Friday, April 30, 2010

"Is there another lactating female in the house"

I am feeling disturbed.

My wife just sent me a text message from her women's conference. She typed that they announced over the P.A. system, "One of our new mother's needs a a breast pump. Is there another lactating female in the house? Did anyone bring a breast-pump?" My wife finished her text with, "Only at women's conference..."

WHAT?

My wife has gone over to the dark side. She didn't respond, "That's gross!" or "How unsanitary!" She didn't even question if there were any lactating males in the house. Instead, she sounded sympathetic. Like this is perfectly normal, like groups of girls heading to the bathroom together.

I'm thinking about dressing in black, loading a grappling hook and some ninja stars in the truck and heading south to rescue her. She is obviously a prisoner.

Am I the only person who finds this alarming? We raised three babies. I know how it works. Babies grow fast and mom produces lots of milk. Every couple of hours that has to be relieved.
But do you really want your breast coupled to the woman's pump who thinks sharing is OK? How many others have borrowed her pump? This sounds like an initiation into the wet-nurse sorority, a new division of the Le Leche League. They probably have a three step plan.

Step one: get women to be sympathetic towards other women who share breast pumps.
Step two: get women to share breast pumps.
Step three: get women to wet-nurse.
Step four: take over the world with communally fed warriors.

I'm trying to compare this event to the male world. I played a lot of baseball as a kid. I can't remember anyone ever announcing over the loudspeaker, "Excuse me folks, little Jacques Trapp forgot his cup this morning, did anyone bring an extra one he can borrow?"

THAT NEVER HAPPENS!

Please comment below and tell me if you think I shouldn't be disturbed, and sharing breast pumps is normal. You might save me from hurting myself while grappling over a wall to rescue my wife tonight.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mysterious woman parts

My wife went to a woman's conference. She left last night.

I woke up this morning needing an extra blanket without her warm body next to me. When I got up to fetch more bedding a shiver ran down my spine. I sensed a disturbance in the force. The balance of testosterone to estrogen was shifting. The morning sky darkened. The hair stood up on my neck and my male dog growled. I climbed back into bed and pulled the covers over my head.

I was afraid... very afraid.

My wife issued an ultimatum before she left town. She banned me from pet stores, hobby shops, home improvement stores, and any place that rhymed with Cabelas. I hid my wallet so she couldn't hide my credit cards. Last time she went to a women's conference I bought a new ferret. Her distrust is warranted. She even threatened that if I ever wanted to see her mysterious woman parts again, there better not be any more animals here when she got back. She even took a head-count to reassure me she knew how many animals we had. One dog, two ferrets, one bird, three lizards, a frog, and a box of crickets. So much for getting a scorpion this weekend.

I laid in bed with my thin shields covering my head. I wondered what was happening. What is a women's conference? You don't hear about guys getting together to go to men's conference. If we did have a formal get-together it wouldn't be called a men's conference. No one would come. It would be called fishing or hunting, to boost attendance.

It makes me wonder about the conspiracy that is going on this week. Are they talking about their mysterious woman parts? Are words like ovulation, menstruation, and lactation being used without their normal reverenced whisper? Is my wife blaspheming my name? Is she revealing my inadequacies as a father and husband to innumerable concourses of female acquaintances?

What propaganda is being pelted out in a large room full of women who are starting synchronized menstrual cycles? Will all the husbands who stayed home experience the same erratic behaviors in three to four weeks as all of our spouses cycle together?

I peeked out from under the covers and realized my only chance to fix the testosterone-estrogen balance was to do something manly. I got up and shaved. I put on some old spice, because the commercials say it is manly, but I have no idea. I looked down at my dog. His expression told me what I already knew. The only way to put the universe right was to go on a drive. She forgot to put tool stores on the banned shopping list. I hope she likes my new chainsaw.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Back in the U.S.S.R.

I was fluent in Russian once. I even dreamed in the Cyrillic tongue. It took me two years to get good at the language while I lived in a Russian speaking country. I flew home in 1996, ending my stay in the Ukraine. Unfortunately I haven't returned. There aren't many native Russian speakers where I live and my fluency is now questionable. Now my non-fluent obsessive-compulsive brain got the wild hair to go back. In August.

