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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Love Changed My Daughter

My oldest daughter, Mary, was a spectacular kid. But when she was young she was…..well….really really greedy. She laughs about it now, we all do, but when she was six, eight, ten, I was a little concerned.

Mary always wanted more. She idolized, adored her older brother Jack. She literally worshiped him.  Jack was her everything, he even tried to fail first grade so he could be held back a year. He thought he should to stay in Mary’s grad and then he could take care and protect her. Still, Mary would steal Jack’s stuff all day long, even if she didn’t really want it.

Every Easter, for at least seven years, Mary woke up early, studied the baskets the Easter Bunny left, then she put all the good stuff, including chocolate, in her basket. And she filled Jack’s with the cheap candy, do-dads and toys she didn’t want.

She did the same thing with the Christmas stocking. Then she’d shrug and say something like, “I don’t know why Santa likes me better.”

Mary was a beautiful, wonderful, selfish, greedy little kid.

But a few years ago, something changed in Mary’s heart. She met Andy and fell in love…. as she’d never fallen before.

The week after Thanksgiving the texts, emails and facebook messages began. She sent me links to things Andy would love for Christmas. There was a pair of brown Aldo loafers she desperately wanted him to have, but couldn’t afford. A week later she called her dad, to tell him about a saw that would make him so happy.

The “suggestions” went on and on. The girl who stole all the chocolate Easter bunnies’ literally didn’t care what she got for Christmas. She only wanted Andy, the man she loves, to be happy.

Mary told me over and over, “don’t worry about me this year, Andy deserves everything.”

Was this my Mary on the phone? Had some kind of a ”body snatchers” thing happened while she was in the basement?

“Big Love”, the kind of love that makes you forget about yourself, is rare. Lots of folks get married and live together for years and years and years but they never stop thinking about themselves.

Mary has crossed that line and grown into a more beautiful person. She loves Andy so much she places his needs above mine, above the families’, above everything. And she fiercely protective.  Now she chooses Andy, her husband and her love. And that’s the way true love and a marriage are supposed to be. I believe God has given both Mary and Andy a higher job order.  Now, they are supposed to take care of each other. That’s the first requirement and these guys have it right.

I love and admire this new woman she has become. And Andy Stanley is a lucky man.

Four Year Olds, Human or Alien?

I found this story today. I wrote it eleven years ago, before I had a blog.  But it’s still true.

Right now Sandor is racing up and down the house dragging a bull whip, which the cat chasing.  He is laughing hysterically. And I’m pretty sure he’ll run into something soon, hurt himself and cry. He’s been doing this for almost twenty minutes.  He is giddy, rowdy, insane and happy.

In the past hour I put him in time out for jumping off the back of the couch and I fussed at him for being disrespectful.

I read him two books but he kept trying to start a pillow fight. I nearly beg him to hold still, for just a few minutes. but he can’t. I’m so tired from work and frustrated by his energy…I want to cry.

When I try to dress him he scootches and wiggles like a squirrel in a pillow case. At dinner he turns his silverware into drumsticks and action figures.

Sandor is not ADD. He’s four years old. Sometimes four year old are unbelievable annoying and usually that means they are normal.

Some children need medication but most normal children are loud, rowdy, sometimes nearly uncontrollable and frustrating. they seemingly have unreasonable amounts of energy to burn off and simply can’t hold still. It doesn’t seem natural. But it is.

Fifty years ago parents let  kids play outside for hours at a time, even four year old. We had lots of space and parents didn’t have to supervise or watch them all the time. The world was a different place. My parents din’t hear from us until we were hungry, it got dark or we were just too tired to play.

When children came home we were exhausted from riding bikes, jumping out of trees and just running around. When my cousins and I were four, five a six we ran wild for hours on end. We didn’t bug our parents cause we weren’t with them. today, parents and kids spend a lot of time together.

Typically, I pick the kids up from school or pre-school, take them to taekwondo , soccer practice or cheer leading for a couple of hours. I watch them work out and play then we go home and they play while I fix dinner. We eat, I help them take baths, get ready for bed and that’s the day.  We are always together.

