Thursday, February 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad

My dad would have been fifty today.

Actually, I'm ashamed to say I didn't remember this until partway through the morning. Yesterday was a mad dash of writing, revising, driving, waiting, mailing, writing, submitting, driving, waiting, driving some more, writing some more, speaking, teaching, learning, and more driving. (I also managed to squeeze in time to read a Magic Tree House book to my son, wash some urine-soaked Superman sheets, engage in an overly long tickle fight at his behest, and have a spirited debate on whether I will or will not purchase any more frickin' Kid Cuisine meals if a certain person only eats the smallest portion of each.) Tomorrow is likely to be more of the same, and by this time next month I will need to have reached some pretty significant milestones that I'm not sure I can reach. So this morning was more of an in-between, a respite. I wrote, but not as feverishly. I took my son to school. I answered a few e-mails and received my daily dose of frustration that comes from speaking to a particular editor. I noticed that the grackles in town seem to have learned to use a local crosswalk, and resolved to write a short piece about it. And then I typed the date on a document. February 28, 2008. Wow.

Today my dad would have been fifty.

This June 30, he'll have been gone thirteen years.

In ten years, I'll be as old as he was when he died.

That second figure startles me the most, actually. Thirteen years. That's almost half my life, yet it seems as if it's only the tail end of my time-on-Earth-so-far that has been spent without him.

Apparently, I'm not the only one. In third grade, I got my dad in a bit of hot water for repeating this joke to my teacher (his coworker):

"Hey! You know why a pool table is green?"
"No. Why?"
"You'd be green too if someone was knocking your balls around all day! Bwahaha!"

A few years ago, I was stopped by a school counselor I hadn't seen in ages. "Did you hear the one about the pool table?" she asked immediately. Apparently it's now part of school-district lore.

But it was because of who it came from, though I'd dearly love to take credit for my stand-up-comedy prowess at an early age. My dad was so many things to so many people: a father, husband, coach, community organizer, teacher... I could go on. But his memory and legacy deserves far more than to be reduced to a eulogy or annual tribute. He'd likely be telling me now to wrap it up, or maybe to tell the one about the dwarf at the circus.

My dad is responsible for so much of who I am. My determination. My love of reading. My stubbornness. (My mother will call me "Brian" on occasion, when she's contending with some bull-headed, unbending stand of mine. I choose to take it as a compliment, although this may not be the effect she's going for at the time.) My total inability to sing, but total love for it. My style of expressing opinions (though not all my opinions, which made for some, um, enthusiastic communiques between my father and me). My overly thorough knowledge of baseball stats and Marvel comics. Pretty much all the mathematical knowledge I ever acquired. The only way of looking at religion and faith that has ever made sense to me.

I could go on. Even my writing comes from him, and though he never pursued publication, I'd venture to say he'd have far surpassed any of my meager efforts. Here's a piece he wrote as a high school senior, of which I keep a copy, tattered from reading and re-reading:

Sphinx Day

Awaking in a foreign world,
Pulling off eyelid blankets.
Crawling and groping through early morn,
New sensations thrilling the infantile mind.

Rose petals are his playmates,
Eternity his backyard.
Dressed in his mother's branches,
This new, strange creature called Youth.

Morning leaves, and youth follows,
A mature afternoon creature comes.
The rose petals are scattered,
Like so many problem seeds.

Standing upright and proud, so proud,
Not looking back to morn,
Nor gazing ahead to night,
This independent afternoon, manhood.

Now manhood becomes aged,
Back to Mother he goes.
A cane gives him three legs,
And this life day sees its end.