I want to take my entire family, but three kids and a spouse makes the trip unaffordable. I want to take my wife but leaving three kids at home makes the trip unattainable. The next option was getting on the phone with a friend I worked with over there for several months. He might be able to go.

Now things get complicated.

I need to practice speaking Russian. I can still get directions and order food, but conversation would be horrendous. It is so hard to tell when one word ends and the next begins.

I renewed my passport a few years ago in case the mafia came after me and I had to leave the country in a hurry. Hey, don't laugh, you never know when you complain about a pizza delivery if you are going to end up on a secret mob hit list.

If I go I need to pay for a plane ticket and reserve a hotel. I need check on getting a Ukrainian Visa (permission to be in the country not the plastic rectangle in the wallet). Did I mention I need to practice Russian?

I am excited. It would be an amazing experience at this point in my life. Maybe I will dream in Russian tonight.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How to impress your female

It was spring. Reproduction was in the air. Males of every species fought heated battles for real-estate to impress their females. Yard-work commenced again, bigger mammals trying to impress their females. That was when we noticed the rat signs.

I found some droppings under the bird feeders. Our neighbors saw rats running on the decorative boulders on our property line. That was the first time in nine years we had rats invading our yard. It was an act of war.

We spread out in small reconnaissance parties and looked for enemy bases. My group looked through the wood pile on the side of the house but came up empty handed.

My wife's group stumbled upon a large cave in the fitzers by the patio. It was a big entrance for a large mammal. The cave was probably five or six inches across.

My boys and I armed ourselves with loppers and a bucket and went to work deforesting the hedges that overgrew the planter. The first bush and fitzer came out without incident. We pulled the branches in the boy's wagon to our fire pit where they were set on fire with a small flame thrower I got on sale at Harbor Freight. It's not a torch. It's literally a flame thrower with push button ignition. Disposing of yard waste has never been more fun.

We walked back to start on the second hedge that covered the cave. I stepped on the fitzers underneath to cut a main branch. My foot didn't stop right away as the rat nest collapsed under my weight. Out ran three mouse-sized grey baby rats. My boys belted out soprano screams and lept back with lightning reflexes. I stepped on the same squishy place a second time, and a brown sixteen-inch mutant-ninja rat bolted out of the cave. Instinctively, my hands came together, closing the lopper's beak-like jaws around the over-sized rodents head.

I lifted the twitching dead body of my first kill out of the branches and hustled to the fire pit. I threw the rodent's body into the coals to cremate any disease she carried. The fire was hot and consumed the body immediately.

As I walked back to the war zone, I saw my older son jumping on the squishy part of the bushes like a little trampoline. He was scaring more rats into the open, with my six-year-son in hot pursuit with the mini-loppers he was chopping branches with. Their voices dropped to the Alto key as they became more courageous chasing the younger rats around the patio.

My older son ran to the garage and released our hunting dog. He found the nest and used his front paws to dig madly into the ground to uproot any stragglers from the nest. Two more young rats tried to escape, but the dog ran them down and ended their lives.

"Dad, I don't mind seeing a dead rat, but I feel sick when I see its guts hanging out." My nine-year-old son said.

"I don't care about the guts. Guts don't scare me." My six-year-old said as he held up the loppers and opened and closed them.

By the end of the night we killed three fitzer plants, three overgrown hedges, a small yard light, and five rats. My female was impressed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Past Tense