There’s good news and bad news. I think my kids and I are a lot closer because we spend more time together.  My folks were rarely around. The downside is my kids wear me out and seem absurdly high strung.  But they are not. Years ago when I was with my cousins, there’s no doubt we were constantly moving, loud, crazy and ridiculous. If any adult had spent hours with us no doubt they would have tried to medicate our entire neighborhood.

Kids have fewer recesses today, then many have structured activities after school, adults are always watching. It’s not wonder kids want to blow off some steam.

So, when Sandor spends two hours hopping like a frog, barking like a dog, yelling new words he’s made up and trying to do somersaults off the couch, I know he’s a normal boy.  That’s what we all did years ago, but our parents weren’t around to tell us to “cut it out”

So, don’t assume your child need medication just because he’s driving your crazy. It’s his job.

 

Author’s note, today Sandor is a awesome 15 year old boy who makes good grades, makes us all proud and still drives us crazy sometimes. Last night we spent a little bit of time with a wonderful 4 year old boy. He did all the stuff Sandor used to do!  All of it! Sandor looked over and said, “I think this kid is my spirit animal.”

 

 

 

When He Couldn’t Say “I Love You”

We met twenty five years before this picture was taken.

Long before this picture was taken, when Alex and I met, I was thirty and he was a couple years older. At first, I didn’t want to go out with him cause he was such a player in Hot Springs. It seemed been with half the hot waitresses in town.

But once we got over the weirdness and were actually “dating” it was obvious we were so different. He was and still is, a very stoic man. He doesn’t talk unless he has something to say and back then he definitely didn’t say “I love you.”

On the other side of the universe there was Diana. I come from a verbose, storytelling, over-hugging, “I love you so much man,” family.

I was young and misread Alex’s lack of words or outward emotion. He rarely complimented me or said “I love you” so I was on the verge or writing him off as a cold, emotionless, hot guy.

But there was still something…..We’d been dating for a few weeks. He was working on a construction project at his house, out in the country.  I decided I’d surprise him with lunch. Because he was a chef ,I thought I better go fancy if I wanted to impress him. I took him two cups of Gazpacho, a cold Spanish tomato and cucumber soup along with fresh tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad and topped with paprika.

When I delivered the lunch I was super proud of my thoughtful self.  We sat on the floor in his living room and he ate every bite.  Nodding as he ate, which I took to be a good sign. And he said “thank you.”

A month later, I watched him , with surgeon like precision, remove every sliver of tomato from three tacos at a Mexican restaurant called Acapulco’s.

“Don’t like tomatoes, huh?” I asked cautiously.

“I hate them, they’re gross. If they’re cooked I can tolerate a little, but I can’t do raw tomatoes.”

I just smiled. Maybe this man had other ways of communicating.

Not long after ‘the tomato incident,” Mary, Jack and I went to visit this quiet man. We were all watching Aladdin when Mary, who was three, went to the bathroom. Then I heard her panicked voice , “Momma Momma Momma.” When she was excited it was always three Mommas.

I bounded across the house and found her crying as the toilet overflowed. Waterfalls filled the bathroom and she was standing on a red towel….her only Island.

Alex came in, silently turned off the water behind the toilet, then extracted a stuffed Princess Jasmine from the toilet.

I was horrified and so embarrassed, we’d only been dating three months and look what my child had done. “I’m so, so, so sorry, oh my gosh, I’m  sorry. I don’t know why she….”

But he interrupted me with a shrug, as though it was nothing. He left then reappeared with a mop. “It’s just a little Mary pee.”

That was one of the hundreds of moments that told me how he felt.

“It’s just a little Mary pee.”

There were other times he told me he loved me, long before he could say he loved me. He literally stole my car while I was working lunches at Rocky’s Corner so he could have new brakes installed.

Sometimes, my effusive words don’t seem to mean much compared to his silence.  Talking is easy. Listening when people don’t talk, that’s where the magic is.

Poor Kids Are Awesome

Crawdad Hunters

A few days ago my son, Jack, said “growing up poor was awesome.”

I pressed him to explain what the hell he was talking about.  As far as I’m concerned being poor is not awesome, it’s not even kind-of-cool. Being poor sucks and ranks right up there with having the chicken pox.

