Sunday, December 2, 2018

Nobody Likes A Poopy Diaper

as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine
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Nobody, that is, except me.
    I’ve always considered it a privilege to change my children’s diapers.
    Other kids?
    Not so much.
    In fact, not at all.
    Change is inevitable, and this is especially true when it comes to dirty diapers, but since nature has effectively kept men in general, and me in particular, out of the equation when it comes to baby-raising duties that bond the parent with the child--such as childbirth and breastfeeding--I had to take my bonding moments where I could find them, and I’m not talking about in the pages of an Ian Fleming novel.
    Thinking about it, maybe that’s why children are closer to their mothers than their fathers. That reminds me of something I heard happens in prison. In prison, prisoners are invited every Mother’s Day to send their beloved mothers cards that the penal institutions supply to them for free, and every year the prisons run out of cards and stamps. On Father’s Day, however, the prisoners have the same opportunity, but those very same penitentiaries end up with more Father’s Day cards leftover than they know what to do with. I don’t know if this is true, but it sounds true, and that’s good enough for me.
    Now, briefly, this isn’t a dissertation on male/female abilities, it’s a discussion about poopy diapers, so let’s leave social politics out of it. Although, now that I think about it, politics and the contents of a poopy diaper seem to go hand in hand, as you no doubt noticed in last month’s election. When you think about it, politicians are like diapers. They should also be changed quite frequently, and for the same reason.
    I always got deep satisfaction changing my youngest daughter’s diapers because it was one thing my baby couldn’t do for herself. When she was hungry as an infant, if my wife put a breast to her mouth, instinct would take over and she would suckle. What could I do? Take her on a walk? Maybe, but that would take some actual physical effort on my part, such as walking.
    “Come on,” I would playfully tell her. “Let’s pick ‘em up and put ‘em down.”
    But she was happy just to lay there.
    Needless to say, I was in love.
    Maybe she couldn’t walk, but, really, where does an infant need to go?
    Poopy diapers, besides being unsanitary, must be uncomfortable. Sadly, babies have to sit in their own waste until someone notices, and I always considered it MY job to notice. Sometimes I noticed too well, and changed diapers that were perfectly clean.
    “Do you KNOW how expensive diapers are?” my lovely wife would chastise.
    I gladly took the chastisement. Better that a hundred clean diapers be thrown away, than one dirty diaper remain attached to my daughter’s bottom one second longer than is necessary, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin in a way he probably never expected. (Voltaire and Sir William Blackstone are also credited with saying a version of this, but I don’t trust a man with only one name. As for Blackstone, isn’t he a magician? What does a magician know about changing diapers?)
    My father, on the other hand, never changed a diaper in his life. It was a different time, so I’ve been told.
    I suppose that’s true.
    But, remembering how my little girl would smile and talk to me as I was changing her diaper, I can’t help but feel that my father missed out on one of life’s greatest joys.
    Greater than chocolate, even.
    “Does baby need her widdle diaper changed?” I would baby-talk.
    “Goo-goo, ga-ga,” she would answer, which was her way of saying, “Don’t talk to me like I’m an idiot.” Sometimes, she would lift her tiny hands and try to snatch the eyeglasses off my face.
    In time, I became a diaper-changing expert, offering unsolicited advice to anyone polite enough to listen.
    “When it comes to girls, be sure to wipe AWAY from the main event.”
    “Make sure that diaper’s not too tight.”
    “These are not the droids you’re looking for. Move along.”
    I also advised new parents to wash their hands BEFORE they changed their baby’s diapers, not just after. “You don’t know WHAT you’ve touched,” I would tell them like an employee of the CDC, “and you don’t WANT to know.” Another bit of advice was to be sure to wipe down the baby changing stations in public restrooms. I’m not saying that the people who use it before you are filthy animals, but they probably are.
    I remember my father once watching me change an especially messy diaper.
    “You know,” he sniffed, “I never changed ANY of my children’s diapers.”
     He was proud of that personal achievement.
    “I know, pop,” I said. “I know.”
 
