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Dear John Prine

This morning, I cried so hard, listening to the new John Prine album, the Tree of Forgiveness,  I ran a red light and had to pull over. Mascara rolled down my face. It’s his first new album in 13 years and it’s a dandy. His songs are still beautiful, silly and heartbreaking,  John Prine is the cheerful and melancholy Dr. Seuss of the music world.

I started listening to John Prine when his first album came out in the 70’s. I was thirteen. My big brother Jack who was a freshman in college was a huge fan. He had a beat up pick-up and we’d roll down the windows and howl along to every song.  Two years latter both my dad and Jack died suddenly, two weeks apart and for several years John Prine’s voice, his messages and emotions,were just about  the only music I could tolerate.  His broken voice and sad, goofy songs some how  duct taped my heart for a little bit,  until it began to heal on it’s own.

In the beginning most of John Prine’s songs were really sad. But every album he has grown more hopeful, his view of life has evolved.  The world, I think, used to hurt his soul, now he seems amused and charmed by this planet and her inhabitants.

Over the years I’ve tried to meet John Prine, but it’s never meant to be and that’s ok.  I talk to him in my head sometimes.  Today, I imagined telling him about the two Mennonite men I saw this morning with long beards, big hats and antique hats and they were vaping.

My son Jack is a songwriter in Nashville, he grew up listening to John Prine and the influence is obvious. Jack is taking me to see Mr. Prine live next weekend in a little venue in Nashville. I don’t need to meet him anymore, but if I did I’d tell him I’m happy he’s happy. He wasn’t always. And I’m so glad we’re both still alive. That’s takes a lot of work sometimes. I’d thank him for Jack’s songs because they bring me joy and make me proud. I’d thank him so staying with me all these years.

I was still listening to Tree of Forgiveness when I got to work. I parked, turned off the car and the music stopped suddenly. And that med me cry all over again.

 

Jack and Eddie too me to see John Prine ten years ago.

 

 

Middle School Mean Girls

Last week I accidentally bought a novel…written for children. I decided to read it anyway. Here’s the plot: a 12 year old girl is going into middle school and suddenly (well over the course of a couple of months), her very best friend in the world turns into a Middle School Mean Girl. She becomes popular with the “popular kids”. It’s a heartbreaking story with an uplifting end.

I knew my friend Amy, who is a DJ on one of the stations I work for, had daughters. So, I gave her the plot synopsis and asked if her girls would enjoy it.

“This must be a God thing,” Amy said. Then told me about her beautiful daughter who is going though almost the exact same situation.

Her story killed me because I remember so well, struggling though middle school with my oldest daughter. She had a few wonderful friends for several years, then they all turned on her. We never figured out why. But my girl spent a couple of years in my pocket and miserable. Her former friends were saying all kinds of stuff, about her. They said she was ugly, fat, gay, stupid, a slut and she wasn’t Christian. One of the reasons we took her out of that school was to get away from her old friends.

Every week in restaurants, at the pool, in Walmart I hear middle school girls talk to their parents in a way that is shockingly mean and hateful. The parents just laugh it off, they don’t think their girls are serious. They tell themselves “it’s just a game, or a phase she’ll grow out of”. But they know, in their hearts, they never spoke to their parents that way.

Boys are gross and annoying, they make fart jokes and fall out of booths at restaurants, but they don’t sigh and roll their eyes at their parents, as though warning them to keep their mouth shut. I swear sometimes it looks like the parents are hostages.

So what’s the deal with so many Middle School mean girls? Why do some turn cruel and ugly? Why do they quite caring about old friends and focus on popularity and good hair?

Boys  might get in a fight with their friend, they might even try to beat him up…but they generally don’t get catty, cruel and start spreading rumors.

I think parents might be part of the problem.
We tell our daughters they are beautiful and can be anything from an astrophysicist to pop star, we tell our daughters they are strong, not to be kept down by anyone. We tell our daughters they can accomplish anything. We put our daughters waaaay up on a pedestal, we buy them the very best “high horse” And they listen. they believe us, the believe they are better than other girls, that they are smarter and prettier. We drill this stuff into their heads CONSTANTLY, and so do tv stations, songs on the radio even public service announcements.

