Monday, October 24, 2011

Best Dad Evar on Change

Best Dad Evar sits behind the wheel sporty little electric car, mired in horrible traffic. He growls. “Sometimes I feel like my grandma after she started losing her sight.”
“I’m not following you, Best Dad.”
Best Dad continues as if he didn’t hear the narrator. “We all told her she ought to stop driving, but no one could tell her what to do and we weren’t in any position to stop her. So she kept on driving despite her macular degeneration.”

Best Dad gets this way sometimes, talking in paragraphs, carefully ignoring whoever he’s talking with. So he continues. “One day she was pulling in her into an innocent looking parking space when she heard a horrible noise like metal nails on a metal chalkboard. She wasn’t sure what the problem was until she got out of the car and found her little sedan wedged under the side of a delivery truck in the adjacent space.”
“She didn’t think the damage was too bad.” He continues. The narrator wisely chooses to let this story run its course. “‘Just a scrape,’ she said. But when she took the car to a body shop, they told her that the scrape had caused structural damage to both passenger doors and both fenders. All of them would need to be replaced, which would cost more than the car was worth. Her parking mishap had totaled the car!!

“So how is it you feel like her now, Best Dad? Your eyesight is fine.” the narrator asks doubtfully.
“Well, I feel like my life, my future is like my grandma’s driving. Things are changing around me, the world, my job, my children, et cetera, and I’m trying to make the right choices for myself and my family. But I feel like I can’t see where I’m going. There could be disaster looming just out of my line of sight.” Best Dad says thoughtfully, staring off into the back yard.
“Yeah, that’s kinda how life is, Best Dad.” The unspoken “duh!” is evident in the narrator’s tone of voice. “So, you job is changing, huh? No more forklifts?”
“Nope!” Best Dad smiles broadly. “Back to doing loans!”

“Sounds like you’re taking ownership of your future; going back to something you’ve always enjoyed.”
“Yeah.” Best Dad replies with a small, but satisfied smile. “I feel like financial services is where I belong.” He can’t resist a ‘but’, though. “But I’m always nervous starting a new job. I’ve had so many over the years-”
“No kidding!” the narrator rudely interrupts. Best Dad scowls. He’d be giving the narrator the old-fashioned stink-eye if he was visible.
“Honestly, it’s not really the job that’s making me uneasy. It’s …” Best Dad Evar hesitates, chewing on his bottom lip.

“What is it, Best Dad Evar?” the narrator’s curiosity is piqued.
“You’re not going to believe me.” He says, looking down at the steering wheel. This isn’t dangerous, as the car is crawling through one of the many bottlenecks on his short route home.
“Well, you can’t leave that matzah ball hanging out there. You have to tell me now!”
“What! This isn’t Seinfeld! I don’t have to-“ Suddenly Best Dad’s shoulders slump in defeat. “Oh, all right, I’ll tell you.”
“Out with it!”
“My Ipod, it… it won’t play the songs I want to hear.”

The narrator makes a “pfft!” sound, like someone who’s spit out a mouthful of milk or cream soda. Then he starts laughing loudly. It’s one of those belly laughs that seems like it will never stop. A guffaw. “You said I had to tell you.” Best Dad sounds wounded.
“All right, all right. I’m sorry.” The narrator replies, still composing himself. “Do you mean that if you choose a song, your Ipod won’t play it?”
“Well, no, it plays the first song I pick. But then it chooses some random song that has no connection to the one I chose!”
“I see that you have the genius feature turned on.” The narrator says, casually, but with the intonation of one who thinks he’s speaking to a techno-phobic idiot.
“Yes, yes, I know what the genius feature is and I know what it’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to play songs similar to or with some connection to the first one.”
“Right.” The narrator replies, with a questioning upward tilt at the end of the word.
“These choices are nothing like what I chose. Listen! Listen to what’s on right now!”

“Um…” the narrator tries to pick out what song is playing. “It’s… ‘Power’ isn’t it? I didn’t know you liked Kanye West.”
“You sound surprised. But whether I like it or not isn’t the point! The song I chose was ‘Clocks.’”
“The Coldplay song.”
“Exactly. Now how does the genius choose ‘Power’ to follow ‘Clocks’?!”
“It is quite a contrast in styles.”
“It feels like someone is messing with me.”
The narrator chuckles softly. “Well, it’s not me.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Best Dad Evar's Safe Haven

Today, Best Dad Evar is driving back from the grocery store, the rear compartment of the sporty little car that doesn’t belong to him filled with bags of frozen fish sticks, Dora-themed yogurt, and caffeine-delivery systems for the grownups. The children are in the rear seats making a racket. The younger child is singing along loudly with the song playing through the car’s speakers, while the older child scowls and growls, “Daddy, tell her to stop!”
Best Dad Evar is trying hard to ignore them both, but failing. He sighs loudly. You might call it a “huff”.
“Stop what?” He rolls his eyes toward the older one, who’s within his line of sight if he simply turns his head a bit.
“Tell her to stop singing!” The knitted brow and pout of the oldest one tell him clearly that this … is … serious!

“Why should I tell her to stop singing?”
“Because she doesn’t get the words right and it’s annoying!”
When they reach the next stoplight, Best Dad turns completely around in his seat and in a syrupy-sweet voice, asks the younger child, “Please honey, could you be a little quieter? Your singing is bothering your sister.”
The younger child is downcast as she agrees, “Okay, Daddy.” She shoots a look filled with daggers at her older sister. You can almost see what she’s thinking, she always gets her way.

“How does she know this song, anyway?” Best Dad Evar asks open-endedly, but knowing that the older child will quickly answer if she knows, which she usually does.
“This song plays all the time when we’re in the car.”
“Really? How did that song get on here?”
“It’s your Ipod, Daddy.” Says the sassy seven year-old. “Don’t you know how it got on there?” She doesn’t say this in a mean way, but it’s obvious Best Dad is distressed to find that he doesn’t know how the song came to be on his machine.

Best Dad changes the subject quickly, asking the younger child about the song, “You know the words to this song, little one?”
“Yes, Daddy, I like that song!” She shouts agreeably. The older one rolls her eyes again.
The family arrives home and the children tumble out of the car quickly. They run up the driveway and thump through the front door. “Mommy!!” they both shout as the door crashes into the wall of the entryway, further compromising the sheet rock that stays nicely out of view only when the front door is open.

Best Dad Evar stays in the driver’s seat of his brother’s car a moment longer. It’s a rare opportunity to collect himself, which he doesn’t want to miss.
“I’ve always thought of the car as a safe haven to sing your heart out if that’s what you want to do.” He says to himself, but as if he knows someone might be listening and might want to talk with him. “I’m not embarrassed if someone else sees me singing and I would like for my kids to feel free to sing in the car themselves.” He pauses a moment to see if his personal narrator will reply. Or is it the voice in his head? He’s still not quite sure.
Sure enough, “Well surely your kids will believe the car is a place they can feel free to sing.” The narrator replies with a tinge of hope, “But maybe not while they’re in the car together.” Best Dad Evar nods knowingly and chuckles softly. Then his thoughts shift again and his brow knits.

“You look puzzled, Best Dad Evar.” The narrator’s voice asks from somewhere inside the cockpit. (That’s what they call the area around the driver in these newer cars because it is loaded with gauges and control panels like some newfangled jumbo jet).
“I barely know that song.”
“What song, Best Dad?”
“The one my daughter was singing along with. I guess it’s called ‘Listen to Me’.”
“The Buddy Holly song?”
“Yeah, that one.”
“Isn’t it on your Ipod?”
“I guess so. I just didn’t know I had it on there.” His brows are furrowed now.
“Do you keep your Ipod set to genius?”
“I must have. But I still can’t figure how it chose that song.”
“What song did it start out with?” the narrator asks helpfully, trying to unravel the mystery.
Best Dad’s head slumps back until it contacts the headrest and he laughs ruefully. “I don’t remember!”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Best Dad Evar on Clarity #GBE2

Dust billows up between the planter boxes and the jam-packed storage shed that form the boundaries of Best Dad Evar’s recently overgrown lawn. He wrestles with his aging lawnmower, zig-zagging around various obstacles as he crops milkweed, clover and wall-climbing Bermuda grass. His eyes are bloodshot, his throat wheezes with every breath and his nose is dripping so badly, the stream of it has crossed the threshold of his upper lip.
“Allergies?” a voice breaks through the growl of the motor.
Best Dad tries to breathe in, but his nose produces only a halting snort that clearly doesn’t penetrate the sinus cavity. He lifts up his sweaty, grass-flecked t-shirt and wipes it across his nose. Finding the initial wipe to be inadequate, he grasps his nose with another, drier section of shirt and blows hard.
“Best Dad Evar!” the narrator is horrified.

