A Devastated Little Boy

The following is an old blog post I wrote on November 1, 2011, the day after Halloween (obviously) that year. It’s about my son, who was six years old, at the time. I hope you enjoy it. It still makes me cry.

 

Halloween came quickly this year.  Our family rustled up the last of our costumes around the time we were supposed to go out the door and start terrorizing the neighborhood.

As we knocked on every door with a light on, the kids got more eager to grab the candy offered them in the bowls.  The owners of each house ran the gamut of love for children or simply doing the deed out of hapless irritation.

One elderly couple made an evening of it, genuinely enjoying every youngster that crossed their threshold.  They had dragged an old television and a space heater out to their three-season porch and sat on two rocking chairs with the light on, waiting for that footstep on the stairs and a knock on the door.

When my squirts ambled up, knocked and weakly whispered “Trick or treat!”, the old woman jumped into action.  She was out of her rocking chair in a flash with a gigantic metal bowl, filled with candy, under her arm.  The old man smiled from ear to ear, loudly praising the children for their costume choices and getting them to slap his hand many times.  Handfuls of candy went into each pillowcase with Jack (2) begging loudly for the only candy he really cared about (any food, for that matter) – a sucker.

Then Frederic stepped up.  He had on a cheap Incredible Hulk costume with a thin plastic mask.  The teeth on the mask were bared, revealing bloody gums.  It looked gruesome, but fake enough to allow a dog to look once and slink away without growling.

When the old man caught sight of him, he let out a whoop and said “You’re ugly!!!”  Frederic’s frame immediately stiffened and he stopped in his tracks.  Nothing.  No words, no movements.  Nothing.  The old man chuckled and said again, “You’re really quite ugly!!!”  You could see the wind escaping from Frederic’s body and the devastated hunch of the shoulders began to show.  Then, slowly, his right arm moved upward toward his mask.  His hand lifted the mask off his face and up onto his hair.

Without skipping a beat, the old man loudly declared, “Wow!  Now you’re cute!!!”

Frederic’s transformation was real.  His whole body softened, the shoulders became loose, and his beautiful smile beamed across his face.  You could read his mind and knew that he understood that the old man was just talking about his mask – which he already knew was ugly – not Frederic himself.

The rest of the evening was uneventful.

Superheroes – Allegories to the Finicky Nature of God

Note: I try to be vague in this post, but there could be some spoiler alerts.

I’m slogging through the brilliant show, Jessica Jones, a Netflix Original. Season 1 was absolutely fascinating. The character Killgrave is beyond the complexities of most characters we love to hate and really gets under your skin, if you’ve ever experienced the cognitive dissonance of an abuser.

He’s a superhero with a power that should make him untouchable. It very well could make him completely, utterly, and unconditionally good, as well. But, he never learns that character trait. At one point, Jessica Jones tries to teach him to be good, saving the lives of an entire family, and in the process, preventing Killgrave from finishing off the perpetrator of the violence, saving that man’s life too. It was at that very moment that Jessica Jones figured out that it wasn’t at all possible for Killgrave to be good without her influence. And not outside influence – every second of every day, necessitating her to never leave Killgrave’s side.

In Season 2, we witness the short life of Whizzer, another accidental superhero that can run very fast. We constantly see a replayed video of him saying the words, “With much power comes….” Finish that sentence. Is it “…much responsibility”? That’s the common phrase we hear. We hold our human leaders to that standard, and they fail it pretty much every time. But no, that’s not what Whizzer said. Rather, he said, “With much power comes mental illness.”

As I watched the beginnings of Season 2, the binged memories of Season 1 fresh in my head, I looked at the gentleman I was watching with, and asked him, “If you had Killgrave’s power, would you use it for good or bad.”

“Hell yeah, I’d use it for bad, as well as for good. I mean, you kind of have to have the entire spectrum. With power like that, you get bored. Look at the Biblegod. He has the capacity for complete goodness and yet he has to be a mass murderer – just because he can be. I would be the most benevolent human alive, as well as the most evil.”