But do we ever tell them to be kind? Do we tell and teach them to empathize? Do we tell them to be sweet and nice. No, because those virtues are seen as weakness. I’m thinking back and I don’t think I ever had conversations like that with my girls. I’m sure I hoped they would see their family being nice to folks and get the idea…but I don’t think that’s enough. The truth is, some of our daughters are turning into bitches, right in front of us.

Moms, I’m putting this on your shoulders. I suspect most of us know when our daughters has turned that corner and become a mean girl. But very few of us are willing to own and correct the bad and hurtful behavior. We are too excited our daughter is “popular”. We can’t forsce them to be friends with another girl but we can absolutely demand and make sure they are kind. We need to tell our kids we disapprove of cruel behavior and then demonstrate kindness , everyday, in front of them.

And consider this, when we are all old and dealing with health issues and trying to stay in our own homes , when we need help with everyday life and desperately want someone to treat you kindly and with dignity, chances are our mean ass daughter will be in charge.

Sweetness, kindness and compassion are not weaknesses. They are virtues that make all of us stronger.

A Beautiful Sad Day,,,,,

Cute fluffy white Havanese dog portrait

There is a beautiful and fluffy little designer dog who trots around my office building all week long. His name is Riley. Typically, he wears a scarf, he’s freshly groomed, has adorable brown eyes and endless lashes, and if you have food….Riley loves you.

I’ve known this little man for years. And he’s my best buddy only when I carry fast food into the radio station. Then he’ll sit up, staring at me lovingly, FOR HOURS, until I toss him a French fry or piece of beef. If I give him lettuce he doesn’t love me. If I don’t have food, Riley doesn’t even bother coming in my office. I bitch about Riley all the time because he’s shallow and not very loyal but he’s beautiful and smart.

Today, I learned this lovely little masterpiece of a dog has cancer and he only has a few weeks to live. Today, he walked around the building all day , but he looked so sad and tired and very thin. We can’t give him snacks now because he just throws up. Everybody in the office is sad. He is part of our family.

Two hours after the bad news about Riley, Renee, who I’ve worked with for years and years answered her cell. Something was wrong. She yelled, “Tell Neil my neighbor died and I’ve gotta go help.” Neal is our boss. Latter I learned an 80 year old neighbor served her 82 year old husband a cup of potato soup. He coughed and she thought he was choking. She found a napkin for her husband of 60 years. But he died right there in the dining room, not from chocking, it was just time.

The wife wouldn’t let go of her husband on the floor and the coroner had arrived. Renee sat on the floor for hours crying with her neighbor.

The truth is, and we all know this, everything that is born…dies. One hundred percent.

I don’t’ know if I told you this but when I was sixteen my Dad died suddenly of a heart attack. He was 52. A couple of weeks latter my brother Jack was killed. He was 24 and in college. At the time he was in love with a girl named Carrie and had three big fluffy dogs.

My mom was so heartbroken she killed herself a couple of years latter. Mom and Dad had been together since 3rd grade. It was just too hard for my mom to be without him.

I was mad at God for a while, sad and upset.  But he’s since given me a family that is unbelievably beautiful and magical.  My four kids really really love each other….all the time.  Nothing is better than that

Everyday things come and go. Dogs, cats, favorite restaurants, video stores, friends and family….they are suddenly gone. Trees get chopped down, houses burn up, books and lovely pieces of jewelry are lost. The guy who argues with you on Facebook but you actually think is clever…he’s gonna go too. So I’m trying to remember to love everything I love, every day. Even cute little dogs that beg too much.

Today take an extra minute to look at your dog, who chew up your patio furniture, the kid down the street who rides his bike in the middle of the street and doesn’t car that he’s in your way, the mean postal lady who gives you the stink eye but makes sure your packages are safe from the dogs.  Sitting through your kids two hour base ball game in the blazing hot sun (and he never gets to play) love those sights and sounds too. These are the things we all love, every day, kind of, love them twice because everything that comes….goes.

Everything that is born, no matter how cute or beautiful….dies. Love it all while you can. And please, remind me to do the same.