“What?” Best Dad sounds exasperated, but cowed. “You sound like my mother.”
“More like your wife. What would she say if one of your children used their clothes as a Kleenex like you just did?”
“Oh, I know what she’d say, ‘cause she does say it regularly. Kids are wired to ignore the value of tissues. And clothes are so convenient to wipe on.”
“That doesn’t excuse you doing it.”
Best Dad protests weakly, “But I’d have to stop my whole lawn-mowing project to get a tissue.”
“My god, you sound just like your oldest child!”
Best Dad Evar chuckles, nodding his head slightly in agreement.

“What if they saw you using your shirt as a tissue?” The narrator continues, sounding suspiciously like the aforementioned spouse. “Wouldn’t that be setting a bad example for them?”
“They won’t see me doing it. They never look out here when I mow the lawn. The noise scares them.”
“That’s just a convenient excuse. You know they watch you all the time. They probably see much more of your actions than you realize.”
Best Dad sighs and rolls his eyes. “Stop lecturing me. I can’t be perfect.”
“All right, I’ll stop.”

Best Dad has also stopped. He hasn’t started his mower back up again and seems to be staring off, not into the distance, but instead at … a potted plant?
“Are you all right, Best Dad Evar?” the narrator asks with some concern.
“What? Oh. Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You were thinking about something, though.”
“Yeah, sometimes I’m reminded of things or people.”
“You’re looking at that plant, what does that remind you of?”
“My grandmother. It’s one of her succulent plants, you know, I mean, it came from her house.” He says, with a sad look flashing across his face. “And I can picture her with clarity, tending to her succulents with her straw hat and her wrinkled, dirty fingers.”
“That’s what you have the plant for, right, to remind you of her?”

“Yes, you’re right. But when I’m reminded of her, it also makes me sad.”
“Sad, why? Because she’s gone and you’ll never see her again?”
“No. I mean, yes, I’m sad about that, too. But I’m more sad that my girls will never get to meet her and know her like I did. She was so important to me and such an inspiration.”

“Yeah.” The narrator replies as if he doesn’t know what to say next. After a pause, he regains his normal role as the all-knowing, wise expert on Best Dad’s life. “But you are honoring her by showing your children your enthusiasm for the things she loved.”
Best Dad brightens, “Bird-watching, family tree research, old pictures, gardening… Mm hm. Yeah, I do carry those passions forward so my kids can see them.”
“You’re keeping her memory alive as best as you can, Best Dad.”
“Yeah, but I still wish they could have met her.”
“Well, that’s not the way our world works, is it?”
“Nope, it isn’t. So they’ll never have the clarity of memory that I have of my grandmother. But a little piece of her will be passed on to them one way or another. That has to be enough.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

Balance #GBE2

We catch up with Best Dad Evar at the gym that’s just a few blocks from his home. It’s actually quite late, 9 PM, so the gym is mostly populated by the die-hard regulars (the buffed out weight fiends) and those who are too shy about their physiques and/or their workouts to attend earlier in the day. Best Dad Evar’s loose clothes and paunch suggest he is in the second category. Best Dad has worked up quite a sweat, so much so that he’s dripping on the elliptical training machine. He seems to be successfully staying aboard the eighteen-inch-long and six-inch-wide pedals, but just barely. Occasionally his body jerks awkwardly as if one of the pedals has dropped out from underneath his foot unexpectedly, although from any angle it can be seen that the pedals aren’t going anywhere but in their normal ovals.
“Are you all right, Best Dad Evar?” A voice breaks through the music playing in his tiny earbuds.
“Uh,” Best Dad Evar pauses to catch his breath, “Yeah,” there’s another pause, “I’mfine,” and yet another pause, “Why-”, he puffs in another breath, “D’y’ask?”
“Because it looks like you’re about to fall off that machine!”

“Well-“ Best Dad puffs again and then stops pedaling. He leans over the console of the machine and starts panting like a long-haired retriever on a summer day. Over the course of the next minute his breathing slowly returns to normal. “-my brother-“
“Your brother again?”
“The same.” Best Dad tosses his drab sweatshirt over his shoulder, ready to leave the gym. He strides toward the exit door, shooting a smile at one of the attractive young girls that the gym always posts at their front desk. He is unsurprised by the fact that her eyes break contact with his as soon as possible.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” He mutters under his breath once he’s past her station.
“What’s that, Best Dad?”
“They’re afraid if they smile back at an old guy like me, I’ll get the wrong idea and start stalking them.”
The narrator simply chuckles at this absurd interpretation. “Best Dad, you always think the worst of people.”
“Yeah, well. Would it kill them to throw a bone my way every once in a while? I’m a nice guy, and I’m happily married. But I still like to get a smile from a pretty girl. It doesn’t have to mean anything!”

The narrator decides to move on, “You were saying about your brother?”
“Oh, yeah.” Best Dad pauses for a long moment to regain his previous train of thought, “We were talking about my brother, weren’t we…,” He pauses another moment, his short term memory completely failing him once again. “Um, exercising and my brother.” There’s another pause. His eyes brighten up as the light bulb goes off finally. “Oh! I remember. My brother got me started on those ellipticals.”
“How did he do that?” the narrator simply prompts him.
“Did I tell you that in addition to being a world traveler and shit-disturber, he’s also a fitness freak?”
“No, you hadn’t mentioned that.” The narrator replies
“Well, he is. So, when it comes to staying in shape, I actually listen to him a little.”
“Well, he told me that as we age one of the most important things you can do when you work out is exercises that help you maintain good balance.”
“These elliptical machines help you work on that?”
“He told me they do.”
“It doesn’t look like it’s going very well in your case.”
Best Dad Evar laughs heartily, but then stops laughing suddenly, a sad look clouding his face. He’s now standing at the driver’s side door of his old car, the one with the peeling paint along the roof and hood. You might think he was contemplating his own reflection in the dusty window of the car, but you’d be mistaken.

“What are you thinking, Best Dad?”
“I don’t like getting old.”
“No, nobody does,” the narrator replies with a softly sympathetic tone.
Best Dad stares into the driver’s side window of his still-parked car. It seems he’s forgotten his train of thought once again.
“Um, Best Dad, did you forget to do something?”
Best Dad snaps to attention. He looks at the car for a moment. Then he pats the pocket that he usually keeps his keys in. “Crap.” He pats the other pocket in his sweats and comes up empty again. Next, he whips the sweatshirt off of his shoulder. He feels the pockets, but the lack of a jingle is a dead-giveaway. The keys won’t be there. His shoulders slump.
“Shee-it.” He says, his lips crinkling into a disappointed frown. He trudges slowly back toward the gym to commence the embarrassing search. At the front desk, the otherwise perky young woman in the form fitting t-shirt gives Best Dad a sidelong glance, then carefully looks the other direction as he sidles through the already open door.
He throws up his hands in exasperation and says one word “Keys!” as he arrives at the scanner that typically responds to the plastic thingy on his keychain. She looks down at her homework and chuckles softly, waving him through the entry without a hassle.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Car Seat #GBE2

Peeking out from below the unfamiliar car in the driveway of Best Dad Evar’s suburban home, we see one grown-up foot. The foot flexes on top of weeds that have found a permanent home in the cracks that run unevenly across the cement. There is a grunt and a curse. Then another curse.
“Where the fuck does this thing go?” Best Dad Evar scowls at a latch thingy.
“Having trouble with that car seat, Best Dad Evar?” The narrator asks with a drip of sarcasm.
“Yes!” His yell reverberates inside the small, crisp vehicle (all the windows are closed and only the rear passenger door is open). “Well, I’m sure I’ll figure it out.”