First, I want to state, we have never been poor.  When Jack and Mary were little, we were clinging to the lower end of middle class but we were never poor.  Jack and Mary however, love telling stories about their glorious, impoverished, redneck childhood.

When they were little, we never went on vacations. Instead, we spent almost every weekend in the summer playing in the creek not far from the house. I would pack up their friends, Bryce and Kay, some cheap red sodas and crackers.  They would slide around on the little rock water fall for hours and we would catch army’s of crawdads, then then turn them all loose.

One winter we couldn’t afford to go to the skating rink in Little Rock so we tried to make one in the yard with a giant piece of plastic and the garden hose. It didn’t work but we laughed a lot.

All their clothes came from Wal-Mart. Until Jack was in 6th grade. The whole family was ridiculously  proud of his first “expensive” pair of  shoes.  Alex paid $80 for a pair of And One basketball shoes. The entire team was impressed. Back then, it was a really big deal when anyone at Fountain Lake got a new pair of Nikes much less And Ones.

Ok, we were pretty broke most of the time. The kids never qualified for free lunches but I do remember, after church we would roll through the Burger King drive through and get one happy meal. One child got the burger and one got the fries and they split the drink.  A two happy meal day was a really big deal.

At least once a year Alex had to pawn his 9 mm hand gun so we could buy school supplies (those cost 120 for both kids) or buy Christmas presents.  But we always paid off the loan and  got his gun back. Good news now Alex has an arsenal and he hasn’t pawned anything in years.

But all their  friends were in the same shabby economic party barge so they didn’t realize just how broke we were. We had food, electricity and a lot of fun. I grew up wealthy so at least once a week I had a meltdown but the truth is the kids were really, really happy and well adjusted.

The really great thing about kids who grow up on a shoe string….they are  very easy to impress. Great big malls, elaborate Christmas lights, concerts and nice shoes make them so happy.

Kids who grow up with money, in big cities, are rarely in awe…of anything. They’ve already seen better. But poor kids are pretty excited about everything, they’re amazed, the recognize the beauty, they marvel and smile.

My youngest son, Sandor, still says, “Oh my goodness” when we walk into the Hot Springs Mall at Christmas time.  And our Mall is tiny, but Sandor who is nine, thinks its magical. (And yes, he really says “oh my goodness”, he also plays football so don’t make fun of him.) Imagine how he’ll react when he sees Rockefeller Center or Big Ben.

Maybe Jack and Dolly Parton are right. There is a noble magic to growing up almost poor.  I just hope that sense of wonder and awe  stay with my kids for the rest of their lives.

This is a repost for a few years ago cause I love it.  Let me know what you think.  I live for your feedback. And if you really like it share it please. Thanks!

Poor Kids Are Awesome

Crawdad Hunters

A few days ago my son, Jack, said “growing up poor was awesome.”

I pressed him to explain what the hell he was talking about.  As far as I’m concerned being poor is not awesome, it’s not even kind-of-cool. Being poor sucks and ranks right up there with having the chicken pox.

First, I want to state, we have never been poor.  When Jack and Mary were little, we were clinging to the lower end of middle class but we were never poor.  Jack and Mary however, love telling stories about their glorious, impoverished, redneck childhood.

When they were little, we never went on vacations. Instead, we spent almost every weekend in the summer playing in the creek not far from the house. I would pack up their friends, Bryce and Kay, some cheap red sodas and crackers.  They would slide around on the little rock water fall for hours and we would catch army’s of crawdads, then then turn them all loose.

One winter we couldn’t afford to go to the skating rink in Little Rock so we tried to make one in the yard with a giant piece of plastic and the garden hose. It didn’t work but we laughed a lot.

All their clothes came from Wal-Mart. Until Jack was in 6th grade. The whole family was ridiculously  proud of his first “expensive” pair of  shoes.  Alex paid $80 for a pair of And One basketball shoes. The entire team was impressed. Back then, it was a really big deal when anyone at Fountain Lake got a new pair of Nikes much less And Ones.

Ok, we were pretty broke most of the time. The kids never qualified for free lunches but I do remember, after church we would roll through the Burger King drive through and get one happy meal. One child got the burger and one got the fries and they split the drink.  A two happy meal day was a really big deal.