I Hate Baseball

I hate baseball. Ok, maybe ‘hate’ is to strong a term. But I don’t really like the game. I can watch completely random football or basketball games on tv or in person and get passionately involved…but baseball? Not so much. It’s boring.

Here’s my problem. My youngest son, Sandor, is in 9th grade and plays baseball for the Ft. Lake Cobras. Purple and white pine stripes all day long. There he is on third base, looking handsome.

I try to be a good mom so we try to make some games, to be supportive. But the games are soooo long, and there are soooo many games. Two or three a week! Typically nobody get’s hurt and it’s hot sitting in the bleachers. Still, we go to games and I yell like a maniac even though I don’t really know the right things to yell. “Take him out!” is one of the wrong things I’ve learned not to yell. Other parents give you stink eye.

Earlier this week Sandor was playing third base and missed a pop fly. Nothing terrible happened because of his bobble but he was really upset with himself.

I really like to fix problems. So, the next day, after work, I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and bought five baseballs.

I put Sandor in the middle of the yard with his mitt and started hitting balls at him. I was doing ok but I kind of freak out when he throws the balls back to me. The kid throws pretty hard and I catch like a four year old. So, I recruited his dad to catch.

Things were going pretty well until our big dog Aries got involved. Every time I hit a grounder , Sandor had to out maneuver and fight her. If Aries won she trotted back to me with her fluffy tail raised high and gave me the slobber covered ball.

For thirty minutes the four of us played and laughed in the yard until the sun set and it was too dark to see the ball.

Sandor had a game last night and he took care of a grounder easily. He told me all about it at breakfast this morning.

There’s another home game tonight. I’m pretty excited.

It’s All About Choices

Melissa Stringer

I know a young woman, in her early 20s who’s a very serious MMA fighter. She lives to train with her team, and they train hard. They train for hours a day, sometimes two or three times a day. Melissa’s whole world is about taking care of her body, nutrition and fitness.

She’s a pretty girl and typically, when Melissa leaves the gym or says good buy she says, “Make good choices!” in her adorable sing song voice.

I think that might be the smartest thing anyone can tell any of us. Simply “make good choices”. At work and at home. Choose to work a little bit harder, choose to be a better parent, brother or sister. Make good choices when dealing with people, choose to be kind and polite. Choose to be hones and supportive. Those are all good choices.

For teenage boys,I know, this is an hourly battle. Bad ideas explode in their brains like popcorn. And they struggle to learn which bad ideas to latch onto and put into motion and which to ignore because it will no doubt result in a grounding, a ticket or an arrest. They are really smart but they desperately want to pass the slow truck on a curve even though it’s raining. Why not to throw the water balloon at their friend in the living room? Skateboarding down the tile staircase seem like an awesome idea.

Melissa constantly has to make “good choices” or she’ll never be ready for her next fight. It’s all about the decisions she makes.She has to be very, very careful what she eats or she’ll never make weight. When her friends are eating pizza and Oreos she has to go with a protein shake or she’ll never achieve her dream. Like all the fighters she trains with, Melissa has to decide to go to bed early,instead of hanging out with her friends or she can’t train early in the morning.

Adults aren’t above making good and bad choices. I wish I made good choices more often. I wish I’d pay off our car instead of insisting on a vacation. I wish I ate a salad for lunch instead of the giant delicious gnarly brisket burger. I wish I went for a hike with my son and the dog instead of watching The Big Bang rerun for the third time.

But I’ll keep trying. Because there are folks like Melissa out there, reminding me to “make good choices.”

Why Girls Don’t Tell

Recently dozens of women across America, have stepped up and admitted to being sexually assaulted, abused or harassed. Most of these women have not said a word for years. And across the country, people are howling “Why didn’t she speak up thirty years ago? Why wait all this time to come forward with sexual misconduct charges?” I know why these women waited and I’m gonna explain it to you.

When I was 12 or 13 years old I went to a pool party with my mother and father, who was an architect. The party was  hosted by a contractor who was building a shopping center my dad designed. They had been working on the project for over a year. There were several other couples there but I was one of only two kids. The other child was a little boy, probably three years old. All the adults sat around the pool with their cocktails while we splashed around in the pool.