“There’s a hook back there for that latch, isn’t there?” the narrator asks helpfully.
“Where...?” Best Dad asks, looking around the entire backseat frantically.
“Right there on the back of the seat.” The narrator says, slightly impatiently.
“Wh-? Oh.” Now Best Dad looks completely sheepish. “I didn’t see that there.” He peers at the icon on the back of the seat. It’s an anchor with a cars eat next to it. Next to the icon is a metal bar that’s just the right size. He latches the hook into place, then goes to work threading the seat belt through the seat. He looks at the receiving end of seat belt.
“This is nice.” Best Dad says. “There’s only one receiving seat belt latch.”
“Why do you sound so relieved?” the narrator replies.
“Usually there are two. Both my car and my wife’s have two, right next to each other. So instead of just latching it in, I have to use the process of elimination to find the right one. You know, try the male end of the belt into the first female receiver. ‘Nope. Guess it’s the other one.’”
“Yeah, but that just takes an extra second, doesn’t it?”
Best Dad rolls his eyes and chooses to ignore the narrator’s biting question. “Now let’s see if this car has that zipper sound that means the seat belt’s going to lock into place.” He extends the belt as far as it will go. Yes indeedy, the belt lets out a pleasing zipper sound as it reaches the end of its length. Best Dad Sighs with relief.

“Don’t you read instructions, Best Dad?” the narrator asks skeptically, as Best Dad tugs on the belt to test it for tightness.
“Sometimes,” he responds, while raising his eyebrows, giving himself away. He obviously doubts himself.
“Never.” The narrator corrects him.
“No, no, no, not never!” he protests weakly. “Rarely?” he wonders.
“That’s closer to the truth.”
Now Best Dad is tugging strongly on the top of the car seat itself to see how much play it has. It moves about an inch and a half before the locked belt stops its forward progress.
“Is it supposed to move that much?” the narrator asks, concerned for the safety of Best Dad’s littlest one.
“Yeah, that much play is normal.”
“Is that what the manual says?”
“No, that’s what my judgment says.”
“What about your wife’s judgment?”
Best Dad is sheepish again. “She’d put her entire body weight into tightening that belt until it didn’t move a millimeter.” But he perks up. “You know what, though, it’s not her car, it’s mine and I’m driving the kids today. So it’s my judgment that matters this time.”

“Well, now, it’s not your car, is it?” the narrator scolds.
“No, not literally. This is the car I was telling you about, the one I’m babysitting for my brother.”
“It’s very nice.”
“Yes, well, it’s new.” Best Dad still sounds completely unimpressed.
“It’s not just new, it’s newfangled.” The narrator is at the opposite end of the impressed spectrum.
“Yeah, one of those all electric jobs.” Best Dad says with a smirk.
“I thought this car would appeal to your environmentalist streak.”
“I’m sure it will impress me. Once I figure out how to turn the damn thing on!” As usual, Best Dad is nonplussed and annoyed.

“Didn’t your brother give you the keys?”
“’It doesn’t come with keys,’ he tells me. Just this remote thingy.” Best Dad holds up a palm-sized black electronic gadget. He looks at it disgustedly. “What if I just-“
“Start pressing buttons?” the narrator is concerned.
“Naaah, I wouldn’t-” Best Dad says with that shrug that says, ‘yeah, I would’.
“You wouldn’t?” the narrator interrupts doubtfully. “Mr. ‘Doesn’t read the directions’?”
“Well, this one looks like an on-off button. It’s got the right icon.” Suddenly the air conditioner hums to life in the small vehicle, and the video display on the console blips on like a television. “Progress!” Best Dad Evar shouts triumphantly.
“I don’t hear the motor running.”
“Hm. Yet another button to find. I think I remember my brother telling me about this one. It’s gotta be…. this one!”
“Are you sure?” the narrator asks doubtfully.
“No, but if I don’t try it, I have to spend twenty minutes locating the manual, so, here goes!”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Dream #GBE2

Our hero, Best Dad Evar leans against the doorway into the living room of his in-laws’ home peering across the room. It is evening and the rest of the family is clearing dishes and food from the table. Best Dad’s oldest daughter sits at a dusty but well kept grand piano carefully picking out notes on the white keys and singing a tune quietly, while he watches her quietly. Though he’s in plain sight, his posture indicates that he’s melting into the shadows, so as not to disturb the youngster. His eyes shine with approval despite the occasional, obvious sharp notes.
The narrator quietly interrupts his enjoyment of the moment. “Best Dad Evar, do you have a dream?”
“Do I dream? Of course I dream” Best Dad says with a smirk.
“No, I don’t mean the dreams you have at night. I mean a dream. Dream with a capital ’D’.”
“Oh, that kind of dream. Like my daughter’s dream to be a famous pianist and singer?” He looks at the child, still playing quite nicely and singing not quite in tune. “Yeah, I had a dream like that once.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I had a dream to be the next Jack Sikma.”
“Jack Sikma? Who’s that?”
“Well, in the late 1970’s and through the 1980’s, Jack Sikma was one of the top forwards in the National Basketball Association. He was six foot ten, had a very consistent shot and played well on the boards getting rebounds. When I was younger, I watched all the big sports, and I thought if there was any player that I could be like, it would be him.”

“So, Sikma was your favorite player?”
“No, no. My favorite player was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. So of course, I practiced my sky hook, too. But Jack Sikma was a white guy like me. He had a shot I could emulate and a rebounding and defensive style I could work towards. He wasn’t my idol, but he was my model.”
“There’s just one problem, Best Dad Evar.”
“I’m getting there. When I was twelve and thirteen years old, that dream seemed realistic. I had two uncles who were pretty tall. Nowhere near six foot ten, but still, there’s always that hope in the back of your mind that you’ll be the exception. Especially when you’re in the middle of puberty and everything’s changing.”
“And when you reached fourteen?” the narrator asks knowingly.
“Yeah, at fourteen, my teammates were starting to tower over me and I stopped growing at just short of five foot ten. Nothing close to Jack Sikma‘s height and size were in my genes.”
“And by sixteen?” the narrator prompts him further.
“At sixteen I found myself competing with the little, quick guys who were great ball-handlers and whose feet moved at lightning speed defensively. That just wasn’t my game at all. When I finally got a little playing time that year, I hurt my knee and spent the rest of the season in a flexible cast. The next year I decided to ‘get real’ and focus on my classes so I could get into a good college and I never played organized sports after that.”

Suddenly, there is a commotion at the piano. Best Dad’s younger daughter has asserted herself onto the piano bench and without asking has claimed her turn at the keys. She gleefully pounds the keys in a cacophony of sound that even a parent couldn’t love. Actually, a parent is very likely to become immediately annoyed, particularly due to the complete lack of manners displayed in the interruption. The older child reacts with a screechy, ear-splitting yell of “Get off!!” Best Dad rolls his eyes and strides over to avert a sibling meltdown. He sighs and tells the younger child she can only have a turn if she asks nicely. When she does so, he shrugs and asks the older child if she will allow the youngster to take a turn.
“I’ll give you a turn playing games on my phone,” he adds as incentive. The older child’s shoulders slump in defeat, but she agrees and slides off the bench.

