The Graduate, 2012

 

It hardly seems like it’s been almost 13 years since we watched the little boy board the bus and set off to his first day of school, and it seems like a lifetime ago.

Congratulations to my son Cameron on the occasion of his graduation from Parkland High School. You’ve made a lot of people proud, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

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Happy 18th Birthday, Son!

Wednesday, February 9, 1994, 5:34 a.m. That’s when my life changed for the best. Not just better; I know my superlatives. Whatever was good in my life up until that moment was magnified, whatever was bad didn’t matter any longer.

You turn eighteen today, kiddo. You’ve made me proud. You’ve grown into an intelligent, compassionate, caring young man, a talented musician with a bright future, surrounded by family and friends who would do anything for you. And you’re way cooler than I ever was.

Enjoy your day.

Happy Birthday, young man!

Random Thoughts #4 (Birthday Edition)

On September 21, 2009, I became a 58-year-old kid. I still think (and usually behave) like a teenager, and I like it that way. Life’s too short to be stuffy and serious all the time.

Related Random Birthday Thoughts:

  • Man, I seem to be seeing a lot more scalp every morning when I comb my hair.
  • I don’t need to feel embarrassed any more if I forget something; it’s pretty much expected of me.
  • I used to be obsessed with dying. Now I’m obsessed with living. Makes for a happier me.
  • The cute girl who rings up my groceries…she’s not smiling at me because she’s flirting; she’s just being friendly to the nice old man.
  • I feel lucky because I saw Elvis and the Beatles live in concert (not at the same time, obviously); got to see Dan Marino and Joe Montana play in their prime; was able to realize my dream of visiting London and Liverpool in June of 2001; and made some wonderful friends throughout the years.
  • I feel sad because I remember where I was and what I was doing when the Kennedy brothers and John Lennon were gunned down; I realize that modern sports heroes are playing less for love of the game then they are for love of enormous paychecks and self-glorification; since 9/11/01, I will never again be comfortable spending more than a few hours at a time on a plane; I’ve lost too many friends to drugs and violence.
  • When I was younger, I felt that the music I listened to was the best ever made, and the stuff my parents listened to was lame. Now I feel that the music I listened to when I was younger was the best ever made, and the stuff my son listens to is just so much indecipherable noise.
  • It’s depressing to know that the various aches and pains I experience are not temporary. Arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and pinched nerves don’t just clear up on their own.
  • I will probably never marry again. I’m old and set in my ways; I like coming and going as I please, and not having to explain myself to anybody.
  • That being said, it’s nice to have somebody around to experience things with, somebody to talk things over with, and somebody to say goodnight to.
  • I hate being serious.
  • I have doubts that I’ll ever earn my Black Belt. My body is just not co-operating. However, I will keep trying. I will not give up.
  • Rock and roll and Disney has kept me young. Thanks to both of you.
  • And thank you for listening to an old man ramble! Doo wah diddy diddy!

The Bad Son

I don’t even know where to start with this.

I guess the year 1951 is as good a place as any. That was the year I was born. Don’t know the circumstances surrounding that; the most credible story I’ve heard is that my mother was an  unmarried schoolteacher who got impregnated by some guy or other. I was put up for adoption right away. Before a month had passed I was taken in by the couple I always considered my parents.  I don’t know how old I was when they told me. Very young. It was never a big secret, like you see in various movies-of-the-week. I’ve never felt the urge to track down my birth parents; they didn’t want me, somebody else did. Yeah, yeah, I know, circumstances, morality in the ’50s, this argument, that argument. Doesn’t matter. The couple that adopted me didn’t think they would be able to have any kids of their own. Oops. I have three brothers and two sisters. And I’ve never spent a day thinking I wasn’t part of the family because I sprung from a different set of loins.

So time passed, as time is wont to do. My father turned out to be a dick. In my eyes, anyway. Maybe he wasn’t as bad as I remember him, but I think he probably was. He was a philanderer. He used to drop my brother and I off at a movie or concert or whatever and go out carousing, making sure we knew to tell Mom that he went to the movie or concert or whatever with us, grilling us about plot details and so forth. We complied. We were kids. We didn’t know better.

He left my mother when I was 15, remarrying twice before committing suicide in 1970 at the age of  43.

