Tuesday, July 7, 2020

So, It Just Comes in Threes, Right?

Macy had a week.  She had an absolutely craptastic, shit-fest of a week.  It was one of those weeks that through ten-year-old eyes feels like being knocked down and then kicked and kicked. 

Macy found out that one of her best friends was moving out of state.  It was really weighing on her.  She tried to keep a stiff upper lip, but truth be told, this friend encapsulated what Macy thinks of as ‘cool’.   

I remember kids like her when I was young.  A kid that always knew what was cool before the rest of us.  They were the ones that pushed boundaries.  It was like they had a special report on ‘hip’ that I was never privy to. 

Macy’s friend shaved the side of her head and always had a different hue hinted in her blonde locks.  She is a paddleboarder, a skateboarder and was among the first in her grade to have a cell phone.  Macy couldn’t help but look up to her and I think got a little star-struck when her admiration was returned.  They were a good pair.  I get why Macy was upset.

That week, Macy also had soccer tryouts.  It wasn’t merely a formality, but it was close.  Macy’s team was very good, and I could hardly see the league disbanding them.  The Rapids had informed us that they were trying to limit tryouts due to Covid, but we were later informed that, in fact, all three of our girls needed to tryout for their individual teams.  Avery, my eldest had the first tryout.  She struggled.  In an unfortunate turn of events, due to scheduling, all three girls had to sit and wait for the others to complete their tryouts. Avery was in near tears when her tryout was over.  I didn’t think it went as bad as she did, but I didn’t love her odds either. 

Then it was Darby’s turn.  More often than not, my youngest didn’t seem to realize that soccer is a competition.  I assumed that she would A) not make a competitive team or B) care.  She had a fair tryout and then immediately left the field to play with her puppy without a thought of making a team.

Macy went last.  Her tryout was about an hour.  In the spirit of transparency, she was slow to start.  After the first five or ten minutes, old Macy came out and I was very comfortable with her performance.  I worried about Avery and Darby, but Macy?  Not so much.

Best laid plans of mice and men.

Avery would find out that night that she had, in fact, made the team she wanted to make as had a few of her close friends.  She was overjoyed and proud of herself.  We were told that it may be up to 48 hours before we heard results, so we were thrilled to get early notification.

Darby and Macy would have to wait….and wait….and wait.  They waited long enough that the other local organization’s tryouts came and went.  No coincidence, me thinks.  The evening after the other organization’s tryouts we got a phone call.  Darby had made her team.  Macy had not. 

We were floored.  Someone somewhere had made a mistake.  Macy had long thought that her coach had a problem with her.  I dreaded to think that the ten-year-old may have been right.  The exponential problem was that one of her best friends was moving and many of her other friends were on the team she was just cut from. 

The next day was a morose one around our house.  Macy was trying to get a hold of her friend before she moved but for a few days she was sent straight to voicemail.  My suspicion is that they already moved.  We tried to keep her spirits up, but she decided to take a nap. 

She was only upstairs for a couple of minutes before she came down, her hands cupped holding something.  Her tears were fresh. 

What she held was her hamster.  I don’t know why, but the little guy had passed away sometime that morning.  Ham Solo was a good hamster, short of the fact that he picked the worst week possible to shed his mortal coil.

The look that was on Macy’s face was one I’ve never seen in one of my kids.  It was resignation.  It was helplessness.  She was upset to find out that her friend was moving.  She was crushed to find out that she hadn’t made her soccer team.  The hamster left her defeated.  She asked if we could go for a car ride. 

We took a ride around a mountain lake a few miles from our house.  She said that she was feeling something she hadn’t felt before.  That she felt like she was waiting for the next thing to happen.  Like something was stepping on her not letting her catch her breath.

I understood. For a ten-year-old, that’s a lot to deal with. 

There is a lesson here, girlies.  Yeah, it was a bad week.  It was.  By hook or by crook the world conspired against Macy.  She had no control over her friend moving or her hamster dying, and truth be told, I don’t think she had a ton of control over soccer either.  It’s how you deal with it, and Macy dealt with it great. 

My wife was able to talk to someone at the Arsenal soccer office and got her a one-on-one tryout.  She killed it. The coach was floored by her performance.  He said that he couldn’t believe that the Rapids would have let her go.  She wound up making a team a level up than the one she was discarded from.  She let us know that she would use this season to get better.  She would make her old team next time around.  She may, she may not, but I love her pulling herself up and saying so.

We also got her a new hamster as well.  Derp Vader isn’t quite the pet that Ham Solo was but he’s working on it. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

My Dad wasn't a Great Golfer, But That's Okay

My dad was a crappy golfer.

I spent round after round with him playing golf.  I took golf vacations with him. He never really got better.

I tried to help him. It was about weight transfer.  It was that he lifted his front foot and was inconsistent on his swing plane.  None of it really stuck.  But he kept plugging along.
It was actually during a golf trip in Florida where he told my brother and me about his diagnosis.  He then called my sister and told her as well leaving my brother and me to discuss the ramifications of what we just heard over beers in an open-air sports bar. 

Dad seemed relatively cavalier about it when he told us.  He said that the brand of cancer that he had was very curable and that he would be fine.  He talked to my sister and came back to the table.  He was more upset after talking to her.  A bit of the confidence faded from him.  My sister had that affect on him. 

This isn’t about my dad’s cancer diagnosis.  Its about golf and my father’s inability to hit a golf ball consistently.  Dad took lessons and made some strides, but muscle memory would take over and his bad swing would return.  He was a very strong, healthy guy.  He lifted weights and ran daily.  It wasn’t a physical issue.  Like all of us, bad habits overruled his good ones as it related to his golf game. 