How will I be remembered when my life is spoken of in past tense?
video
Blake Christopher Goddard. Beloved firt-born son. Only had four senses. Was born with no sense of smell. Was passionate and persistant to the point of fault. Loved only one woman/wife in his life, with a passion most would not comprehend. Father of three miracles. His partners in crime. Enjoyed sharing his hobbies with his children. Was surrounded by good friends. Lived in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Loved animals. All animals, microscopic to mammoth. Owned a microscope and a telescope. Obtained a degree in Animal Science. Loved physics and its applications around the house and in the world. Had an affinite for information and books that contained it. Found peace in solitude. His ideal day included fishing/hunting in the morning with his kids, a hot shower and private time with his wife at noon, tinkering in the garage with the ferrets at his feet, the bird on his shoulder, and his dog at his side after lunch. Watching the sunset on the porch while barbequeing the fresh morning catch for dinner. Enjoying a dinner with the whole family on the back patio. Watching a dramatic movie with animal themes before bed. Praying and reading to the kids and tucking them in before curling around his wife for the night in their warm bed. He was blessed to have many such days.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

When I grow up...

When I grow up...

I wanted to fly jets when I grew up. Laying in my bed I stared at the ceiling and dreamt of adventures as a jet fighter pilot.

Over the closet, in my childhood bedroom, was a line of nails. Each nail held a plastic jet model I built. Each aircraft took months to build. Working with enamel paints, each coat had to dry, and progress was often slow, but measurable.

My room had two desks. I did homework on one and the other served as a workbench. It was neatly organized with model building tools. A pencil holder sat on the corner, bristling with pointed white paint brushes. A pallet of Testor’s model paints lined the back edge of the desk like a little white picket fence. Razor knives and tweezers covered a blue washcloth, like a little surgical set. The far end of the desk had a retrofitted propane tank my dad manufactured for me. We had an air-compressor in the garage and for my twelfth birthday, I got an airbrush that was powered by compressed air. When I was painting a lot, I had to run up and down the stairs from my room to the garage to get more air. It was a good Saturday when I had to refill three times.

When I was painting, I opened the window and faced a box fan outside and turned it on. It was a surprisingly well ventilated workspace. But then again, I can’t smell, so who knows how often I fumigated myself?

My dad helped me build the first model, an F-15. We painted it blue, using leftover paint from when we painted my room the year before. It camouflaged the jet well against the wall. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that fighter jets had specific color schemes of greys. They were not, in fact, bedroom blue.

I built in the 1/48 scale. One inch on the model equaled 48 inches in real life. Most of my jets were a foot or two long. Before I moved out I had around 15 models, with increasing complexity and realism. I hung two planes from the ceiling, a B-1 bomber being shot down by a Soviet Su-27. I used a cigarette lighter to melt and distort one of the bombers engines and I used wire and pillow stuffing spray-painted black to give a smoking affect. It was a beautiful piece of 3-D art.

Staring at the bomber from my bed, as a young teenager, I realized I wouldn’t just be flying jets. I would be firing missiles at another boy who had models hanging in his room where he dreamed of flying. Staring into the white popcorn texture of the ceiling, past the smoke of an exploding fuselage, I felt my innocence leave me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Life is like a birthday cake

A perfectly formed Dutch-Oven Pineapple upside-down cake sat on our table this week. It radiated from the glow of thirty-seven burning yellow candles. Each candle burned for a year of my wife’s life. Each of the flickering flames represented another trip she made around the sun. The last sixteen candles are the most important to me. They represent the times I’ve made that celestial journey with her.

1994 Flame 1: I first saw Emily. I noticed how beautiful she was. Tall and athletic.

1995 Flame 2: I got to know her through letters as we became strangely close through pen and paper. I learned that she sometimes misspells words in letters and likes to write often.

1996 Flame 3: We went on our first date, and I learned she was a great kisser and cuddler. I learned that even though she misspelled words in letters, she kicked my butt in SCRABBLE. Even when I cheated.

1997 Flame 4: We got married. I learned how athletic she really is. Six months after our first date, after being in person for only 15 days, we were wed. I learned how wonderful it was to have an unfailing friend at home.

1998 Flame 5: She bore our daughter, Carrie. I learned how tough she is as she pushed a 10 pound 5 ounce baby out of her body.

1999 Flame 6: Her maternal instincts came out. I learned how great she was with kids and how loving she was as a mother.

2000 Flame 7: She bore our son, Chris. He was under eight pounds and was an easier delivery. I learned she had patience with two kids and a needy husband.