Best Dad slinks back to the doorway and leans heavily against it again. He watches sadly as his older daughter accepts the electronic bribe and plops down on the sofa, now enthralled with mindless video games. The narrator continues, the random clanging of notes preventing the children from hearing him, “Haven’t you developed another dream since your passion to be the next Jack Sikma died?”
“A dream like that one? An all-consuming passion that leads to you dedicating your life to one single pursuit to the exclusion of all others?”
“Yes?” the narrator asks in a hopeful tone, knowing full well that the answer is a resounding “No!”
“Nope, since then I’ve had something else. I don’t know what to call them. Perhaps you could call them ‘pursuits’ or ‘interests’ or even ‘hobbies’. ‘Careers’ I’ve had, too, several of them. None of these interests or careers has ever felt as firmly rooted in my heart as that first one. I wanted to be a baseball statistician, an economist, a mortgage broker, and maybe a few other things. I’ve dedicated a few years to each of them, but they’ve risen to the level of a ‘dream’.”
“This is a running theme with you, Best Dad: a lack of loyalty to your dreams, ideas, pursuits, et cetera.”
“No argument here.” Best Dad says sadly, but matter-of-factly.

“Except one thing.”
“Your family history research.”
“Yeah.” Best Dad pauses for a long moment, the gears of his mind turning over this item. “I have been pretty loyal to that pursuit, haven’t I?”
“So much so that you might refer to it as a ‘calling’?” The narrator says, half question, half statement.
“I’ve actually been doing research on my family tree and family history for my entire adult life. My grandmother got me started on that path when I was a teenager when she showed me her family tree that goes back to the Mayflower.”
“Wow!” The narrator is impressed.
Best Dad continues, “But… since there’s no money in that pursuit, it will always be just a hobby. And beyond that, there’s no single thing I can call my ‘Dream’ in family history.”
“You know that’s not true.” The narrator rebukes him.
“No, you’re right." Best Dad pauses for a satisfied smile. "I did have a dream in family history research.”
“And it already came true.”

“Mm hmm.” The narrator replies knowingly.
“Yeah, I had what I felt to be a mystery in my family history that I wanted to solve, a hole in my family tree that I felt should be filled. And through my own initiative and research, I discovered that missing link in my family tree. I opened up a whole section of our family history, discovered well-known and respected ancestors, even found the gravesites of several generations of my family.”
“So, not only did you have a dream after Jack Sikma, it’s already come true.”
“Yeah." He says, continuing to smile. "But that’s one of the drawbacks of dreams.”
“What’s that Best Dad?” the narrator asks with surprise.
“The dream-come-true moment is only one moment and then that moment passes."
"Ah," the narrator understands.
"Once that moment is in the past, it's a memory, not a dream any more and, inevitably you have to find a new dream.”
“And that’s not so easy, is it?”
“No, it isn’t. But you know what?”
“It’s pretty fun to watch these little ones developing their first dreams.”
“First dreams are like first loves aren’t they?” The narrator wistfully and rhetorically asks. “Pie-in-the-sky and head-over-heels.”
“Except for one thing. Unlike first loves, we parents can share those first dreams along with our children. Those dreams sink deeply into us, and they become our dreams, too.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Planning #GBE2

We find our hero, Best Dad Evar sitting in a black, wheeled office chair at a desk with numerous scratches and dings. Behind and below the chair the carpet in the family’s living room bunches up unnaturally, so that when he rolls the chair back a bit, Best Dad has to give an extra oomph just to move into a more comfortable position. That’s tough these days. Finding a comfortable position, that is.
“Best Dad Evar,” a voice calls out in the darkened room. Best Dad Evar doesn’t look up from his computer screen. “Is it true that you actually planned to have your children?”
“Don’t sound so surprised.” Best Dad replies.
“Well, I overheard some of your co-workers discussing their own children today and from what I heard, it sounds like none of their children were actually planned.”
“They just sort of happened when they happened.” Best Dad finished the thought. “Yes, I heard that, too. For us, it just didn’t make sense to have children if you weren’t fully prepared to be a parent.”
“And you and your wife didn’t feel prepared for all those earlier years you were together?”
“No. Even right up to the moment we took our first child home, we didn’t feel prepared.”

“The planning must have helped, right?”
“You would think it would, wouldn’t you? Well, it sure didn’t feel that way…. Doesn’t feel that way.”
“No? You think parenting is just as difficult even though you did everything you planned to do beforehand?”
“If anything I find myself wondering often if we didn’t make a huge mistake by waiting all those years. You know what that did to us? It made us older.”
“Not wiser? More experienced?”
“Not when it comes to parenting.” Best Dad replies with a tired rub of his eyes. “We’re just older, our joints creakier and muscles more sore, our brains have lost more cells, we’re more dependent on caffeine and thus we’re crankier. None of this helps us be better parents.”

“Still, Best Dad, some of your plans have to have helped.”
“Well, let’s put it this way. Some of the things we planned to do, we’ve actually done.”
“Like what?”
“Like always having someone who is family or ‘like family’ watching the children when we’re away or working.” Best Dad’s face changes into a very slight smile, which is about as much emotion as you ever see from him.
“You never hire babysitters?”
“We never have. We’ve always had grandparents, aunties or very close friends who’ve watched them.”
“Wow, Best Dad, that’s really impressive.”
“Yeah,” he says softly, that slight smile still on his face. “That’s one thing that has really worked for everyone.”

“But we also planned that we would be settled in our careers by the time we started our family.”
“Oh.” The narrator’s voice betrays his dismay.
“We thought we’d be financially solid and secure.”
“Yikes.” You can almost hear the narrator cringe.
“We figured we wouldn’t be worrying so much about money and success.”
“Yeah. And one year ago, I effectively had to start my career over from square one.”
“Uh huh.”
“During the worst recession of our lifetime.”
“And having my industry of choice in ruins.”
“Yeah. You can’t plan for all that.”

A tone on the computer indicates to Best Dad Evar that he has an email. He quickly reads the message on the screen, then lets out his breath in an exasperated “Hah!” His arms slump down onto the desk in front of him, followed by his head. With his forehead resting on the backs of his hands, his head shakes back and forth.
“What is it Best Dad Evar?” The narrator shows genuine concern.
“You’re not going to believe this.”
“Try me.”
“That was an email from my brother.” He pauses for a long moment. The narrator chooses to quietly wait, realizing that the final shoe has dropped. “As if I don’t have enough to do in my life, now he wants me to babysit his fucking car!”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bedtime #GBE2

The lights are deliberately low at Best Dad Evar’s home. The hallway filled with framed family photos, and occasional crayon marks and furniture scrapes is particularly dark, as it leads to the children’s bedrooms. Everything in the house is dark and quiet... for the moment. The silhouette of our hero appears in the doorway at the end of the hall, then tiptoes out, one step, two-
“Brrrriiiinggg!!!” The telephone loudly announces that some fool is calling at bedtime!
“God damn it!” Best Dad Evar grunts through gritted teeth. He lopes across to the phone and roughly pulls it from its base before the second ring.
“Hello!” He hisses into the receiver. A voice can be heard on the other end of the line, but its words are muffled. Best Dad Evar rolls his eyes. Next he nods.
“Well, we just got the kids to bed, but... well, now’s okay.” It must be clear to the person on the other end of the line from his tone that it’s not okay, right? Or maybe not, because whoever it is, they keep talking.

“Uh huh.” Best Dad says quietly, moving quietly into the kitchen to ensure that his half of this conversation can’t be heard in the back rooms. Anything to avoid disrupting the now (hopefully!) sleeping children.
“Mmmm.” He says.
“Oh... yeah.” He says.
“That sucks.” He says. His fingers are now tapping on the counter impatiently.
“Well, why don’t you-” He stops as the voice on the other end of the line breaks in, interrupting. Best Dad now glares ahead. Eventually the voice stops.
“Well, I gotta go.” Best Dad says.
After a moment he says, “I have some things to do to prepare for tomorrow,” explaining himself to the doubter on the line. The voice continues for another minute or two.
“I’m sure it’ll work out. I’ll talk to you later, okay?” Another minute of chatter ensues from the phone as Best Dad glares at it. At one point he holds the phone away from his ear and makes a face at it.
“All right, well I really have to go now.” Finally the other party relents and Best Dad says goodbye and hangs up the phone.

