warm summer evening.  I was on the porch with my father and grandfather – the two men I looked up to the most, my heroes; the two guys I’m glad I was with on the eve of the most important day of my life.  My father speaks out calmly through the darkness, “Are you ready?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I reply.

“Did you ever think she’d say ‘no’?”

“…………….well, not until right now.”  I figured that was as good of a time as any to go to bed and lie awake for the rest of the night.

The next morning we were getting ready to take a short trip, but I didn’t want to wait; we had been together a long time and I didn’t want to wait a second longer than I had to.  So I went over to where she was living at the time and proposed.  It was the perfect moment: just the two of us…and her landlady who joined us just as I got down on my knee.  The three of us shared a hug.  It was magical.  Hey, did your proposal get crashed by your landlady?  No. You’re jealous.

We had a year to plan– we wanted the wedding to be the same day as the anniversary of our first date, which was also the same day I proposed.  Awwww, how sweet, right? (plus we only have to remember one day – good planning, huh?!)

We started planning immediately after I proposed.  Our wedding party was going to be massive!  If you counted us and the flower girl and ring bearer, it was seventeen people.  On top of that, we were going to try and pay for most of it ourselves.  And on top of THAT, I’m a control freak who really isn’t too good at organization and time management.

Luckily, my wife and I have large families and lots of friends with eclectic hobbies – including florists, photographers, videographers, DJs, cake designers, and musicians.  CHA-CHING!  We got a ton of good deals with all of that!  Then we took care of invitations, decorations, and favors ourselves.  That left the tuxes and gowns (which we had a friend’s mom cut us a good deal), the reception hall, the food, and my wife’s gown.

The gown was easy!  My wife is brilliantly thrifty.  She found a white prom gown that she fell in love with and found a seamstress to make a train for it.  It was gorgeous!  And her seamstress was a little person.  No, that’s not a criticism and no, I’m not going to make any distasteful remarks about little people.  But this a fact that will be important later.

As for the food, we wanted it to be simple.  Pasta, veggies, cold cuts, and cookies.  However, my mother wanted ham.  No, that’s not entirely true.  We needed ham.  Apparently, it’s a wedding staple, and my mother looked at me like I had an arm growing out of my forehead when I told her we weren’t getting any.  She looked to my father for backup, but all he cared about was having fresh shelled peanuts on the tables (which we had brought in from a professional peanut roaster just for him, but the caterers lost the bags, and he hasn’t let us live that down yet).  I was unaware that all weddings have ham.  And even though my wife is a vegetarian and I’m not a big fan of ham (now bacon…that’s another story), we saw the err of our ways and added ham to the menu.

Finally, the big day arrived.  The guests were arriving and I was hanging out in a little prep room in the front of the church.  One of my groomsmen came in with this weird look on his face, “You have a wedding crasher and…um…she’s…” he held his palm down by his knee.

“What?  Short?”  Both my wife and I have a lot of Italian blood; short people at our wedding would be the norm!

“Yeah, but like not just regular short.  I asked her if she was here for the bride or groom and she said she’s just here to see the dress.”  Then it all clicked.  Apparently, the seamstress makes it a point to crash all the weddings of the brides whose gowns she works on.  Hey, did your wedding get crashed by a little person?  No. You’re jealous.

The ceremony was about to begin and it was a thousand degrees outside (no air conditioning, by the way).  My aunt (our mistress of ceremony) went out to get things prepped for the candle lighting and face-planted at the altar.  Our mothers had a difficult time with the child-proof lighters, which might have been a good thing considering my wife almost tipped the candles over and burned the church down…probably wouldn’t have been the best omen for our marriage.

After the ceremony we decided to drive to a very scenic spot by a lake to take our photographs.  My cousin was our photographer, so I was already familiar with his work – plus he lives far away so it was cool just to have him there.  Because the wedding party was so big, we just teamed up and drove cars instead of renting a limousine.  Upon arriving at the spot we realize we had lost two groomsmen AND the photographer.  The two groomsmen were also cousins and were the transportation for the photographer.  Their car was there, but they were nowhere to be found.  The bridal party fanned out and began a search party.  We looked everywhere and couldn’t find them.  Keep in mind, this was back before cell phones were so popular so we just stood around trying to figure out where they could have disappeared when all of a sudden we see them walking up the hill from a local bar each carrying an order of buffalo wings. Now, to this day, I’m not upset that they ditched us to go get wings. However, coming back without wings for the groom on his wedding day?  Inexcusable.

We finished our pictures and drove to the reception, and my wife and I entered to the dulcet tones of Ozzy Osbourne.  We ate, we danced, we sweat (no air conditioning there either, by the way), we had our cake taken away from us before we could eat it…it looked so good too, and I needed something to get the taste of ham out of my mouth.  We had a full contact garter toss and the lucky catcher (who technically was never invited to the wedding…) tackled other guests to grab victory!  And, of course, like I wrote about in yesterday’s post, I blew out my knee on the dance floor.