The sun goes down on life,
Age has dreams of morning and noon.
Night comes on, final enveloping,
And these dreams become sleep

My dad was known for things. And even when the thing itself wasn't good, somehow he'd turn it into an endearing eccentricity, a positive. Case in point: his singing. He could read music forward and backward, and played the clarinet beautifully, and he liked to sing ... but I don't think anyone has had the same odd combination of talent in music and total lack of vocal cord cooperation (though the torch of singing passion-with-suckitude has been passed on to me). It's a standing joke in our family; we have only to hum the smallest snippet the song Gloria in Excelsis Deo! to send each other into waves of eye-rolling laughter. This is because my sister and I remember Dad belting out the song in Mass as if it were being sung by a reverent, overzealous, slightly neurotic Santa Claus: "Glo! Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho, Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho, Ho-ho-ho-ho-hooooor...ria!"

We remember him scrunching up his long face until it was all lines, pretending he can hit the high notes in a Beach Boys tune.

There are countless other memories, too, as I'm sure there always are with good fathers. I remember reading and re-reading a twenty-year-old copy of A Wrinkle in Time, remembering how my dad and I read and re-read it all summer one year, just to see how it came together.

I remember this awful thin, gaudy, too-tight red and yellow T-shirt he had, emblazoned with "He who dies with the most toys wins," with actual toys (he managed a toy store before becoming a teacher). He'd wear it with even more awful too-short shorts. My mom happened to lose these types of clothes with startling regularity, which was odd because she never lost anything else.

My dad's legacy was one of fascination, humor, total abandon, willingness to look silly. It was unabashed wonder.

David wants to know as much as he can learn about my father, his grandfather. Today I took my son to the Four Peaks Elementary School softball field, named Brian Hosey Field in honor of my father. We were the only ones there. My son walked over to the sign honoring my dad, felt the raised lettering. We talk quite a bit about his grandpa and how proud he would be of his grandson. David read the sign a few times -- he can read now, something about which I'm sure my dad would be particularly pleased -- turned on the balls of his feet, and ran with total abandon over the field. He coerced me to run too, and we ran until we were both winded. We collapsed on the field, and just laid there for a long moment.

We came home, made some ridiculously rich brownies, and I left the room to get a few things done. From the living room I hear this:

"Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you; Happy Birthday dear Grandpa; Happy Birthday to you."

And then: "Mom, when am I going to be old enough to watch X-Men?"

My dad lives on.

And I know he would appreciate this: on the way home, my son asked me, "Mom, what are huevos?"
"What, sweetie?"
"I heard someone say this morning that he has huevos grande. What does that mean?"
"Uh ... eggs. Big eggs."
"Oh. Like at breakfast?"
"OK. Because I asked the recess teacher what huevos grande were, but she just said it was time to go inside."

The one about the pool table can't be far behind.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'd rather have some other superpower

I took my son to the park yesterday for an hour or so. He hasn't ridden on those giant springy things for ages, but got the urge, so off he went, leaping onto a truck with eyes.

"Mom! Jump on that one and race me!" he squealed. No one else was there to get annoyed with a grown woman on the kiddie toys, so I obliged, climbing onto the nearest plastic animal. I didn't bother to check what animal it was, but I found out soon.

"Race me Mom! Ride you beaver!"

(Do I even need to add my commentary at this point?)

I kept it together, but then, about halfway through the "race":
"Mom! You're too big! Your legs go way down both sides of your beaver! But you're not doing it right. Make it go back and forth, like this:" (Here he demonstrated with his bouncy eye-car, making a loud "Unh Unh!" noise that attracted the attention of a passer-by. Which was great, because then the pièce de résistance had an audience.
He leaped off his eye-car, declaring the race over (won, of course, by him).

"But Mom almost won," he announced to the amused gentleman. "She has the fastest beaver ever."