I’ve been thinking about it all wrong. Here, I’ve been claiming that I’m better than the Biblegod, which is still true, according to my definition of good. But I’ve been basing it on a purely logical idea of goodness. If I had the ability to forgive the sins of the world and prevent all humans from burning in hell for eternity, I would snap my fingers and do it, because I can. Because that is my definition of implicit goodness.

But I don’t have power. I don’t understand the mind of a superhero. That individual can define goodness however he or she pleases. Since they have power, of course they can wield it in a completely illogical fashion, then convincing those that are controlled by that power, that their arbitrary nature is nothing short of benevolent goodness. Even unconditional love. And we, without power, lap it up.

Sure it makes sense that you have created earth, heaven, and hell, know all, are everywhere, know the count of hairs on our hoary heads, and the location of every raven that falls to the earth – yet cannot control whether we go to hell or not. Sure, you have every capability to take the Israelites out of Egypt with a snap of your fingers, but have to harden Pharaoh’s heart at least three times, just so you can kill all the babies in that country. Sure, you can kill the snakes that you sent to poison your people, because they simply complained about your lack of sustenance, yet you give them a statue to look upon, once they get bit, at the same time, telling them that they will die if they make any graven image or trust on any other idol.

And yet you don’t do the things that I would consider good. Why? Because you can. Because you simply don’t have to.

Where the odes of the superheroes and the Biblegod diverge is in the purported absoluteness of their respective characters. The conflicted nature of the semi-powerful superhero is in a constant state of flux, as displayed by every comic book, everywhere, whereas the nature of the Biblegod is deemed to be inerrant, infallible, and unchangeable. The same, yesterday, today, and forever. And yet, they are exactly the same. The Biblegod claims that he is the same, transcending all of history and into the future, yet his very book claims otherwise.

I’m Tired…Time for Bed

The morning comes early tomorrow. I head in to work, then leave at 10:50 AM, arrive at my 9-year-old son’s classroom at 11:50 AM, and do a science experiment with him and his classmates for an hour. Then I head back to work. My youngest daughter has gymnastics at 7:00 PM.

Life never slows down.

All My Parenting, I Learned From God’s Character

The other day, we had no food or water in the house. My kids came to me and begged me to go get some. I became so angry that they had the audacity to question my love and authority that I instead went to the pet store and bought them out of snakes. I brought the snakes home and set them upon the kids. As they began to get bit and started to die, they wept and screamed and apologized.

So I ran to the hardware store and bought a bunch of brass door handles, a firing kiln, a blacksmith table, and a set of large hammering hammers for hammering things to hammer. I brought them home and gave them to the kids who were left alive.

“Make yourself a statue of a snake so when you’re bit by one, look at it and you’ll live.”

They were so grateful. The ones that were still alive and could swing a hammering hammer for hammering things to hammer, anyway. It was and always is obvious how much I love them.

Numbers, Chapter 21

Today, My Mama Turns 70

I haven’t spoken to her since February, 2012. Sure, she’s written me letters, here and there, of which I’ve posted on my various dusty corners of the interwebs, with commentary, but we have never passed a word back and forth, since.

This complete lack of contact was my doing. My Mama was a very abusive human being, in every way that a human can be abusive to their children. That’s not to say that I didn’t have some very bright spots in my childhood. But punctuating good with a heavy dose of bad, doesn’t bode well for the psyche of kids. At nearly 38 years of age, I’m still trying to work through what real love looks like. I don’t think I’ve ever truly experienced it. Not to mention, the catalyst for me cutting her off was her complete lack of respect for my autonomy as an adult. I simply needed her to let me grow up. She wouldn’t allow it, so I did it on my own.

You are not obligated to keep toxic people in your life.

I Won’t Vote for Fred Thompson, Because He’s Been Married Three Times

So this gentleman voted for George W. Bush.

