Category Archives: Regret

Dad Will Fix It

When I’d have a problem that I couldn’t fix, just before giving up entirely, I’d ask my dad for guidance. When I expected that he’d encourage me to surrender (and call in a professional), he would instead listen to the entire problem and even suppose the various outcomes. And finally, when I expected that he’d offer advice, he would offer to come over and show me precisely how to tackle the problem.

Now it must be said that my dad was no superhero. He wasn’t smarter than everyone else either. In fact, he wasn’t even that dedicated to a solution. Anyone who knew him would tell you that his loyalty wavered (usually in the direction of a green-bottled brew). But what made my dad unique (to me) was his desire to serve.

He knew his own limitations, but didn’t let them prevent him from trying. The mark he left on a problem would always be evidence that an interruption certainly took place. The unresolved problem was a problem that would have been much worse had it gone unaddressed.

My dad enjoyed stillness. But he could never sit idly watching anyone struggle. He was so eager to be helpful that he would help out as a simple courtesy.

In his final months, he spent his remaining fortune at yard sales and flea markets. He would often offer more than the asking price for any trinket that caught his eyes. He defended, “that there is worth twice as much…I’d be taking advantage if I haggled the price.” He was helping without being asked for help. I suppose it was a low-cost way to claim a victory.

It’s been 21 years since my dad died. Even his last day was poetic and not without purpose. He believed that he was resolving a problem that wouldn’t fix itself. For those he left behind, we’ve varied in the ways we processed our grief. Having answers to one question rarely resolved the grief. It merely provided permission to ask other questions. And the unanswered questions become the most important.

I stopped asking questions like “How did he die?” “Why did he leave us?” and “What were the circumstances that led up to his death?” I’ve grown past these questions, mostly because the answers were too uncomfortable. And the only time I could get a little comfort is to write something in his honor on the anniversary of his death.

Over the past 21 years, I’ve encountered a number of problems and wondered how my dad would have approached each one. I’d like to think that his energy in the moments might have impacted the outcome. No doubt, his input would have changed the trajectory. But for 21 years I’d led myself to believe that the outcome would have been better with his hands-on approaches.

Perhaps I should rely on the notion that the lessons that he’d taught me would provide the wisdom needed to approach any situation. After 21 years of wishing he’d been there to consult, to intervene, or to force a solution that may not have been the best outcome, I pause. It is now that I realize that no one, including my dad, has the perfect solution to every problem. It is now that I realize the fact that we often decide for ourselves how committed we are to any given problem. Finally, I must concede that how we’ve approached our problems in the past plays a large role in determining how we will handle current and future problems.

Although I miss my dad a great deal, 21 years is more than enough time to stop asking “what would he have done in this situation?”

Twenty one years is enough time to have bore another human being, watch them grow into an adult, and model for them the tools to manage a world of problems on their own. It’s enough time to ascend and descend a dozen times. Its enough time to be loved and hated. It’s enough time to be at the top and the bottom simultaneously. What would he have done in these situations? What could he have done to assist? Would he have listened, advised, or assisted, or intervened, or ignored situations entirely? It doesn’t even matter because 21 years have passed any way. It’s ALL in the past now.

I can’t be certain of anything. I know I miss him. But I also know that he’s left enough behind for me to contend with. I know that if I handled situations the same way he did, my outcomes may have mimicked his, and that’s not ok either.

Missing someone doesn’t mean that having them beside you still would be better. It just means that you wouldn’t be alone. And I never felt alone. I just felt overwhelmed.

The Other Side of Hope

As the new year begins to reveal the playbook for the coming months, I’m pondering my lesson plans. The possibility of another stint of virtual instruction looms as the actual storm clouds cloak us with snow.

We are never more than a few hours away from tomorrow. With holidays come a time of reflection and redemption. But more importantly we develop hopes that the future will be brighter. Brighter than…what?

To anticipate something greater than something else is to have at least an experience or exposure to something less great, right?

Whether you’ve thought about it or not, hope is an acknowledgment that we’ve already come through something unpleasant. Life is the acknowledgment that death has not occurred yet. Good is the proof that evil has not prevailed.

Therefore, we can suppose that on the other side of demise, there is hope. Hope is what keeps us going. In the presence of despair, hope looms in the darkness. Hope is the cousin of faith. But with faith comes denominational choice. With faith comes organized religion or the opinion to shun spirituality. You have a choice.