2001 Flame 8: I finished my animal science degree and decided not to use it for work. I learned that she was understanding.

2002 Flame 9: We bought a house in Utah and left California. I learned how much she missed her family and wanted to be around them a lot. I mean a lot. Did I mention she wanted to be around her family? I started fishing.

2003 Flame 10: She bore our second son, Coleman. I learned she could juggle. With two kids you can grab one with of each of their hands. The third one is the hardest. We need an extra arm every time we have kids and a new set of teeth to grow in at age 50 and 75.

2004 Flame 11: We started a business. I learned that she would support me in whatever I did as long as it was honorable.

2005 Flame 12: We hired our first employee. It was like having another kid but without the diapers. It required the same amount of babysitting. I learned that I could vent about the business to my wife. She hasn’t called me a whiner yet. That is nice.

2006 Flame 13: Nothing too eventful happened that year. I learned that my wife was fun to be with even in uneventful years.

2007 Flame 14: I took up duck hunting and bought a dog and way more hunting gear than I should have. I learned that my wife was forgiving.

2008 Flame 15: Christopher got diabetes. I learned my wife was a good nurse and counselor to an ailing child. We didn’t dare leave him with a babysitter so we quit dating. Our business struggled and almost failed. Probably our hardest year of marriage so far. I learned that we had limits and were dancing with them. I learned that my wife needed breaks with her friends as much as I did. I saw how refreshed she was after those breaks.

2009 Flame 16: A continuation of Flame 15. Still really hard, but Christopher and Carrie became mature enough that we could date again. I learned how fun it is to fall in love with the same person over and over again.

2010 Candle 17: She gets this candle next year. It hasn't been lit yet.

She blew out the candles. The cake was as good as it looked. The best part was standing in the warm glow of my wife's presence and the soft light of the candles enjoying the memories they represent. Next year will be even warmer.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Telescopes and blondes

I got a new spotting scope for the deer hunt last year. I handed down the old metal beast, I used before, to my 9-year-old son. He promptly set it on his desk overlooking the back yard, and started taking in the scene before him.

I flashed back to when I was fifteen. Amy, a beautiful blonde teenage girl, about my age, moved in a few houses down the street. My buddies mentioned there was a cute new girl on the block. I was still waiting to meet her.

One day, i sat in the passenger seat of my mom's car when we pulled into the driveway. I noticed Amy was outside playing basketball with my friend in his front yard. I bolted into the house and up the stairs and pulled out my trusty spotting scope. I set it on the desk under the window. At 200 yards the 60x magnification was just about right to get a good first impression. Luckily 200 yards was far enough away that she couldn't see me and get a bad first impression.

After a few minutes of drooling over our new neighbor, I changed clothes and put on a little too much cologne. Having no sense of smell made it difficult to know how much to apply. I strutted down the street to meet Amy. I was in ninth grade, and for the first time in my life, felt comfortable with myself. I shook her hand and was tongue-tied by her smile.

I hung out with Amy a lot that summer. We played basketball and wiffle ball. We got icecream from the ice-cream truck. Neither of us could drive yet, so we were stuck close to home. The neighbor who I first saw her with started crawling on his roof with binoculars to try to catch her changing. I think that was the first time I threatened someone trying to defend a girl's honor. She got thicker shades and he stayed off the roof.

My brother, Evan, and I left for summer camp at Cabrillo Beach, California, and I wrote her name in the sand at low-tide on the edge of the Pacific ocean. The next week, my mom took me and my brother to the East Coast to visit our grandpa. I wrote her name in the sand on the edge of the Atlantic ocean at low tide.

I kissed her, my first real kiss, on the Saturday between those two trips. We went to a dance and I walked her home. We stood in the driveway where I saw her playing basketball the first time. Turns out my mom was spying on us from my bedroom window with my telescope. I should've put it away.

At the end of the summer Amy got over me, but we remained friends.

My parents still own that house. When I visit I stay in my old room and sometimes stand by the window and remember my boyhood and the adventures I had there.