As the evening was winding down and coming to an end, we retreated to my parents’ house to open the gifts and cards with just our parents and sisters…and an Abraham Lincoln impersonator.  Nope, there’s no other story to go along with that.  He’s a family friend and when I came downstairs from taking a shower I was surprised to see him there.  Hey, did your intimate family gathering get crashed by the 16th President of the United States?  No. You’re jealous.

“My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.” ~ Winston Churchill

A Bum Knee is Better Than a Kneed Bum

I am hurting today!  I had a really awesome karate class yesterday with hip tosses and flipping your opponent.  SO COOL!  But, today I am paying the price.  My knees are killing me!  Of course, I have earned every bit of this knee pain over the years through gross amounts of stupidity.

It all started back in high school; back when I started having a life outside of my normal activities with my family.  Before I left the house my father’s famous advice for me was, “Don’t get stupid.”  Most nights I would come back in time for curfew and I could walk by my father with my head held high, confident that I had a stupidity-free night.  Other nights, though, I went and got stupid.

One night in particular I got stupid enough to experience a whole new world of pain.  It was at a dance and, incidentally, a first date (boy, would I impress her).  First of all, I cannot dance.  Furthermore, I do not like to dance.  Not my thing.  I mean, I can slow dance decently, but anything upbeat that takes any sort of rhythm – no thanks.  But, this was a high school dance in the 90’s and we had a DJ who had a thing for the Spice Girls and the Macarena and Cotton Eyed Joe and the dances were pretty upbeat most of the time.  Yippee.  Now, just like any high school kid, I had a circle of friends and this circle of friends brought the dumb out of each other.  One of the less-than-wise things we frequently did was to jump up into each other’s arms (like a groom carrying his bride across the threshold).  I don’t know why!  It seemed pretty harmless at the time, but I soon learned that this was an example of what my father warned me about.  My friend jumped and I caught him, then something went wrong.  Allow me to illustrate with letters: my left leg should have been like an “I” when I caught him, but for some reason it was pointed out like a “/” and when both of our full weights landed on it, it made my knee look like “>” and I said, “*&$#!”  I knew right away that my knee was dislocated.

It popped back in before the doctors at the hospital could see it.  So they braced me up, gave me some ibuprofen, patted me on the head, and sent me home (okay, so there were no head pats, but wouldn’t it be nice if that was part of the treatment?) to rest my leg for a while.  The real bummer was, from time to time, that knee would randomly pop out of place and I would be braced up again.  It was still giving me problems in college – it popped out once and I had to drive myself to the medical center (it was a real hoot trying to drive a stick shift with one leg that wasn’t entirely attached the way it should have been) where the campus doctor/nurse/shaman squeezed it (ouch), told me it was dislocated, gave me Tylenol, patted me on the head, and sent me back to my dorm.

Over the years, I learned how to put it back in place myself – yeah, I know, I know, another example of “getting stupid.”  But, in my defense, the first stupid is what wrecked my knee, the second stupid fixed it.  Therefore, two stupids make a smart.  It wasn’t a frequent problem though; it slipped a bit occasionally, but nothing too concerning.

And then came my wedding day…

As stated above, I don’t dance.  I dislike it.  Not my thing.  But it is my wife’s thing and it was our wedding and I was determined to make the most out of every second of that special day (tune in tomorrow for the rest of that tale) and if my wife wanted to dance then, by golly, I would dance.  And I danced with my wife to our song, and I danced with my mom, and I danced with tons of guests for the dollar dance, and, yes, I even danced to the fast stuff and our DJ played all the typical wedding stuff.  For a while, I was actually starting to forget how much I disliked dancing as I busted out my best ChaCha Slide moves…in treadless tuxedo shoes…on a hardwood floor.  The good news is I only slipped with one leg, the bad news is the leg that stayed in place looked like a “<” and the worst news of all…it was the other leg.

That’s it.  No more dancing.  Karate and bodyslams, sure.  But, dancing?  No.  My dad told me not to “get stupid!”

“The Rolling Stones set the bar to where I look to as a band.  But I don’t envision myself touring in the way they do.  My knees won’t hold out.” ~ Jon Bon Jovi

Oh Deers

Growing up in a small city, I didn’t really see too many deer (deers?  How can that word sound wrong both ways?) in the wild.  I usually just saw them dead on the highway and it made me sad as a child.  After my wife and I got married and lived in an old farm house near a densely wooded area, I got to see them by the dozens.  So majestic, so agile, so beautiful…they quickly lost their appeal now that I’m convinced they are targeting me for assassination.  That’s right, the deer are plotting to kill me.