These are constructs that can be debated, embraced, or debunked. So in the spirit of either, let’s consider, for a moment, that hope is a drug. In the eyes of a pessimist or someone who lives amongst habitual chaos, hope is an intangible that is just beyond their reach. Hope is both a noun and a verb, where as faith is just a noun. Hope is cheap and accessible to anyone. Faith requires effort, and it’s expensive and exclusive. Hope is pedaled by politicians and producers. It’s offered to excite and motivate, manipulate and mutilate pessimism and hopelessness.

So in the next few (days) of the new year, my resolution shall be to mix and match. For every two negative situations, I will mix in one serving of hope. It will spice it up! It will taste great. It will reduce the acidity (sort of like mixing sugar in with the spaghetti sauce). I will match the energy I’m presented with with a force equal to (or completely opposite of) whatever I am faced. I will challenge adversity with possibility. I will look evil square in the eye; and offer it a hit of hope.

Death…Comes In Cycles.

Nothing seemingly thwarts death more than pure determination. “Seemingly” is the key word. Death comes regardless. But the attitude by which we accept it’s terms vary.

Death sets the tone for rebirth. Generations of storytelling elude to the fertility that awaits death’s spawn. Our ancestors have tirelessly formed opinions to explain why we die and how we should strengthen our legacies. Religion and spirituality aside, the idea that our lives have meaning beyond the present moment necessitates purpose. In other words, work hard and live right so that you’ll be rewarded in death.

Death is real. But it is also a metaphor. It is also an idea. It is also a tool, a threat, a punishment.

Death comes in cycles, as does life. Everything dies. Eminent death is inescapable. But impending death warrants a challenge. And proposed death, well that may be mere propaganda. We don’t know until it is all behind us. Do you know who doesn’t get to ponder the truth? The dead. The rest of us bathe in anxiety.

Death is a punctuation, but not necessarily a period. In the cycle of life, it’s a semicolon. It’s a pause—a comma. A question mark?

Death is necessary.

Opportunity, relationships, and health all know nothing more true. Something must end before something new can prosper. Whether it be the end of a job, or a departing of lovers, or the annihilation of a cancer cell, the end is just the beginning of something new.

Ask the trees. Consult the squirrels and the birds. Watch the rivers rejoice after a drought.

The dried grape that yields it’s worth is but the forming of a raisin, whose content explodes flavor in the mouths of babes too young to imbibe wine. All things yield to another cause, whether it be worthy or fashionable. The values of almost everything flow in correlation to demand or disinterest. Even death has value.

“One can not truly die unless one truly lives.” It’s been said, but this hasn’t taken into account those of us who are living our best lives (which are likely incomparable to those living better lives). Either way, death requires us to pick up the remnants and piece together a new life. The losses, the wakes, and the mournings subside. Memories lift up our best efforts.

Octavian Mielu

Death is not a condemnation of life. But life wants to condemn death. We make the rules in life, but not in the afterlife.

In the northern hemisphere, the leaves flaunt hues that remind us of life’s cycle. Death’s finality triggers life’s infinity. Nature does not yield to mankind’s mechanical or intellectual creations. And yet short of a celestial event, our galaxy (and every universe beyond our own understanding) will continue to spin and evolve and revolve around a nature that we still don’t understand. Life will go on…even beyond our own death.

Oil and Water (TikTok Challenge)

In light of the recent bomb threats in one of the biggest small towns in New Jersey, the new superintendent left messages for the parents of each student enrolled in the district. Every building in the school district will reopen after an emergency closure resulted from a threat that went viral on social media. This was not the first threat the district has endured. But this time, the adversity has directed the energy where it may be best felt—a conversation between parents and students.

As I listened to the plea for help, I prepared my mind as both an educator of ten year olds and a parent of a seventeen year old. I considered my students who confide in me how messy the bathroom has become (as a result of TikTok inspired vandalism). Their little hearts conflicted as they exchange their thrill of the chaos for their need to be exonerated. They don’t want to get in trouble for something that another student did.

I considered my son who is on the cusp of getting his driver’s license and applying for jobs and preparing for graduation. I also think about how smart he is, his potential, and his likeliness to stay out of trouble. It’s his affiliations that bring me pause.

The superintendent’s message was a call to action for parents to have a meaningful conversation with their children. There’s a need not only to prevent future occurrences, but to discuss the implications of this kind of behavior.

