Thursday, May 27, 2010

Go West, Young Man

My son doesn't get out much. He's too busy, working two jobs and going to school (barely) full time. Heck he doesn't even have time to get a haircut! (Yeah, okay. You got me there). Many forces have combined to keep him close to home for college, most notably a lovely young woman with whom he's been romantically involved for four years. This week, though, he's bustin' loose!

He finds himself in northern California with two of his buddies, and day one evolved into a tour of San Francisco. What a great way to start.
The only gauge we have of how the trip is going comes in the form of a Facebook status update: "Beach in San Francisco. Holy Crap I can't even believe this place exists! It's unbelievably amazing!"
Yes, my son, wonderful things can be discovered when you broaden your boundaries.

The primary purpose of the trip is a music festival around there somewhere, but it seems some kind of personal discovery is underway.

The guys were relentless on the road, driving through the night, the following day, and late into the subequent evening to arrive at their destination. They pounded my SUV for 36 hours before they put her up at one of the guys' grandfather's house.
This is the boldest move my son has ever made, leaving behind (in no order of priority) his home, his girlfriend, his sister, his parents, his jobs and his cat.
There's no question he will love it there. It will be interesting to see how his fortnight in the Far West ultimately affects him.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One Last Look Back

The days following the end of our daughter's senior year of high school have been a blur. While many of her friends found their way to the Caribbean coast of Mexico for a weeklong party, she chose instead to work at a church camp in Georgia. She said the tasks were challenging, but the company and the scenery were well worth it.

She came home, as did everyone else, just in time for Pomp and Circumstance. In the moments before they received their high school diplomas, the ususal suspects assembled at our house for photos.

Nearby, as always, was our daughter's psuedo-sister who lives across the street. They met in the middle to contemplate for a moment all the time they've spent together. On graduation day, no doubt it occurred to them that they soon will be attending different universities in different states.

Then, it was a quick turnaround to an Enormous Downtown Facility for the graduation ceremony in front of a standing room only crowd.

The family showed up in force to celebrate the moment. Her mother and grandmother were all smiles.

The Happy Couple, her older brother and his long-time love interest, emerged from seclusion for the occasion.

After the graduate walked across the stage, we dashed off into the evening for dinner at the Fancy Steak Place, where my father was occupying the table while we ran late.

With high school officially behind her, my daughter is now poised to take on the world.

A late Saturday night became an early Sunday morning. The church my daughter chooses to attend honored its graduating seniors. She was prayed for, as were many others, and was given a Bible by the affable pastor.

Then, things changed.

Forget formality.
Say so-long to piety.
The cap and gown were tossed aside, likely never again to see the light of day.
It was time to blow things out. The wardrobe change was remarkable.
Sure, there was a hat.
There were suspenders.
There were short skirts, pattern hose, sequins, feather boas, on and on.
It was time to party.
And they did, hundreds of them, late into the night and into the morning.
We hung around until the bitter end, midnight on a Sunday. Given the opportunity to share our daughter's last high school event with her, we could not tear ourselves away. We watched from a dark spot in the back of the ballroom while they actually danced the night away. Of course, all the usual suspects were there.

Bleary-eyed, my wife and I were wrung out from the activity and emotion of the weekend. We dragged ourselves home, but not before sending our daughter and her friends into the inky early Monday morning with a question: "Where are you going now, Honey?"
Her answer: "Wherever the wind blows."
I know we were just discussing this particular night, but think about the context and extrapolate that answer. We know this: She has the wind at her back as we're watching her go.

My wife said it is now time to look forward, and she's right. So, I will indulge myself just once more. The girls started high school together in the summer of 2006, when they were freshman cheerleaders and pep squad members. They didn't stick with cheerleading, but they stuck together. They made it with a little help from their friends.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Great Bark of Relief