Many years ago, I was a super-Christian, attending a Christian Fundamentalist church in Tea, South Dakota. It was one of those quiverfull churches. Families with a dozen children. A nursery so large, it was bigger than the auditorium. Every time the door to the nursery opened, a wave of poopy diaper laden air would sweep over the congregation, and we would collectively breathe deeply, smelling the scent of being holy before the jealous face of our angry god. He had blessed us with children, one wife, and lots of dresses.

The Republican primaries were in full swing. Fred Thompson was ahead in the polls. Every time he opened his mouth, I kept thinking about Baby’s Day Out, when he said “boo boo” with a straight face, as the chief of police. I really liked the guy. He was well-spoken and lifted my spirits with his baritone pipes. As moderates go, he was a tad to the right of center. I agreed with his stance on abortion, which was all I cared about at the time.

Then, stupidly, I opened my mouth, while talking to a gentleman who had come to South Dakota from South Carolina. He was a super-Christian, as well. Much more super than my super-ness. He looked at me as I spoke glowingly about Fred and then turned up his nose.

“I will never vote for a man who has been married three time.”

My, how far we’ve come. We have those same conservative super-Christians, arguing all kinds of spaghettified arguments, telling their followers and fellow parishioners, that being married three times, fucking a prostitute, not knowing your Bible, claiming that he has nothing that needs to be forgiven, as well as a complete lack of humility, is meaningless, rather, being against “God’s anointed” is the true sin in this exercise.

“Why do we not believe in God, Daddy?”

This, coming from my 9-year-old, wasn’t necessarily a strange question. I am very front and center about my lack of belief and why. But, the moment was a bit odd. I had dropped by the house to do some deep cleaning, giving my soon to be ex-wife and the kids a much needed break from the tedium, when my young lad piped up with this question.

“I don’t believe in God. You can choose your own way,” I said.

“No. I don’t want to. I don’t believe in him.”

So I said, “Which god do you not believe in? There are millions, nay, billions of choices. Some are nice gods, some are less nice. Some are powerful, and yet others are impotent. Some pretend they’re powerful, while being completely worthless at getting anything done or protecting those they are supposed to protect. But, really, if someone in America talks about a god, it’s probably the Biblegod. That god is one of the self-proclaimed powerful ones, yet is incapable of helping out a little girl when she’s getting raped in a back alley.”

So yeah…I said that. I’m not going to pretend that the god, based on the Holy Bible, has any sort of semblance to this loving piece of garbage that churches want you to believe in. That love is the kind of love I’ve been familiar with and running from, my entire life. Love that is utterly and unconditionally conditional. Love that has expectations, or you will be mashed into a million pieces, or burnt in fire forever, for missing one small little step in the process of perfect acquiescence and worship.

Fuck that god.

As my kids grow older, they have family members that will try to capture their minds and hearts and woo them over to belief in that awful prick of an asshole god of the Bible. Well…it’s war for me. Sure, those family members and friends are terrified my children will burn in hell forever, but that’s really the point. I don’t want them to have that worldview. It simply sets them up to accept narcissistic abuse from real people, rather than the imaginary divine being they are supposed to worship with abandon.

When Love Begins

I wrote the following post on my old blog on March 8, 2011. Going down memory lane is heartwarming, sometimes. I hope you enjoy it.

 

In January of this year, we bought an elephantine mansion in the small hovel of Farmington, Minnesota.  We passed up a much larger estate in the mature city of Orono.  The $62,000 annual property tax bill, not to mention the price tag of $32,000,000 for the place, was a bit much to swallow.  So, we settled for a 4000 square foot Victorian era mansion for the steep foreclosure price tag of $176,000.  The $3600 in property taxes was also a bitter pill to swallow, but, in my opinion, quite reasonable, considering our excellent schools and perpetually plowed streets.

