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.