“Wow, Best Dad Evar, what was that all about?” The narrator asks now that Best Dad has settled in to wash the dishes.
“Oh, it was my brother again.”
“Does he always call-”
“At Bedtime!” Best Dad exclaims, throwing his hands up in the air, sending soap suds flying toward the yellowing ceiling. “Can you fucking believe that?! How many times have I mentioned to people that we try to keep everything quiet and calm at bedtime?! It’s not like we’ve ever changed when bedtime is, have we? Everyone knows when bedtime is at our house. But every other night that god damn phone rings at 8:15 or 8:30!”
“Well, why did he call? It must have been important.” The narrator says. Is that mock obliviousness in his voice or imbecilic sincerity?

Best Dad raises one eyebrow and his lips curl into a smirk. “Bull shit!”
“What?” The narrator sounds wounded, but he could just be playing along.
“It was some spat with his girlfriend.”
“His on-again off-again girlfriend?”
“Did you know that already?” Best Dad sounds impressed.
“No, based on what little you’ve told me about your brother, I guessed it.”
“Yeah, well. It was some stupid shit that won’t matter day-after-tomorrow. But he just had to call me to ask what I thought about the whole thing.”
“I notice you didn’t really tell him.”
“And he never really gave me a chance to, did he?”
“No, it sounded like he was just talking non-stop.”
“That’s because the only thing he wants is for someone to listen to him talk. He doesn’t really want anyone else’s help or advice. He just wants you to listen and agree with him and his ideas and plans.”
“Speaking of ideas and plans…?” The narrator wonders.

“Whatever do you mean?” now it’s Best Dad’s turn to mock obliviousness.
“The favor, I want to know what the favor was!”
“Ooooooh, you want to know about the faaaaavor.” Best Dad pauses for dramatic effect. “You’ve been itching to know about the favor.”
“Well, yes, Best Dad, I'm very curious about the favor.”
“A little mystery like that burns inside you, doesn’t it. Soon you’re longing to find out what it is, smoldering with curiosity. It could be something stupid or mundane.” He says raising his eyebrows playfully.
“But knowing your brother, it’s probably not.”
“Well, you’re going to have to wait a little longer. He talked a lot, but he didn’t mention it.”
“Damn it!”
Best Dad laughs heartily, amused that even his personal narrator swears.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where the Wild Things Grow #GBE2

Today our hero Best Dad Evar is standing in the small, multicolored back lawn of his faded home, clutching a cheap hose with a plastic nozzle. Water shoots out in uneven fountains from the nozzle into a surprisingly lush garden nestled into the back corner of the yard, the kinks being so bad that occasionally they lessen or completely interrupt the water pressure. “Cheap piece of shit.” He exclaims, but not loudly, and despite his foul words he seems almost, dare we say it… content.

The familiar voice of the narrator quietly rises, as it typically does, when Best Dad is out of earshot of the rest of the family. “Best Dad, I’ve noticed that you have a number of…” he pauses, searching for the right term, “plants growing wild around your property.”
“You mean weeds?” Best Dad replies with a wry smile.
“Well yes, those, too. But you also have a number of flowering plants and even vegetables sprouting up in odd places.”
“Ah, yes, our volunteers.”
“That’s what we call plants that we end up liking that we didn’t actively plant ourselves. We have a bunch of them. We have flowers: our lilies and our four o’clocks. Our mint, too. Did you know that fresh mint makes a very tasty tea?”
“I hear it grows like a weed.”
“Yeah, it does, but it’s manageable.” Best Dad says. For once he doesn’t seem annoyed by what could be a very vexing problem.

“What about this pumpkin plant coming out of your flower patch?”
“Oh, that’s actually transplanted from my compost. So not a volunteer, but pretty cool anyway. We’re going to get three pumpkins out of that plant!” He’s proud, it’s obvious.
Suddenly, a commotion can be heard from inside the house. Screams and the pounding of footsteps can clearly be heard even outside in the yard. Best Dad doesn’t move. The narrator asks curiously, “Um, shouldn’t you check on what’s going on in there?”
Best Dad sighs deeply. “Yeah.” He walks over to turn off the hose. Clearly he doesn’t think the commotion is an emergency. “I’ll be back in five minutes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Ten tops.”

A whirlwind is passing through the home, carrying with it presents and sweets. The children are jumping up and down and shouting, and it’s now apparent that these are gleeful shouts. Best Dad and his wife are briskly whisking toys and laundry off of the floor and the furniture, but are failing in their attempt to make the home presentable for their guest. As quickly as it arrives, the whirlwind is gone again only minutes later, leaving the children huffing and puffing as they come down from their sugar highs, and the parents slumped against the kitchen counters, shaking their bemused heads almost in unison. Best Dad rolls his eyes and returns to the back yard and his hose.
“Best Dad, what was that?!” the narrator asks with high-pitched alarm.
“That,” he pauses, gathering his breath, “was my brother.”
“Did you know he was coming?”
“Of course not, we never know when he’s coming. We never even know when he’s going to be in the country!”
“Surely you’re exaggerating.”
Best Dad chuckles softly. “You’re right, we know when he’s arriving in the country, because he always needs a ride from the airport.”

“Does he always stir everything up like that when he comes?”
“It’s just his way. The kids love him, of course. He’s fun. He plays with them. He’s loud and boisterous, which, let’s face it, kids find irresistible.”
“But he always seems to leave the grown-ups perturbed.”
“Yeah, well, he’s a shit-disturber. He can’t help but mention some complaint or gossip whenever he visits.”
“What was it this time?”

“He has a favor to ask.”
“That doesn’t seem like much. What was the favor?”
“Well, he couldn’t just come out and ask me the favor, could he?”
“No, he says ‘I’ve got a favor to ask, and it’s kind of a big one.’”
“And then?”
“Then he says, ‘But I don’t want to bother you with it right now. I can see you guys are busy. We’ll talk about it later.’”
“What did you say?”
“I said, ‘Why wait, just ask me?’ But he was already heading out the door and he pretended not to hear me.”
“So you’re left speculating and worrying about how big a favor it could be.”
“Exactly. See what I mean? Shit-disturber!”
“Well, it could be worse.”
“Really, how?”
“Well, uh, I don’t know. It was just something to say.”
“Yeah,” Best Dad says with a smirk and a shake of his bald head. His watering complete, he tosses the hose loosely onto the lawn and looks longingly at his pumpkins, as if wishing everything in life could be so productively simple.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Does it ever stop? #GBE2

Our hero, Best Dad Evar, is walking quickly between the front door of his gym and his dusty little car, the one with the paint chipping away on the roof. Within moments, the car is bouncing into the driveway of the little house with the unpainted trim that his family lives in. He hops out quickly (though he still makes that grunting noise we talked about earlier), and a few minutes later he's changed and sitting at his computer typing.

"Best Dad Evar, I've been watching you." The narrator says, with a hint of a scold tinging his words.
"Oh yeah?" Best Dad Evar replies halfheartedly, his fingers still tapping the keys.
"I've been watching you for the past fifteen hours."
"Uh huh." Best Dad seems not to be paying attention.
"Do you know that you haven't stopped to take a break since seven o'clock this morning?"
"You've been going non-stop, switching from one task to the next all day: shower, breakfast, commute, work, quick lunch, work, dinner, clean up, bedtime routine, gym, write. You even spent most of your lunch hour doing chores!"
"Yeah, that's my life." Best Dad replies, staring at the computer screen with a faraway look, no longer seeing the words on the screen.

"How long has it been like this?" the narrator asks.
"I can't remember. Certainly since I became a parent. Non stop chores from morning 'til night. Even the weekends mostly consist of chores I have to do to get the kids ready so *they* can have fun and not die in the process."
"Do you ever get a free moment for yourself?"
"A moment here, a moment there."
"Do you ever just do what *you* want to do?"
"Hah!" Best Dad bores his gaze into the spot where he imagines the narrator to be. "That's just not available to me."