I flashed back to my son. I watched him stare through the viewfinder of my old scope and wondered what adventures he would start by magnefying them 60x.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Acting out a nightmare: Night Terrors

When I was twelve-years-old, we lived in a yellow two-story house in Fontana, California. It was a peaceful place. It was our refuge from the world. There were three bedrooms upstairs where the kids slept. My parents slept in the master bedroom on the main floor. I was the oldest and had my own room, my sister was the youngest and had her own room, and my two brothers shared a room. The four of us shared a bathroom.

One night at about one in the morning I woke up to my five-year-old sister screaming for me. I ran into her room and flipped on the light. She was sitting up in her pink bed. She looked at me, screamed my name, jumped out of the bed and backed into the purple corner as if I was a wild animal approaching her.

"Blake, HELP!" she screamed.

"I'm right here Kristine." I said as I knelt next to her and reached out my hand to cup her shoulder.

She slapped my hand away and screamed again, "Blake, HELP! HELP ME PLEASE! IT'S TRYING TO GET ME!"

I stepped back when I heard my mom sprinting up the stairs. She ran into the room. "What's going on?" she shouted. My brothers joined her in the doorway. They rubbed the sleep from their eyes.

"It's like a nightmare. She is wide awake, looking straight at me, but she doesn't see me. She thinks I'm something else." I said.

My mom knelt down and said her name.

"Blake, Help me! It's trying to get me!" she screamed out again.

"What's trying to get you sweetheart?" my mom whispered.

"She doesn't see you either. What the heck is going on?" I reached passed her flailing arms and picked her up and shook her to try to wake her. She continued her uncontrolled sobbing. I placed her back in the corner. My mom kept talking and trying to soothe her.

I walked passed my brothers to get to the bathroom. "Do you think she went crazy?" one of them said to the other. They weren't smiling.

I came back with a glass of water. I poured some on her head, trying to wake her from her nightmare. It didn't work. I tried yelling back at her. It didn't work. Ten to fifteen minutes passed from when I woke up. My dad was still asleep. He could sleep through anything.

Finally, as a last resort, with just enough force to get her attention, I slapped her across the face. That got me slapped upside the head by my mom.

"I'm just trying to help, nothing else was working."

"Don't hit your sister." She smacked me upside the head again.

After the slap Kristine calmed down. She put her thumb in her mouth and fell back asleep. We tucked her back in bed, curled up in the fetal position.

The next morning she had no recollection of the nightmare, or acting it out. She couldn't remember me slapping her either.

She had a condition call Night terrors. We called them terror-mares. She had one every couple of months for a while. We prayed they would stop, and were blessed, because they did.

Later in life, her nightmares were external. She wondered if her brothers put reptiles under her sheets, or if we were hiding under the bed. A gentle shake of the bed frame is a convincing earthquake. She always screamed when I grabbed her ankle as she ran to take cover from the shifting plate tectonics.

She still checks under the bed when she comes to visit at my house with her family. I haven't told her I don't fit under there any more. What are big brothers for?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fabric store prison blocks

It was mid-afternoon, like too many other mid-afternoons. My friends were playing outside at home. I was too young to be left there, but too old to be trapped in the fabric section of the local craft store.

That section of the store was children's prison. There was no chance for escape. I remember the sheer and unadulterated boredom that came from that corner of the store. Surrounded by suffocating ribbons, thread, and cloth of every color, I could feel the life being sucked from my soul. Our prison cells were the fabric display racks where my two brothers and I would crawl in and hide, pretending to be somewhere - anywhere else.

"Just a minute," often dragged into an hour or more as my brothers and I tried to amuse ourselves with foam balls and pins we weren't supposed to touch.

What sadistic manager decided it was a good idea to put the craft dowels next to the entrance to the fabric prison? What kind of big brother was I to not arm my siblings with wooden swords to revolt against the prison guards? What kind of mom doesn't swat their kids with their stolen weapons? Wooden dowels sting, but they couldn't squelch the uprising. Somewhere around minute fifty-nine, my mom would snap. We feared for our lives as she dragged us to the check out stand and filled in her check. We anticipated the death penalty when we got home. Dad was going to kill us again for sure.