We must be cautious to label these acts frivolous or thoughtless! There could be nothing more contrary. A LOT of effort went into concocting these challenges. The social media mileage that it’s been getting is not accidental. Somewhere there is a proud troll. The impact ripples throughout communities across the nation. How long have we been telling our youngsters to think globally? We had no idea how that might manifest.

When I picked my son up today, I greeted him with the love that comes from missing him for a few days. I asked him his thoughts of the “day off from school” as a result of the recent threat. He was appreciative that it wasn’t a “remote instruction” day. Beyond that, it all seemed to be outside of his purview.

I replayed the superintendent’s message for my son. I cautiously approached the need to have this conversation in a way that he could “buy” into the the resolve. I watched my son’s expression fade from disinterest into something that resembled “are we done here?”

I began by reminding him of the various occasions that he thought he had things under control only to realize that situations can be cumbersome or overwhelming. I then affirmed how smart he was and how much trust I have in his decisions.

THEN…

I reminded him of my role to guide him rather than restrict him or hover over him. What happened next surprised even me. My son picked up a fruit and began to toss it into the air rhythmically. Up and down, over and over. Seemingly not paying attention, it wasn’t until I hit upon a nerve that he missed his mark and dropped the fruit.

He couldn’t focus on his toss and grasp the points at the same time. He offered little as a rebuttal as the conversation morphed more so into a lecture. Sure enough, each time I hit upon a valid point, he dropped the fruit.

Despite the easy analogy that could be made between regretful decisions and this pummeled fruit, I narrowed the talk to three points.

1) Students have some knowledge of what is happening here and may not have fully considered the consequences. Nonetheless, it does not require hard evidence to charge another student with vandalism. It merely requires a witness or mitigating circumstances to transform an investigation into formal charges.

2) Someone will speak up to either put an end to the destructive behavior or they will direct that negative energy from themselves (to ensure that they are not blamed).

3) If even half the parents had this “meaningful” talk with their child, the kids would likely steer clear of the kids that they KNOW are engaging in this activity.

I call this “oil and water.” Both are powerful, but neither wants anything to do with the other. Students who desire to be on the path to success want nothing to do with behavior that will create obstacles. For other students, misdirection will continue until they experience a consequence for themselves or until they witness someone else get caught.

I’ve asked my son to consider “oil and water” as he witnesses these TikTok challenges unfurl. From this point on, he can no longer claim that he doesn’t know any better. And as his parent, I can no longer say that I didn’t at least start the conversation.

Never Blame the Victim

We build our philosophies on absolutes, but life is not absolute. Entire systems are built upon rules—some of which have exceptions and exclusions. Ask any legal expert. Let’s not overlook implied meanings and common practice. Each is a component for understandings and agreements that must be adhered to. If not, there’s a result that may require all parties to revisit the original agreement.

Here’s one: never blame the victim. It begs for an addendum. “Never blame the victim…unless…” But nope! Can’t do it. Never! But then again, we never say never.

There’s varying degrees of victimhood, and each one requires a clandestine protection against retribution. We speak of justice beyond the crime. But we rarely speak of the restoration of the victim. Neither punishment nor restitution can undo the damage. Understanding and forgiveness might do the trick, but that’s not justice. That’s empathy. And empathy is too often overlooked because the victims and the witnesses and the enforcers of the rules need to feel something greater than what empathy affords them.

Depending on the severity of the crime, mitigating circumstance seem useless. Sometimes knowing “why” doesn’t ease the pain.

It hurts to be a victim. Victims need care and compassion. Victims need healing. But do you know what victims don’t need? They don’t need others pretending to be victims. Perpetrators pretend to be harmed, offended victims of injustice so that they can glean sympathy. They know that no one will blame them for being a victim. All that they need to do is claim to be hurt, shed a little tear, or share a sad story to awaken the emotions of their caregivers.

No one likes a liar. Cons are despised. There’s no dignity in betraying the confidence of others. And the true victims of this crime are the not the ones who employ this technique, but instead are the ones who fall for the fakery. It’s like dialing 911 when there is no emergency. It distracts the responders from the real emergencies.

We Are What We Eat

Last night before bed, I ate a piece of string cheese. I hadn’t eaten much all day, so I figured a little treat might do me good. I shun proper nutrition habits because (like most things) I think they are simply fads. Without knowing the facts, I have decided to make my dietary decisions based solely on emotion. I am not alone.