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Monday, November 5, 2018

Shrimp For Dinner

as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine
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"Dad, I'm cooking shrimp for dinner," my wife says. "Would you like regular or coconut?"
     Meanwhile, the guy who's actually helping make dinner--namely me--his opinion goes unrequested.
     I really can't get upset. My wife's just trying to make my father feel at home. It wasn't that long ago my beloved mother passed away. After a brief time of him living on his own, we decided to ask him to move in with us. It's not a decision I regret. Given the opportunity, I would do it all over again, but it's been tough. You can't have two alpha males in the same wolf pack without one wolf becoming incredibly annoyed at the other.
     "What?" my father says.
     "I'm cooking shrimp for dinner."
     "You're cooking dinner?"
     "Yes."
     "What are you cooking?"
     "Shrimp."
     "Shrimp?"
     "Yes, shrimp. Would you like regular or coconut?"
     I turn my head so my wife can't see me laughing. That's what she gets for not asking me how I would like the shrimp prepared. I can feel her eyes boring into the back of my head like angry twin lasers. She knows I'm finding amusement at her expense.
     "Shrimp..." my father continues, "...shrimp.... Yeah, that sounds good."
     Pause.
     "Would you like regular or coconut?"
     "What?"
     "WOULD YOU LIKE REGULAR OR COCONUT!"
     "What are you yelling at me for?" my father yells back. "I can hear."
     It's true, my father can hear. Unfortunately, he only seems to hear the things he not supposed to hear.
     "Pop!" I could yell. "There's a fire! Grab your mutt and get out!"
     "What?" my father would say, not moving his eyes off the TV.
     "A FIRE! GET OUT!"
     "What are you yelling at me for? I can hear!" he'd yell back. And then, "Are you grilling chicken? Save me a leg."
     On the other hand, my father could be sitting down in his Tommy Johns, watching his two favorite baseball teams playing each other on TV, and I could be in the next room with my wife. If I leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Let's go upstairs," my father would shout to us, "If you're going upstairs, bring me back that blanket I like."
     Meanwhile, my wife apologizes for yelling, and my father says, "What kind of shrimp did you say?"
     Regular or coconut."
     "Hmm... regular. What's the other kind?"
     "Coconut."
     "Coconut? Yeah... I like coconut."
     "So you want coconut, then?"
     "What's the other kind?"
     My wife is getting flustered now.
     Me?
     I'm still chuckling under my breath.
     Personally, I prefer coconut, but no one's asking my opinion. I don't know why she's giving him a choice. He'll eat anything that even resembles food. If my wife feels like eating regular shrimp, she should make regular shrimp. If she feels like eating coconut shrimp, she should make coconut shrimp. It's that simple. You see, my  wife has the good fortune of being married to someone who appreciates whatever she cooks.
     "Regular," my wife says.
     "What's regular?" my father wants to know.
     My wife sighs, and then explains how she prepares regular shrimp. I don't think my father understands a word of it. Heck, even my  eyes start to glaze over.
     "I like coconut," my father says, probably afraid she'll go over her explanation again, so coconut shrimp it is. I win, without even having to play the game. And I got a good chuckle out of it as well.
     I remember when I was a kid, my mother never cooked shrimp, those little cockroaches of the sea. The closest thing my mother ever cooked was liver, and that's not close at all. To eat that liver, I added a lot of ketchup to get it down. A LOT of ketchup. In those days, what you were served is what you ate. If you chose not to eat, you went hungry. The way it should be. Go to any country where people are starving. You don't have picky eaters. You don't have eating disorders. You don't have morbid obesity. What you have is a country of people who would be grateful for some mudwater and a chickpea.
     So, even though I might have preferred a hamburger, I ate pretty much whatever was place in front of me, adding ketchup to whatever I didn't like.
     Liver?
     Ketchup.
     Beans?
     Ketchup.
     Heck, I even added ketchup to scrambled eggs, and I like scrambled eggs.
     Why am I telling you all this? Because my wife takes her time when she cooks, and makes everything from scratch. She cooks with love, and, as that great philosopher Diana Ross sang, "You can't hurry love."
     Finally, my wife serves all of us a delicious plate of coconut shrimp on a bed of tropical rice. I take a quick inventory. Hmm... my father's got seven. I've only got six. Not that I'm keeping score or anything.
     As my father stares at his plate, my wife serves herself and joins us. My father continues studying his plate.
     Why?
     Who knows?
     I get started on mine.
     I don't believe in having a staring contest with my food.
     "Do you have any ketchup?" my father finally asks.
     "It's coconut shrimp, dad," my wife says softly.
     "What?"
     "It's coconut shrimp."
     "I know what it is," my father says. "Do you have any ketchup?"
     I step in.
     "Pop, it's coconut shrimp. You don't put ketchup on coconut shrimp."
     "Sure you do," he says.
     My wife doesn't argue. She doesn't say a word. She just gets up, brings back a bottle of ketchup, and hands it to my father, who drowns his shrimp with it, much like I used to do to the liver my mother would also cook with love. I find myself wishing I could tell her, "I'm sorry."
     My father spears a soggy shrimp with his fork.
     "Oh, yeah," he says between chomps, "this shrimp is good."
     He turns to me.
     "Your wife is a good cook," he says.
 