After being loaded into the car we were reminded that there would be no soft-serve ice cream for misbehaving children. We cried a little louder for a few blocks.

Things inevitably cooled down by the time we got home. Dad gave us a firm talking to and life outside of the prison resumed, at least until she realized she left the thread she needed on top of the dowel rack with our swords.

For some reason, I still crave ice cream whenever I see a bolt of fabric.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What is your favorite animal?

What is your favorite animal? Is that a kindergarten art prompt or a bad pick-up line in college? Whether you are drawing in the medium of crayola or looking for a mate this question has been a conversation starter since man became self-aware.

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday afternoon is watch nature shows. David Attenborough, the British voice of nature programming for over fifty years, is one of my heroes.

This guy has spent his life travelling the world and documenting life on the planet. He is in programs on every continent, describing every aspect of life on Earth.

When I was a boy of about four-years-old a lizard found its way onto our porch. My dad told me to pet it. I knealt down and stretched out my hand. It promptly bit my finger and ran away. That is one of my earliest nature memories.

Now, in my mid-thirties, I have three lizards and a frog in my bedroom. I have two ferrets, a cockateil, and a dark chocolate labrador in my garage, and a 55 gallon fishtank we keep snakes and tarrantulas in during summer months. Keeping reptiles in the bedroom means we have a cricket cage too. The cricket noises are soothing at night. My wife was apprehensive at first, but she easily falls asleep to their sounds now.

There are times, however, when even my patient wife is pushed to the limits with my animals. The boys knocked over the cricket keeper yesterday. Fifty crickets found their freedom in our upstairs bedroom. Free crickets plus one scrambling husband and three loud intercepting kids, equals one not-happy wife. We rounded most of them up but there is chirping coming from two heater vents now. Oops.

Animals are amazing. Life is precious. If you ask what my favorite animal is, it will be what I am observing at the moment. We found the herd of Rocky Mountain sheep through a spotting scope on the mountain behind our house last month. Thirty of these large animals dotted the cliffy mountainside. We've lived in this house for eight years and this was the first time we got to watch them. For about a week they worked their way across the face of the mountain and now they are gone. We watched the red breasted robbins pull worms from our yard on Saturday morning. We are waiting for the baby quail to arrive this year. Pretty soon the kids will want jars to keep insects in. Spring is a great time for animal lovers and their offspring.

So, although I haven't answered the question, what is your favorite animal? What about it fascinates you? Feel free to answer in crayon.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Terrible Day

My six-year-old son slept in until 9:30 a.m. this morning. He got up and cuddled with my wife and I until we decided to get some breakfast. After he ate his corn pops with ice cold milk we went outside. He got to use a small flame thrower to ignite a ten foot bon-fire in the corner of the yard to burn tree trimmings. When the fire died down he tried left-over calimari from the date I took my wife on last night. He loved it. He thought eating little suction cups on tentacles was wonderful.

My six-year-old son played with neighborhood friends for the next few hours. They played guns and took a break to eat ice cream Drumsticks. Then he played wiffle ball with twenty neighbor kids who came to our house for a barbeque dinner. We had moose. They laughed and played and ate hot dogs and chips with lemonade. He got to hit from a wiffle ball launcher that pitched a golf ball sized wiffle ball every five seconds. He helped restoke the fire as the sun went down. He helped me catch a rat that ran out of the wood pile. He carried a bucket around to show his friends our captive. His friends went home and he went back to the fire with me taking turns stirring the embers and sitting on my lap. When the fire died down, we went inside.

My wife lifted him onto the sink and told him to look at himself. He was covered in dirt and had ketchup and chocolate stains on his shirt, and smelled of campfire. She looked at him in the mirror and said, "Look at you. You are filthy. Wasn't that a great day?"

"No. It was a terrible day." He responded.

"Why is that?" She questioned.

He looked at her reflection with a pained look on his face and said, "Because I have to take a bath."

Friday, April 9, 2010

What sense triggers your brain to time travel?