I’d like to think that my added weight was a result of 15 months of COVID lifestyle changes. This has proven false by photos of me from 5 years ago which convey my robust shape. I’ve been eating what I want for years! I’m reduced to the choices in my cabinets. And since I shop based on emotion too, it’s a wonder that I’m not a walking, talking mound of sugar and carbs. I don’t have many mirrors in the house. I also don’t own a scale. My last visit to the doctor revealed that a lot more weight was needed on the counter-balance. But I’m ok with it.

So string cheese before bed, seemed like a better choice. But if we are what we eat, and I’ve eaten very little, why aren’t I…very little? Something about the body storing up fat or having an irregular routine is a warning that my choices are not good for me.

String cheese is compact. It can be eaten in various ways. I usually just chomp on it. This time I decided to peel it. Each piece was smaller and “stringier.” I savored it. It tasted nice. So nice, that I had to savor another. I refrained from having a third though.

The thinner the serving, the easier it went down in to my tummy. I wasn’t as heavy as that bag of gummy bears that I had yesterday. But that was then, and this is…well…this is then too. BUT, anyone can feast on a bag of goodies. But sting cheese isn’t designed to be shared. It’s a serving for ONE, and sometimes I have another ONE. Who would judge me for a healthier snack choice.

My bedtime snack will surely inspire pleasant dreams. Visions of cows jumping over moons, or wooly sheep leaping farmer’s fences. Sunflowers swaying in the breeze and fireflies brightening up the night, eyes getting heavy and the num num whispering of string cheese.

Sliding In the DMs

Who has been sliding into your DMs? Most likely someone (who hasn’t been invited) thought they could be clever. Rather than offering a witty pickup line face to face, they may have decided to sneak a note into your “inbox.”

For decades now, clever communication has existed. At the dawn of the internet, AOL and MSN were offering the messenger and hotmail to rival traditional methods of reaching out and touching someone. Before then, anyone interested in speaking with you would have to ask you for your number. How archaic?

For a clearer picture as to what this means, let’s take a closer look at what “howtogeek.com” has to say about this.

“Sliding into DMs” means sending someone (who you might not know personally) a direct message on social media, often on Instagram or Twitter. It is commonly known as a flirtatious, romantic gesture to initiate a conversation or to ask someone out on a date. Therefore, if you message a person you’re attracted to on social media, you’re very likely “sliding into their DMs.”

Has this happened to you? Or more curiously, have you done this? Plausible deniability prevents you from incriminating yourself. But knowing that it occurs frequently is another story.

A number of my female friends have admitted that this happens often enough that they employ what we like to call the trifecta: ignore, screenshot, and block. And with editing capabilities on most phones, the names can be omitted to protect the culprits when posting the humorous flirtations on social media. It is trifling enough to keep a shy guy at bey.

My guy friends are not so quick to admit. Rejection is painful, but embarrassment is brutal. For those few guys who successfully employed this technique, they’re not going to reveal precisely how…

A “like” on social media is a seemingly innocent way to show interest. But for every ONE person who likes a post, there are dozens who saw it, but were not inclined to react. Everyone else can see when we make a move. No one wants to get caught “out there.” Sending a DM is supposed to be private. It doesn’t always end that way.

It’s the digital form of sending a note in class. But in this case, school is out…permanently.

Gals claim to receive DMs, but don’t admit to sending them. Guys send them, but don’t admit to receiving them. It takes a lot of confidence to send a message to someone you don’t know. But I bet it’s got to be strange to receive a message from someone you don’t know. In the end, I suppose if a connection is made, it’s worth the effort.

But an often overlooked concern in sending a DM is not having enough information. Sending a message to someone who is not interested or is involved with someone else could be disastrous.

Blind confidence can be a winning characteristic. But then again, it could be overwhelming burden. How do you know who you are dealing with if you only know their name (or worse their online handle)? How can you be certain to not cross an imaginary line or offend an otherwise unsuspecting suitor? In short, you can’t. All you know for certain is that a sent message will be received. It might not get a response. It might not have a happy ending.

A DM is a seed. Guys are planting seeds all of the time. So often, we may as well consider them farmers. But a seed alone is not fruitful without nurturing and care. Seeds planted in infertile soil will perish.

This is not a how-to. It’s merely something to ponder. DMs are but one way to get the ball rolling. Just because it’s private doesn’t mean that it has to be weird. Life is short. Act accordingly.

