Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's Cliched Blogger Time... A Look Into The Search Keywords Bag!

I know it's a cliche, but darnit, I just have to comment on a few of the searches that have brought me new readership. If you were getting these kinds of hits, you'd have to comment too.

“dad spanking little boy underwear for fighting“

Okay, I can kind of see how a spanking search might have brought someone to my blog. I mentioned spanking specifically in my mind your own business post a few months back, but “underwear for fighting?” What the hell is that? I'm imagining some kind of demented toddler Fight Club, only more creepy and even more illegal.

Even more bizarre is that someone actually sat down and typed that string of nonsense words, words that alluded to some hidden, deeper meaning, into Google and hit return, hoping for an actual result. If you're still reading, underwear-for-fighting-person, welcome! Also, what the hell where you thinking? As much as I'm sure the answer would frighten and disturb me, I really want to know!

“dominatrix golden showers“

Uhh... yeah. Huh?

“help find dad in denver“

This one actually intrigues me, because if you read it out loud, it sounds like “HELP... find Dad... in Denver!” I can imagine a bunch of scenarios, many of them tragic and epic, like something Homer would have written (the poet, not the Simpsons dad). Was the person looking for their own, specific dad? Or, would any old dad do in a pinch? Was there some sort of hotline or service the person was hoping to find? “1-800-Lost-Dad! You lose 'em, we find them again!”

The majority of my new visits, it would seem, come from being listed on the blogrolls of my many internet friends and acquaintances. If you're on my blogroll, it's because I read your blog all the time and enjoy what you have to say about life and being a parent. If I'm in your blogroll, I just want you to know I appreciate being thought of so highly that you'd bother to list me.

Okay, everyone, group hug... no, really. That means you, too! Get over here, you big lug and give DD some lovin'!

Friday, May 25, 2007

I'm Not Going To Quote The Grateful Dead And You Can't Make Me

I'm not one of those guys that can complain about being prematurely gray -- the guys that, on their 25th birthdays, wake up to a silver sheen and a stunned sort of look on their faces can complain. I'm not one of those unfortunate men, but lately, my wife has been commenting more and more at the amount of gray that has found itself on my head.

I had a good run. I'm going to be 36 next month, so a bit of gray seems appropriate, but at the same time, still feels a little early. Men with gray hair shouldn't be obsessing about video games and zombie movies. No, we should be retiring to our dens to reflect on the works of Dickens, pulling leisurely on our pipes, and occasionally discussing which actress in “the pictures“ currently has the best gams. Or, at least, that's how I imagined adult life would be once I became a mature man. Little did I know I'd be the same dorky guy, only a little bit older.

Have you seen the “Just For Men“ commercials? They seem to be on a lot these days, or maybe I'm just more sensitive to them, now that I'm exactly the demographic they're trying to win over. They're actually kind of amusing. I'll recount the action, in case you missed them:

Sad sack guy is at a bar that hasn't been renovated since 1974, his hair conspicuously gray. No, really, this otherwise handsome guy looks like a grandpa... a GRANDPA! Geez, all the hot chicks are avoiding him because they're worried he'll try to ply them with Werther's Originals and then offer to take them back to his pad to show them his etchings.

If only he could cover up that gray! Wait... thanks to the miracles of modern science, he can! With just a simple application of a dye that looks a bit like the stuff that Spiderman's new black costume is made out of, he can be a swinging, hep cat again!

Cut back to the 1974 bar... my goodness... sad sack is now a happy playboy on the prowl! The hot girls are hanging all over him, he gave all of his Werther's Originals to the bartender, and life is good again! Thank goodness he got that gray hair taken care of and isn't a horrible troll any longer, despite the fact that like his favorite bar, his style hasn't changed much since he shared that apartment with Chrissy and Janet.

So, even though there is a product for men like me, men who want to go to 70s themed bars and pick up women who wear too much makeup, I think I'm going to forgo “coloring“ my hair. It seems like too much work and also seems like too much... I don't know... vanity? Effort? I'll look at my gray hair like I look at my scars, proof that I was here and didn't just spend my time sitting around looking pretty (clarification: looking pretty strange). I lived with as little fuss as I could, and damnit, I drew the line at hair gel.