At 13, I was skinny and tan with long hair. And on that day I was wearing a purple and gold bikini that I loved. After a while I went inside the contractor’s house to get two glasses of orange juice.

As I opened one of the cabinets for a glass, I felt someone behind me, pushing up against my back and butt. I turned around and it was my dad’s friend, the contractor.

He told me my swimming suit was coming untied and then he started trying to mess with the swim suit strings on the back of my neck. I tried to move away but he blocked me and then started tracing my tan line with his finger tip, from my shoulder down the side of my right breast. When I tried to move away again he  smiled and said, “Don’t you want me to help?”

I ran out of the house and jumped into the sparkling blue pool.

I never told my mom or dad about the incident. I couldn’t understand why a grown-up was acting so weird and gross. And I was afraid if I told anybody I would get in trouble or it would start a fight between my dad and his friend.

I told one girlfriend about the incident, but nobody else. And she didn’t think I should tell anyone either. That’s how important decisions are made when you are 13 years old.

I tried to forget about the incident for the next twenty years. It was nothing, who cared? It was over and nothing really happened. Right?

It wasn’t until I was thirty years old and had a daughter of my own that I thought back and got mad. I got furious! How dare that scum bag put me in that situation. It scared me and made me feel as though I’d done something really bad. If anyone did something like that to my daughter I’d beat the snot out of them.

And if I learned twenty or thrity years later that this creep was running for political office, a position of power, I would spill the story in a heartbeat. I would tell anyone who would listen. But there wouldn’t be any proof and I doubt anyone would believe me, because I was thirteen years old and didn’t knowthe rules. I didn’t know I was supposed to tell when adults did gross, weird stuff, because I was only a child and had no way of understanding adults.

Goggles

Goggles

A short story

Steve jumped out of the car in front of Kroger. He was going to get a buggy and start working over the produce section while I found a parking spot. It was raining so I thought I’d be nice and let him avoid the run through the parking lot puddles. He was dressed for work, khakis, a red polo and good shoes. I’d been at the pool all day and wasn’t worried about my crocs.

It took me a few minutes to find a spot. Then I tried to sprit through the rain. Once inside Kroger, I dried my face and glasses with the inside of my tee shirt. It took me a moment to spot him. He had a buggy and was standing in front of the bananas and plantains. He was laughing with someone, a woman. I realized it was our neighbor, at least she lived on the same street. Heather Meyers. She’d obviously avoided the rain.

Heather stood in front of Steve’s buggy wearing navy leggings, a cute off white sweater and boots with cute heels. She looked like all the real estate agents I’d ever known. Perfect hair and lip stick, killer eye brows. My legs were longer and stronger, just because I’m a swimmer, but all her other stuff was way better than mine.

I don’t like the “real estate” look with the big lips and hair extensions. I wouldn’t want to look like that. But I understand why middle age men seem drawn to that look.

I took a breath when I realized Heather was touching Steve’s buggy. Actually it was more than touching, she was holding his buggy, as they laughed.

I tried to smile as I approached them, suddenly aware of how wet I was. Steve said, “Hey honey, you really got soaked. I’m sorry. You remember Heather?”

“Of course.” One of her hands moved off the buggy but the other still had a grip.

“We were just talking about this crazy old man at an open house today.”

I nodded and smiled. I wish I had my contacts in instead of my utilitarian glasses.

Finally Heather said, “Well, I’ll let you two get to shopping. See you tomorrow Steve.” And she touched him on the arm as she walked away. Four fingers, four perfect French nails, on his brown arm.

I couldn’t really speak. We shopped, got the things on our list and paid. I responded appropriately I think when Steve said something to me. But I didn’t have the words to talk to him.

We had decided earlier in the day that we would swim laps after the shopping so I headed toward the YMCA. Steve and I met and fell in love while we were both swimming the crawl and butterfly in college.

Steve  joked that our love was chlorinated. When we got married we were both still coaching and living like college kids. Then I got pregnant and we realized one of us had to get a better job. We literally flipped a coin and decided the loser would go into real estate. The market was booming and we both liked people.