In the meantime, my mom was left with 5 kids to raise (I was trying to make it on my own at the time, but had to abandon that in ’74). She worked long hours as a waitress at various venues, including the Firestone Country Club. Trying to earn a living and support all those brats, who would be calling her at work at all hours because this one called another one a name, or wouldn’t let them watch a certain TV show, or various other life-threatening disasters that had to have her Solomon-like pronouncements immediately, if not sooner.

Eventually we all grew up (or at least older) and into our various individual lives: one sister a Mother figure dispensing holistic wisdom, another a gay activist. One brother a hopeless alcoholic, another in and out of trouble with the law, the third, by avoiding the rest of the family, came close to his goal of being a millionaire before he was forty. We’re all family, though, revolving around the solar gravity of our mother, who lets herself be taken advantage of, lets herself be walked on, but in the end can’t say “no” to any of her kids. They’re her damn children, after all.

I can say I was never one of the advantage-takers or walker-onners. I was something much worse. Despite her plucking me from a hospital and giving me a home when I was a month old, even though she reassured me throughout the years that I was no different to her than her natural-born children, despite the love and care she blessed me with, I wasn’t a very good son.

Oh, I wasn’t like certain of my brothers, who depend on her to this day to drive them to and from because they’ve had their license suspended pretty much for life. She never had to bail me out of jail or let me live with her because I blow all my money on vodka.

I committed the worst sin you can commit against a parent: I neglected to include her in my life. I got married the first time while I still lived in Ohio. For several years I lived less than 5 miles from her, and rarely went to visit her. Just because I was caught up in my own situation at the time. No big deal. I was married, things happened that didn’t pertain to her. So what? Right?

When I got married the second time, and that marriage produced a son, and we fell upon hard times, we moved to Pennsylvania because that’s where her parents lived. Her folks owned their own business, and were therefore able to help us out more than my mom, who was by this time retired. Oh, sure, she had remarried, but they were both retired. And something I feel bad about is that I never considered her husband as my stepfather, but just the guy she married. Maybe it was my age. I don’t know.

So I’ve been living here in Pennsylvania. Got divorced as a matter of course. My son is now 15. We don’t get back to Ohio much, maybe for a 4- or 5-day stretch during the summer. Too much going on, ya know? I call my mom occasionally, not as often as I should, but I’m not a phone guy. I don’t have much to say.

I put myself in her place occasionally. How am I going to feel when my son grows up and moves away and I hear from him maybe every other month, and see him 5 days a year if I’m lucky? Pretty crappy. I adore the kid and will miss him more than I can say when he’s gone. My mom probably thinks the same about me, since I’m not around like the rest of the crowd.

Like I said, when I do call, it doesn’t last very long. Called her yesterday, as a matter of fact. We talked for 5, maybe 10 minutes.  I didn’t have much to talk about except how nice the weather was over the holiday weekend. She asked about my son, what we’ve been doing, when we’re coming home to see her. She mentioned she had a doctor’s appointment today to get her asthma medicine represcripted.I said OK, talk to you again soon.

My sister called me about 20 minutes ago about the doctor appointment. Seems my mom’s lymphoma has reared up. She also has lung cancer. Doctor says she has a year at most.

My mother has a year to live, at most. Then she’ll be dead.

I don’t know how to end this.

I See London, I See France…

I am by no means a fashion maven. I’m not really sure what a fashion maven even is, but I know I’m not one. As I write this, I’m wearing my everyday clothes: t-shirt (Walt Disney World ‘06), jeans (Wranglers, from K- or Wal- or some other Mart), white socks, slip-on Skechers. Until my son made the switch to jeans, his mom would always get a good laugh on the days I dressed him (why doesn’t a blue cotton tee go with a  pair of green basketball shorts, I’d like to know). I have only two fashion rules: no bluetooth earpieces (someday you’ll  be subjected to my rant about those technological monstrosities and the clowns who wear them in public), and remember to wear underwear on karate nights.

If I’ve never mentioned this before, my son Cameron stays with me on alternate weeks. I live literally within three minutes of my ex’s house, so it’s no big deal for me to get Cam to his bus stop on school days.