"That's a pretty strange kind of life, don't you think?"
"Yeah, it is. But I trust that this life will end some day."
"Do you mean when you die?!" The narrator is horrified.
"No! What makes you say that?"
"Whew! I thought..."
"I know what you thought. What I meant was that there will come a day when these kids are a little older.... you know, when they turn eighteen and move the hell out of my house." The narrator chuckles. "When they move out, maybe I'll be able to spend a little time on me. Until then..."
"Okay, but Best Dad, what happens if you end up like so many parents these days."
"What do you mean?"
"With grown children living at home and mooching off of them into their 20's and even 30's?" Now it's Best Dad's turn to be horrified. The look on his face is pure panic. He's clearly never considered this possibility.
"But... I'll be ... in my 70's when my youngest is 30.... it just.... Noooooooooooo!" He runs for the medicine cabinet to grab a bottle of pills.
The narrator is relieved when Best Dad only shakes three pain relievers out into his now sweaty palm.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Best Dad Evar's Bookshelf #GBE2

Today our hero, Best Dad Evar, reclines on an unmade bed, reading. His position seems uncomfortable, so he shifts a bit from laying on his side propped on one elbow onto his back with his head resting on a contour pillow. Unfortunately this particular contour pillow doesn’t quite fit *his* contours. Beside the bed is a bookshelf stacked two deep with paperbacks and inspirational tomes.
“Best Dad Evar, I’ve noticed something about your bookshelf.” The narrator’s voice interrupts Best Dad mid-sentence.
“What’s that?” Best Dad replies. He’s grown accustomed to this omnipresent narrator and grown to like him a bit.
“Almost all these books are bookmarked.”
“Yeah. So what?”
“Well, almost all the bookmarks are less than a third of the way through the books.”

“You’re right.” Best Dad sighs deeply and places a bookmark into today’s partially read fiction. He wasn’t really that into the story anyway. He continues, “I guess you could say that it’s because of my grown up version of attention deficit disorder. I can’t stay interested in any book long enough to get halfway through it, let alone finish it.”
“Well that’s too bad-” the narrator starts, but Best Dad interrupts him.
“I do the same thing with TV shows.” Best Dad says, pointing at the small TV on top of the bookshelf. “There are some that I like a lot for two or three episodes. But somehow I always seem to lose interest.”
“What happens?” the narrator asks, not daring to ask a more detailed question for fear of getting cut off again.
“I don’t know, but by the fourth or fifth episode, I often just say ‘meh.’ It’s not that they’re bad shows. Some of them are good. I just can’t stay involved. Either the characters annoy me somehow or the plot’s not engaging enough.”

“This short attention span affects your career as well.” The narrator presses.
“It defines my career. I’m forty one years old and I can’t even count the number of jobs I’ve had.”
“True, but you have had one job for four years and another one for three years. That's a long time.” The narrator helps with a bit of positive spin on these facts.
“I guess, but even within those two jobs, I had individual projects that were much shorter. I had cases at my consulting firm job and loans and borrowers while I was doing mortgages. So even though the jobs remained mostly the same, they were actually constantly changing. That kept things from ever getting boring for me. Don’t you think that’s a problem, being consistently at risk of boredom?”

“Perhaps.” The narrator says diplomatically. “But you have had one constant in your adult life, one person you’ve always maintained your interest in. One decision you’ve never regretted.”

Best Dad Evar smiles, knowing without hesitation what the narrator is referring to. He nods. Then he pushes himself into a standing position and wanders off into the living room to settle into his regular spot on the couch. The indentation on his side of the sofa is paired with one on the opposite cushion which is soon filled, as always.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mr. Fix-It #GBE2

We find our hero hunched over the sink in his bathroom. You’d think it was impossible for a standard porcelain sink to appear worn, but this one does. Best Dad Evar’s attention is focused on the mismatched faucet and its chrome handles. He tests one, twisting it gingerly clockwise, then back counterclockwise again. No water comes out of the tap.
Best Dad Evar sighs and lifts his head, looking at his own reflection in the mirror. His face is a blank mask showing through the flecks of whiteness that the brushing of four sets of teeth inevitably leaves behind on the mirror, but the lines on his face provide a hint to his disgust, in this case with himself.
“What’s up, Best Dad?” Our narrator’s voice arrives softly, not probing too hard.
“The sink doesn’t work.”
“I can see that.”
“Dad’s are supposed to have an instinct for this sort of thing, right?” Best Dad asks rhetorically, the disgust and disappointment now showing clearly on his face in the mirror.
“For fixing things?”
“Yeah, but somehow that instinct seems to have skipped a generation with me.”

“Your dad has the fix-it gene?”
“I don’t know if he has the gene, but when we were kids he always seemed to know how to fix things.”
“So what happened?”
“Actually, I asked my dad about that once.” Best Dad sighs again. “I said ‘didn’t you ever try to teach me to fix things?’”
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Well, I tried to show you, but you never seemed interested in learning.’”

“What were you interested in as a kid?”
“Well, I did like destroying things. Like this one time, we had an old storage barn that my dad had built but which we didn’t need any more. My dad gave me a claw hammer and a crowbar and told me to go to town. I was happy as a clam tearing that thing down. I ripped off the roof with my gloved hands. I pried the plywood walls off the two-by-four frame with the crowbar. I whacked the framing boards with that hammer until they came apart. I even pulled out all the loose nails with the claw to make sure no one would step on them before we took all that wood off to the dump. Even tossing stuff out of my dad’s pickup into the gaping hole of the dump was fun for me.”
“Wow, it sounds like you liked destruction.”
“I missed my calling.”

“So why can’t you fix things?”
“I honestly don’t know. I suspect that part of it is because I’m always sure I’m going to break some little washer, bolt or tube or something and we’ll have to replace the whole damn sink (or whatever). That’s my instinct – that when you mess with things, they break.”
“So what do you do when something breaks at your house?”
“Well, first I stare at it for a minute or two. Then I see if there’s anything visible or obvious that I can fix, like a paper jam in the printer. If not, I loudly ask my wife something like, ‘Do you know what’s wrong with the dishwasher?’”
“That sounds like admitting defeat to me, Best Dad.”
“No, no, no.” He says, shaking his head and holding his hands up, palms forward. “That allows me to get her involved without directly asking for help.”
“Really?” The narrator asks, a clear sarcastic tint to his question.
“Yeah, yeah. Usually she’ll come over to take a look. Then I slowly back away, you know, to give her some space to take her own look at the offending appliance. I might even back right out of the room altogether if she’s not paying attention.”

“So after you’ve completely abdicated your responsibility as the man of the house, what then, Best Dad Evar?” Now the sarcasm drips obviously from the narrator’s voice.
Best Dad Evar chooses to ignore the insult and answers honestly, “Well, if we’re lucky, my wife’s tinkering is more successful than mine. If not, she usually calls her dad, who is unafraid of any challenge. He dives right in and can usually fix what for me seemed too big a risk to even touch.”
“You’re pretty lucky that you have at least one Mr. Fix-It in your life.”
“Yeah,” Best Dad says with relief apparent on his face. “I realize it every day. ‘Cause there’s pretty much always something broken around here.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best Dad Evar's Stash #GBE2

It’s Midnight at the home of Best Dad Evar. Our hero is tiptoeing down the shabbily carpeted hallway of his home. He chooses his footsteps carefully in the dim light of a small night light, avoiding that squeaky floorboard he knows is right… there. He’s carrying something under his arm, a box perhaps, but it is hidden in the dark shadows of the night.

“Best Dad Evar, why are you being so stealthy?” A voice whispers, as if it understands that discretion is required.
“I have to be careful whenever I go into my stash.” Best Dad Evar replies in a whisper of his own.
“You have a stash?” The narrator is incredulous.
“Don’t act so surprised. You know I have a stash.”
“I bet your family and friends don’t. They might be surprised.”
“Yeah, they might be. They might disapprove. Well, they don’t need to know about it, do they?”

