Are You Afraid?

I’ve never served my country unless it was community service after a ridiculously stupid trespassing violation. Dropping dollops of mashed potatoes and gravy on a starving person’s plate wasn’t heroic, and it wasn’t scary. It was just the right thing to do.

My father served in Korea, and although I’ve read parts of books and periodicals about the Korean War, I always wanted to grasp how he felt in battle. Other than suffering through one of the coldest winters in Korea, he gave very few details. However, after being decorated as a war hero, earning the Silver Star, two bronze stars and a Purple Heart, he didn’t deem himself as a hero. He praised those fighting.along his side, who saved his life while dying on behalf of not only him, but our country.

I did ask him a fair question. “Were you ever afraid?” That’s a tough question to ask a man, especially when you want the answer to be “NO.” In my eyes, and in my heart, he was a hero, not just as a Veteran, but as a father and husband. His answer was not what I wanted. “Right down to my socks, buster.”

Even after that response, I still believed he was a hero. I didn’t understand then, and without serving or participating in a war, I can only try to understand now. Courage isn’t about being fearless, it is about taking action even when you’re terrified. Courage is moving forward. when you are afraid and moving on even when you are scared right down to your cold, wet socks.He wouldn’t have been a hero if he wasn’t afraid. Perhaps, when I asked him that simple question, he was afraid to answer it honestly to his youngest son, but he did.

That’s bravery at its finest.

Colors of Wonder

The Northern lights. As a ten year old, I didn’t know what the hell those were. It could have been a lamp hovering over a basketball hoop or a left field fence for all I knew. I did know this. When my mother would reach for a wooden chair and stare to the North, it didn’t matter. I’d stare with her.

Our mother spent decades in that yard watching and reluctantly participating in our backyard adventures, whether it was baseball, football, basketball or kick the can, she’d be there. One night, she asked me if I wanted to see the Northern Lights, and I didn’t care if was a 30 watt lightbulb. I said, yes.

She sat in the chair and I sat on the lawn next to her wondering when this light would turn on to illuminate our yard and house. Mom sat patiently, and I sat impatiently waiting for something I wasn’t sure I believed in or not. I tossed my impatience aside, along with my leather baseball glove, and decided to believe in her. Something I should have done long before.

An hour went by ( to me that was a day) and I saw nothing but dark blue sky. Usually, a chatter box, my mother was silent for that hour. I still sat by her believing something may happen which would define me as a man, child, infant or just a plain old earthling. Much like Sasquatch, the lights didn’t properly arrive. Yet, she believed, some day, they would. Therefore, I remained faithful as well, that one day they would arrive…just not that night.

Last Saturday, after hearing from the local news the Northern Lights could be witnessed at sunset, I sat alone on the grass waiting to see them in all their glory. I wasn’t alone. Although it was a beautiful sunset, the brilliant lights seen in internet pictures never arrived, much like Sasquatch. Yet, sitting they made me realize the most magical part of the northern lights was actually our mother.

Although we never captured it in its full brilliance, I thought there was more to Northern Lights than just the colors. It was faith and wondering what was beyond those lights. My mother always believed there was more somewhere else. At the time, I didn’t, but I do now. Still never seeing the Northern Lights, I went further and found out there was something beyond those lights which would make me happy. Thanks to her, I’m happy.

Whenever She Comes Home

My wife doesn’t like surprises, neither do I. Whenever she comes home, she does love the celebration…..to a point. She loves the rose pedals, the confetti, the music, “Hail to the Chief” playing, and the champagne poured into her eyes. Gratefully, she welcomes me with egg rolls from our local Asian cuisine haunt, Jack in the Box.

She also loves the new tattoos we all have representing our love for her. I have an “I love my gal” on my constitution. Our dog, Laney, has a “Feed ME” on her forehead, and the cats have tattoo’d paws reading, “Meow” on one paw, and “Claws R Us” on the other. They are bad ass kittens.

