Every Father’s Day is a Fixed Point in Time

Father and SonThe photo at left was taken by my mom back in 2002. The original is surely stuck inside one of her many photo albums. All I have is this poorly scanned, cropped version that I once used as my LiveJournal profile pic. My son was seven, maybe eight years old. To this day it’s one of my favorite pics of the two of us, despite the distance and the low-res haze. Something about our shadowy faces and that sunbeam between us strikes a certain poignancy for me.

Like most all-purpose bloggers, I’ve written about various holidays at length in the past. Father’s Day is one of those for which I wish I could present you with something warm, fuzzy, life-affirming, and role-model-ish. Truth is, he and I play the day so low-key that I imagine some relatives probably worry about us. He’s not the most expressive or enthusiastic when it comes to holidays, family gatherings, or mushy moments, and I’m not one to force hugs and pleasantries from others. That’s my wife’s zealous area of expertise.

For us Father’s Day typically means dining out, doing something fun together (either video games or a movie, typically), and calling it a day. He’s now living up at college year-round, but this year’s get-together will look similar, a benign combination of food and entertainment. I love him and I always look forward to spending time with him, but cards and presents aren’t a part of the process. I wouldn’t turn down free stuff if he offered it, but I’m not the kind of Dudley Dursley to demand it.

As for how my Father’s Days work in the other direction…

Thoughts That Never Occurred to Me During My Lonely “Nice Guy” Years

Yearbook signature, Class of Long Ago.

Sample message from a classmate written in one of my old yearbooks. Somehow I read platonic well-wishing like this and did not convince myself they were subliminally asking me to ravish them.

I’ve never understood normal men, let alone the broken ones. Let’s get that out of the way up front.

Maybe it’s because I read the right books and lucked into the right role models. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a sufficiently damaged home life. Maybe I’m lucky that my father wasn’t an active part of my life. Maybe it’s a good thing I never kept too many macho friends for long, or belonged to any particularly masculine cliques. Maybe it’s because I figured out a way for logic and empathy to share harmonic coexistence in my brain. I’m funny that way, maybe.

My first date wasn’t till age 19. My age at the time of you-know-what was years beyond that. In junior high and high school, I never bothered asking any girls out. I knew my odds were slim for a variety of reasons, some but not all of them related to appearance. I wasn’t happy with it. I had my bouts of depression and crushed self-esteem. Eighth grade in particular remains a mental and emotional nadir in my life. I couldn’t figure a way out of it on my own, other than to hope that “This, too, shall pass” would apply to my situation someday before I died.

And yet…for all my dissatisfaction with my lot in life back then, for all my innocuous interactions with the ladies in my young-stupid-male years, none of the following sentences ever popped into my head:

* “That girl was nice to me. I expect sex from her now.”
* “The world owes me a chick.”
* “I know I’m perfect, so it’s clearly not my fault.”
* “Top-40 songs about love and sex are most wise.”
* “Maybe if I insult all women a lot, one will step forward and claim me.”
* “The world owes me a hot chick.”
* “Without sex I’m nothing.”
* “Women love a guy who’s bitter and snarling.”
* “Killing will solve anything.”

…and I’m grateful to the Lord every day that I never adopted anything from this list as my personal catchphrase.

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Farewell, My Creepy-Looking But Beloved Childhood Home

childhood home, moving out

Last night around 12:30 in the morning was the last time I’ll ever step foot in the home where I grew up. After forty-one years my mother finally made the tough decision to downscale to a smaller, more affordable place for the sake of long-term retirement planning and easier living space management.

My wife, my son, and I spent six hours Saturday helping her pack and fifteen hours Sunday helping her move. With just the four of us working on it, and with her unable to lift anything heavier than a bag of groceries, it was extremely slow going. By the time I called it a night around 1 a.m., I could hardly stand to look at my old bedroom anymore. That was partly because I was tired of being there, partly because I was just plain tired, and partly because by the time we hollowed it out…well, as my son put it while we stood there surveying the room one last time, it looked like the set of a disturbing horror film.

This way for memories and such…

The Last Stand of the Drive-In Theater: Upgrade or Perish

Tibbs Drive-In, Indianapolis

The drive-in nearest our house is the Tibbs, still standing after 46 years. For now. (Photo from our 2008 personal archives. To date I’ve seen only two of these timeless non-classics…)

In my early childhood years, I had only two options for seeing movies: squinting at them on my family’s thirteen-inch black-‘n’-white TV (and I was rarely allowed to choose what channels we watched); or seeing them writ large on the giant-sized, outdoor screen down at the drive-in theater. In a world where limited technology narrowed our choices, this competition was a no-brainer to me.

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The Thrill of the Easter Egg Hunt, or Complete Lack Thereof

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown

Sally and Linus, humbly accepting food from a dog.

When I was a kid growing up in a household where God and church were never discussed, Easter meant next to nothing.

I was brought up to observe the standard annual rites. We bought a Paas egg-coloring kit at the grocery that came with all the paraphernalia you needed for starters: color-coded aspirin to toss in cups of water and turn it Crayola-colored and undrinkable; a wire hook to rescue submerged eggs from their watery prisons after a dozen tries; non-stick stickers, most of which would later be thrown away still attached to their original release paper; a wax crayon for drawing gunky, invisible shapes on the eggshell for no one to see and the dye to soak through anyway; decorative paper collars to use as Easter egg stands, as if the results would be museum-worthy; and the box that contained it all, designed with the punch-out holes to transform into an egg-drying rack that would collapse under the weight of three or more eggs.

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The Scooby-Doo/Captain Caveman Crossover That Changed My Life

Scooby-Doo 9, February 1978One of the commonest ice-breaker questions between comic book fans getting to know each other or merely shooting the breeze between major-event discussions is, “What was your first comic book?” I have faint memories of having a handful of comics before first grade, but none of them survived the innocent ravages that come with being owned by a child, even one who learned to read at preschool age.

My official answer to that question, barring those ancient entrants disqualified due to loss of existence, is the oldest surviving comic from that era remaining in my collection to this day. Pictured at left is my personal copy of Scooby-Doo #9, dated February 1979, purchased for me when I was six years old. I found a mint-condition copy posted online, CGC-rated 9.6, if you want to view the original cover in all its undamaged glory for art appreciation purposes, but the image posted here (click to enlarge!) has one unbeatable advantage: this one is mine.

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