More on recent expolits later. I'm going shopping with my son. I was going to pick up some hot dogs, but I'm not sure if I dare.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Too late to 'pologize

An apology:

To the people of Mesa, Arizona who smoke in public, or throw crap at animals, or allow their demon spawn children to chase animals:

I apologize if you have been accosted in the past year or so by an opinionated and abnormally articulate five-year-old, yelling and broadcasting your offense ("I hate smokers!" "I hope that bird poops on his head for throwing that rock!" "Why don't they make those kids stop being so mean?!" "I'm going to go tell him that birds are smarter than people realize. And that he's being less smart than the bird!" Or just the ubiquitous "Hey! HEY! HEEEEY! Quit it right now!") with the enthusiasm and volume of an audience-fueled politician on crack.

To the smokers: He calls cigarettes "smokers" and assures me that's what he hates; he would have no problem with you, if you would take that "yucky thing" and throw it in the garbage. (He is also prepared with a litter-bashing litany, should you choose to dispose of it on the ground.)

To the animal-harassers: Throwing crap? Really?

And to the inattentive lady at the park the other day: Your kid had it coming, chasing the geese for committing the offense of waddling near him. You're telling me if you were being chased by a clearly crazed animal several times your own size, making a sound somewhere between a cat being skinned and a wildebeest in heat, you wouldn't turn around and deliver even the smallest nip?

And I also apologize, to all you folks, that you are clearly too miserable to allow a few candid comments from a five-year-old child to roll off your backs. Rest assured I am teaching him politeness, and proper etiquette should you confront someone, and how to perhaps live to reach an age in the double-digits. But more than that, I'm teaching him to speak up for what he believes. If that means he implements the speaking-one's-mind lessons long before mastering the whole polite thing, so be it. Because he's got a pretty great mind. If you would use yours for a nanosecond, you'd see that.

And I also also apologize, that after such a confrontation is brought to my attention, I deliver the necessary chastisement but beyond that fail to have any less of a big mouth than my child. It's a family trait.

And in less than a month, this five-year-old won't be accosting you.

He'll be six.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day

Here's what my husband didn't get me for Valentine's Day this year:

Overpriced flowers:
Yeah, yeah, nothing says love like a bundle of decapitated vegetation. Does it seem odd to anyone else that it's become tradition to proclaim everlasting love and commitment with a dying or dead gift? Not the best symbolism, if you ask me. Which you haven't. But my husband, smart guy that he is, has. And he listened.

Fancy restaurant meal:
Yes, I know, nothing is more romantic than wooing and soliciting family members to babysit, having a protracted passive-aggressive argument because we both want the other one to "pick" the place, and overpaying to be wedged between the asses of other packed-like-sardines suckers waiting for three hours to eat at a crowded restaurant where we will be rushed through our meal so the next group can hork down their meals. But it's just not in the cards this year. I'd rather go some other day, preferably at an off-hour, when my husband's Sean Connery impression and my son's overly specific narrative about bathroom habits will garner a minimum of glares.

Yeah, right. I don't think I've made too awful of an impression -- of those of you who have had the misfortune of seeing me attempt dancing in real life, I've only done it once in the presence of each of you. But let me assure you: the falling-on-my-ass-under-some-guy's-groin incident, the guy who assumed I was drunk because I was performing no moves ever in style (nay, in existence), the ten-steps-behind attempt to learn a salsa move or two, and the clubbing-dancing experience that I dare not expound upon in mixed company -- these are not flukes. Dancing + me = disaster. Dancing + me + my husband = disaster times two.

Frilly, foofy, girly stuff:
You know, everyone thumbs their noses at gift cards, because it "doesn't take any thought." But seriously, how much thought and consideration would my husband be showing if he got me fancy earrings or a spa certificate, knowing I'd far prefer a gift card to Border's? And pink anything = blech.