“Okay, but what happens if someone finds your stash?”
“Yeah, that’s a real problem and I think about it sometimes when I’m accessing my stash.” Best Dad chews his cuticle, his brow knitted into a slight frown.
“You have to have it somewhere in the house.” The narrator prompts.
“But it can’t be anywhere the kids normally are or they could get into it.” Best Dad replies.
“No, you wouldn’t want them to find your stash, would you. You could keep it somewhere locked.”
“We don’t really have that many locks, though. And think of all the noise of all that locking and unlocking, you don’t want anyone to wake up due to the racket.”

“You could keep it up high somewhere.”
“Yeah, but what good is a stash if you can’t get to it when you want it.”
“So there is a small chance that someone could go where you don’t expect them to and discover your stash.”
There is a long pause, and Best Dad appears to be simply staring at the carpet. “Damn it!” Best Dad says through gritted teeth. He stands up suddenly and disappears into the back room. When he returns, he is carrying a much larger box and his shoes. His keys jingle in his pocket and atop the box sits a small padlock.

“Well, what now, Best Dad Evar?”
“Look what you’ve done, now I have to find a new place for my stash.”
“So you’ve decided to go for the lock, I think that’s a good choice.”
“And I’m not even sure the lock is to keep my children out!” Best Dad says, trudging toward the door.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Best Dad's Bakery #GBE2

Our hero, Best Dad Evar, stands in his kitchen on sore feet. The tiles below his feet were nice once, but now many are cracked and the grout between them is crumbling badly in spots, leaving gaps to collect crumbs, paper clips and glitter. Best Dad is preparing to bake a meal for himself and his children, as tonight his wife has to work. Well, perhaps “bake” isn’t the right term. He’s tossing chicken nuggets and tater tots on a cookie sheet and heating them up. Despite his aching heels, Best Dad prefers to stand in the kitchen to dampen the high-pitched singing emanating from his children’s dutifully educational television show. He actually looks thoughtful rather than tired. This is atypical.

“Best Dad Evar, what are thinking about?” our narrator interrupts him.
“It doesn’t matter.” Best Dad replies disgustedly. There is a long pause. It seems the narrator is considering his next words carefully. But Best Dad replies instead, “I was thinking about a system to capture rainwater that falls on or around our house and use it to water the plants or flush the toilets.” He pauses for a moment, but continues. “But it doesn’t matter, because most likely I’ll never install any system like that.”
“Why not?” the narrator asks, innocently.
“Well, I can say that it doesn’t happen because we don’t have the money or the time, or because we don’t own the house...”
“But?” The narrator correctly deciphers the inevitable ‘But’.
“But the real reason is that I’m not a doer. My mind cooks up these ideas all the time-”
“Like a bakery!” The narrator butts in. Best Dad Evar just glares into the space where the narrator might be if he was visible to him.

“Yeah, like a bakery. Give my mind a couple of ingredients and it will cook up an idea like this one. I have them all the time. I just never do anything to make them happen.” Best Dad Evar frowns, fiddling with his wedding ring absently and leaning his upper body over the counter to take some of the weight off of his feet.
“Well, you must have had the idea to have children, and you made that happen.”
“Yes, but my wife was involved in that, too. She’s more of the planner and doer around here.”
“You also decided to get involved in the mortgage business and you made that happen, too.”
Best Dad Evar pauses to think. “Yeah, I guess I did. Fat lot of good that’s doing me now.”
“Still, you can’t say that you never make your ideas happen. I am aware of several other ideas you’ve made into reality.”
“You’re right, you’re right.” Best Dad replies, brightening a bit, but still showing his disappointment in himself.

“What you’re really saying is that you lament those ideas that you’ve cooked up that you’ve never been able to make real.”
“Yes!” Best Dad exclaims. “My god, I’ve had so many great ideas. So many things that would have made my life great or even changed the world if I’d been able to bring them to fruition!”
“I know, I know. But Best Dad, you’re just one man and you only have so many resources at your disposal to make these ideas real. Can’t you appreciate it when some of them come true?”
“That’s always been a problem for me, being satisfied.” Best Dad opens the oven to reveal lightly browned, sizzling patties of breaded chicken and spuds.

“Wow, how did you know it was time to take those out of the oven, Best Dad?”
“I cook using my senses. I have an internal clock that tells me about how long these babies take to cook and I can smell when they’re close to done.”
“I’m impressed.”
“Maybe I should have been a baker.” Best Dad says absently as he slides a pair of oven mitts onto his hands that are so badly blackened and torn that the narrator gasps, sure Best Dad’s hands are about to be burned. Instead, Best Dad gingerly pulls the cookie sheet off its rack and quickly plops it down on top of the range. The smell is wonderful, in a processed food kinda way.
“Yeah, but I’ve never seen you spend more than fifteen minutes in the kitchen at a time.”
Best Dad laughs and smirks. “You know me well. That’s one idea that I won’t spend any time fretting over.”

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Things a Dad Never Thought He'd Say - #GBE2

We catch up with Best Dad Evar at his dining room table. He sits in a baby food-stained chair at a table covered with a plastic table cloth. The table is piled with mail, partially sorted. In fact, our hero is doing the sorting. "Junk, junk, bill, junk, bill..., that goes in the wife's pile (probably junk, too)."

A child scoots past him and pulls on the handle of the sliding glass door that leads into their small back yard, causing the door to careen against the door frame with a thud. She runs through the now open door and skips merrily away, leaving the doorway open and exposed, no door, no screen, just cool air rushing in and warm air rushing out.

Without even turning his head to look at the offender, Best Dad Evar shouts, "Close the damn door!" There is no reply. He grips the table with whitened knuckles, pops out of his chair with a surprising sprightliness.

"You! Child!" Best Dad Evar's teeth are gritted. "Come back over here!" His eyes burn with fire. The little girl slinks over, peering up at him with her face downcast. Her pupils peek up at him as if her eyebrows were protecting them from his glare.

"You're heating up the whole god damned neighborhood! Close this door now!"

“Okay, daddy,” she says, still peering at him with those puppy dog eyes. She reaches up and slowly, carefully slides the door closed. She bounds off again, a bit slower and a bit less joyful than the first time.

“Best Dad Evar,” our narrator’s voice pierces the now empty room, “don’t you think you’re being too hard on the kid, she’s only three years old.”

“I know,” Best Dad says, his shoulders slumping a bit, “I never wanted to be the dad that said ridiculous things like ‘would the starving kids in Africa leave so much food on their plate?’ or ‘money doesn’t grow on trees, you know!’”

He now has that faraway look he often gets these days. “But I never realized that you don’t just say those things as a dad, you feel them... deep in your soul.”

“In your soul?” Our narrator’s tone is understandably incredulous.

“Wherever you feel your emotions.” Best Dad says, brushing off the narrator’s semantics. “And wherever that is, the strongest emotions I have these days all result from these ridiculous situations. I walk into the bathroom and some child has left the faucet running after washing their hands... and just left the room! Wouldn’t you be angry, furious even!”


Best Dad continues as if no one has spoken, “And the worst, the thing that sends me past the boiling point angry, when I hear that furnace click on and the front door is wide fucking open!! It’s all I can do to keep from screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘I have to work all day to make the money to pay the god damned power bill and you’re just letting that money float out the door!’”

“Have you actually said that to your children?” The narrator asks, clearly dreading the answer.

Best Dad gets quieter now. “Yes. They don’t understand. How could they? They have no concept of how money... works. When I say those things, the only thing they understand is that I’m angry. And it’s over something small, like an unrolled roll of toilet paper on the bathroom floor, or a refrigerator left open. But it’s all wasted money to me. Money that didn’t just grow on a tree. Money I worked for. And that makes me angry. They should know that, get that.”

“I think they get it.”

“Maybe, but it still doesn’t stop them from leaving the door open the next time.”