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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Email To My Brother: Sharing Candy With Jesus

I was getting rid of some of our mother's things today.
     I thought my buddy Maloney's mother-in-law could have the old rocking chair pop bought mom a long time ago, but it was in too poor a condition for even Maloney's mother to have.
     I also went through a bag of a bunch of religious cards. Cards from funerals and St. Jude asking our mother for money and giving her cheap jewelry in return. Actually, it was my three-year-old granddaughter and I who went through it, and, like I thought, it was a bunch of trash.
      My granddaughter kept some of it.

     She’d go, “This was grandma’s and now it’s mine?” Which was her way of asking, “Can I have this?”
     “Yes,” I’d tell her. “That was grandma’s and now it’s yours.”
     Some colorful rosary beads. A bracelet made up of little wooden squares with pictures of the Virgin Mary, Jesus on the cross, and various saints on them that I bought for mom once when I was downtown. One thing you might remember, because I remember it from when I was a wee laddie, was a picture of Jesus with His eyes closed. If you held it over a light and then went into a dark room, it would glow and Jesus’ eyes would open. Kind of like that framed picture of Jesus mom’s parents had over their bed. The one where Jesus’ eyes would follow you when you moved around the room. How could you ever get romantic with a picture of Jesus hanging over your bed? Especially when His eyes were always looking at you.

      I wonder what ever happened to that picture.
      Your wife probably has it over your bed.
     Anyway...
      My granddaughter got a kick out of that glowing picture of Jesus. She kept having me hold it over a light, then we’d go into a closet and watch the miracle happen.
     “Look,” I’d tell her, “Jesus has His eyes open.”
     And, in the darkness, I’d hear my granddaughter blow Him a kiss. She showed it to her mother and then her grandmother. That picture of Jesus became her friend. Later, she asked me if she could have an Andes chocolate mint.
     “Does Jesus want you to have one?” I asked her.
     “Yes, He does,” she said.
     Later, she said, “Jesus wants me to have another one.”
     So I gave her another one.
     “Be sure you share with Jesus,” I told her, and she did.
      She broke the candy in half. One piece was smaller than the other.
     “Jesus wants the smaller one,” she told me.
     Crazy kid.

 
 
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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Email To My Brother: Play Ball!

It sounds like a good time, watching your daughter play ball.
     Her two kids must enjoy watching her, too. Her friend, whose heart I broke when I told her I was happily married, should join the team.

     It might help her find a man.
    Some of my nicest vacation memories are of watching your daughter play. They were all kids on the team, but any of them could throw a ball farther and faster than I could.
    Not that it was my fault.
    Did I ever tell you we used to play baseball in Viet Nam?

     It’s true.
     We didn’t have actual baseballs, so, true to our training as FERRET Force Five commandoes, we improvised. We used the severed heads of the our Viet Cong enemies. Those people are so tiny that their heads are the same sizes as softballs.
     Sadly, I was hit in my right shoulder by some shrapnel from a landmine our C.O., Gunnery Sgt. Trump, accidentally set off, and there went my future as a professional athlete. Interestingly enough, that landmine explosion gave our gunny bone spurs and he sat the rest of the war out.
     As I laid there, bleeding in the mud, waiting for the medics to arrive, I remember seeing Johnny “Wet Start” McCain in a full body cast being propped up against a tree across the DMZ and trash-talking us, his North Vietnamese “captors” laughing along with him.
     Jane Fonda was there, too, but I didn’t recognize her at first because she was laying on her back with her legs up in the air.
     Anyway...
    ...maybe someday I’ll have the pleasure of watching your daughter play ball again.

 
 
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Sunday, October 7, 2018

"All You Can Eat" Or "All YOU Can Eat"?

The recent funerals of Aretha Franklin and John "Wet-Start" McCain (an old fighter pilot nickname of his) reminded me of how my father has become rather fond of attending them.
     It gives him something to do, he gets to socialize with friends and family he hasn't seen in awhile, and the food is usually good.
     At one recent funeral, the food was especially good. Instead of a pot luck where everybody brought something, they family of the deceased had it catered. I noticed that my father went back time after time for seconds, thirds, and even fourths.
     "You're going back again?" I asked him, when he got up for a fifth time.
     "Why not?" he asked me back.
     "People will start to think you eat like a pig," I told him.
     "They won't," he told me back.
     "Why won't they?"
     "Because I've been telling them it's for you."
 