I suppose the questions becomes, “yeah, he wasn’t a great golfer, why write about it on Father’s Day?”

Here you go.  Dad was a bad golfer but kept going because it was a means of meeting his sons where they were.  He took time and absorbed great expense because it gave him a chance to hang out with his kids.  Frankly, those were some of the best times with Dad.  As I’ve detailed before, in my younger years we didn’t always get along.  He was very structured and very business minded.  I tended to be a free thinker and ideological.  But on the golf course all of that faded away.  We were all relaxed and funny.  It was literally my favorite times with him.

I sense it’s why he played fantasy football as well.  Every year he stated how little research he had done and leaned heavily on my brother and me for advice.  That meant phone calls for the entirety of the season.  Phone calls with no politics, no history, no arguments. Just football.

My sister had this same bond with him as it came to running and travel.  He understood her drive to run long distances long before anyone else in the family did.  I would think that I’m not stepping on her toes here.  I remember her saying last year that the thing she missed most about dad is her post race phone calls to him. 

He was a great runner.  He was a crappy golfer.  He did both to meet his kids where they were. 
The lesson here, little ladies?  Grandpa was a lot of things; a great golfer was not one of them, but a proud guy was.  He was a proud guy but was willing to set that aside to golf with his kids.  So, while we may not have seen eye to eye when I was younger, my dad made strides in his later years of bridging any gaps we had.  To my credit, I made my own moves to meet him in the middle.  Obviously, neither of us were completely innocent all of those years ago. 

It took me a long time to figure out the golf part of all of this.  I couldn’t figure out why he was always the one proposing golf.  I think I’ve got it now.  He didn’t need to be good at golf to enjoy the time together. I think he enjoyed his kids most when we all let our guards down and the times we did that best was when we were running, or traveling, or drafting Ryan Leaf in fantasy football or even skulling a 7-iron.
So, Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Hopefully, you’re up there hittin’ them straight, or at least visiting the 19th hole. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

5'10" Pudgy Guy Just Trying To Help - A Working Title

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.   ~ Desmond Tutu

I don’t generally write posts in a back to back fashion but the events of the last week spurred something in me and for the parent, husband, friend and writer in me, I have a few words to say. 

Here’s the thing.  I have consciously raised my children to be more than ‘tolerant’ of other’s differences.  To me, to be tolerant is to accept someone else’s flaws and love them anyway.  For example, my wife is a fan of the Denver Broncos.  Sure, its unbecoming but I tolerate it because I love the rest of her.  I think that saying you are tolerant of someone’s gender, or race, or orientation or anything else that makes them different than yourself is saying that you love them despite being a woman or gay or black.  It shouldn’t be ‘despite’ it should be ‘and’.  I love you AND you’re gay.  I love you AND you’re Jewish.  I love you DESPITE you being a Bronco fan. See?

Up until this week I thought I had done a good job I this regard. On some level I have, but it just isn’t enough.

I can give examples for each of my kids and how they deal with people different than them.  My eldest had an African American friend in grade school (still does, but that’s not the point).  We wanted to invite her to a birthday party, but Avery didn’t know her last name.  We had her describe her.  “Curly hair, tall, brown eyes, really nice”.  Tons of descriptors, just not the color of her skin.  In talking to her about it, we found that she didn’t use that as a descriptor because she simply didn’t notice.  She knew she was black, she just didn’t think of it as something different.  The girls go to school with kids from every walk of life.  When I hear their names I generally can guess about where their families stem from.  The kids just don’t care. Frankly, the only time we hear any of the kids talking about someone’s nationality in any capacity is the “Immigrant Program” where the kids dress up in their heritage's traditional garb.  Side note, all three of my kids chose their mother’s German side completely ignoring my way more fun Irish side. 

In a previous post I talked about my youngest realizing that my next-door neighbors were a lesbian couple.  Her question about it was not about their relationship or the fact that they were both girls. It was whether or not their dogs are allowed to get married.  From the mouths of babes. 

My kids are fine.  They simply judge people for how they make them feel.

Here’s the rub.  It’s not okay just to fail to notice our differences anymore.  I recently read a book featuring Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.  I was moved by the simplicity of their thoughts.  Tutu said,
“To be neutral in a situation of injustice is to have chosen sides already. It is to support the status quo.”
And that’s it.  Too much sitting on the sidelines for most of us.  Too much for me, anyway.  I’ve watched my mother and my wife and my sister protest.  I’ve seen my aunt write and call her senator.  My sister actively campaigned for several candidates she supported.  None of that may seem like a lot, but they’ve done something.  They were moved enough for change to go out and try to extract it themselves.  I need to show my daughters that I can do more as well. 

I haven’t fleshed it out yet.  Truth be told, the images of protesters being tear gassed in D.C. are still all jumbly in my stomach.  If the last week has made me feel na├»ve about the world, the situation in our nation's capital made me angry. I'm open to suggestions.

I’m sure I will return to this subject over and over in my mind.  I need to talk to my kids about this week, so that by itself will keep it fresh in my mind for the time being.  Normally, I end these things with a lesson for the girlies.  Today I’ll close with another quote, this time from the Dalai Lama,
"The challenge today is to convince people of the value of truth, honesty, compassion and a concern for others."
I'll leave it at this.  If you need it, my phone, my house, my shoulder are all safe places.  If you're in need of a friend, you've got one.  As a 5'10" slightly pudgy, slightly balding white guy I cannot speak to your experience, but I can offer you a beer or a joke or an ear.