I NEVER did anything to them!  I’m an animal lover and a wildlife supporter.  I mean, yeah, I’ve eaten a few of them, but c’mon they’re delicious.  Even a pig has to admit bacon is pretty amazing.  “You’re eating, Bruce?!!  Oh, wait, you made him into bacon?  That’s cool, enjoy.”  Deer just need to get over themselves and realize, along with being graceful, they are pretty doggone tasty.

But this scheme started even before I tried venison for the first time.  It all started back before I was married.  I had dropped my wife-to-be back at her house about 20 minutes from where I lived and I was driving home.  I was on a major road, no woods around, and I saw a deer run into the median.  I slowed down to let him pass and he stopped.  He walked up to my car and looked right into my window – just staring at me and it was very clear he did not like me.  I don’t know what made him look at me with such disdain, but I could see it in his eyes – I had to watch my back.  Then he snorted and blew snot on my window.  I mean, really?  You made your point – were the boogers really necessary.  That was just rude.

They laid low for a couple years – I saw them standing at the side of the road, never running into the street after my car, but just watching.  Observing my travel patterns until they decided it was time to strike!

I was on my way to work one morning and I saw one waiting for me in someone’s front yard.  It waited until I was almost past him and he made his move!  He charged my car and I ran over him.  No, I didn’t say I hit him.  I said I ran over him.  I don’t know if he was trying to trip my car or what his plan was (he definitely wasn’t the brains of the operation) but he did a baseball slide in front of me!  He sprawled out like Superman and I went right over top of him!  Scared the crap out of me but as I looked back, there he was staring at me, shocked that his plan had failed.  And he simply walked between a couple of houses.  He was FINE!  Except for a bunch of fur under my car he seemed unscathed.  But the first shot had been fired in our war.

Not long after we moved into our current house, we learned that our neighbor was the “Deer Whisperer.”  They were always hanging around his place and they would walk right up to him and let him feed them from his hands.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  That’s not legal.  But, legal schmegal, you’ve got to admit that’s pretty cool!  Well knowing what I knew about my new neighbor, it didn’t surprise me at all that there was a young fawn hanging out by his garage.  I was on my way out to get my mail and there the little guy was.  Adorable!  So I thought I would be neighborly and say hello.  I was talking to the fawn for a while and he slowly walked onto my property, and stopped about 15 feet from me.  This was so awesome!  I took a couple steps closer and he was perfectly calm – he must be used to people.  Then I realized I shouldn’t have been focusing so closely on the little yearling because I caught a glimpse of Mommy in my peripheral vision.  That’s how they get you!  Like the raptors from Jurassic Park, while you’re watching one, another one attacks you from your flank!  Diabolical!  DEERabolical even!!  I turned my attention to the doe and I decided to try to be neighborly to her, too.  I greeted her and told her that I was the new neighbor (I know, you’d think that would work, wouldn’t you) and she responded by bowing her head and stomping her hoof.  Now, I’m no expert but I think now was the time to shriek and run away, so I did (it was a manly shriek).

Not long after that incident, I was driving with my family and we were passing by a golf course and my wife yells, “DEER!”  I didn’t see it, but I slammed on my brakes anyway.  I had enough time to scan the area in front of my car and ask, “Where?” before the deer runs full speed into the passenger side of my PARKED CAR!  HE HIT ME!  Full force – spit all over the window, door mangled, thousands of dollars of damages!  It was a direct attack!  They were getting bolder!

Now I believe they are starting to use performance enhancing drugs as well!  Not long ago we were at home and we heard a familiar screech and thud in front of our house.  Shortly after the flashing lights of a police cruiser were shining through our window.  Finally, the inevitable POW let us know that the officer put the poor animal out of its K’POW…out of its miser POW…seriously?  Three shots to put the deer out of its POW POW POW POW!  That’s when I abandoned my wife and children and locked myself in my cellar!  This Uber-deer assassin just took seven bullets AFTER getting hit by a car!  This was not an ordinary deer – this one was juicing before he came after me!  This venison was seasoned with bath salts, if you catch my drift!

But deer like that aren’t born, they’re made.  There was a dead deer right by my driveway for four days.  It was as gross as you could possibly imagine.  But then a mysterious minivan pulled up and tossed the deer inside.  Not a city truck; a minivan!  They were probably taking it back to some lab to turn it into a Frankendeer or a Deerminator!  I’m telling you, we’re on the threshold of deermageddon!

Mark my words, I will stay alert.  I will stay vigilant.  And, as God as my witness, I will never cry for Bambi’s mother again!

“I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres

Old is Awesome

I can’t wait to be old.  Old people are so cool!  No, not like the ones who rifle through the milks looking for the latest expiration date and then pay by check in the checkout line or the ones who complain when a restaurant gives them too much food (seriously, doggy bags have been around for a long time, surely you can handle this situation).  But I’m talking about the awe inspiring examples of what people used to be like before our marshmallowy squishy excuse for generations came around.