Steve lost and had to take off his speedo. Things have been pretty good for the past seven years but we live in different worlds. I live at the pool, I work with kids and talk to parents, I wear my hair in a ponytail every day.

Steve has to dress like a grown up, make appointment, talk to clients and slogs through the paper work.

But every night we sit down for dinner with our son, Sam. Everything is good. We all laugh and tell stories about the day. We listen to Sam talk about teachers and friends and bugs. Then Steve goes into his study to work for another couple of hours and Sam and I get ready for bed.

I park in front of the Y. Steve takes my hand, squeezes it and says. “I’ll change and meet you by the pool. Did you bring my goggles?”

I nod and smile and once again he’s out of the car.

Because I’m already wearing my swim suit under my clothes I walk straight to the indoor pool. I can’t stop seeing Heather laughing, holding onto Steve’s buggy. She tossed her perfect blonde mane as she smiled at him. I remember doing that years ago.

Deliberately, I put our towels and goggles on the wooden bench, then stripped down to my one piece, took off my glasses then tightened my pony tail. Slowly, I sat down on the edge of the pool, lane two, and waited for Steve to emerge.

I was squinting in the direction of the men’s locker room when he stepped out. He still had a swimmers body, long and lean. But he’d given up the tiny speedos he swam in during college. Now he wore longer tight swim shorts that made his thighs and butt look amazing, even after years in the office.

He sat down in the lane next to mine and smiled. “You ready to do this.”

“Absolutely.”

“Well come on Coach.” He slid into the pool then started stretching his neck, shoulders and arms. For the first time I noticed he was unusually tan, considering it was November. Had he been tanning without telling me?

We both pulled on our goggles then agreed on twenty five laps and both kicked off.

After four decent crawl laps I stopped and pushed the goggles up on my forehead. I could see Steve’s minimal splash at the far end of the pool. I could see his elbows rise out of the water but from this distance, without my glasses, I really couldn’t tell if he was coming to me or swimming away.

A Dangerous Game…… Part III

Part III

The next morning, Cal dressed and walked into the kitchen.  Tara and Rachel were already eating pancakes with syrup and strawberries.  Typically, Tara slept until almost eight. The kitchen in the morning belonged to Cal and Rachel.

Tara looked at him but didn’t really smile. “I’m taking Rachel to school this morning, Cal.”

Pouring a cup of coffee, Cal nodded. Mark Greenland was already changing his family .

Driving to school, Cal banged on the steering wheel. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do and this was a foreign feeling.  He prided himself on being a man who always approached problems with a system. He studied them, laid out a plan, then took action. But now he was lost.

What he really wanted to do was find Mark Greenland and beat the shit out of him. But that would do at least three things he was sure of. First, it would get him arrested because the kid was a minor, only seventeen. Second, it would cost him his job. And finally, it would turn Rachel against him.  She wouldn’t understand. She didn’t know enough to understand and he couldn’t tell her.

Then Cal had a thought. Why not tell Rachel the truth? Tell her the whole story. She was a smart kid, she loved him and her mom. She was old enough to understand. He and Tara could talk to over dinner, explain everything and then move forward.  If Rachel knew the truth about Mark, she would be safe from him.

Simply having a plan made Cal feel better immediately.And it was a good plan, one that would help bring his family back together. Because he was moving forward, and simply telling the truth, Tara might even possibly start forgiving him.

At 3:00 Cal was on the field, holding a clipboard and pacing.  He was waiting for his team, but what he was really waiting for was the cross country team. By 3:30 his coaches and team were on the field. And so was the Cross Country team, but Rachel and Mark weren’t there.

While his guys ran laps, he found Murphy, the cross country coach, in the bleachers with a notebook and stop watch.

“Hey Coach,” he said as he sat down next to Murphy.

“Hey Cal, what are you doing up here?”

“I didn’t see Rachel. Where’s my girl?”

“Oh, another runner needed to get some new shoes but he didn’t know where the New Balance store was. Rachel offered to go with him. I hope that’s ok. It’s Mark Greenland, he’s a good kid, and fast.”

Call nodded and stared across the field. He didn’t see his players,  didn’t see the coaches or benches or field goal posts. He only saw a vast and empty space. A terrain unfamiliar to him but he knew he had to find his way across.