So, when Denver Mom has an affair with our pool boy (once we get a pool), because I look too much like an old man, I'll reconsider. However, until that time, I remain gray and getting more gray every day. I don't know if I'll wear it with pride, but I'll wear it with genuineness. I'll wear my gray because I am, after all, gray, not old.

The question that's been bothering me since this realization: Is it just coincidence that Denver Mom and I are trying to learn how to play Bocce? Bocce?!? Maybe I am old.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Home Sweet Home

We've left Red Wing and are home. My grandfather's condition has improved, his strength has returned, his wit as sharp as ever, but his prognosis isn't much better. He's stuck between a bleeding ulcer and a damaged heart, with treatment for either destined to aggrevite the other. In other words, if they treat him, it could kill him.

He has told the medical staff that he does not want to be revived, should they be faced with that decision. At 92 years old, I know he's thought a lot about death, told me stories about friends he's lost, but that must have been a difficult decision to make. Thankfully, he had the strength of will to make these decisions for himself and isn't asking his family to struggle with those questions further down the road.

I think I mentioned it before, but we drove to Minnesota, rather than fly. From Denver to my family's small town home of Red Wing, it's just a little over 900 miles, a trip that's too far for a toddler, but Chunk surprised me. He was great there and back, well behaved and agreeable, if a little nuts by “night-night time.”

There's a strange kind of peace that comes from driving long distances. I've read that there is a quasi-hypnosis that happens to people who stare at the road for too long, but what I'm talking about is more than that temporary state. When I was a kid, most of our family trips were driving trips, usually up to Minnesota, and so I know the trip very well. I can tell you stories about most of the rest stops along the way, point out the best Denny's for pie in Iowa, explain which tourist traps in Nebraska are worth seeing and which ones are okay to simply drive passed. Having made the trip countless times, as a boy and teen, it was strange to take that same trip again as a father. Strange, but natural in a way, like this wouldn't be the first or last time our little family braved the long highways of the midwest.

On the way home we drove through South Dakota and I saw Mount Rushmore for the first time. Having seen photos and the occasional scene from “North By Northwest,” I expected it to be sort of cheesy, but it was surprisingly neat and very tasteful. I can be a little cynical at times (I hope you were sitting down for that particular revelation), but it was a very moving monument and more than just a little awe-inspiring. Crazy Horse is slowly being carved into shape several miles away and should be even more impressive when it's finished.

Denver Mom and I decided that we'd plan a car trip every summer. We're planning on seeing Yellowstone, White Sands National Monument, visiting the Robert Henri museum in his home town in Nebraska, and maybe going back to our old favorite, Bandelier National Monument. Any other suggestions for places we can go?

Monday, May 14, 2007

When It Rains

Last night, I spent an hour or so holding my grandfather's hand. With a variety of tubes running out of his body, electrodes hooked to his chest, he looked small, smaller than I've ever seen him, but he squeezed my hand with a strength that put me at ease, despite his situation.

On Saturday my mom called to tell us that my grandfather had suffered a heart attack. Although the doctors had been able to stabilize him, things didn't look good. His remaining kidney was failing, the heart attack was likely caused by the faulty valve he had in his chest, and there were other problems as well, but when he squeezed my hand, somehow I felt like it was going to be okay. Its funny how we're forever children before our parents.

My childhood was a complicated mess of ignored responsibilities. My biological mom really wasn't capable of being a parent, and when she dropped the ball with me, which often happened, my grandparents were always there to pick it up again. I think I lived with them more than I lived with my biological mother, until my aunt, uncle, and cousins took me in permanently.

I learned a lot about being a dad from my grandfather and I catch myself, sometimes, talking to Chunk like my grandfather spoke to me. He retired early and my summers off from school consisted mostly of he and I running errands around Minneapolis, sometimes going for short hikes, or hanging out in diners run by guys who knew my grandfather by name. At the time, it seemed like everyone knew my grandfather by name, and although he was an abrasive guy at times, everyone had a smile for him.