I had some great examples growing up with my grandparents and even a great-grandfather to study.  I can only hope to attain a level of badassery that they possessed.

I suppose it started before my great-grandpa, but I don’t know much about my family tree that far back.  My Grandpa John’s name was Carl…let that set in for a moment…this man was so cool, I didn’t know his real name until I was almost a teenager.  He was straight off the boat from Sweden and he is technically a survivor of the Titanic.  Technically he was supposed to be on that ship.  Technically he needed to take a later trip.  So technically he survived the Titanic.

He was a man of very few words.  I only remember him saying things like, “Hi,” “Bye,” and “Beer, please.”  He lived to be 99 (I know, way to drop the ball, Gramps) and he was active for most of those years…overly active…like he probably shouldn’t have been on roofs in his 80’s.  Yeah, I said roofs…plural.  One time his roof needed fixing and he didn’t need any help fixing it, so up on the house he went.  My grandmother was worried sick, not because he was on the roof, but because she couldn’t find him.  She looked all over the house, all around outside, and he was nowhere to be found.  The man was in his 80’s – he could have wandered off who knows where!  But good ol’ Grandpa didn’t want to get in trouble so as soon as he heard his daughter was looking for him, he pressed himself up against the part of the roof where he couldn’t be seen.  Eventually, he was caught and scolded.  Not as badly as when he did it a couple years later and was forced to come back in through a window instead of down the ladder thus tracking tar through the house.  He learned his lesson though – when it came time to take down the television antenna from the house, he got tired of his family yelling at him not to…so he tied a rope around one of his grandchildren, anchored them in the attic, and had them do it.

The man was fearless and never was it more evident then when we decided to celebrate one of his last birthdays with a cake containing all of the necessary candles (I think it was somewhere around 95 – I can’t remember exactly – more than 90, less than 99 and definitely more candles than should have been lit at one given time).  He was the only one who didn’t scream when all of those pretty little flames banded together to create one giant birthday fireball.  He just sat there with a little grin patiently waiting for a charred piece of wax-encrusted cake.

He is certainly not the only tough knot in the wood of my family tree.  For the past few posts, I have mentioned Pop – my grandpa.  Awesome guy and tough as nails.  He is the guy I think of when it comes to badassery.  I’m sure the following sentence isn’t used often, but one day I came home and my parents told me, “Your grandfather was hit by a semi; don’t worry, he’s fine.”

A.  Semi.

He was driving cars from an auction back to a dealership (as he did nearly every day) and he hit an icy patch at the end of an on-ramp and slid into the path of an on-coming 18-wheeler.  He was driving a little, sporty car (his favorite) and the car was torn in half.  The semi driver stopped as soon as he could and ran back to the scene of the accident knowing there was nothing he could do for whomever was in that car.  Well, I guess technically he was right.  My grandfather met him on the road while he was looking for his hat that got thrown off his head and tossed into the part of the car that was turned into confetti. The semi driver asked if Pop had seen what happened to the people in the car…Pop just wanted to know if the guy could help him find his hat (in his defense, it was a pretty cool hat).  The next day my grandmother and I got him to agree to go to the hospital to get checked out.  When the doctor asked why he was there, Pop told him that he had gotten in a car accident with a tractor trailer.  The doctor laughed and waited for the real answer.  He stopped when he looked at my grandfather and saw that he was serious.  He was taken for x-rays and it’s a good thing he went to the hospital when he did because the bruise on his hip needed some ice.

I don’t think I could ever measure up to those two guys.  I’m pretty much a pansy who hates being on roofs now and whimpers whenever a semi drives by me.  However, I do think I’m probably going to take advantage of my age like my grandmother does.  My grandma (who will soon be 90 and who will NOT be getting a cake with 90 candles…lesson learned) does more than embrace her age – she exploits it.  She still drives on her own and even plays soccer with my son in her backyard.  Now, granted, I’ve been in the car with her when she decided that traffic rules don’t apply to her after a certain age including the “we always drive on the right” rule (I told her that I know she feels like she’s had a good long life, but I would still like some more of mine) and I have caught her standing over my son’s prone body looking down on him (in her sweater, long skirt, and sneakers) mockingly telling him, “Well, we could tackle in soccer when I was a kid!”

I have a long way to go, but it’s going to be fun when I get there!

“Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ~ Mark Twain

Movin’ On Up

If I ever helped you move, you are important to me.  If I ever helped you move twice, I truly love you – like take a bullet for you kind of love.  If I ever helped you move three times, you’re a LIAR!!  I don’t like anyone that much!  I would choose to do just about anything if it meant I wouldn’t have to move.  It’s the worst.  I swear that Murphy’s Law was named after some old “Murphy Bros. Moving Company” because if it’s possible for things to go wrong on moving day, it will.