After telling his assistant coach to handle practice, Cal walked to his office and called Tara. He told her what Coach Murphy had said. Then waited for her to respond.

“Cal, oh my God, if you had just done the right thing. If you did what we agreed you needed to do, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. You realize that, right? But for some reason, that I still don’t understand, you decided to cover for this kid and now look what’s happening. Cal, do you understand this is entirely your doing? This is all happening because you didn’t do what you said you would do. All you had to do was THE RIGHT Thing!”

Finally he was able to speak, “Tara, here’s my plan. Rachel is smart. Tonight I’m just gonna tell her the whole story. I’m gonna tell her the absolute truth. She’ll understand. ‘

“You can try Cal but I don’t know if that will work.  She’s never really liked a boy before and they were texting this morning when I was driving her to school. You should have seen the look on her face. If it hadn’t been Mark, I would of thought she looked adorable. You have to find a way to make this stop. You have to. Hang on a second. I just got a text.”

The phone was silent and then Tara was back. ‘It was Rachel. She just said she’d be a few minutes late. She said she’d be home by seven.”

“Seven? No, tell her she needs to come home now.”

“Cal, I don’t want to start a fight with her before you even try to talk to her. Thirty minutes won’t change anything. But you have to fix this, you have to. If you don’t I’m gonna talk to Mark on my own.”

“I’ll fix it. I swear to God I will. At this point I don’t care what the fuck I have to do. I love you so much Tara and I’m so sorry.”

Cal waited, but she didn’t respond.

#######

Tara’s car was parked in the driveway. Cal parked, took a deep breath and got out of the truck. There were lights on in the house but not on the front porch.

His wife was sitting at the kitchen table staring at her phone.

“Have you heard anything else?”

No, I texted, “I love you,” but she didn’t answer.

After opening a bottle of beer, Cal sat down next to his wife.

“I’m just gonna throw a pizza in the oven for dinner,” she said absently.

“That’s fine, whatever is easy.” He took a sip of his beer. “Tara, Rachel has never ever been anything but smart and kind. Hell, she’s perfect. We have to have faith in her. She’ll get it, she’ll understand.”

“I hope you’re right but she’s also a fourteen year old girl. I remember what I was like when I was that age Cal. Think about the girls at school.”

“No! She’s not like them Tara. Rachel is nothing like most of the kids I see…..She’s sweet.”

Tara sighed, “I know she is. She’s really sweet. And maybe that’s part of the problem. We’ve protected her too much.”

Cal heard a motorcycle pull up in front of the house. By the time he got to the door, Mark was gone and Rachel was walking up the stairs grinning. She was carrying her backpack and a helmet. “Hey Pops!”

“What were you doing on a motorcycle, Rachel? You know that’s not ok.”

“I know but it’s all good,  I promise. Mark was super careful and he even made me wear his helmet so I’d be safe. His car was broken down so we had to take his bike. It was amazing.”

“No Rachel, you can’t do that. You can’t just jump on a motorcycle and take off. You have to talk to us. You know how we feel about motorcycles.”

“I know, but I promise, we were super careful. Really. And I’m home now. ” She hugged Cal for a long time, and he knew it was because she had so much fun, not because she loved him.

Cal pushed himself away and said, “Go inside. Your mom needs you.”

But by the time he stepped away from her Mark was already gunning the bike, and then he was gone. the chicken shit was scared to talk to him. He wouldn’t even look at him.

When Cal walked into the house Rachel was telling her mom about the adventrue. Tara was silent, she put plates on the table and waited for Cal.

They all made it through their first slice  before Cal tried to start the conversation. “So Honey, I need to talk to you about Mark.”

“I know you think he’s too old, Pops, but we’re just friends.”

Cal shook his head. “It’s not that Rachel.  I need to tell you about him. He’s not like he seems. He’s flirting with you to try to get at me cause he’s really mad about some things that happened last year.”

“Mad at you, why? And what do you mean he’s flirting with me to get at you? What, you don’t think a senior like Mark would think I’m good enough to flirt with, for real? ” She looked at her mother. Tara tried to hold her hand but Rachel pulled away.