Yes.  For those of you who are not from Minnesota, plowed streets factor into a home buying decision before location to schools, proximity to parks, city and county government’s ear to the public, whether or not the paint is falling off the house, running water, and even working electricity.  Without the streets being plowed, we have to remove our 13 inch Rolls-Royce Phantom spinners with the offset weights and install our 18 inch Blizzak LM-60 snow tires, wrap on our tire chains, snap on the snow plow, and hope for the best.  Doing this on my 1998 Saturn SL2 Dual Overhead Camshaft four-banger can be quite a challenge, but here in the great North, I have it down to a flat five minute procedure.

Speaking of snow plowing – the other day my wife and I were out shoveling the driveway, being too cheap to purchase a lousy snow blower,  when I heard a diesel engine behind me and a honk of a loud horn.  I looked over my shoulder to see a city front loader sitting back about ten feet.  The man in the cab was waving me off.  So, I jumped out of the way and he plowed out the six foot snowdrift at the end of my driveway.  After doing this, he jumped out of the loader and shook our hands, introduced himself as our neighbor, and left.  THAT is a consideration in buying a house as well, though I don’t recommend walking away from a home, based on lack of neighborly charity.

We moved to Farmington from the larger Twin Cities suburb of Eden Prairie.  The school district there was fraught with nationalistic politics.  The schools themselves were excellent at education, for the most part, but lacked the personal touch with parents.  It felt as if they cared more about the world’s perception of their medium sized community school district than what the parents needed or desired.  This fact played no small part in our moving away.

On the other hand, Farmington was full of back-country hicks.  My wife called the school office only one time to register the kids.  When she called back a week later, the office manager recognized her voice and bellowed out a hearty “Hullo!”, calling my wife by her first name.  The teachers have an agenda to get to know the parents and work in partnership with them to provide the smartest, directed educational program to each individual child.  The principal grabs little babies the minute they walk in the door of the school and prances around with them as if he has just won the Boston Marathon.  His smile twinkles through his unshaven cheeks and trimmed chin beard while he welcomes you with a personalized harrumph and hello.  With this family atmosphere, anyone would want to participate in extra-curricular school events to enhance the experience for the whole community.

On a cold night last week, Farmington Elementary held a Read-in.  My wife was busy troweling on Mary Kay make-up with a very good looking young lady who was wicked good with children – turning a carbon copy sheet of paper into a much desired toy of the century in thirty seconds with all five of my older squirts.  I left her to her personalized Home Shopping Network and took the four oldest to school.

The Read-in was split up into three classroom sessions where teachers, staff, and members of the Farmington Community would do nothing more than read their favorite book to those who came to listen.  They had fifteen minutes to do so and then everyone would move on to the next classroom.  At the end, we were to meet, all together, in the auditorium.

When we walked into the school, my third grader pulled us in the direction of her classroom, my first grader yelled that her classroom was where we needed to point our feet, my kindergartner shook with excitement and then channeled that excitement into loud boasting about his school knowledge, and my three year old walked right up to the registration table, grabbed a cookie and a cup of apple juice, and walked down the hall.  We obediently followed her, right into the first classroom that had a teacher in it reading a book.  Yes, she was reading a book.  My cackling crew yelled their way into the door, bursting with pleasure, fighting over who had the bigger cookie or even a cookie at all.  My first grader was grabbing cookies away from everyone else at random, making darn sure the portions were even, across the board, regardless of age, weight, or fatherly favoritisms.

The whole classroom looked back at us.  I giggled (yeah, I do that sometimes), shoved the kids toward the reading carpet, grabbed away their cookies, ate two of them, spilled a cup of juice, shoved their coats down in a chair, grabbed a little kiddie chair, spun it around and straddled it.  I was in.  The parents looked at me with awe.  Here I am – a dad of six kids and I can take them to school at night all by myself, getting enough to snack on in the process.

The three sessions went fast with only one awkward moment that was actually quite sweet.  My three year old daughter was sitting in my lap in the back of a classroom with a dad from the community reading a book about modern day New York horse stables, sucking her thumb.  In a flash, she popped her thumb out of her mouth, jumped off my lap, scooted right up to the man, knelt down, staring into his eyes, and began rubbing his leg.  I rolled.  Why bother teaching them “proper” social graces?  They’ll have their lives ruined soon enough, by attempting to “fit in” in their middle school years.  I’d rather they enjoy being themselves now, and maybe get used to it, so they stay individuals, throughout life.