Every time I had to move, so many things went wrong.  It all started when I moved to college for the first time – it’s normal to misplace things or even lose things during the transition.  What did I lose during my first move?  My grandfather.  Yup – lost one of the human beings helping me move!  My parents and grandparents came to help me get settled in my first dorm room and good ol’ Pop wanted to know why we didn’t use the elevator to get the big stuff to the top floor where I would be living.  I told him we could, but I wasn’t sure where the elevator was in relation to my room.  I went in to get the key, leaving my family outside with the car and upon my return, I noticed we were one person short.  Everyone thought Pop had followed me…nope.  He wanted to check out the elevator.  Then we hear a knocking from over our heads and there he was, in a corner window on a floor that wasn’t mine, in a part of the building nowhere near the elevator.  He was lost and none of us knew how to navigate the labyrinthine hallways of this place to go retrieve him.  There he was, blankly staring down at us waving like a half-price puppy at a pet store waiting for someone to come take him out of the window.  We took a couple loads up to my dorm before we were able to reunite with him.

Fast forward and pick up my post from yesterday.  We were moving out of our “wildlife sanctuary” and it only took moments before our good friend turned a glass-topped end table upside-down…on the bright side, we had the very first open-topped end table.  And the physics lessons continued – you know when you look at something and it just seems wrong but you can’t put your finger on exactly why?  We loaded up my cousin’s pickup truck with a whole bunch of stuff including my desk chair.  That desk chair just didn’t look right.  It all became clear as the truck accelerated out of the driveway and the top-heavy chair did a backflip out of the truck and skidded and rolled down the highway.

As we unpacked the haphazardly packed boxes, patched up the chair, and shopped for new end tables, we vowed this was the last house we would ever buy.  No more moving.  No more chaos.

We lived there for about a year.  And we were walking our young son around the neighborhood and saw an awesome house for sale a few blocks away.  Lo and behold, we were at it again.  We rented a big moving van this time to eliminate all the the cars and multiple trips.  We naturally had more stuff now that we had been married for a couple years and had a baby.  One of the really cool things we had acquired was this massive armoire.  I’m a bit of a cinephile – I have God knows how many movies – and I had purchased this seven-foot armoire to store my DVDs and, yes, VHS tapes.  This thing was a beast!  My father and father-in-law wrapped it carefully in blankets to protect it on the truck.  They skillfully positioned it in the van and packed soft, but solid boxes around it to create a protective, shock absorbing cocoon around it.  When they arrived at the new house, they gingerly lowered it off of the back of the truck and carried it into the house, placed it on the ground, and stepped away.  Then it collapsed like a house of cards into a dozen pieces.

But you know, you are going to have some bumps (or chairs) in the road with projects like that.  So many things happening all at once, it’s bound to get a little hairy from time to time.  The main thing is that no one had any major mishaps like having a washing machine dropped on them…oh wait, yes I did.

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” ~ Mark Twain

Home Squeak Home

There’s a house that was owned by close family friends many years ago.  When they passed away, my aunt and uncle bought it and it has been used by our family for a couple decades now.  Recently, they repaired the roof and had new windows installed.  It’s looking pretty good.  However, as my uncle put it, “If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.”  Now, granted, if you were Kermit the Frog, this would do it for you.  But it’s not the best scenario for real estate.

Since it has been in the family for so long, it’s almost become a rite of passage for different family members to live there throughout the years.  My wife and I had our turn shortly after we got married.  However, we got the pig before the lipstick.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad house – it’s a pretty awesome house.  It’s pushed way back from the road, there’s an amazing view of a lake, and there’s tons of land. However, with all of that comes…critters.  Lots and lots of critters.  I am a huge critter lover!  I love animals more than most people.  But their charm wears off fairly quickly when they stop living out in nature and start living indoors with me.  It started shortly before we got married – my wife lived there for a while before I did and she had a roommate: a squirrel.

I was like most of you: “Aw!  Squirrel!  Cute!”  But no longer.  The damage this little guy inflicted on that house was ridiculous!  He ate the food, he ate the bedding, he ate stuffed animals.  He even found ceramic containers with food in them and gnawed through the METAL LATCHES to get inside.  He.  Ate.  Metal.  He made such a ruckus at night (and she swears he jumped on her a few times) that my wife became so sleep deprived she was hallucinating.  We decided Bullwinkle’s little buddy had to die.  We set up a rat trap – you know, the scary looking ones that look like giant plastic alligators.  I kinda felt bad for the little guy – that had to hurt.  I remember talking to him as I set the trap, trying to reason with him: “Just leave, little buddy.  No harm, no foul.”  Little did I know how outgunned we were.

The next day I went to check the trap and it was sprung.  It definitely had caught him…for a while.  I had heard about wild animals gnawing through parts of their own body to get free from a trap.  However, I had never heard of a wild animal eating a hole around the body part that was stuck.  There was a jagged little circle around the middle of the trap’s jaws.  He.  Ate.  The.  Trap.

