Saturday, February 27, 2010

Little Man

My son Dylan is nine and a half now. Like most parents, I wonder where the time has gone. He's a healthy little dude: He weighs a bit over 100 pounds, and he's a half inch shy of five feet tall.

He was a remarkably happy baby, and he's always been a good kid. He can be trying at times, yep. I tell friends that he's a lot like his mom, which is to say that he's sweet, but hard-headed.

Lately, I find that I've been raising my voice with him more often. He's been testing his limits, and pushing the envelope with regularity. I've had to more often fight against exasperation, and I've more often reminded myself to take a couple of breaths before saying anything.

One day last week, I walked into the school grounds to pick Dylan up at the end of the day. Dylan ran up to give me a hug, followed closely by one of his schoolmates. Dylan's little friend had a silly grin on his face, and he shouted, "Mr. Johnson, Dylan gave me five dollars!" I looked at Dylan, waiting for an explanation, but he said nothing.

Driving home, I reminded Dylan that he'd been given the five bucks to pay for a couple of days of school lunches. He said, "I know, Dad. But he's been talking about a toy he wants to buy, and he never has any money."

"So you went without lunch?" I asked.
"Well, not really."
"What do you mean, 'not really'?"
He paused. "One of the other kids gave me some crackers."

Dylan's little buddy comes from a broken home. Money is tight, I gather.

I was torn. Dylan gave that money away without permission. He'd intentionally disregarded our instructions to use it to pay for school lunches.

I rehearsed it in my mind. I'd praise him for being so selfless, for going without lunch so a little friend could buy a toy he'd wanted for weeks. But then, I'd gently scold him for failing to follow instructions. I'd remind him that the money was not his to give away. I'd give him a little lecture about responsibility.

We came to a stop light. I looked in the rear-view mirror, and met his eyes. His expression told me that he knew something was coming.

A little hesitation on his part. "Yeah, Dad?"
"You want to stop and get something to eat?"

What can I say? I went with my heart. I hope my heart was right.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Not Just a Game

I took this photo earlier today. What you see is what remains of the IGA supermarket in Buras, Louisiana. There were two supermarkets in Buras, but Hurricane Katrina took them away. The folks down here in Buras, Boothville, and Venice still don't have a supermarket in the community. Instead, they must drive a half-hour north to Port Sulphur.

There are many vivid reminders of the devastation brought by Katrina to these people and their homes. They see them every day.

The Saints made it to the Super Bowl for the first time in their forty-two year history. The Aints ain't Aints anymore. That's one reason why, for folks in south Louisiana, the Super Bowl was much more than a game. But it wasn't the only reason, and I think it wasn't the most important reason.

I think for so many folks down here, the Super Bowl means that it's okay to hope again. God bless them.

Friday, February 05, 2010

A Tip of the Hat to Archie Manning

For the first time in nineteen years, I'm genuinely interested in the outcome of the upcoming Super Bowl. If memory serves, the last time I watched a Super Bowl from beginning to end was in 1991. I was with my dad. Dad died later that year, in August.

I'd always found individual sports more compelling anyway. Track and field, tennis, ping pong, boxing, whatever. But watching games with Dad was always fun, and I always looked forward to them, whether as a kid, or later, as an alleged adult.

I grew up in southern California, but my favorite football team during my high school years and into my twenties? The New Orleans Saints. I'd evidently inherited my dad's trait of rooting for the underdog, and boy, were the Saints ever the perennial underdog.

The Saints were founded in 1967, and it would be twenty years before they had a winning season.

And then there was Archie Manning. Archie was an outstanding quarterback, but he just didn't have much of a team around him, and that was most evident with the Saints porous offensive line. Archie didn't have it much better in college, at Ole Miss. In 1969, he set an SEC record for total offense: 436 yards passing, 104 yard rushing. Archie's effort is still tied for the record today, and guess what? Ole Miss lost that game to Alabama.

Archie played for the Saints for ten seasons. Losing seasons. L.A. Rams defensive lineman Jack Youngblood felt bad for Archie, because Archie's offensive line left so often left him a sitting duck for players of Youngblood's caliber. Archie said, "I've got to say that Youngblood was nice enough to pick me up every time he knocked my butt off."

So now, for the first time in forty-two years, the New Orleans Saints are going to the Super Bowl. Archie's son Peyton will lead the Indianapolis Colts against the Saints. Something tells me that Archie will be pulling for Peyton. But if the Saints win, I suspect Archie will spare a smile or two.

I'll be traveling on Super Bowl Sunday. I'm not sure I'll catch the game. But I'll be thinking about Archie, and thinking about my dad.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Let's Get Out of Here Before They Call the Police

So Dylan and I are walking through the indoor mall. He says something clever and smart-alecky at my expense. I'm proud of him, but of course he has to pay, so I get him in a headlock. I give him a noogie and a light kick to the butt.

He responds with a straight right to my side. Oomph. I've always let him hit me full force in the body when we spar, but sheesh, I'm wondering how much longer that can go on. I deliver a vicious combination to his head with my fingertips, and he counters with a looping left to the body.

We pause. We drift back together, still walking, and we hug.

I hear laughter behind us. An older lady is walking behind us, watching.

"Men," she says.