What my husband did get me this year:

A card:
Know this guys: You could spring upon your lady a tropical vacation, two dozen roses, pearl earrings that were perfect for her tastes, and a thousand-dollar shopping spree (and even be willing to go with her), and she'd still want to know where the card is. And for the love of ever getting some Valentine's Night, don't just sign your name. Fortunately, my husband knows all this, and even appears to thoroughly mean all the sweet, poetic things he writes in the card. Plus, I know he picks out all cards for me with our son at his heels:
"Dad, let's get Mom this one!"
"I don't think she wants the Incredible Hulk."
"What about this one?"
"Or the Fantastic Four."
"Oooh! This one!"
"You know we're not picking them out for you. Mom doesn't really want SpongeBob."
"But the one you picked looks boring ... Hey, why does the guy on this card look wet? And he has a banana over his..."
"Hey! Where's the SpongeBob card again?"

I don't know who could help but appreciate the effort put into such a gift.

A living plant (roses):
Do I find the line in my card "I bought you a live plant because I see our relationship thriving and growing" kind of cheesy? Sure. But not nearly as much as I find it sweet, and exactly what I wanted.

Spontaneity is great for trips and romantic gestures and such, but it's highly overrated when it comes to gift choices. Thankfully, my husband knows this. He also knows exactly where to find really good dark chocolates. And that he'd better not eat them all after buying them for me.

He worked Valentine's Day, so it's likely that after coming home late he would have rather just konked out, or maybe drowned his stress in a few mindless hours of computer gaming. But he listens to me talk about writing, and David's latest misadventure, and lovey dovey stuff. He's cool like that.

So recap: Card + healthy plant + chocolate + my husband listening to me prattle = (to quote a certain Steve Martin movie) That's all I need.

What I got him:

A card:
A funny one, because one of our greatest bonds is that we can make each other laugh until I make this really ugly-doofy face and he makes this sound like a donkey with emphysema. But also with a message from me, containing the very true but pretty sappy sentiment that (don't tell anyone) he really wants.

Because there's really no guy-department equivalent to stuffed animals and heart-shaped everything.

Reasonable immunity:
I promised not to discuss a certain funny incident involving someone's boxer short collection. So I can't talk about any of them. Not the ones with a character whose name rhymes with Schmopeye the Tailor Fan, who has an affinity for a certain greenery; not the ones with a certain fluffy blue, gluttonous character whose name rhymes with Schnookie Fonster. And definitely not the ones with the glow in the...
Promise. Immunity. Right. Never mind.

David got us both cards and goodies. My card has about a thousand hearts, and a handwritten message that says "I love you Mom. You take me on walks." Aww.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

But seriously...

I'm still not sure if my previous post was legit what-the-heck commentary or participating in what i was bemoaning. But fortunately, my friend dirt (whose blog is much more eloquent than mine, even if she doesn't have the privilege of drawing on kid-generated potty humor for content) blogged this article by Robin Morgan today.

As dirt says, she voices issues better than I ever could. Just go read it.

There's no candidate who shares all my views, but more and more I'm getting to like Hillary, and I'm ashamed to say I was surprised to like her. I'm more ashamed to say that the reason I was surprised was that I'd bought into the popular perception of her. You know: the ice queen. The politico who never could be as wifey or maternal as probably she should be. The bulldog.

Why I never saw this as the double-standard and sexism that it is is beyond me. Maybe because it's become the norm. (I was going to describe it as "thinly veiled sexism" in the previous sentence until I realized it isn't veiled at all. Just not looked at.) Maybe because on the few occasions I have brought up such attitudes, I'm quickly shot down with a response that says, you're basically being paranoid. We don't need the gender movement anymore. Does more harm than good. And besides, no one is being denied any on-paper rights, are they? How is it that anyone's being repressed? Aren't you being a little over-sensitive?

Maybe it's because I do indeed have a few views that are considered pretty conservative, pretty red-state. Maybe not most of my views, but I've been in a constant mental dialogue with myself trying to reconcile these few views with the subconscious recognition that this issue isn't settled.

A friend a while back asked me if I was a feminist. I proceeded to talk at extreme length (what, me? I know, shocking) about how of course I was a feminist, but not like you think, not like the raving, shrill voices you hear. How I'm fully justified being both a feminist and conservative in a small handful of issues, because really, as I see it, I'm being more philosophically consistent. (At this point I launched into an extremely long treatise on just why and how I was being philosophically consistent. Again, I know. Shocking.)