This is where my wife draws the line. Our 120 pound dog knocks her down before she can enter the door. After the 5th trip to the emergency room, I keep our dog locked up in a room with a tomahawk shaped bone. That’s her medication. After 5 hours, I release her and she strolls out of the room, a little uneasily, and gives my wife a delicate hug followed by wet kisses.

My wife does appreciate the affection, but further appreciates the lack of emergency room visits. I finally figured it out.

Wine Sauce

Pull over! When my brother, Steve, said, “Pull over.”, it was a command, not from the police, but from God. The police? Ahh. No big deal. God. Big deal. We pulled over because even God forgot one of the commandments. “thou shall not pull over unless I say so, or Steve says so.”

My brother, mike, was driving and semi sober. He pulled over and asked Steve, “why do you need wine sauce?” Steve’s response: “cuz wine sauce is goooood!!!! Wooooo!

After a hard and glorious day of fishing and drinking, the wine sauce, which never came to fruition, allowed us to let Steve drift off into this inebriated wine sauce world he wished to inhabit. He was the Willy Wonka of drinking. A world of pure imagination where he could make dreams come true at his tavern filled with watermelon pull tabs, Ribeye pinball machines and Dodger Darts. He did make dreams come true.

Right or not, the wine sauce I infused with chicken stock, garlic and onions, it seemed right.

Freddy

Hello!!!

Answering the phone in this fashion was the only way for a parrot to receive calls in an office. Mike worked as a lumber broker in Oregon. Freddy was my brother Mike’s parrot, and everyone grew to like him, other than Mike’s wife. I guess you could say Mike and Freddy were kindred spirits.

Freddy was purchased for 2,000 dollars in Hawaii. Much to Mike’s dismay, he pleased his wife by allowing this bird to enter his life. I’m sure it’s something he won’t forget. Nor would Freddy.

Even though we sometimes refer to people as having birdbrains, this particular bird was far more intelligent than humans. More importantly, Freddy was unique and funny with a keen sense of knowing who loved him and tried to understand him.

We all thought our oldest brother, Mike, was crazy for buying this bird. He wasn’t crazy, and much like everyone in Mike’s world, he welcomed him to our goofy world as family. I’ll never forget when he traveled to Spokane, Washington for his first Thanksgiving. Freddy was a hit. Amongst people he didn’t know, he was a bit shy, and when we wanted him to ask for a cracker, he backed away and hid in his cage until the turkey was ready. Freddy was very well mannered when it came to table manners or matters. All of us were upstairs when Freddy called out, “Turkey’s done!” It was shocking. “Turkey”s done, turkey”s done, turkey’s done!” Our mother was blown away. She expected to walk down the stairs to see a bird wearing an apron with an electric knife prepared to carve it. Freddy was walking around, and greeted our mother with a boisterous “Hello, turkey’s done.” Indeed it was. Freddy didn’t carve the turkey but he entertained what became his guests throughout dinner. I wish i could disclose Freddy also said grace, but he left that to our father, who was interrupted during his brief grace, by shouting, “Everyone’s hungry!” It was beautiful. We were all very hungry. Mom served Freddy up a plate, but he forgave her for cooking up one of his kin, and denied the plate, respectfully, for a plate of birdseed.

Freddy arrived in the Continental United States to witness the stupidity, self absorbed attitudes floating around the states. Freddy took advantage of it with great personality and grace. Mike’s wife would leave the shower, and Freddy greeted her with a, “Hello Bitch!” He would also use other metaphors I am too young to provide. (I can’t hide my blushes).

Mike called the bird dealership inquiring about the dirty bird’s vernacular. They informed him of the many languages he spoke, but forgot to tell him profanity was his greatest gift. Mike thought it was funny, and after the divorce, Mike got the bird.

Years later, Freddy and Mike became room mates. Mike paid the bills and
Freddy provided the entertainment.