Cal pushed on. “No, that’s not it. It’s just that Mark and I had an issue last year and he said he was gonna make me regret a decision I made about him. I think he’s gonna just try to hurt you, as a way of getting back at me.”

Rachel’s beautiful blue eyes were now rimmed in red and her bottom lip trembled”Mark and I are friends, it has nothing to do with you. Nothing.  You know he says such great stuff about you and I can’t believe how you’re trashing him. That’s crazy. He told me you guys wouldn’t understand because I’m a freshman and he’s a senior. He warned me and God, he’s exactly right.”

“It’s not about age, Rachel. Just listen, please?”

“Fine, I’m listening.”

Cal hesitated. He told Tara he would tell Rachel the whole story but now he wasn’t so sure. “Last year, after a practice I found Mark doing something bad, something he wasn’t supposed to do.”

“Something bad? What am I? Four?  What was Mark supposedly doing?”

Supposedly, the fact she used that word hurt. But Cal knew he had to keep going. “Mark was selling drugs to some kids, little kids.”

“Little kids, what kids, how old were they?”

“I don’t know, maybe 5th grade, that’s not the point.”

“And what kind of drugs?”

“Jesus Rachel, does it matter? There was some pot and some kind of pill.”

“You don’t even know what kind of pill it was?”

“Rachel, stop. That’s not the point.”

“Everything you are saying is  ridiculous, you don’t even know what he was “selling” to these kids you know nothing about. And besides,  he’d never do that. He told me all about his mom, about his whole family. They are a bunch of druggies and he hates that, he hates drugs.”

“Honey it’s true,”  Tara said, leaning in closer.

“There’s no way, that’s not him.” Rachel looked at Tara, pleading. “Mom, you don’t understand what he’s been through. You don’t understand how hard it’s been for Mark. You guys are just saying this because you think he’s too old for me. But age doesn’t matter. Oh my God, I can’t believe you  would make up this stuff just because you don’t like him. Mark warned me you might do something like this. I can’t believe he was right.” The tears were starting, she wiped them away as though anger was a weakness.

Cal stood up, then sat back down. “We’re not making it up Rachel. I swear. Honey you know we only want the best for you , you know that. Mark is not a good guy.  When I tried to talk to him about the drugs the next day, in my office, he went freakin’ ballistic, it was crazy. He’s not a good guy, Rachel.”

This time Rachel stood up, tears rolled down her cheeks. “He’s nothing like you’re talking about. You have no idea.  ” She took a step back from the table.” It doesn’t matter that he’s a senior and I’m a freshman but you can’t see that and he told me you would be like this.” She stepped even farther away form them. “Why can’t you understand that we are old enough to make our own decisions, to know who’s right for us? Why don’t you get it? You have to stop treating me like a child, because I’m not one anymore.”

And then she was gone, up the stairs. Gone.

The clock in the living room clicked, the pizza remained untouched, Cal and Tara were silent. They had no words. Nothing to say. For almost thirty minutes Cal waited for his wife to speak. Every time he tried to say something she shook her head, telling him to stop immediately. And so he did.

 

*Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think and Part 4 will be up next Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pit Bull Decision

A few months ago a skinny white dog with spots appeared on our lawn.  We have a great big German Shepard wolf hybrid who barked furiously at this stray. Our dog, Aries, tried to run the dog off.  Barking and growling constantly. The dog would disappear in the brush, then reappear an hour later.

This went on for three days and finally, on the third day, Aries allowed the spotted dog to come closer to the house. He was painfully skinny After another day or two the dog accepted our food but would not let us touch him.  When we reached, out he cowered and ran away.

Aries acts as though she still disapproves of the dog, who’s big square head seems disproportionate to it’s body.  But they were obviously becoming buddies.  After a week Spots allowed us to pet him, if we were sitting down and very calm.  He had cigarette burns on his head, so we tried not to touch those.

Fast forward three months.  Spots is firmly entrenched in our family.  He’s a joyous dog with a club like tail, that bangs back and forth when he’s happy. And that’s all the time. He’s broad chested with a  a neck as thick as an elm tree. We laugh because he sleeps on his back in chairs with his paws sticking up.  We laugh because he snores and if you hold you hand up in the air and say, “Face Five” he’ll jump up and hit your hand with his nose.