There is a kid that catches the bus at his stop that, no matter what kind of mood I wake up in, makes me literally laugh out loud when I see him.

The kid’s parent doesn’t make me LOL; in fact just the opposite. This moron brings his/her (their vehicle, an SUV roughly the size of Montana, has tinted windows, so I’ve never been able to see whether it’s Mom or Dad who drops him off) son to the bus stop every morning – God forbid he has to walk for 5 or 10 minutes like everyone else to get there – and in order to see when the bus is coming, parks their gas-guzzling behemoth on what most would consider the wrong side of the street. About this far from the corner. And there is a huge bush at the corner at the street. The first time I came around the corner when this mindless moron was parked there, I almost hit them head-on. Not that I was traveling at an excessive speed, but this jerk was parked right behind the bush where I couldn’t see until I came around the corner. Since then, every time I turn that corner, I have to stop and try to look around this Bozo to see if another car….or more importantly, one of the other schoolkids…is coming up the street. This happens on a daily basis during the weeks when I take Cam to the bus stop, but this loser is completely oblivious to the fact that they’re posing a potential threat to other drivers and pedestrians.

I think it may be that they want to keep their son out of sight for as long as possible, though.

The first time I saw this kid get out of the vehicle, I was stunned, because at the Parent Night Orientation I went to, the principal specifically mentioned that the Dress Code forbids students showing up to school in this manner. Even the Student Handbook proclaims that not permitted, under threat of disciplinary action, is the “wearing articles of clothing in which undergarments are deliberately exposed to view.”

Yes, friends, this kid, looking to be about 15, white and nerdy, pulls down the back of his pants so that his ass hangs out.

Now, I’ve never really understood the appeal of this particular fashion trend. When I was 15, if any square-inch of my Fruit-of-the-Looms was visible to the public, I would be devastatingly humiliated. Why the hell is it considered cool to have your ass hanging out of your pants?

When I first saw this kid, it was still nice weather out, and he was wearing oversized basketball shorts. I wondered at the time how he was going to keep his street cred when it turned cold out. When the weather started turning, he stuck with the shorts, but eventually he had to turn to sweatpants. Which, of course, were pulled down in the back to expose his boxers.

This morning, for example, it was 11 degrees out…minus 1 wind chill…when I took Cameron to the bus stop. The SUV was parked in the usual spot, I almost head-on-ed it, blah blah. The bus came, the kid got out of the SUV, his ass hanging out. As I mentioned, it was frostbite-cold out, and instead of pulling his pants up, this work-of-art pulled his jacket down to cover himself up. Amazing!

What’s more amazing is that he even gets this far dressed as he is. As a father, I can’t imagine letting my son go out in public like that. I’d be concerned that he’d never get a girlfriend, and on top of that, get the shit beat out of him on a regular basis. From experiences with my ex, I can’t imagine a mother letting her son go to school without looking like it’s Picture Day.

Seriously, what parent could watch their son walk to catch the bus with his ass hanging out and think, “I’m so proud of that kid!”?

I see that President Obama has said that “Brothers should pull up their pants.” I hope to the fashion god that brothers of all colors are listening.

“Cat’s in the Cradle”

I don’t want to be the guy in the Harry Chapin song. I have a 14-year-old son, Cameron. His mom and I divorced amicably a few years ago, and I live literally 5 minutes away. He alternates weeks at our respective places.

His mom lives in a nice neighborhood where his friends can come and hang out and he can ride his bike to his grandmother’s house if he wants.

I live in a small second-floor condo unit, in a development of mostly older people. What kids there are, are younger, so it’s just he and I hanging out when he’s staying with me.

Generally he’ll spend the evening in the living room on his Xbox, playing Halo 3 online with some of his school friends, while I hole up in my bedroom surfing the ‘net, playing guitar, whatever. Occasionally I’ll sit in the living room and read while he plays, but that’s not really spending quality time together; that’s just being in the same room.

One night a week we’ll go to karate class together (when it’s not soccer season), and we go out to a restaurant once a week, but I want to do more with him before he’d rather spend his time hanging out with his buddies. Maybe a game night, or bowling once a week, or something.

But I want to get something done before the day I say “Hey, let’s go do this” and he says “Sorry, Dad, I’ve got plans.”

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