One week, Mike had a business engagement, and as a responsible birder, he invited a quest to look after Freddy. Sadly, things didn’t go well. Without proper details I only know the guest was stellar when taking care of Freddy with one minor detail. He was watching college football in a recliner when, deciding to get a refreshment, declined the recliner, only to hear a shriek and a “F#@%!!’ Freddy’s leg was stuck beneath the recliner. Freddy’s leg was badly broken. Quickly, the guest drove Freddy to the vet with Freddy yelling at him, and cursing, sometimes in various languages. They arrived safely, a cast and crutch was provided, but the hospital stay was decidedly longer than expected.

Upon Mike’s return, he visited Freddy immediately; Freddy was diagnosed with a fracture to the upper and lower bird leg. Mike wished to take Freddy home, so he did so after approval from the doctors. After returning to Mike’s or Freddy’s home, Mike noticed something was wrong with Fred. He no longer happily spewed profanity and seemed depressed. Mike returned to the Vet addressing his concern and when entering the facility, the other birds celebrated his return with words I can’t and won’t disclose. Freddy was depressed. Quite simply, he missed his friends.

Reluctantly, Mike and the Vet agreed this was a better home than one he could provide.

Mike visited Freddy frequently with Fred’s open wings and a “How the F@#K are you?!

They are both fine.

Feels like Good Times (Perhaps)

Masks. Feels like halloween every day, without the candy. I can’t stand the notion of not wearing a mask. I do hope at one point offerings of candy while wearing a mask will be required before entering the grocery store or pharmacy. If you deny the candy, you will be physically removed from said premises and properly flogged and tased upon departure. I’ll take the candy please. I don’t wish for the trick.

Some people are worried about what they may look like to others if they aren’t wearing a mask. They may receive an “ewwe”, for me and for my wife, an “oohhhh”. “So, that’s what you look like.”

I’ll just take the candy, browse through the meat and seafood isle and be on my way.

My Father: A Reality Hero

Guilty. That’s a tough word whether you are guilty or not.

My father was guilty of making sure we knew right from wrong, whether at the dinner table or in society. He was spot on.

George Floyd died because a police officer killed him. It’s tragic. The jury made the right decision. We shouldn’t rejoice it, but like the history we didn’t care about in high school, we must learn from it.

One of my six sisters called me crying the other day.. She wasn’t happy, or rejoicing about the verdict of George Floyd, but she felt at least justice was delivered. She also asked me if our father was a racist.

Baffled at the thought, I answered with conviction, “No.” It was a surprise question. We then talked about the public pools our father would take us to on sweltering weekends in order to raise our awareness, and break down any potential bias, in a very white Spokane Washington. We were on the east side and he’d drive us to the west side public pools where the only blacks existed in our tiny world.

My sister told me he would take two of our other sisters to the pool. They were certified life guards and our father told them to give lessons on how to swim in the pool, or assistance, to anyone necessary. My sisters obliged, and dove into the reality pool. They were fit, white as wonder bread girls, in not just a different neighborhood, but a different world. They embraced others happily, made new friends, and saved some lives. My old man was up to his old tricks before black lives matters was pasted on T-Shirt.

Years later, Dad did the same for the youngest of his three boys. He drove us to that same pool and there was no anxiety at all from us. We dove in, held our breath, and emerged from the water safely and with cheers of laughter and applause from our new brothers. Splashing, laughing, swimming, and diving was only mere pool delight. We were welcomed to return.

To tell the truth, the three of us only thought of our new friends as being severely sunburned. We had no idea, nor did we care, that they were black.

Our old man taught us a lesson those days, and many days and years after.

Mother of God

I never realized how tough my mother was until I witnessed her challenge teachers or administration when she knew they were clearly wrong.

I was busted once in the rough and tumble, wacky world of challenge physical education when I was a senior in high school. Did I give a yankee dime about school as a senior? EEEhhh…No. I guess it showed when I was sent to the vice principal’s office after tackling my best friend on the school grounds and tossing his shoes out of our zip code.

We were playing Alligator Soccer. Alligator soccer you might ask? I will explain it to you simply and with lack of reverence. I don’t know what the hell that sport was all about.

