Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Aggravation and Magic

We were driving back from town, and Dylan and I were talking about horses. As we got out of the car, Rhonda said, "You guys sure are talking a lot."

"Oh no," I thought. But yeah, it was seven in the evening, and I was revved up.

We'd had dinner at a Japanese restaurant. Dylan loves it because of the "sushi boats" that float by, allowing the patron to pick from a wide selection of sushi and other Japanese food. After dinner, we stopped by a drive-through coffee place to get a couple of dessert coffee drinks. For Dylan and me, that is. Rhonda can't stand coffee, no matter how gussied up.

I ordered decaf versions. Dylan is ten, after all, and if I drink coffee much after noon or so, I can count on spending a good chunk of the night sleepless.

For some reason, we didn't get decaf versions of our coffees, and sheesh, those suckers were big. The guy at Dutch Brothers probably didn't hear the decaf part of my order over the music in his work area.

Rhonda went to bed around ten, and Dylan and I were still talking away. At midnight, we were still talking. That was when I started to feel really aggravated at the guy at Dutch Brothers. I was listening to Dylan, but silently calling the coffee guy a bunch of ill names.

I probably stewed at that guy for a good half hour. But then, the front porch light inside came on, and I realized that I needed to give up my rancor, and focus on the magic going on with my son.

We talked about his friends. We talked about horses. We talked about falconry. We talked about his hopes and fears for the school year. We talked about him getting back into Jiu Jitsu. We talked about our favorite music. We talked about what he would do when he grew up. We talked about the day he was born. We talked about my mom, his other grandma, the one he didn't remember because she died when he was thirteen months old. We talked about both of his grandfathers, who died many years before he was born. We talked about kindness, and toughness, and how they often belonged in the same room.

Finally, at two-thirty in the morning, I could see him start to wind down.

"Let's get you in bed," I said.
"Aw Dad, I'm not sleepy yet."
"We can keep talking."
"Will you stay with me until I fall asleep?"

So I did. His speech started to slow, and he started to talk about a time we'd gone snorkeling, but he didn't make it through the sentence before drifting to sleep. I kissed his head, then went to our bedroom, and kissed Rhonda on the cheek. She giggled.

"What time is it?" she asked.
"You don't want to know."
"Oh brother," she said, before drifting back to sleep.

It was nearly four in the morning before I even thought about trying to sleep. I wondered if those coffees had something illegal in them.

I finally started to feel myself slip, as I thought about the three of us swimming through the ocean.


About three weeks later, we went to the same Japanese restaurant, and Dylan and I once again decided on dessert coffees at Dutch Brothers. As we pulled into the drive-through lane, I could see the same young guy hanging out of the window, handing coffees to the car in front of us.

"Dylan, it's the same guy who gave us caffeine poisoning last month."
"Oh brother," Dylan said.

The caffeine poisoner shouted out a greeting, and asked us what we wanted.

"Two decaf Carmelizers, one on ice, one blended," I said.
"So that's two Carmelizers, one on ice, one blended?"

Dylan and I shouted in unison, "DECAF!"

The poor guy nearly jumped off the floor. Probably because of too much caffeine.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Herding Cats

I wrote this on Facebook this morning: Sheesh. During a crew change day at work, we're at the flight line at 5 AM, and we have a lot of tasks to knock off within an hour before a flight. Why then does it seem ten times more stressful just to get my wife and son out the door on a school day? I love those two people more than life itself, but I have an idea for a new TV reality show: "Extreme Home Cat Herding."

I was pretty aggravated this morning by the time my bride and our son drove away. It was partly just me, since I'm fighting a sinus infection, and not feeling my best, and give me enough time and I'll come up with other excuses.

Part of it comes from Rhonda. Although she's one of the very kindest and loving people I've ever known, she is NOT at her best in the morning. She and Dylan seldom follow a straight-line course to anything, and if I rousted them an hour earlier every morning, they would still get out the door with about two minutes to spare.

My goodbyes were kind of curt as they got into the car. But as I stood outside, and listened to the car drive down the driveway and up the hill, I found myself wishing for a do-over.

I walked into the house and slumped into a chair, and the thought crossed my mind: "What if that goodbye was the last I ever got to say to them?" A golf ball appeared in my throat.

I thought about lesser losses, too.

One day, Dylan will be on his own. The mornings of cooking breakfast, packing a lunch, and fretting over him getting to school on time will be over.

I thought about how aggravated I was this morning.

I thought about how the day will come when I have my first cup of coffee in the morning, remembering the mornings of trying to get my wife and son out the door on time. I think about how I'll chuckle, and maybe, get a tear on my eye.

Something dawned on me anew: The cat-herding ordeals will end. Too soon.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Quran and Pastor Jones

I'm sure you've heard of Terry Jones. He's the pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Florida. Come September 11, he plans to burn copies of the Quran in a bonfire. The White House, religious leaders, and General David Petraeus have asked him to back down.

In an email to the Associated Press, General Petraeus wrote that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan—and around the world—to inflame public opinion and incite violence."

So far, Jones doesn't seem inclined to back down. I saw him on the news this morning, and when reminded that his actions could result in the deaths of more U.S. troops, his response was "that's not my problem."

I'd like to think that I understand where people like Terry Jones are coming from. After all, the battle against terrorism can be frustrating. Islamic extremist groups such as the Taliban are elusive and shadowy. When people desperately want to find a target, and that target proves exceedingly difficult to identify, the tendency--with some--is to identify a larger target. Thus, in the eyes of people like Terry Jones, Islam itself is the enemy.

A big target is oh-so-convenient. A big target quells frustration because there are many opportunities for engagement. Never mind that the target is largely a work of fiction.

I have quite a redneck lineage, and it shows at times like this. I find myself characterizing Terry Jones as an evil son of a bitch, a wannabe Hitler in the making. But the fact is that people like Pastor Jones are often the result of combining fear, ignorance, and pain in a fragile human vessel and shaking it until it bleeds hate. Terry Jones may indeed be evil personified, but chances are he's just another person harboring a wounded child within, a child who grew up with too little love. For people of that mold, hate can be strangely comforting.

But, I can only go so far with my half-baked compassion for Terry Jones. You see, I have a goodly number of friends and coworkers who serve in the National Guard or other military reserves, men and women who face their second, third, or fourth deployments to the Middle East. Terry Jones' refusal to act as a mature, reasonable human being could mean a greater chance that I'll never see some of them again.

That said, in no way am I suggesting that the right of free speech should be denied to Pastor Jones. The Constitution has been eroded too much already over the years, by both Republicans and Democrats.

So, as deplorable as I find the event planned by Terry Jones, I will defend his right to go forward.

Even as I imagine how gratifying it would be to kick him squarely in the balls.