At least once a year Alex had to pawn his 9 mm hand gun so we could buy school supplies (those cost 120 for both kids) or buy Christmas presents.  But we always paid off the loan and  got his gun back. Good news now Alex has an arsenal and he hasn’t pawned anything in years.

But all their  friends were in the same shabby economic party barge so they didn’t realize just how broke we were. We had food, electricity and a lot of fun. I grew up wealthy so at least once a week I had a meltdown but the truth is the kids were really, really happy and well adjusted.

The really great thing about kids who grow up on a shoe string….they are  very easy to impress. Great big malls, elaborate Christmas lights, concerts and nice shoes make them so happy.

Kids who grow up with money, in big cities, are rarely in awe…of anything. They’ve already seen better. But poor kids are pretty excited about everything, they’re amazed, the recognize the beauty, they marvel and smile.

My youngest son, Sandor, still says, “Oh my goodness” when we walk into the Hot Springs Mall at Christmas time.  And our Mall is tiny, but Sandor who is nine, thinks its magical. (And yes, he really says “oh my goodness”, he also plays football so don’t make fun of him.) Imagine how he’ll react when he sees Rockefeller Center or Big Ben.

Maybe Jack and Dolly Parton are right. There is a noble magic to growing up almost poor.  I just hope that sense of wonder and awe  stay with my kids for the rest of their lives.

 

This is a repost for a few years ago cause I love it.  Let me know what you think.  I live for your feedback. And if you really like it share it please. Thanks!

The Refugee Crisis and My Husband’s Sock Basket

We have two sock baskets. One for white socks, one for black socks. All the white socks belong to my husband Alex. Most of the black socks are my son’s.  This system has worked perfectly for years. Until yesterday. Alex appeared in the living room with his sock basket. It was nearly full.

“Half these socks aren’t even mine,” he said and dropped the basket.  His are plain white Haynes calf high.He started sorting the socks.  There were “his socks”, socks with holes that got thrown out and the “others.”

The “other socks” were the white socks with pink or blue around the top. White socks that were ankle high and made by New Balance or Polo, tube socks and girl socks.  “They don’t belong in here with mine, they’re different.  This basket is just for my socks.”

“You’re being super prejudiced .” I teased him.

“Yes I am, I only like my kind of socks. Sorry.” But he wasn’t really.

When he finished there were three piles. His, those to throw away and “the others.”

He took his basket and left the room. And I was left wondering what to do with the poor “others”. Most of them were still perfectly good socks. First, I matched up the ones I could, there would be a home for them.  But what about the rest?

They’d been kicked out of their home and now had no where to go. No one would accept them simply because they were “different.” I felt guilty throwing them away, but boy, there were a lot of them. They were refugee socks, without a basket.

This behavior doesn’t surprise me from Alex. He’s Hungarian and Hungary typically doesn’t want refugees. They build concentration camps, surrounded with barbed wire and dogs. Refugees can stay there or leave the country and go somewhere more welcoming. Hungarians are all about taking care of Hungarians. Screw the rest of the world. They forget in the late 1950’s they were the refugees, running from Russia and seeking asylam in America.  Alex is a very good man but that sentiment runs deep in his blood.

So, what do I do with the remaining 27 refugee socks? I’ll probably end up throwing them away because there’s no basket or drawer that wants them. They are the lost “other socks.”

As President Trump said last week. “Who knew this stuff was so complicated.”

*Please let me know what you think.  Your feedback means everything.

Sometimes The Kid Is Right……I Guess

This week at work I had  a yellow legal pad page half filled with deals to close and projects to finish for clients.  I realized for the second time there were literally too many to get finished in four days so I did what Sandor, my 14 year old, told me to do. I “put first things first.” That’s right I prioritized my list. It’s not rocket science but it made my week a lot more productive and financially rewarding…in a big way.

Sandor, who is in 8th grade, is part of a public charter school.  And much of the schools new focus has been Stephan Covey book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Sandor and I debate the seven habit some times. Number seven is “Sharpen Your Saw,” meaning keep balance in your life. do the things you love like yoga or yodeling instead of working all the time.  Any time Sandor wants to lie in bed and watch stupid videos on youtube he tells me he’s “sharpening his saw.”  And I call BS.