Every time we got in the car, I would learn something. We would drive along power lines and my grandfather would quiz me on why the birds could stand on the power lines without getting electrocuted. We would go to the hardware store and walk about how plumbing worked. Sometimes we'd just talk about the car we were driving in, have long conversations about traffic rules. That's the quality I think I mirror most from my grandfather. When Chunk points at something and asks, "What's that?" his voice more shrill, depending on his level of excitement, I never just answer, "That's a truck." I tell him its a truck, then we spend a long time talking about what it's used for, why it needs to be so big, etc. At two, he doesn't always get it, but I think he gets more than he lets on, just like I did with my grandpa.

There are strange moments that come with from dealing with our own parents, times when your perceptions are rattled and altered forever. Chunk will have these moments with me, I'm sure. I was shocked and surprised when I realized I was taller than my grandfather, a man who had been larger than life itself for my entire childhood. I was devastated when my grandmother passed away almost twenty years ago, not just because I had lost an amazing woman in my life, but because the devastation that my grandfather wore on his face was something I couldn't bare to see. Seeing how sunken my grandfather had become after the death of his daughter, my biological mother, shrunk me as well. And now, watching him lie in a hospital bed, straddling that strangely wide line between life and death, has been another moment of realization, a time when I can see very plainly that the man I idolized my entire life is just a man, like I am, not a legend made real, not a tall tale from the north like Paul Bunyon and thousands of fishing stories.

My grandfather wasn't always a good man, but he became one. He struggled with alcohol for a lot of years, but exorcised that demon and went to work helping others do the same. He wasn't always a good husband, but when my grandmother retired, he grew roses for her, big bushes of reds and pinks and whites and yellow, flowers that even I knew meant something more than just their surface beauty. He wasn't always a good father, but when given the chance to try again, became an excellent father to a boy that didn't seem to have any parents at all.

His calm in his hospital bed perhaps remakes him as the legend I've always seen him as being. When I told him he scared a lot of us, he told me, between machine assisted gulps of air, that he was scared too. Then, he smiled, like it was all a joke, like it was nothing at all, and squeezed my hand with a firmness that said he was right, that none of this was serious. After that, he turned his gaze back up to the ceiling and struggled with each and every breath, hiccuping with a strangely soft, high sound, that should come from a bird, not my grandfather.

His chances don't look very good. He lives 900 miles away and hasn't really gotten a chance to get to know my son. Like my great-grandparents, my grandpa will exist more as a story for Chunk, but there will be a lot of stories to tell. Some of those stories will be funny, others sad, some beautiful, and others inspiring.

I'm looking forward to seeing him this morning, but not because I want to say good-bye. I didn't spend two days in the car to say good-bye. I came here because I want to spend a little more time with my "bump-pa."

Monday, May 07, 2007

Shamed Out of the Shadows

I've written about balance many times, because the biggest lesson I have learned as a parent is that balance is a bit like a unicorn, winning lotto numbers, and Jami Gertz, intensely desirable but elusive to the point that you're not really sure it even exists. I had thought that I was approaching something that might have looked like balance, had the same sort of smooth corners and even weight, but as soon as I got to the point where I was considering claiming victory over my schedule, work came and clobbered me with some details I predicted, but somehow wasn't anticipating.

Is that vague enough? I mean, aside from my Jami Gertz reference? I'll be a little more obvious... I work for a non-profit and we have a big fund raising breakfast coming up. Of course I wouldn't have time for blogging. We're on the downward slope, however, so things should be returning to normal for me very soon.

Have I brought any lessons from my unexpected hiatus, any new bits of shiny, packaged wisdom that I can distribute like candy at Halloween? Gosh, wouldn't that be nice? Nope. I'm sorry, but as I get back up to speed, it'll just be more of the same. Wisdom is for people with better taglines and wit.

Expect more soon! And, Lainey-Paney, p-man, and Sarah O, thank you for shaming me back into posting. If the next post is nothing but fart jokes and talk about Xbox, remember, you brought this on yourselves.