But really, I was just trying to justify it to myself. Am I a feminist?

Yeah, I guess I am. And I'm pretty shrill sometimes, even.

Seriously. Go read Robin Morgan's article.

Also, watch this video. It's a few years old, but ... wow. Just wow. If three guys younger than my brother can put words to the issue, I am put to much more shame than I realized.

(Back to our regularly scheduled poopy and pukey humor in the next post.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bite me (Or: Licentious! Or: Lice in da hood)

(Or maybe Itchy and Scratchy.)

(So very punny today.)

What's the most helpful phone call you might hope to receive when you're writing to deadline, pressed for time, hoping against hope that you can make use of every second from now until it's time to pick up your son from school?

Why, a phone call from the school nurse an hour early, of course. Informing you that your son has an infested head and is waiting to be picked up.

So, the deadlines and the using-seconds-efficiently and all that went on hold, naturally, to be replaced by an odd-smelling spray treatment and highly resistant-to-being-sprayed child.

And after we'd finally sprayed, massaged, soaked, rinsed, dried and were combing:

"What are you looking for?"

"Eggs. I want to make sure there aren't any eggs left in your hair."

"Eggs? Can't we leave them in? I'm like a nest!"

"No, David, we can't leave them in. I need to ki ... er, check to make sure there aren't any eggs."

"Can I see a baby one?"

I'm off now, to wash everything in the house and boil the comb. Every single itch now is making me paranoid. My husband and I agreed to check each other's heads this evening. Should make for a fun evening.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Guess where the snow ended up?

I was reading writing advice a little while back that said something about (I'm paraphrasing here) one of the best introductions to short pieces, like blog entries or short articles, was what they called the "irresistible question." I feel my natural tendencies, probably from journalism training, resisting this, and I'm sure in overuse it is pretty horrid. But maybe there's something to it in some forms. My son's favorite poriferan is introduced thus, as are half the news articles I hear. ("Why is Huckabee a thorn in the Republicans' side?" "Why is this local merchant slimier than a snake in the grass?" "Why are local police walking on eggshells?" "Why do newscasters insist upon using tired, ill-fitting clichés?")

I'm not sure about employing it myself. But I do know my son already seems to be an expert at this technique. He leads off with questions more often than not, and they tend to be irresistible, if not always in a good way and if only because of the connotation.

An example:

On the way home from school: "Guess what happened to Reginald today in the cafeteria?"
Me (pretty sure I didn't want to know what happened to Reginald in the cafeteria today): "What?"
Him: "Reginald must have been hungry, because he ate a lot, I mean a LOT, and then he looked real funny, and then he made a face like this (the rear view mirror revealed a crumpled chin, twisted lips and squeezed shut eyes) and he threw up! All over the place! And it made a splashing sound like this (you don't really want me to describe it, do you?) and it splashed all over!"

Or, following the seemingly innocuous intro question, "Guess what?" at the restauruant with my in-laws yesterday: "Hey. Hey! Hey, guess what? I threw snow at Mom, and she was bent over, and it went in her shirt, and" (here the restaurant went preternaturally quiet as his voice rises to a shout) "AND it went in her BRA!" (Uncontrollable giggling ensued.)

Even if his question is a request for information, he's as likely to contribute to the ensuing conversation as anyone. Which can make for interesting conversation.

Some other "irresistible questions":

"What happens if I spill a lot of something on the couch?"
"Why is the cat putting his ears back at me?"
"Can I get something out if I stick it in the keyboard?"
"If I tell the truth, will you be mad?"
"Why can't I lick that?"
"If I need to wipe up a whole lot of something, where are the towels?"
"What's the difference between feeling like you need to cough and feeling like you need to throw up?"