“Putting first things first” is one of the rules we agree on. We talk about it every now and then, usually when I’m driving him to school and he’s got a lot of projects going on.  But this time, he was the one who reminded me on Monday night when I was griping  and complaining about all the stuff I had to get done, in just a few days.

Maybe I should listen to that kid more often. Except when he tells me one shower in three days is plenty.

If you want to read the book you’ll find it on Amazon for less than five dollars, if your lazy and want to check out the seven habits in less than five minutes here’s the Wikipedia link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People

 

Let me know what you think and as always you are welcome to share this post.

 

 

Bad Manners At Taco Bell

My youngest son has a good friend with terrible manners.  He’s a nice 14 year old boy, kind and generous to  a fault, but this kid almost seems proud of his bad manners.

After I spent twenty dollars at Taco Bell for fried chicken tacos, quesadillas and tacos made out of Doritos, Sandor said, “Thanks Mom, that was awesome.”

Then he shoved his friend, Jake.  “Say thank you, chicken butt!”

Jake shoved back”What ever.”

I’m pretty sure I sighed and rolled my eyes.  We’d been through this before. “Alright Jake, I’m not unlocking the car and were gonna stand here in the parking lot until you say thank you.”

He smiled at me, his shaggy hair nearly covering his eyes. Then he looked at the ground and mumbled something I literally couldn’t understand.

“Nope,” I smiled at him. I was playing hardball. “Not good enough.”

Sandor didn’t even mind me calling his friend out.  Jake’s terrible manners made him a little crazy.

Finally, Jake looked at me. I didn’t know if he was gonna flip me off or say something nice. “Thanks for the food.”

“Perfect,” I said as I gave Jake a big bear hug.

We have a serious rule in our world about good manners. Sandor is the youngest of four and the rule is pretty well etched in stone. If you are rude or disrespectful, you can’t come over. But I understand some parents don’t have the same obsession, so if I like the kid, and I like Jake a bunch, I try to work with them. I figure it’s “my house my rules.” And when Sandor goes to hang at a friends house, their parents get to make the rules.

Once everyone was buckled up I turned off the radio.  “Jake, good manners will make your life way easier.”

“How? My friends like me for my jokes, they don’t care.”

Sandor said, “Dude, you’re not that funny.”

Jake and I both ignored the comment. “Here’s the deal Jake, if you have good manners teachers will like you more. That’s makes your life better. If you have good manners parents like you more. Then you get invited to go to more cool places. Cause in the end it’s my call, not Sandor’s, who we invite over or take to the movies or laser tag or whatever.”

“Yeah, we took Sam to Florida with us because he had good manners,” Sandor added.

“And think about this,” I was on a roll with a class A lecture. “If you get pulled over by the police, and you will get pulled over and you have good manners there’s a way better chance he’ll let you off with a warning. If you’re a punk with bad manners he’s gonna definitely give you a ticket.”

At that point I made myself stop, even though I wanted to keep on going. I was on a roll. I turned up the radio and let the boys ignore me for a while. But I was still thinking.  It’s easy to teach good manners if you start when your child is young. Then people praise them for having good manners and the circle starts rolling.  But once a kid turns into a teenager it get’s tougher.  They resist. Jake almost seems to think good manners make him seem weak.

Maybe if we explain how good manners can benefit them, kids will understand. Maybe.

I got out of the car to let Jake out at his house. He was about to climb out of the back seat when I said, “Thanks for coming over, Jake.”

He stopped. He knew it was a trap. Then Sandor leaned over and whispered something to him. Jake got out of the car and mumbled, “Thanks for having me over.”

Then he gave me another sheepish smile and a hug.

Now, if I can just get my son to stop burping like a monster in front of me.

Jpeg

I’m trying to figure out if people actually read my blog…..so…

**I’ve got five free Be Nice Bumper Stickers for the first five folks who post a comment on the blog.  Just email me your address and I’ll mail your bumper sticker!

 

What Happens When You Treat Your Man Like A Dog?

I have a really good husband. We’ve been married for twenty or twenty two years.  We both always forget.  We also have two really wonderful dogs.

Aries is a German Shepard/Wolf hybrid.  I thought I was buying a simple female German Shepard. A fat man in a red corvette lied to me.