One of the best things to happen to our family in the last couple of years was the arrival of a mostly-white, long-hair dog of ambiguous lineage. He adopted my father, who will celebrate his 84th birthday this summer.
There’s a reason this dog was a stray. Although he’s beautiful, he’s destructive, undisciplined, loud and unfriendly. He’s a rogue who would not fit well with any family. He hung around my father’s country cabin for a couple of weeks before finally earning a ride in the truck and a permanent home at the house. Since that time, the two have been constant companions.
My father has spent a significant portion of the meager family fortune on neutering, grooming, vaccinations and supplies. I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m thrilled. Not surprisingly, my father has a tendency to dwell on his own ailments. He gets kind of lonely and a little depressed sometimes. When he adopted this dog, everyone was encouraged. It meant, rather than being distracted by end-of-life concerns, he was forward thinking. The care and feeding of the dog gave him not only built-in friendship, but also an ongoing project. Trust me; this dog requires a lot of attention.
So, imagine the sick feeling we had when he called a few days ago to say, “I lost my dog.”
The two were back out in the country, doing whatever they do. My father decided to take a seat for a while. He rested for about an hour before he realized he had not seen the dog. “He never leaves me for more than ten minutes. He always has to check in.” He never checked in.
After sunset, dog still missing, my father came home and fretted. I drove out there three times, thinking the dog would find its way back. One of my cousins, aware of the implications of the loss of this pet, put on hiking boots and walked the property. My father kept a vigil. He said there was no way the dog had been stolen because he didn’t see anybody around the cabin, and there’s only one way in. So, he became convinced the dog was dead. Theories included bobcats, a pack of coyotes, snake bites and even drowning. Still, we soldiered on, even printing flyers…
My brother tagged along one afternoon to help distribute the notices. They took a moment to have coffee at the cabin. In a quiet moment, he heard a faint whimper. Listening carefully, he heard clear canine whining. It was coming from under the cabin. A diligent search revealed a telltale snout protruding from beneath one of the cabin’s support piers. The dog was trapped, thirsty and ornery, but very much alive. One of his legs was entangled in electrical wiring, so the extrication process was tricky, even a little risky.
The dog was in good hands. Two guys who have spent their lives working in construction got moving. Power was turned off, trenches were dug, cables were cut and the dog was free! My brother said, “The old man was practically turning cartwheels out there. You should have seen it.”
Nobody got bitten by a snake or devoured by coyotes. My brother, the good Boy Scout, earned at least six months’ worth of good deed points. An emergency trip to the veterinarian revealed no lasting ill effects from four nights of entrapment. A good bath, some antibiotics and a little salve for a rubbed-raw paw got everybody back in business.
This is a young dog, so there’s a decent chance my wife and I may have to take him in someday. Now, I’m counting on it because I think he will probably get a large portion of the inheritance.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Last Day Lawlessness

Our daughter’s last day of high school was eventful, emotional, tons of fun…and long. Of particular meaning to us: the last voice the Byrd High School class of 2010 heard was our daughter’s, as she and her performance partners sent their fellow students away by singing the Coldplay song “The Scientist.”

The day began in the pre-dawn hours, when she and hundreds of her classmates assembled in a park nearby school.

This somehow drew the attention of the police, who sent at least eight units to the scene to maintain order.

By all accounts, the officers understood the spirit of the gathering and were on hand just to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.

At least one patrolman, dubbed “Johnny Law” by the witty kids, was spouting laws. Some of them, he made up. Apparently not a constitutional scholar, he told them it was illegal for them to even be there. When he was reminded about the fundamental American right of peaceable public assembly, he became agitated but moved on, philosophically speaking.

Anarchy sufficiently quelled, the police engaged in a morning-long “buzz kill” effort, according to the gathered masses. The idea was to parade from the park to the school on Line Avenue, a major Shreveport thoroughfare. Johnny Law told them they couldn’t have a parade without a permit. He said they couldn’t ride in the back of pick-up trucks, that they couldn’t have four-wheelers on the street, that people older than 12 couldn’t ride bicycles on the sidewalk.

(I guess the idea that this would drive kids on bikes into the street didn’t cross his mind).

Other officers maintained order with a wink and a smile, and a parade somewhat diminished from the original concept actually happened.

Seniors being seniors, a clever prank was planned and executed. They parked their cars at school before the sun came up, intentionally taking up two or three spaces as they could.

This forced late-arriving underclassmen to park illegally along the streets. The police having arrived in critical mass, the result was a glut of parking tickets. At $15 a pop, the city coffers benefitted while parents of frustrated juniors, sophomores and freshmen were no doubt miffed.

Along the way, the scofflaw seniors descended en masse upon a popular local diner for a celebratory breakfast. The kitchen and wait staff didn’t know what hit ‘em!

At the end of the day, a great Byrd High school tradition was renewed. Senior class officers went to every classroom and called out all the graduating students. Led by a drum corps, they marched through the halls of the school…up and down stairs and through every corridor…saying good-bye. It was loud and the kids were ebullient.

Then, there was a pizza party in the gym.

Finally, there was the closing ceremony in the auditorium. The lyrics from the song that was chosen which seem most appropriate:

Nobody said it was easy,
It's such a shame for us to part.
Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be this hard.

Surely, there were tears being shed as the class of 2010 walked out of those doors for the last time; but there was also an air of celebration and freedom, as well as the exhilaration of anticipating what lies ahead.

That’s a buzz Johnny Law just can’t kill.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Blonde Bomber Was Off Target

These days, our daughter doesn't usually go to church with us, opting instead to spend time in a congregation across town from the cathedral in which she grew up. The service she attended this morning boasted a guest speaker. The membership was excited about it. My daughter and her pew peers were not caught up in all the hype. The text message exchange we had about this pretty much wraps it up:

Her: "Do you know who Terry Bradshaw is?"

Me: "Um, yeah. That's kind of like asking me if I know who Barack Obama is."

The next message was a photo: The caption: "We're in church together. Hehe."

Me: "He is absolutely the most famous person ever from Shreveport. Quarterback, four Super Bowl championships, movies, actual albums recorded. A fixture on FOX Sports, CBS Sports before that."

Her: "Neato. We Googled him"

Me: "This is one of those things that I seriously cannot believe. But, there it is."

Her: "What? That we had to Google him?"

Me: "Yes. That young adults from Shreveport had to Google him to find out who he is. Do you know the name of the highway you had to drive on to get from our house to church? The Terry Bradshaw Passway."
Her: "Is it kind of like your friends in Houston not knowing who John Mayer is?"