Spots, who probably weighs 50 pounds, is extremely protective.  Aries barks and growls when strangers drive up the drive way, but when we tell her to stop, she obeys.  Spots goes into “mad man” mode.  His bark and growls are terrifying and spit flies from his jowls.  We have to physically reassure him everything is alright before he believes it and calms down.  He feels he has to protect us at all costs.

If Spots wakes up in the middle of the night and need to go out, he comes to the side of the bed and whimpers. If that doesn’t work he puts his front paws up on the edge of the bed and very sweetly licks my ear. He’s that kind of dog.

Here’s my problem. Spots is obviously a pit bull mix. My guess is he’s a Pit Bull/Bull Terrier.

I don’t hate pit bulls but every time I hear a story about a pit bull attack, I’m one of the first to say, “Pit bulls are different than other dogs. They were breed to fight. They turn into savages way faster than other dogs.”  Other dog breeds are abused and neglected but you don’t hear about Hound Dogs and Labradoodles turning into ne cold killers because of the abuse.  In my opinion, there is a  flaw in Pit Bull DNA that makes them more likely to attack and sometimes kill.  It’s rare to hear of a Beagle, Great Dane or Collie attacking it’s owner, mauling a child or killing a stranger. Very rarely. But Pit Bulls do these things pretty frequently, especially when compared to other breeds. There’s a problem with Pit Bulls.

But I love Spots….so what do I do? Am I hypocrite who says, “not my dog”.  I think Pit Bulls are dangerous but I love Spots.

 

 

Teen Age Boy Brain Goes MIA

Rich people are different than you and me. And so are stupid, brilliant teenage boys.  Their brains are different, waaaay different.

My fourteen year old son,  makes great grades but still can’t remember to put on deodorant or brush his teeth in the morning before we leave for school. I’ll say “smell good?” a couple of times, he’ll say, “oh, yeah, right.” Ten minutes I’ll find him in his room studying sheet music or looking at a youtube video of a guy who strained out all the pulp from 65 dollars of orange juice……ate it.

“Sandor, you  don’t have time to watch that. Teeth and arm pits, Buddy”

“Yes ma’am.” he says smiling and walking into the bathroom.

He never remembers to ask for lunch money or pack a lunch.  Old schoolers tell me, “let him go hungry and he’ll start remembering.”

So I did that, two weeks in a row. He just walked around hungry for ten days.

He forgets to eat, literally forgets because he’s so caught up in playing the drums, writing music and talking to his buddies. Then, at three o’clock in the afternoon he’s suddenly so hungry he wants to eat his own arm. He devours everything he sees, first come first served, chips, cookies, noodles, post roast. It’s crazy how much he goes through and I say, “When was the last time you ate?”

“Last night at dinner I guess. I just forgot.”

But his brain is still functioning.  He still remembers to hug me first thing every morning when he stumbles out of his room. He collapses into me as though his life depends on it. Then starts him morning ritual.

I’ll send two boys into the store with a twenty dollar bill. “I need ten in gas.”

They will appear, five minutes latter with a Gatorade. “How much gas do you need?”

But they can memorize an entire foot ball play book so I know something is going on in their heads.

Everyday when he gets out of the car he remembers to tell me he loves me first. He remembers our secret handshake and all the different handshakes with his buddies. He remembers to do his homework and exactly how to mix the dog food for the puppy dogs.

He remembers when I touch my nose it means “say thank you”, when one of his sisters extends an open palm, he’s supposed to tap it with his fingers and say “happy chickens!” And he remembers to say grace in Hungarian at every family meal.

He remembers the language of family. He never forgets the words and gestures that make us…..us.

Sandor can always make up for a stinky day because he forgot to take a shower. He can always gorge after he forgets to eat.  But the families precious orbit and loving satellite system is different. When we need each other, we all have to remember. We all have to be there. His stupid boy brain will settle down some day and he’ll remember to brush his teeth seven days in a row. Until then what’s important is he remembers  “Happy Chickens and the “Sexy Dolphin Dance.”

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