And then there’s Spots.  He’s a stocky white dog with weird brown spots.  He’s a pit bull mix that showed up in our yard, emaciated, with cigarette burns on his head.  I swore I would never have anything to do with a Pit Bull of any kind, but all this dog does is wag wag his branch like tail and he tries to make us happy.

Last night I was lying in bed watching a PBS show about barns in Arkansas.  Spots looked deep into my eyes and I started rubbing his silky ear.  “Look at those pretty spots on your ears. That one looks like an island, that one looks kinda like Cuba and that one looks like a water bottle. You have the prettiest spots, Spots.”

His club of a tail thumped heavily. He was in doggie heaven. So, he rolled on his back and snorted cheerfully.

A few minutes later Spots rolled over to stare at me again and I started rubbing his nose. Slowly, I ran my thumb down, between his eyes and I said, “You are so handsome.  Look at your weird eyes and think neck and sausage like tail.” In less than a minute he was asleep. So happy to be loved.

When was the last time I rubbed Alex’s ears?  I don’t think I ever have. Have I commented on his nose or ears lately….last week I told him I was going to trim his Eisenstein eyebrows or shave them off in his sleep. And what have I ever said about his tail? Maybe years ago.

You see where I’m going?  If we treated the people we love like the pets we love the world might be better.  Man, I would love it if Alex stroked my hair, scratched my neck or told me I was so beautiful and sweet, even though my breath smelled like roadkill.

I need to rethink good behavior, bad behavior and our reward system.

Sure, Spots and Aries give me unconditional love. But so does Alex.

 

 

A Dangerous Game II Football, Love, Fear and Death

Part II in a series. A Dangerous Game

The next morning, Cal dropped Rachel off in front of the High School building a little early. She tried to kid with him, to play their game, but the best Cal could do was smile and tell her to have a good day.  She looked at him before getting out of the truck like she wanted to take his temperature. Something was obviously wrong.

“I love you sweetie.”

“I love you too, Pops.  I’ll see you on the field after school.”

Mark was waiting outside his office.  He looked as though he hadn’t slept. Quietly, he sat down in front of Cal’s desk and put his head on his arms. “Coach I’m so sorry, God I’ve never done anything like that.  I swear it’ll never happen again. Please don’t report me. I’m begging you.  You and this school and the team are all I have. You know football is my only shot at going to college.  I can’t believe I’ve messed everything up like this. I’m so sorry. Please Coach, I’m begging you, don’t turn me in. I’ll do anything.”

Cal closed his eyes and nodded. Mark seemed truly sorry. He understood how bad he screwed up.  “Alright, it’s between us, but you’re off the team for the rest of the year.”

Mark’s head snapped up, “What? You can’t do that. I have to play.”

“Mark, I can’t just completely close my eyes. You were selling weed and what ever that pill was to little kids.  I should turn you in, that would be the right thing to do. But I know where you’re coming from and I want you to have a shot at college. We can make it all work next year.”

“No fucking way! You need me! You can’t kick me off the team, you know I’ve got scouts looking.”

Shaking his head Cal tried to control his breathing. ” It’s just for this year. I’m sorry, Mark. but that’s it. You can go out for the team again next year. The scouts will still be looking, but for now, that’s it.”

When Mark stood up, he knocked the metal chair over. “No fucking way!” He screamed, ” You can’t do that. God dammit your talking about my life, my life! I’m not gonna let you fuck me like this. And you don’t have any proof. What will you tell people. No fucking way you’re ruining my year.”

“Son, you need to calm down and sit down. My decision is final. I’m sorry but you made a mistake.”

“Fuck you!” Mark screamed.

Cal stood up. At six three he was four inches taller than Mark and 75 pounds heavier. Cal consciously tried to control the building rage, it was like a heat creeping up his body. He stepped closer and looked down at Mark. Softly he said,  “You’re off the team for good, now get out of my office and stay away from my football field. It didn’t have to be like this you stupid punk.”

“Fuck you! God damn it, fuck you,” he screamed as he slammed the door. “Your going to fucking regret this James. I’m gonna fuck up your life.”