Little did we know that he was just the beginning.  My wife and I got married, went on our honeymoon, and returned to our (now squirrel-free) home to start our new life together.  Just my lovely wife and me…and a swarm of metallic blue wasps.  HAVE YOU SEEN THESE?!

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These are the work of the Devil himself!  And they were crawling out of our bedroom closets, out of the door to the crawlspace, and any little nook and cranny that they could get through from the attic space to the inside of the house.  These little boogers were mean!  They attacked as soon as they saw you.  One stung me IN THE BACK before I even knew he was there – that’s just cold.  I’m pretty sure they’re immortal too.  My sister and I went to war with them one day, smashed one with a shoe in the dining room, went upstairs to seal off the places they were coming in.  When we came back downstairs, that little monster was crawling in the living room.

We called an exterminator who took care of the little blue demons, but revealed our next issue.  He took me to the door to the attic and told me, “You guys have bats.  A lot of them.”  Stupid me, I asked how many.  “Dunno.  Hundreds.”  Hm.  I was ballparking five or six.  I was a wee bit off.  He goes on to tell me, “They are all riled up right now because mating season recently ended and they’re very protective of their young.”  To prove his point he banged on the ceiling separating us from the attic and unleashed the most ungodly screeching noise.  Now, I’m no exterminator or animal behavior specialist, but I’m guessing the best plan for not making them mad would have been the opposite of what he just did.  He concludes his lesson by telling me it’s illegal for him to do anything about them.  So tell me I’m living in a bat sanctuary, they can be counted by the gross, piss them all off, and then leave me with them.  Can I pay you by check?

Throughout it all, my wife and I remained animal lovers and we loved living out in the country where we could see all sorts of creatures from our windows.  We would call each other over if we saw anything cool.

“Deer!  Backyard!”

“Cool!  Where?”

“Turkey in the driveway!”

“On my way!”

“Snake!”

“Where?”

“In the office!”

Not good…

So I did what any red-blooded American man would do…made so much noise asking my wife what I should do that the snake got scared back into the vent and proceeded to seal off all the ductwork to the house.

We ended up getting a cat to help us with the pest control but when I caught her in the laundry room staring up at the lights.  It had one of those fluorescent lights you find in office buildings with the translucent plastic covering over the bulbs.  She was watching this light so intently I had to check it out for myself.  That’s when we saw a bat MILITARY CRAWL across the light.  Now before you say, “Oh man up, it’s just a bat” let me explain.  I don’t think it would have bothered me as much if the bat was flying around – that’s what bats do.  Bats.  Don’t.  Crawl.  No one goes, “Oh cool, there’s a lizard flying around the house,” they freak out and scream, “HOLY CRAP!  LIZARDS DON’T FLY!”

The cat watched the bat crawl back, gave a quiet grunt, and left the room.  Being enveloped with all of this nature and wild life allowed me to understand animals a bit better.  I could tell that my cat just said, “Screw this, we need to move.”  She was right, so we did.  But that was a whole different headache…

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” ~ Betty Reese

When Life Gives You Lemons, Drive ‘Em

“I’m an excellent driver.”  But, I know next to nothing about cars – I am not a “car guy” by any means.  Anything I’ve learned about how cars work is based on parts that have broken in the vehicles I’ve owned in the past.

When I first got my license, my parents let me drive the family Subaru.  It was a fabulous family car…when I was 8.  By the time I was driving it, if I got on a road with a speed limit over 35 mph, I would have to pull over if anyone came up behind me so that they could get by.

My first car that was actually mine was a hand-me-down from my aunt and uncle.  A red, ’89 Ford Probe.  I.  Loved.  That.  Car.  I had to learn how to drive stick, but it was so awesome!  Alas, it was an older car when I got it and it only got me through my college years.  I miss that car.

When my Probe finally died, I had to go car shopping for the first time.  As I said at the beginning, I am NOT a “car guy.”  My grandfather, however, was.  Good ol’ Pop.  He was one of the greatest men who ever lived – people I talk to that knew him still bring me to meet other people I don’t know just so they can be introduced to his grandson.  The dude was a legend!  He was a short, round, bald, gravelly-voiced Italian man who had a smile that would light up any room and a line of B.S. that would keep you laughing long after he left.  And HE was the quintessential “car guy.”  He was one of those guys who could hear a car drive by and know what it was by the sound it made.  As soon as he retired he started working for car dealers, driving cars to and from auctions.  He was driving nearly every day- sometimes multiple trips.  So, when it came time to go car shopping, who else would I bring with me?