We made our way to the auditorium.  When we walked into the large room, my first grader yelped that we should make the long climb to the top of the risers and sit with our backs against the wall, thirty feet up from the floor.  Of course, being a man of adventure, I obliged.  I sat down with my three year old on my right, cuddled up to me, sucking her thumb, my third grader to her right, and the other two on my left.

My third grader piped up, “Daddy, I’m going to go sit with my friends,” and she subsequently disappeared.  My kindergartner then noticed that a classmate of his was sitting twenty rows below with her mother.  He informed me that he was going to sit with her and climbed down the risers and squished up to the girl.  The mom was pleased and commenced with a long conversation, asking many pre-relationship questions.  I’m happy that I’ve prepped my son with all the right answers to win the heart of the parents of the girl he has the hots for.  She was won.  Then, my first grader left to sit with my kindergartner, then moved off to disappear with some of her friends.  My three year old rubbed my arm, looked up in my face and said, “Daddy, it’s just us twos.”

 That it was. That it was. I felt slightly alone in the world, but very, very proud.  My kids had made friends.  They were much more advanced than I was at their age.  I never made any real friends until ninth grade.  Life was good.

After the final reading, we all found each other and walked back to our car to make the short trip home.  Everyone chattered away loudly.  But, through it all, my kindergartner could be heard, mumbling under his breath – “I miss Anabelle.”

I Do Like My Tax Cut

I’ve been a software developer since May 11, 2009. At that time, I made $50,000, right out of college. Six years later, I was making about $85,000. Then, I left that little company that allowed me to cut my teeth in the industry and grow, for a job that gave me an 85% raise. We were flush with money. My wife, I,  and six kids then spent it all. We not only spent it all, but we blew tens of thousands of dollars in credit.

Then we refinanced the house and had an extra $3000 a month in income to spend – which we did. We added all the debt back within two years. I then left my job, which I hated, and took a $25,000 pay cut, so I could be a full time employee, get paid vacations and holidays, and not worry about the behemoth company I worked for, calling my contract without notice.

This pay cut made us struggle a bit. It added stress on my marriage, along with the stress that was already there, and was a catalyst leading to our pending divorce. Yet we made it work partly because my soon to be ex-wife, who graduated from college in 3.5 years, pushed herself through many adversities, and is now on track to be very successful. I couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments.

As we worked toward the divorce, we lived paycheck to paycheck, some of it our own fault, but much of it due to the crap of life that seems to hit at all the wrong moments.

Then, Trump’s tax cut hit my paycheck. I all of a sudden had an extra $200 a month. That amount seems tiny, but it was a huge help to my bottom line. I’m grateful for the extra money, but I do wish that it didn’t come at such a high cost.

Now, the contradiction:

I will gladly pay more, if it means we get the Orange Turd out of office, or even hamper his agenda, which changes every few segments of Fox and Friends.

That is all.

I Took a Long Drive Instead – And Didn’t Regret It

Last night, I posted that I would be heading out for a night hike. The minute I stepped out the door, I knew I had made a bad choice. But, since my life is chock full of bad choices, I wasn’t about to turn back.

The snow was coming down hard. The roads were slick. I got on the highway and watched as cars in front of me spun out in 360’s, the traffic desperately trying to avoid them as they headed toward the ditch. Cars flew past me. I drove about 40 miles per hour the entire time, completely content to live and live well.

As I drove, I listened to Minnesota Public Radio and got to hear the fascinating interview with Ann Kim, the entrepreneurial owner of three pizza joints here in the Twin Cities. She is not only supremely successful, but has an excellent command of that type of humor where you know you’re going to get a laugh, but you feign comedic innocence, which only serves to get an even bigger laugh.

Take a listen…you won’t be disappointed.

Oh…and I simply drove for three hours.