Cal stood for a full minute, then sat back down in his chair.  What the hell just happened? Where did all that come from? He tried to dissect the conversation, if you could call it that.  How had it gotten away from him and so out of control? Over the years he’d had to deal with a lot of really angry young men but this was something else. Cal leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes again. He hated that he’d lost control and called Mark a stupid punk. He shouldn’t have done that. Frustrated, he looked at the ceiling and said out loud, “I swear to God I was trying to do right by that kid.”

# #######

It had been a year but Cal could still hear every word that came out of Mark Greenland’s mouth that day. Opening a bottle of water Cal tried to remember when he’d last actually seen Mark.  It had been at least a year.  Once the season ended, last year, players and fans stopped asking about him. He just disappeared. Cal never saw him or even heard anything about him on campus, which was fine.  He  didn’t want to think about that situation ever again. So why, after a year was Mark back in his weight room? That smart ass grin made him want to take his head off.  Obviously, Mark was trying to antagonize him. But why now?

Somebody was knocking on his office door. “Coach Cal, can I come in?”

“Yeah.”

Jose Fernandez stuck his head in the door and grinned. He was a freshman and still so excited to be on the team.  “I thought you’d want to know McKenzie made a 45 yard field goal this morning,  Coach D saw him.”

“That’s amazing, Jose! His longest by three yards, right?”

“Yes sir.” Jose was McKenzie’s holder.

Cal stood, slapped Jose on the back of the head and walked into the weight room. “Thanks for letting me know. I needed that.” Most of the guys were gone. He glanced at the clock. 8:05. He’d spent thirty minutes reliving the Mark Greenland nightmare and was late for his first period class. Study hall, no worries.

Classes let out at 3:15 every day and most of the White Deer Destroyers were dressed out and on the field by 3:30. Stragglers ran laps without being told.

Cal and three other coaches, all with clipboards, discussed the plan for practice while the team’s offensive and defensive captains got the team stretched out and warmed up. The team was in full uniform and lined up across the field in three rows.

Cal looked up as they did high knees and then jumping jacks. They were really good boys and he was caught  in a moment of overwhelming pride.  They trusted him and were willing to work so hard. They literally did everything he asked. Then he saw Rachel at the other end of the field, stretching and laughing with some other cross county runners. From that distance he couldn’t quite make out who the other kids were.

When Rachel saw Cal looking at her, she gave him a big silly wave and he involuntary waved back, with the same enthusiasm. Glancing at the other coaches, they knew better than to laugh.

Ten minutes later, as the  team got ready for tackling drills, he watched  Rachel and the three other runners take off.  He thought he remembered her telling him they had to do one mile interval training this afternoon. They would run a mile, rest for five minutes, then run the same mile faster, then one more time after that. The goal was to run as fast or faster on every mile. It was grueling. Cal couldn’t imagine what his players would do if he made them do that.

The track was built around the football field but Cal wasn’t really watching Rachel and the runners anymore.  He was focused on his boys.  They were so close to the playoffs if he could just keep them focused. Forty five minutes into practice Cal looked up as Rachel and another runner, a boy, approached him.  Lord, she was so graceful and long legged.  She made running look easy. Normally, as she ran past him, he would have yelled something silly at her like “Too slow Chicken Butt!” But he couldn’t think of anything clever as she approached. He studied the guy running next to her. His pace was different and he was obviously trying to match her stride for stride.  She looked over at the guy and smiled.

Cal realized he was holding his breath as the two runners sprinted toward him, then just as they passed, Mark Greenland looked over and grinned, not at Rachel but at Cal.

Then they were both gone, already at the far end of the track. Cal watched as the pair left the track and disappeared onto the cross country trail.

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It was only six when Cal left the football field.  The players were still cooling down, but Cal needed to be home. After putting the Ford into drive, he found his cell phone and called Tara.

“Hey Honey, how’s it going? Is Rachel home?” He tried to sound normal.

“No, not yet, she called an hour ago and said a friend was giving her a ride.” He could hear background noises. The news was on and something was sizzling on the stove.

“Who?”

“I don’t know, she said a friend from the cross country team. ”

“But who is it Tara? Did she say?”

“Cal, she’s in high school now, we have to give her a little room. She said she’d be home by 6:30. It’s all good sweetie. She’s fine. Come home. I’ve got a dinner surprise for you.”