Guilty confessions vol. x

We must read between the lines. Indignant fools will not confess. Wise men will let us figure it out. Most of us wont ask the right questions. Some will not admit their doubt.

But if we could have more conversations, and talk it through, the life quality enhanced could belong to you. Rhymes and puns are clever. Analogies are fun and games. Unasked questions are answered never…kicking ass and taking names.

We can learn from other’s mistakes, but often we choose our own. The lessons don’t count unless we improve. The safest place is our home.

Alright! Enough of the wit. It’s down to brass tacks. Let’s discuss something real. Let’s avoid the character attacks.

The nineteen was dropped from COVID because the year is now 2021. The variant is called Delta to avoid another messy one. No more talk of the region of origin because it would confirm the problem we have with racism…

capitalism…

age-ism…

The fact that the world already exploits Southeast Asia; the reality that those in the west who created the vaccine don’t have access to it, can’t afford it, can’t get away from it–so we call it Delta, symbolic of the shape.

What happened to contact tracing? It was all the rage in 2020. But now? We just show color coded maps that coincide hotspots with political affiliations. But masks aren’t political! Diseases need cures, not vaccinations. But there’s no money in the cure.

There’s money in low wage-earners who need to get back to work; to serve the people who work for higher wages (who are able to work from home). If there was any chance that the cast system could be broken, a pandemic is as good a time as any.

Minimum wages increase as the poor hear the cries of the wealthy, “Get back to work!” An individual recognition of how organized labor maximizes income, the masses show the rich that they can either EAT them or join them. The wealthy, too, reorganize.

To be still affords us the opportunity to see things for how they are. After nearly 18 months of near-stillness, why are we surprised that things would change? Lessons were learned–just not the lessons that we planned.

The manipulation takes a more aggressive tone. The oppressed push back. For the first time the entitled feel victimize and scream bloody murder as they eat their own cake.

Education IS political for the simple fact that some get it for free, some pay for it, some don’t get it at all–and those are the ones that we elect to lead us. For anything that has value will be fought for. For anything that others need, there will be war. For anything that we can’t have more, there will be battles in store.

So today’s guilty confession is simple and secure. The liars will not stop lying. The wealthy won’t stop clinching their pearls. The poor wont stop fighting for more. The perverts wont stop groping girls. The mask-less won’t stop breathing. The cops wont stop beating. The disenfranchised won’t stop marching. The virus wont stop mutating. The END.

Formidable Film

When I was nine years old, my mother sent me away for the summer. I stayed with my aunt and cousins who lived in South Carolina. All I knew then was that they had something called air conditioning and that their snakes were called water moccasins. I have long since lost contact with my three girl cousins, but my one little boy cousin is a friend on Facebook.

The more I think back, it was like I was spending the summer with the Huxtables accept their was no Cliff. I mean, their was a man in the house, but he was my aunts second (or third) husband. In my later years, my mom explained that every time my aunt divorced, she made enough money to earn another college degree. When she passed away, she had long-since earned her PhD.

My littlest boy cousin was about five years old that summer. He was named after my aunts second husband who was no longer around. My mom once showed me a photograph of the family posing in front his dad’s brand new black 78 Ford F-150 step side (with a camper top) that they’d driven all the way from Charleston to Atlantic City. Four kids in the back with no seatbelts—heck, no seats!—and no cares in the world. After all, that was in the 70’s!

My four girl cousins were full of character; and each one very different. My oldest cousin had already gone off to college that sumner and later in life would become the first openly gay council woman in suburban Atlanta. She left behind her younger sisters who had yet to develop their identities.

The second oldest was an adolescent princess who hadn’t yet discovered boys, but remained especially shy around her step father. I didn’t understand why she behaved the way she did that Summer. That was our first and last summer together. There were so many questions I wanted to ask her. We grew up and apart. I had heard that she barely survived 9/11. As fate would have it, she called out sick from her job in one of the towers the day they came crashing down. Fate, she is a strange mistress.

The third oldest was a little older than me. She was a little sassy and often the victim of her mother’s wrath. She wasn’t as pretty as the others and was reminded of it frequently. I was an outsider and unfamiliar with the family dynamic. So when I arrived, I was kind to each of my hosts. I was especially empathetic to this cousin. As a result, we got along well.