 
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Monday, October 1, 2018

My Wife Is A Great Cook

as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine
desertexposure.com
 
My wife's a great cook.
    In fact, she's such a great cook she can even make English food taste good, and any food you have to put vinegar on to improve the flavor of, well, let's just say you'd have to admit that it would be a challenge. She makes everything from scratch, and doesn’t mind spending hours in the kitchen preparing a delectable feast for those she loves.
    I include myself in that group.
    One time, my beloved mother, when she was still alive and my wife wasn't around, asked me who the better cook was.
    I was diplomatic, but honest.
    “Mom,” I told her, “when it comes to cooking Mexican food, you're the best, but my wife's the better cook when it comes to cooking different kinds of food.”
    Since Mexican food is all my mother ever made, she was happy with my answer.
    Recently, my wife made some delicious fried rice. It had corn, it had peas, it had carrots, but what it mainly had were large chunks of perfectly seasoned chicken. Moist and tender.
    Just like my wife.
    I served myself. My father, on the other hand, likes to be served or he won't eat. He's old-school that way. Myself, I don't believe in going hungry.
    To be honest, my wife serving my father is something I’m always a little irked by, but who else is going to do it? Me? I’m not thoughtful that way. I figure, if you can make it to the table, you can get your own plate.
    That reminds me of the old saying about fish. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime, but if you GIVE a man a fish, he’ll beat you with it and steal the rest from you. Anyway…
    Napkin, utensils, drink, dinner, dessert... it was all on the table. All he had to do was sit and eat, and sitting and eating is what he does best. Even when my father isn't feeling well he still has a healthy appetite. Once, when he was on one of his many deathbeds, my mother asked him why he wanted her to make him a snack.
    “Honey,” he told her, very sincerely, “it's not my stomach's fault I'm sick.”
    Anyway, the fried rice was great, and I made it a point to tell my wife just that. She smiled that modest smile of hers.
    She knew it was great.
    My father, meanwhile, was still chowing down. Chomp, chomp, chomp! He cleaned his plate in record time. If he was a kid, I could imagine him lifting the plate to his face and licking it clean.
    “Did you like the fried rice, pop?” I asked him.
    It was obvious he did.
    “What?”
    “Did you like it?”
    “Like what?”
    “The fried rice.”
    “The fried rice?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Did I like it?”
    “Yeah.”
    “It was good,” he told me, “but the chicken was kind of tough.”
    My wife didn’t meet anyone’s eyes. She just got up from the table and walked away.
    For the record, my wife has never made a tough piece of chicken in her life.
    “Where's she going?” my father--the diplomat--asked, and then looked around to see who was going to serve him seconds, thirds, and maybe even fourths.
    The thing of it is, that's my father's idea of a compliment.
    I may have already told you this story. If I have, well, get ready to hear it again. My wife and I took my parents on a three day/four night cruise to Mexico. As we stood there walking along the beautiful Ensenada beach, my father told us, “You know, I’ve been to beaches prettier than this one.”
    See what I mean?
    If not, let me tell you about one particularly hot summer when my parent’s air conditioner finally gave up the ghost. Out of the goodness of my heart (and with a little nudging from my wife) I decided to buy them a new one. The store we bought it from gave us a day and a time it would be delivered and installed. I made it a point to be there just in case, you know, anything went wrong. Like my father kicking the workers off his property before they were finished with the installation, for example.
    The workers got up on the roof and removed the old air conditioner, the one that came with the house. When they brought it down to ground level, my father and I took a look at it. Yeah, it was past its expiration date.
    Just like my ex-wife.
    But I digress...
    The workers then retrieved a huge box from their work van. As they tore the cardboard open, my father examined his new air conditioner closely.
    “Plastic?” he complained. “It's made out of plastic? Where'd you buy it, the dollar store?”
     No, actually I bought it at Sears, and, for the record, only the shell of the air conditioner was made out of a hard plastic. Everything on the inside was quality merchandise. Plastic makes sense. It's a way to save money, sell it for less, and make it lighter to transport. I won't mention the actual brand I bought, although I have a politician’s healthy appreciation for payola, but it was a name brand and the model I bought was top of the line. It was actually more air conditioner than they needed.
    “Don’t ruin your generosity, son,” he advised me, “by being cheap.”
    Like I said, that's my father's way of giving a compliment.
   
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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Not One To Be Chastised

By the many stories I've told you, it may sound like my father got pulled over a lot for speeding, and maybe he did, but I take full responsibility for that.
     You see, my brother and I were very rambunctious as young boys, and he had to spend half of his driving time threatening us in the backseat to get us to stop fighting with one another.
     It was a stormy night, as this memory takes place, and my father had pulled to the side of the road because a police officer had pulled us over. In his yellow rain slicker, it was obvious the police officer was not happy to be doing his job.
     "Isn't it stupid of you to be speeding with your family in the car with you?" he tried to chastise my father.
     My father isn't one to be chastised.
     "Stupid? Me?" he told the police officer. "YOU'RE the one standing in the rain."
 
 
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