Me: "In a Shreveport context, this is more surprising than the John Mayer thing."

Her: "Terry Bradshaw Passway? Hahahahaha."

Me: "Dude has a highway named after him and you drive on it every day."

Her: "Okay, well I knew that name I just didn't know why it was significant."

Me: "Be careful coming home on the Terry Bradshaw Passway, but don't mess around. I'm hungry."

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The Best Kind of Mothers' Day

For the first time in a couple of decades, I did not make this joke as Mothers' Day approached: "Hey, baby. Mothers' day is this week. You want to go to Western Sizzlin'?" Somehow, we've always found it funny that the cheap steak/ buffet places are packed on That Special Sunday. If that's the best you can do for Mom, it's time to polish the imagination a little.
My wife actually cooked, because she was hosting her own mom for lunch. For the first time in recent memory, both of our offspring actually showed up at the same time. They spent the entire afternoon with their mom, just hanging around like they used to when they were younger. The TV never came on. Our son, who lives on his own and hasn't visited us for weeks, caught everyone up on his activities.
There's really not much to report, except that mom was extremely happy to have everyone together, even for a little while. I asked her if she was having a good mothers' day. She said "Awesome."
Who needs cheap steak?

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Tassels and Towels and Cords, Oh My

You know there’s academic anarchy when the principal of the city’s largest high school addresses a group of parents at a senior honors assembly and says “we’ve just got to get through the next five days and then we’ll turn them back over to you." Everything you need to know about my daughter and her classmates playing out the string of their senior year can be summed up by this image from student council. It was posted proudly on Twitter in the middle of the school day as the students celebrated Cinco de Mayo. Any excuse to party is welcome these days.
Once again, my daughter and several of her friends got to shake hands with the principal. This time, he was handing out honor cords with which the students can adorn their caps & gowns at graduation. The decorations are nice, considering the overwhelming majority of the seniors will be sporting only a tassel. Hey, that counts for a lot.
This comes on the heels of a dinner party we hosted for the core four friends, plus pseudo-sister from across the street. It was like Christmas in May as they tore through the graduation-themed gift wrapping. We got everyone towels for their dormitories. They were polite about it. This is one of those gifts, we’re hoping, which will be truly appreciated once it’s put into practical use. It seems less likely your stuff will get ripped off if your name or initials are woven into the fabric.
For some of the young ladies, this was the first graduation gift they had received. “Yea, I can start making my graduation pile,” one of them said. It seems monogramming is big on the grad circuit. Our daughter already has several items with her initials on them.
For me, seeing them all together like that just made me sad again. Maybe as my gift for my daughter’s graduation, I can get a set of towels for myself: crying towels. This isn’t getting any easier.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Straight A's and Grace

We have made it through another weekend of “see ya later” milestones with our daughter.
In what must have been some kind of preparation for the grind that her high school graduation ceremony will be, we had the privilege of experiencing Honors Day at her school. She got to shake the principal’s hand as he handed her a certificate commemorating her achievement of all-A’s her senior year. Since she’s in the magnet program and has been taking advanced-level courses, this is certainly something to celebrate.
Against the backdrop of saying good-bye to high school in anticipation of moving away from home for college, straight A’s seems to quickly plummet down the priority list. She had her moment on the stage amid the 3rd-place ribbons from a community art contest and acknowledgments of students who had done well in pursuit of a trade in lieu of college. It was a moment only a parent can truly appreciate.
Sunday, we exercised some kind of dual citizenship at churches in different parts of town. The congregation in which she grew up honored graduating seniors during a mid-morning service. It was “Youth Sunday,” and several of her oldest friends were involved in the service, as was she. There was a moment when she was asked to speak briefly about her future plans. It was sort of perfunctory, but it meant something to her mother, grandmother and me. Youth Sunday and its deeper meaning always get to me. With my daughter directly involved, let’s just say I had to work extra hard to hang onto my composure.
In the evening, we went to the church where she has become active over the last couple of years for an event billed as a “Blessing Dinner.” This was particularly meaningful because the idea was to explain to her, in writing and by spoken word, what a blessing she has been to us. We also presented her with a gift to help remind her of where she comes from so that she can stay connected to home as she tries to figure out where she is going. Certainly, it was all very positive and filled with love; and again I had a difficult time keeping a grip on my emotions.
This was in stark contrast to the previous weekend, which was all about parties. There were several social gatherings scattered among the academic and spiritual activities, so again she was quite busy. A good balance was struck along the way, it seems.

I did learn something. I did not know that Baptist churches celebrate communion. At our evening event, they had a sacrament set up and ready. Of course, this being a Baptist church, they used grape juice instead of wine. Maybe it was my imagination, but the good Baptist brothers and sisters in the gathering seemed a little uncomfortable with the process. It all seemed perfectly appropriate to me.
Maybe God has a plan. We keep wringing ourselves dry with these events and activities. By the time we drop her off at her chosen university in a few months, we might be emotionally depleted. I don’t know if that would be a blessing or a curse.

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