When I entered the Vice Principal’s office, I wasn’t a first time offender. I’d been accused, rightfully, of escaping West Valley H.S. Alcatraz to purchase a Wednesday Whopper at Burger King. My previous friend involved in the sneaker throwing incident, Nathan Nypen, was an accomplice. That was a three day Saturday detail working on the chain gang. Picking up popcorn droppings, snow cone drippings, corndogs sticks. It was worth it. Whoppers are good.

The Vice Principal, who hated me and my family, called my mother to ensure my punishment was not only happening on the grounds of school, but also observed at home.

I was the last of my mother’s 13 children, so it wasn’t her first call from school administration. While responding to the Vice Principal’s horrific story of the shoe throwing incident, my mother asked the most logical of questions in a single word . . . “And?” The V.P. was stuck in a vat of, “oh, shit.” He was dealing with the wrong mom. My mother didn’t condone my actions, but in the previous years of taking care of us through births, Thanksgiving dinners, boxing matches in the basement, fights on the basketball court, setting fire, accidentally, to a back field, nurturing runaway cows, explaining to us why jail was bad, yet supporting us and the police in the process, she didn’t find this to be a felonious offense. The Vice Principal was speechless and provided his own apology while she listened on the phone and continued folding laundry with underwear skid marks. God bless her, and though I’m sure she was on the express way to heaven, hopefully Heaven isn’t littered with skid marks.

Mom did make me apologize to Nathan. Nathan knew my apology was as phony as me retrieving his shoe over the fence I’d tossed it off of. When he said thanks after jumping over the fence, crossing the closed school ground rules, I then tossed them over again. What a jerk.

Nathan laughed at both of my insincere apologies, but he loved the way my mother handled the “situation”.

He respected my mom, especially when she delivered my sentence for the crime, “Don’t do that again.”

She made every day our Happy Mothers Day.

Readers’ Digestion

While writing this latest blog while on the terlit, I was reminded of someone making fun of me for having a subscription to Readers Digest. I’m 48, not 90.

I also subscribe to the Seattle Times. Further ridicule. I am tortured by those half my age. I read more than the sport’s page. It’s just not fair, and I don’t care. Screw you to those who don’t like Garfield and lasagna. He’s cool. I don’t know how Dagwood scored Blondie as a wife, but those sandwiches she makes him do it for me. The Family Circus can suck it. We miss the Far Side, but embrace Peanuts, especially Snoop and Woodstock. My old man loved the Wizard of Id and the incompetence of Sir Rodney. My father’s name was Rodney.

With great regard to Readers Digest, I’ve learned how to cook a squirrel in an easy bake oven. I’ve learned that lemons encourage immortality, tires bounce when inflated, donuts are fried, bacon is a substitute for anything and don’t trust a rattlesnake even if you have sliced its head off. Venom is a tricky deal. Don’t bet on it.

In essence, reading is terrific, unless there is venom in it.

Reservations

This pandemic is driving us crazy, By us, I mean the world.

We made reservations at a nice place on the island. Gilligan’s Island. I should have known it wasn’t the proper island when they didn’t have head hunters, millionaires, professors and hot actresses.

It was simply an island for baboons like us. Our reservation was turned down because the head chef came down with a cace of the “trotts.” We returned to our home, starving for coconut, pineapple and maize, only to find none of it.

Last Resort; Dairy Queen

We didn’t know reservations were required at Dairy Queen, but as starvation consumes your body to the point of insanity, Dairy Queen was our last resort.

When entering the line at DQ, there were eight cars in front of us. I panicked, and without a mask, I busted in, unarmed, but they thought my intent was to rob, steal, and perhaps kill. All we wanted was a blizzard. They, said, “wait in line, you damn dirty ape. It may be two hour and 47 minute wait”

I didn’t know what that meant but we did wait in line, put on our friendly masks and received a blizzard.

The next time we go to DQ, we will ask for a reservation.