And then there was the fourth youngest. She was a little younger than me. Only older than her younger brother, the only authority she had was over him. She teased him relentlessly. She would find disgusting ways to upset him. Most memorable was when she took his anatomically-correct cabbage patch doll and threatened to perform perverted acts on it. My aunt was horrified and embarrassed by these accusations, and the beatings would be horrendous.

My aunt would yell, “where did you learn that?!” as she beat her within inches of her life. But at night, when the rest of us were supposed to be sleep, all of the preadolescents in that Carolina home in the caul de sac got quite an education.

The days were filled by either playing with the many Barbie Dream Homes in the sweltering attic or drinking Kool aid in the finished basement watching Home Box Office, Cinemax, and Showtime. We had no supervision while my aunt and her husband were off at work. She never asked how our day was when she got home. She never asked what we had for lunch or whether we went outside to get fresh air.

Only once did she ask what new movies had we seen. One of my cousins told her that we’d watched Risky Business. She was unmoved. My other cousin exclaimed that we watched Purple Rain. Still no reaction. My littlest cousin yelled out, “…and Octopussy too!” To this, my aunts scolded all five of us!

“We don’t say THAT word!” She exclaimed. Based on what I had previously witnessed, one of them was sure to catch a beating. I had just hoped it wasn’t me. I didn’t know any better. I mean, I’d been whipped by my mom for repeating “adult words” at home, but my aunties usually spoiled me with peppermints at church. I didn’t know what to expect here.

She restrained herself as she gazed over to me. She politely explained that she’d not heard of these movies, but from now on we shall pronounce the title “Octopi.” As I recall, it was right about then that her husband smacked her on the behind and said, “what’s for dinner?”

I was NINE years old! I didn’t understand what was happening in that household. I barely understand now! My memories fade. There’s only a few formidable things that I remember.

I remember my mom sending me a harmonica for my birthday that summer. I remember my aunt giving me a five dollar bill that I immediately spend at the Woolworth 5 & 10 which was situated at the end of the mall. I remember silhouettes in the early morning hours. And I remember the HBO theme music each time a new movie was about to come on.

I remember the warning at the beginning of each film. The PG, PG-13 (which was a relatively new distinction) and the illustrious R rating. There was nothing rated G in that house that summer. Interestingly enough, our beloved “Octopi” was only rated PG.

With no real supervision we watched Risky Business repeatedly. I was too young to understand the nuisances of Tom Cruise loosing his virginity on screen to Rebecca De Mornay. I didn’t realize what it meant to convert a suburban home into a brothel. Nor did I know the significance of college-bound teens cashing in their savings bonds to jump-start their “right-of-passage.” All I knew was that I wanted a Porsche 928 when I grew up. All I recalled was the slogan, “Porsche, there is no substitute.”

It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized that this ground-breaking film was a perverse reckoning of teenage angst at the hands of a female molester. I was recently reminded that cancel culture would have had a field-day with this film. If for no other reason, the killer pimp Guido played by Joe Pantoliano, exploited young Tom Cruise. But it was ok because the teenager solved his own predicament before his parents got home from vacation. And his victory provided the kindling for a lifetime of success. Lessons were learned—not just by the characters in the film—but by the youngsters watching those characters. In that poorly-lit basement, lessons were learned. We knew this film was taboo, but we watched anyway. As long as we didn’t mention Octopussy, no harm would befall us.

Don’t even get me started on Purple Rain! As soon as my cousins saw that it was listed in the coming attractions, all other planned activities lost their importance. I suppose Tom Cruise in his tighty whities had nothing on Prince in his purple pleather pants. For me, it was Apollonia baptizing herself in what she thought was Lake Minnetonka. Even my littlest cousin knew not to let my aunt know that he saw boobies.

We didn’t know Purple Rain was about domestic violence and spousal abuse. We were unmoved by the blatant mental health symbolism. We overlooked similarities to what may have been occurring in that very home. Or maybe for my cousins, these films brought about a semblance of familiarity or normalcy. For my preadolescent cousins, it was the music and the performance that was enchanting. It was the purple motorcycle that could mysteriously transverse both bridges and the muddy meadows below that captured my attention. It was the sex appeal for my oldest cousins.

In that basement, that sumner, I learned too much. I was exposed to things that, to this day, bring me joy. The soundtracks and the vividness, the dialogue and the cliches all bring me a childhood familiarity that most likely explains my adult perverted mind. There were other things going on in that house that I was probably sheltered from. If not for the cinematic distractions, I too could have fallen victim to the perversions playing out upstairs.