“I’m on my way.” How was he going to explain everything. He’d never told Tara what happend with Mark. He was too ashamed, to embarrassed, to admit how it blew up in his face. The truth was, he didn’t know how to explain what happend.  Then Tara got busy with a new gallery opening and the subject of Mark never came up. Nobody cared about Mark Greenland. Cal knew his wife would be furious and disappointed in him for not turning Mark in, for not doing what he should have done. For not telling her what was going on, but at the time he was just relieved  it was all over. He didn’t want to bring it up again and he didn’t every want to think about Mark again if he could avoid it.

Twenty minutes after Cal got home he heard a car door slam.  He was at the door before Rachel got to the porch.  He studied the ratty car in the drive way. One headlight was burned out. Cal locked eyes with Mark, then  that kid had the nerve to smile and wave at him, like they were buddies.

Rachel ran up the steps and gave Cal a hug.  “Hey Poppa Bear.”

He hugged her back but never looked away from Mark, “Go inside Rachel, your mom needs you.” He pushed her gently toward the door and started down the steps, but Mark backed up and took off. Cal watched his tail lights disappear and wondered what the Hell he was going to do and how he was gonna stop this little shit.

Tara already had dinner on the table.  The last thing he wanted to do was eat, but he knew he had to act as though nothing was wrong.  He didn’t want some kind of blow up at the dinner table but once again everything was spinning out of control.

Cal put his napkin in his lap and picked up his silverware. For the second or third time today he tried to sound normal. This was new to Cal, he never pretended to be anything but honest. He cleared his throat. “So Bucket Head, who brought you home tonight?”

Rachel was glowing. She glanced at her mother and smiled.  “Mark, he’s on the cross country team now. Pops he used to play for you last year but then he quit, you know him.”

Cal nodded. “Yeah, I remember Mark.”

“Yeah, he said you were awesome.  But now he’s running track and he’s really good.. Fastest time after a week of practice. He cracks jokes while we run, it’s really funny  And he writes songs.”

Taking his time, Cal cut I piece of his pork chop. “Isn’t he a senior?”

“Yes sir.”

“So, he’s too old for you, right?”

Rachel instantly looked at her mom, for support, for reassurance? Cal didn’t know. Women were like that and it confused him. But he knew he had to move carefully or both of them would be mad at him.

“It’s not like were going out or anything. He just gave me a ride home.  Don’t make such a big deal out of it. Please?”

“Sure Kiddo,” Cal said, staring at his plate.  He didn’t’ know which way to move, what to say. But he knew Tara was staring at him, wondering what the story was. Why was this messed up kid giving their daughter a ride home?

“I’ve got to take a shower.” Rachel kissed her mom on the cheek, but she didn’t even look at Cal, before vaulting up stairs.

Once Rachel was gone,  Cal helped Tara clear the table. They were silent and Cal knew what was coming.  The questions, the interrogation.  Why hadn’t he turned Mark Greenland in. Why was that kid still at White Deer, giving her daughter a ride home. Cal didn’t have an explanation.  He knew what he should have done but now it was too late. And  he knew he should have told Tara what happened.  But he didn’t. And now this.  He never thought he’d have a lapse in judgment like that. But he was wrong.

Finally Tara said, “So you didn’t tell the administration?”

“No. And I don’t know how to explain what happened to you.”

Tara started putting dirty plates in the dish washer.  She rinsed each one, carefully and then finally said, “So you never did what you were supposed to do, you never reported this psycho and now he’s driving my daughter home? You lied to me.”

“I never lied to you Tara and I’ll talk to her.”

“And say what? They are friends, she’s obviously got a crush on him. But you’re gonna talk to her? And what exactly are you going to say? How are you going to explain all this. Jesus Christ Cal, I trusted you to do the right thing. I can’t believe this. I trusted you.  How bad is this kid Cal?”

“He’s just a stupid kid, Tara. I can handle him.  I’ll fix this, I swear to God. And think about this,they just met, what a week ago?   It’s nothing.” As he spoke Cal James knew he was lying, in a way he’d never lied before. And he  knew he was simply saying what he desperately hoped was true.

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