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Best Dad Evar on Control

We have to jog a bit to catch up with our hero today. His two children are running ahead of him at what for them is running pace. The threesome are on their daily "walk". It's nice that it's summer and the sun is out later in the evening, but these walks are not kind to Best Dad Evar's forty year-old knees, especially when the two kids decide to run, run, run.

"Please stop running!" he shouts at a volume that would, for any reasonable person, indicate that he's really, really serious. The children give no indication that they've heard him. They don't turn around or pause their chugging legs. Luckily the girls are only six and three and they're not athletic enough to get very far away. Still, Best Dad Evar increases his pace to a run and catches up with the pair, grabbing each by an arm.
"Didn't you hear me say stop?!" He shouts at the two girls. They glance sheepishly at him ... but the look doesn't last. He let's go of their arms, feeling guilty himself for getting physical with them. They continue on their merry way, now skipping, as Best Dad Evar continues to walk behind them.

Mercifully, they soon arrive at the driveway of the family's suburban home. The girls run ahead, shouting "We're home!!" so loud that Best Dad Evar immediately thinks of his wife's tender ears, knowing they will be aggravated by this outburst and thus she will be annoyed by the time he opens the front door. So he lingers, leaning against the corner of the garage, his body and eyes turned toward the small, grassy yard. The yard bears a vague resemblance to a remote island beach ... in that it is littered with plastic bottles, plastic toys, trash, shoes and random lawn furniture.

He hears a voice, "Best Dad Evar, how do you control your children?"
"Control?!" he guffaws loudly. "You've got to be kidding me. They have little minds of their own, you can't control them."
"Okay, how about discipline?"
"Vince Lombardi couldn't discipline these two!" he says, chuckling softly at his own little inside joke, twisting the use of the word 'discipline'.
"Seriously, Best Dad Evar, how do you get your kids to behave?"
"Well, it all goes back to a Dr. Phil I happened to watch a few years ago. In it he said 'find their currency'."
"What does that mean?"
"Find the thing that is as important to your kid as money is to you, and then take it away if the kid doesn't do what you ask them to do."
"And that's what you do?"
"That's what I do. My parenting style is: threaten and take away."
"Does that work?"
"Well... yes, but..."
"But what?"
"What Dr. Phil didn't warn me about is that this method doesn't help your children recognize and properly respond to the tone of voice and actions you use to warn them when they're doing something stupid or dangerous. It also doesn't help them respect you enough to do what you ask without the threat."
"So you always have to threaten them."
"Bingo. Asking nicely does no good at all. I have to start with the threat and ramp up the intensity of the threat from there." He pauses, thinking. "Oh, and counting works."
"Yeah, I still can't fathom why. But when I say '1... 2... 3', they seem to instinctively know that when I get to three, I'm going to take a toy or a TV show away from them."
"Well at least you have that."
"Yes, but that still leaves the dangerous. The stupid, I can roll my eyes and deal with. The dangerous I'm still struggling with."
"So what have you come up with?"
"Tall fences, safety gates and keeping stuff waaaaaay up high."

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Best Dad Evar on Career

We catch up with our hero on a break from his job. He stands outside the door of a quiet warehouse, a corrugated metal structure with only the smallest of windows and the occasional door in a two story high building that is a bland tan color. The parking lot Best Dad Evar stands in is similarly quiet with only a few cars and delivery trucks to suggest how many people work inside. He's enjoying a bit of fresh air and natural light, though he's a bit annoyed because a truck (no doubt filled with pallets of "product") has just passed in front of him, spewing filthy smelling black smoke from its exhaust pipes into his general aura.

Best Dad hears a voice, with which he's now familiar, "Best Dad Evar, what are your thoughts on the word 'career'?" the narrator asks, taking our hero's mind away from the stink.
Best Dad Evar snorts with disgust. "Career, what career? I drive a forklift. I work in a warehouse."
"But Best Dad Evar, you have a degree in Economics, what happened?"
"Well, a degree in Economics doesn't pay the bills. It doesn't buy diapers. It doesn't make your car payment or pay for groceries. It certainly doesn't pay medical insurance premiums. As it turns out, driving a forklift and moving boxes around in a warehouse does." He smirks.
"Still, shouldn't you be able to find something that pays the bills that uses your degree or your previous job skills more?"
"You mean, like my last job as a loan officer for a mortgage company?"
"Yeah, oh. Not too many good jobs for us, are there?"
"No, apparently not."
"But an old boss got me this job here after the shit hit the fan in the mortgage biz, so here I am."
"Not exactly what you had planned."
"No, not at all. Maybe some day I'll be able to find a job where I can use those skills again. But for now we're surviving, and that's got to be enough."

"Weren't you expecting to 'make a difference in the world' when you got your degree Best Dad?"
"Yeah, but that was a long time ago when I was young and idealistic."
"You don't fool me, Best Dad Evar, I know you still think you could 'change the world'."
"Yeah, I guess," he says, his head hanging in shame. "It's just that I'm so tired and I don't feel like I have time to *do* anything. Once I get home from my job I have a few hours to be with my kids each night. Those hours are often jam-packed and stressful so afterwards I'm completely worn out. Weekends are typically filled with chores and maybe a few hours of relaxation. When am I going to do something so big it will 'change the world'?"
"But Best Dad, I hear about parents who are changing the world every day, despite their busy schedules, why can't you do what they're doing?"
"I guess I'm just not as good a person as those folks." Best Dad Evar says with a fiery look in his eyes. Is this anger directed at our narrator or himself? One can only guess.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meet Best Dad Evar

Meet Best Dad Evar

We meet our hero in his living room. The only light in the room emanates from a small table lamp and the flickering of the television. Best Dad Evar reclines on a couch that has seen better days, its cushions sagging, its arms misshapen and hard. He is dressed in a loose, faded t-shirt and unfortunate sweatpants with loose threads framing the hems and waistband. Best Dad Evar has lost most of the hair on his head, and what hair is left is peppered with gray. His eyes are mostly closed - no, scratch that, his eyes are closed. The drama on the television is not stimulating enough to overcome his most common feeling: exhaustion.

"Best Dad Evar!"
"Wuh...?" Best Dad Evar replies, startled, but still half asleep. He looks around suspiciously, but languidly. He's slightly annoyed. He pretty much always looks slightly annoyed.
"How did you come to be known as 'Best Dad Evar'?"
"What are you talking about? No one calls me that. And who are you?"
"I'm your narrator. I'm like Jeff Probst on Survivor. I see everything and I'll call you on everything you do or even think."
"Oh, shit." Best Dad Evar shakes his head, trying to clear it or to wake up. He thinks he's been dreaming. Maybe he is.

Best Dad Evar grunts as he gets up off the coach. He always grunts or groans or squeaks or says "ouch!" when he moves from sitting to standing. He wanders into the kitchen to get a drink of water. "Damn it!" he says quietly.
"What's wrong Best Dad Evar?"
"I forgot to wash the dishes again." He stares at the sink and the piles of dishes for a long moment. "Guess I better do them now. Better than in the morning when everything's crazy." Best Dad Evar often talks to himself. He believes he's doing that now, sort of.

"Best Dad Evar!?" Best Dad Evar scoffs. "Where did you get the idea that anyone calls me that?"
"Your daughter called you that this afternoon."
"She did? When?"
"This afternoon. I believe she was sitting in the living room watching television."
"Ah, that explains it. I said 'yes'. That's just about the only time she says anything nice to me: when I say 'yes' to something she wants."
"Oh, come on, that can't be true."
"Maybe I'm exaggerating. But why don't you call me 'Worst Dad Evar'? I'm sure she's called me that at least as many times. And certainly with far more emotion and conviction than when she's called me 'Best Dad'." His voice dips to a low grumble, "Just wait till I say 'no', Mr. All-Seeing Narrator... then you'll know." Best Dad Evar muses all this as he scrubs the plastic plates and sippy cups. Next are the pots and pans, each one associated with a different person in his small family.
"How many dinners were cooked here tonight?"
"Exactly." Best Dad Evar says with a wry smile, drying his hands finally with a towel.

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