Worst Father’s Day Ever

It’s been twenty years since the first Father’s Day without my dad. These years have been bitter-sweet. I have children of my own. I haven’t been able to celebrate him the way my kids celebrated me. But this year is different.

Riddled with confusion from being the best dad I can be, I struggle with the memories of my own dad. I can’t even speak with the last person who saw him alive. “Thanks, mom! You’ve done to me what you did to him! You’ve pushed me away the same way you pushed him…AWAY! I blame YOU. Are you happy now, mom?” Not with bullets or daggers; but with coldness and distance. Silence is as painful as any weapon. But it works both ways (mom)! “Mom, answer your PhOnE!”

She blamed HIM for my brother’s death. He got to hear it every day. My brother didn’t get to say good bye to his dad either. He never got to BE a dad. He didn’t even get to meet my daughter (who was only a few months old when he expired). But my dad did. Holding my daughter was one of the last things he did the day he died. But he never got to meet my son.

My son hears the stories that I tell about my own dad. He gets to hear the tales of the lessons my dad taught me. But there are some things my son can not be told. Not for fear of my own embarrassment, but for concern that he might behave in a similar way. But as I watch closer, I observe my son emulating traits that I was sure my dad had taken to his grave. If not for genetics, then what? How?

TWENTY YEARS AGO, I celebrated my first Father’s Day. I held my baby girl in my arms. I thought she’d always be Daddy’s Girl. Now the only thing that calls me “Daddy” is my Hulu account. The children have all grown up.

I refuse to accept the facts. I refuse to apologize for the things that have passed. I will not make amends. This isn’t a twelve step program!

Sure I have grief! But for sixteen of those twenty years, my mom insisted that her grief was more important. It wasn’t enough for her to attend the support groups, she had to facilitate them; she had to manage the pain for others; as if her service would alleviate the guilt. As if the guilt would exonerate the responsibility.

I’m still here! And I miss my dad.

I don’t know what the plan was. I don’t know if there WAS a plan. I don’t know if it worked. All I know is the wisdom of realizing that there’s plenty that I DON’T KNOW and plenty that I don’t understand. Is this what fatherhood is supposed to be? I’m pretty sure this is not what TWENTY YEARS of manhood is supposed to feel like.

I miss my dad. I miss my kids more. I was an even better dad than my own (I think). But how is that measured anyway? I mean, I am here for my kids. I serve kids who are not my own. I mentor and volunteer. I support and counsel my kids. I celebrate them and redirect them when needed.

I am most recently remembered for the way I wield a punishment. I call it motivation. My kids don’t cry from a spanking. My kids anger because I’ve taken away something that is important to them. Their mother never had to warn, “wait until your father gets home…” because I’ve always been close by.

Father’s Day offers more than just a recognition of dear old Dad. It’s a recognition of what it means to be a dad. For me, it’s the opportunity to reflect on the job I’ve done. It’s the self-analysis of how I’m doing. It’s the preparation of what’s to come.

I’ve had more years withOUT my dad than WITH my dad. That’s still more years than some have had with their dad at all. That’s still more than my siblings have had with our dad. That’s still more than my other brothers have had with their own dad. My dad RAISED my brothers whose own dad was busy saving the world. MY dad loved all of his kids, even when they stopped loving him (or at least that’s what my mom used to say before she stopped talking to me).

MY dad wasn’t just mine. He was a father, a step father, and a son. His dad also died too soon. I never met his dad. As a matter of fact, I never met my mom’s dad either. So I suppose I won’t be celebrating Grand Parent’s Day either.

This year Father’s Day will be different. My kids have lives of their own. And although they aren’t parents yet, I’m assured that when their day comes they may understand better. They may experience what it feels to give so much and receive so little. Appreciation hits differently after TWENTY YEARS.

Kids, this year my door will be open. So there will be no need to knock or ring the bell. The bell has tolled for many fathers. But not for me. There will be no visitors (and no invitations). I’ll be sitting on the couch watching Hulu. I’ll be selecting the account that is set up just for me. I’ll be there, but Daddy won’t be hugged up with his kids. I’ll watch other Dad’s with similar tales—because Hollywood portrays dads differently than moms.

Moms receive their flowers when they are living. Dad’s buy the flowers but rarely receive them. I’d prefer a bouquet of tools anyway. But Sears shut their doors years ago. “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!” This year, I’m dodging Father’s Day. That is all…