I had recently gotten engaged to my girlfriend and she and I hopped in my grandfather’s car with my father and the four of us embarked on our mission to buy a car.  My fiancée was a part-time switchboard operator and I was a sales rep for a radio station.  Our combined income was somewhere between postage stamps and dollar menus so we knew we needed to be thrifty.  Now, we have tons of car dealerships in our area, but he didn’t take us to any of them.  I was surprised.  We drove right by all the big lighted signs and full lots and right out of town.  When I inquired where we were going, he told us that he “knew a guy.”  Sure, it sounded kinda “mafia-ish” coming from a gravelly-voiced Italian guy, but Pop was a “car guy,” he knew what he was doing.

A short while later, we pulled into this tiny parking lot where there was a small auto repair garage and about a dozen used cars lined up by the road.  We piled out of the car and another short, round, bald, gravelly-voiced Italian man came out and yelled, “Ay, Frankie!”  Pop beamed his famous smile and met his greeter halfway.  The two men shook hands and, in true old Italian man fashion, hugs and “Howthehellareyas” were exchanged.  He called us over and proudly introduced my father, my fiancée, and I to his friend.  He told him about our situation and the car dealer called his son over to take care of us.  While my father stayed with the two old men (who were making plans to get together with their wives and have dinner together because they hadn’t seen each other in far too long), the man’s son took us to look for our first car.  He pointed us to a sweet looking black Nissan Pathfinder SUV.  It was a couple years old and had a decent amount of miles on it – but it was soooo cool.  He took us out for a test drive.  We were gone for 10 or 15 minutes and I had fallen in love.  It was awesome.

We pulled back into the lot and my grandfather’s friend wanted to know what we thought.  I tried to play it cool and say that I liked it, but we’re not rushing into anything just yet.  We piled back into my grandfather’s car and he and my father asked what we thought – I told them it was an awesome car and I loved it.  My grandfather said, “Yeah, those Pathfinders are good cars, all right.”  That was the end of the conversation.

After my grandfather dropped us back off, we discussed it as a couple and decided we wanted that car.  It was perfect for us.  The next day we called the man up and told him we’d take it.  His son brought the paperwork to my fiancée’s house and they sealed the deal with my father-in-law-to-be signing for me since I was stuck at work all day.

I called Pop and I was so excited to tell him the news.  I remember clearly that my grandmother answered the phone and I said, “Nana?  I need to talk to Pop.”

She screamed for him at the top of her lungs which meant he was probably ten feet away from her.  I hear him shuffling across the lime green and cream linoleum.  He fumbles with the phone and gives me his usual, “Yeah?”

“Pop?  We bought the Pathfinder!”

“You what?”

“We bought the Pathfinder from your friend.”

“MINCHIA!!  What the hell’dya do that for?  I wouldn’t trust that guy as far as I could throw him!”

***Now, for all of you “Medigan” out there who don’t know, “minchia” is the proper spelling of the Americanized “meengya.”  If you don’t know what that means…don’t say it in front of Italians who do, it’s not nice.  And for all of you “Medigan” out there who don’t know what “Medigan” means, don’t say that either.  Also very not nice.***

Gee, I don’t know what gave me the impression that I was dealing with a fine upstanding member of society – other than the fact you HUGGED HIM AND MADE DINNER PLANS!

Needless to say, Pop was right.  The car had been in a major wreck and it was patched up with some shoddy welding.  It made it through one winter and as soon as the spring potholes showed up, I hit one and snapped the wheel right off the axle.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t use the Lemon Law or any legal action against the guys who sold us the car because shortly after we went there, it was shut down by the DEA for being a front for the son’s narcotics sales.

And the moral of the story is, never buy cars from people who hug your grandfather.

“I know a lot about cars, man.  I can look at any car’s headlights and tell you exactly which way it’s coming.” ~ Mitch Hedberg

I’m “Big Brother,” She’s “Survivor”

For years and years and years I would ask for a little brother or sister in my letter to Santa.  I was an only child and I didn’t have a lot of kids that lived around me to play with.  I finally gave up hope…until I was 10.

I remember my mom picked me up from school one day and said that she had something to tell me…I was going to be a big brother.  All the years of wanting a sibling came rushing back to me and I sat there in the car with one culminating thought filling my mind – why?!!  Have I not been a good son?  Have I not fulfilled the duties of an only child sufficiently?  For years this is exactly what I wanted, but since then I’ve gotten used to being the one and only!  But there was nothing to be done – this was happening.

Nine months passed and one month before my 11th birthday, my sister was born.  I have to admit – she was cute.  Granted, I had wanted a brother (my cousin was so distraught that she was born a girl that he spent the rest of the day crying behind our grandmother’s couch) but I quickly became the proud big brother.  And then she got a little bit older and things changed.

