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.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Love in the Time Cononavirus

I’ve been noticing a ton of complaining lately.  Most if it has been of the “making me wear a mask is infringing on my rights” or “you not wearing a mask is infringing on mine” variety.  For today’s purposes, I don’t particularly care what side of that line that you, dear reader, fall on.  That is not the complaining that is concerning me.

The complaining I’m referring to is coming from inside the house.  My kids have been troopers through this whole thing.  They’ve done their schoolwork and helped around the house from time to time.  They’ve not fought as much as they did pre-virus.  They seem to understand that they are in a much better situation than a lot of other people.  Their parents haven’t been catastrophically financially ruined by the stay at home order.  We haven't had to buy bigger pants, put 'Keep Out!' signs on our doors or break up any fist fights.  We are a family that genuinely gets along.  We are, for the most part, happy and healthy. 

The last week or so, there have been chinks in their armor. 

It started with Darby, my youngest.  She has become more secluded when allowed.  Her base instinct lately seems to be to sneak off to watch TV or play on someone’s phone. 

Next was Macy.  She has always been the most prone to run hot and cold.  The last few weeks, lots of hot.  Fire breathing hot.  Angry hot.  Not very cool.

Finally, Avery, my eldest.  She has just dropped.  Her mood has gone into the proverbial shitter.  To her defense, she’s missed the last months of her 7th grade year, her soccer season and was trapped in her house during her 13th birthday.  She has every reason to be down in the mush, I’m just not that great at letting her wallow.  Anyone who knows us knows that she’s my little buddy and it kills me to see her, or my other kids, feeling low.

My wife has been less affected, job wise, than I have. I am better able to shift my hours around.  It has left me feeling a little more responsible for my kid’s school, their free time and, in some ways, their mental state.  My wife keeps the lights on, I keep the boogie man away, so to speak. 

I needed to act.

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am a caring dad but a weird hybrid of impulsive and strict.  This situation would be no different.  I decided that maybe what the kids were lacking was a schedule.  The answer to their boredom?  Clearly its assigning them a bunch of duties and a limited time to get them done!

“Hey kids, you bored?  Here’s War and Peace.  Get me a report on it as soon as you’re done.”
Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad but the rules were an hour and a half a day.  Math, reading, music and phys ed.  Half hour each, math and reading being daily.  Its not monstrous, but the kids definitely didn’t see it as a cure for boredom either.  What they didn’t know is that I had plans for when they got finished with their chores*.

*Chores-crap they should be doing anyway so they become better people and their brains don’t turn to porridge.

The result was interesting.  They complained at first, but they started gravitating towards it.  I’ll be dipped, they seem to appreciate the normalcy.  Maybe I’m being overly generous, but they get it done daily, even proudly checking off their lists. 

Rewarding them, during the time of the virus is a different animal.  Finding fun that is also socially distant isn’t quite as easy as it sounds.  So far we’ve gone fishing, kayaking, bike rides, the drive-in movie theater (total life saver) and done more in our back yard than we have done in years, if ever. 
The lesson here little ladies?  This one’s about mommy and me.  We have found a ton of fun and got a ton accomplished.  We’ve struck a balance. Our house is cleaner, we’ve built a new deck, we’ve run more miles and done more workouts than before the virus.  We’ve done more as a family during this time as well.  We’ve played games and done puzzles and swam and watched movies and on and on. 

Naysayers would say “Of course you’ve done all of this stuff.  You are stuck at home”. 

Maybe, but I think more specifically, we’ve made the time.  We’ve made it a priority because of how different the world seems.  It could have been this way all along, it just took a decision to make it so.
I wholly believe that when my girls look back at this time, they will look back fondly (assuming our family and friends don’t get sick or lose jobs).  Hopefully, it will be a time where they remember further embracing the outdoors and learned to play the piano.  A time when they mastered their math and read a great book series.  Hopefully, it’s a time where our family bonds grew stronger and we laughed and played more than we ever have.

Now, fun and games aside little ladies, you have an hour and a half of stuff to do.  Get you butts in gear.