Quick! You have five seconds to choose which sense you will lose. Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch, or Taste? I'll bet you give up smell first.

I was born without smell so it is hard to quantify what it is like to have it. My condition is called anosmia.

My mom figured out I couldn't smell when my little brother started making comments about food she was cooking. I was three years older and never made any comments about good or bad smells.

As an anosmic man it has been interesting to note how often people stick things under each others noses, or ask the question, "What's that smell?" My mom still forgets and does that to me, even after three decades of knowing my condition. I just stare at her and laugh with the object under my nose, until she pulls it away and apologizes. "Sorry, I forgot." She says. It is second nature for people to assume that everyone can smell.

After you tell me if you gave up sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste, tell me what memories you have associated with that sense. I'm talking about sense memories. The memories you experience when you hear a certain sound, or taste a certain food. People often walk into a room and say that the smell reminds them of another time and place. What sense triggers your brain to time travel?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

BATS, BALLS, AND BOYS

I tried out for Little League baseball when I was a boy. Our season started early in Fontana, California. There was no snow or bad weather postponing our games. Try-outs were in February at Juniper Park. I played a year in the "minors," but showing up at a park with a hundreds of other boys was daunting to me.

My dad and I played catch in our front yard every night through the winter, getting ready to try out for the majors. He threw grounders and fly-balls to me. There were vocal reprimands when I didn't use two hands to catch a ball. The reprimands were only harsh if I didn't hustle.

It was a crisp morning on try-out day. Most of the boys warmed up in their jackets and didn't sit on the dewy grass. When the sun rose the temperature jumped twenty degrees and dried the field. Coaches from every major league team lined the bleachers. Each boy had a number, and a chance to impress the coaches enough to be drafted onto their team.

Apparently I did all right, because the next day my Dad got off the phone and told me I was drafted by the Red Sox. Practices started the next day. Before the season started, I became the starting right fielder.

It was a good season. We took second place, earning a spot at the City Championship. During regular season play, we lost to the first place Cubs both times we faced them. We played the Cubs a third time for the title of City Champion. The local cable channel sent out a camera crew to film the game. There were multiple cameras taping the event. In an early inning, I hit a triple off the right field fence, driving in the run that would put us ahead, and allow us to win the game. One foot higher and it would have been my first home-run.

It's been fun over the years to relive that hit through the VCR copy we made when it played on TV. My Dad loves to play that part of the video. Then he smirks when he shows the next play. I was leading off of third base when the batter hit a line drive to first base that caught me running home. I got picked off trying to get back to third. All the glory followed by so much shame. The camera followed me back to the dugout catching the coach yelling at the top of my red helmet as I retrieved my glove.

Baseball taught me a lot about life. I learned that glory and shame often mix together before you can even catch your breath.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Breakfast Jacks

I work in an unfinished basement. It's usually fairly quiet there, except for when the fireplace or furnace kicks on.

It wasn't so quiet when my nine-year-old son started running a pencil over one of the heater vents upstairs. The sound startled me at first and my eyes looked up at the vent. Then the sound sent me back in time to when I was his age.

I look around the cab of the brown 1975 Dodge Ram Truck. My leg rests against the CB mounted under the dash. The metal banging noise is the long CB antennae striking against the roof of the drive-thru. We're eating breakfast at the Jack-In-The-Box restaurant. We are in my my hometown of Fontana, California. My dad slows down and tries to aim to the right stopping the noise. He leans over and pays for our breakfast jacks and orange juice at the same instant the sun peaks up over the horizon shining directly into our eyes. I squint and tilt my hat to create some shade as he hands me a cardboard drink holder and a bag of food. I set the drinks on my baseball pants as my dad leans left to put his wallet back in his jeans pocket. His seatbelt clicks as we move forward to the main street of Fontana California. It's Saturday and I have the fuel to play two baseball games. As we pull out the antennae hits the restaurant again and I look up to see an unfinished basement ceiling.

My son calls through the vent to me. "Dad, do you want some breakfast?"

"I'll be right up son."

I miss breakfast jacks. I miss my dad.