I was a pretty typical boy who would wrestle and horse around with my friends.  The problem was my friends were my size and I couldn’t do all of the things we saw on television to them.  Then in scoots this loud, frizzy-haired kid and I thought, “Hmmmm….what can I do to this thing?”  The best thing was that she was such a wild little child that she would get body slammed, pop back up laughing maniacally, and charge back in for another one – like a caffeinated Energizer Bunny!  Who was I to deny her the attention she wanted?  If my little sister wanted to get “Power Bombed” again, then doggone it, her big brother would oblige.  Now before you start getting all judgmental like you always do, I did this stuff on a bed.  Sure, I did it primarily to see how high she would bounce after I slammed her, but, in retrospect, it was also a good safety precaution.

She was always small for her age.  Some would call her petite; I liked to think of her as aerodynamic.  She was my constant physics lesson.  I would look at her much like Wile E. Coyote would look at a blueprint chockfull of seesaws and Acme anvils.  I would get to thinking, “What would happen to such a small person if…” and then I’d have to try it out.  For example, what would happen to such a small person if they planned on running out a screen door at full speed…but the door wouldn’t open?  Step 1: Be on the front porch with your sister in the house.  Step 2: Get sister hyped up like a chihuahua on crack about something at the opposite end of the house.  Step 3: Tell her to go get it and to bring it out on the front porch.  Step 4: Continually yell “Hurry up!” and “Faster!” to encourage her to build up a full head of steam as she races toward the screen door.  Step 5: Keep your foot firmly planted against the bottom of the screen door.

***Experiment Results: The subject will have enough kinetic energy to force the elasticity of the door’s wood enough to turn it into a functional reverse slingshot.  Actual distance subject would have travelled is inconclusive, however she will be thrown far enough to be planted firmly in the hall closet five feet behind her***

I don’t know what it is about our sibling chemistry.  We are both relatively intelligent people (yeah, yeah, I know you’ve probably read some other posts of mine, but let’s use the word “relatively” liberally, shall we?), but when we’re together we always bring out the stupid in one another.  Now, I know you’re going to say something like, “You are almost 11 full years older than her!  You should be the mature, responsible one that she can look up to!”  You know what?  That is totally age-ist and I don’t need to dignify it with a comment.  So there.

Anyway, we (mostly me) came up with bad ideas of how to spend time together.  We invented some horrible ideas for games like “Full Check Living Room Floor Hockey” (with golf clubs).  There was “Office Chair Matrix” where we tried to do that slow motion back bend from The Matrix in a swiveling office chair.  It ends the way you would expect – me tangled and injured in a broken office chair.

We also tried “Oscillating Fan Pole Dancing.”  It ends the way you would expect – me tangled and injured in a broken oscillating fan.

Our crowning achievement was a game called “Worm.”  “Worm” made our previous ideas seem like Nobel-worthy achievements.  Now, granted, I’m using words like “we” and “us” when in all actuality, I was the “brains” behind these activities and she was the hyper woodland creature-like child who was always too excited to participate.  “Worm” was definitely one we both should have scrapped.  Now, picture our parents’ stairs: 10 stairs down from the second floor to a landing about 3 feet wide, a 180-degree turn, then 4 stairs down to the first floor.  The “Worm” was essentially a sibling stuffed sleeping bag…you see where this is going don’t you?  The plan was to slide down the steps, grab the wall molding at the bottom by the landing, and use the force of our slide to spin us around the corner so we can slide down the last four steps.

It didn’t work.

That sleeping bag was FAST!  We hit the wall at the bottom of the first flight of stairs before I even knew what was happening.  Fortunately, we had thrown a whole bunch of stuffed animals in the bottom of the sleeping bag to cushion the blow just in case.  That part worked…for me.  My sister, however, was pretty much mixed in with them and helped to cushion me from hitting the wall too hard.  This was one of those moments that anyone with siblings knows – that panicky feeling you get when for a split second you try to figure out how to keep your brother or sister from A) crying and B) telling your parents what you just did.  I have to add a C) to mine because that was a hard impact and I was pretty sure I had just killed her.  With great trepidation I peeked into the bottom of the sleeping bag to assess the damage.  Remember that scene from E.T. where he was hidden among the stuffed animals?  She kind of looked like that with the exception that her limbs were all akimbo and she had the same excited grin and hyper giggle that told me she would totally do that again.

Even now that we are both grown we try to see who can ‘flick’ the hardest or what would happen if we try to kick each other simultaneously (answer: we both lose).  But we’ve also grown closer – we help each other move, we call each other with big news, she and her husband baptized one of my children.  I was even golfing with her husband when he asked our father for his blessing to marry her – now granted, I had no idea he did it because I was busy chasing geese and making them poop on the golf course…but technically I was there.  Furthermore, I was the first person to know that they were engaged – now granted, I called her to tell her about a super sweet juicer I had just bought but I did call her right after he proposed.  I was so happy for her, and I was so excited that after all these years I was finally getting a little brother, and, honestly, I was a little bummed because she totally overshadowed the super sweet juicer I just bought.

“More than Santa Claus, your sister knows when you’ve been bad and good.” ~ Linda Sunshine